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Gateway Round 4: Jeff Cunningham vs. Nicolai Herzog

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If any matchup in this tournament is indicative of the latest metagame shift, this is it: Sligh vs Sligh. Herzog is running the more traditional "anti-Oath" version with Jackal Pup, Mogg Fanatic, Ball Lightning, and Chimeric Idol as the creature set. He has four Cursed Scrolls in the sideboard for the mirror; their lack of synergy with the Idols forced them out. Cunningham's deck is much more aggressive: 16 one drop creatures (Fanatic, Pup, Goblin Cadet, Grim Lavamancer) and the Reckless Charge card. Neither player is using Shock, opting instead for the reusability of Firebolt and the extra damage of Volcanic Hammer. "Instant speed" is not as important as it used to be.

Before the game started, Herzog wished Cunningham good luck, and Jeff simply said, "Thank you." Herzog laughed and said, "The correct answer."

Cunningham's luck was, in fact, bad. He won the roll and mulliganed a two Wasteland hand into a one Wasteland hand. His five-card hand was better, but the disadvantage looked to be too much to overcome.

Jeff played a series of quick creatures, and Herzog had to use his burn spells on them. Once Herzog reached three mana, he used his Wasteland on Cunningham's Barbarian Ring instead of casting a Chimeric Idol, and it may have cost him. Stuck at two land, he cast a Fanatic. Cunningham Incinerated it, then untapped and played a Ball Lightning. He knew that Herzog was not running Shock, so the 6/1 trampler was safe, and hit for 6. Herzog never got to back three, and a Lavamacer, Volcanic Hammer, and Firebolt finished him off. Yes, Cunningham won with a five-card hand going first.

Cunningham sided in two Fire/Ice and two monstrous Savage Firecats. Herzog took out his Jackal Pups and Price of Progress for Cursed Scrolls and Powder Kegs.

Cunningham drew a hand full of one-drops and led with Cadet, but Herzog answered with a Keg, putting Cunningham in an awkward position. It got worse when Herzog played back-to-back Idols on the next two turns. Cunningham dropped two Mogg Fanatics, forcing Herzog to blow the Keg, but his real problem was the Idols. Cunningham could never deal with them, and he quickly fell to the artifact beats (with a Ball Lightning thrown in for good measure).

Game 3 stared off auspiciously for Cunningham: he drew two Reckless Charges but no creatures. So he went for the "to the dome" strategy instead, Firebolting Herzog on turn two. Herzog played an Idol, and then Cunningham made the interesting play of Incinerating Herzog instead of saving the burn spell for the turtle. Herzog's Idol went on the offensive, and Cunningham never drew a creature to Reckless Charge over. The door was open with Herzog tapping out every turn to attack with the Idol, but Jeff's deck never coughed up a man. Several attacks and a few burn spells later, and Cunningham was dispatched.

Final Result: Jeff Cunningham 1 – Nicolai Herzog 2

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