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Round 6: If You Could Play Just One Spell This Match...

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Two of the heavyweights of European Magic clash with each other here in Valencia—Frank Karsten has forgotten more about Magic than most people know (and written even more) while his opponent, Arnost Zidek has a long track record of success as perhaps the best player from the Czech Republic since the retirement of former World Champion Jakub Slemr, including a Pro Tour Top 8 at London in 2005. This matchup would be a straight sprint between the Goblins from the Czech Republic and the defense of the Dutch Ideal.

Game 1

Frank Karsten keeps a smile on his face, but Arnost Zidek seems to have an awful lot of creatures in the red zone…
Arnost spent a good long time mulling over has opening seven cards before choosing to mulligan away what he saw there. He liked what he saw there a bit more, but even so could only start the game with a basic Mountain and not much else. Over to Frank Karsten, and he led with a Sulfur Vent and passed the turn back to Zidek, who returned with a Barbarian Ring and Chrome Mox (removing a Mogg War Marshal) to bring in his Goblin Warchief, which instantly headed over to Frank for 2 damage.

The War Marshal was a real threat, because with the Goblin deck he's so rarely coming alone—the Warchief tends to get the Goblin party started, and it's not long before his friends show up to wreck the place. Frank didn't really have much choice about things, though, as the Enduring Ideal deck is so focused on its chase to the 5 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana that it needs to start running, and he could only lay a Timberline Ridge and pass the turn back. Next turn there was a good chance that Frank would be able to sacrifice both his lands for four mana, throw a little extra mana on top, and get to his Enduring Ideal.

Arnost had other ideas though, and played a Ghost Quarter that immediately tore away Frank Karsten's Timberline Ridge and replaced it with a basic Plains. Against a deck racing to get mana down that was about as good as a Time Walk, and Arnost was going to make sure he took advantage of that extra time he had won for himself by bringing in a Goblin Matron, who was joined by a Goblin Piledriver that she had hand-reared from the Czech mathematician's library. All three of Zidek's little green men (and women) raced into the red zone, dealing Frank 8 damage, and he could be in no doubt that he would need to find a strong turn if his last 10 life points weren't to go the same way.

"Sulfur Vent. Go."

That didn't sound strong enough, and it proved not to be so as Arnost brought in a Mogg War Marshal and friend, and Frank Karsten was left to turn to sideboard options. Denied his explosive mana by the Ghost Quarter, and with Arnost's quick draw after having mulliganed down to six cards, Frank found nothing but one-way traffic this game, and he is 0-1 down and yet to even play a spell!

Zidek 1, Karsten 0

As the two players shuffled in their sideboards Zidek asked if Frank had changed his deck during the 24 hours they'd been given by the flood, but Frank would only give a carefully noncommittal answer that "it influenced the decision." Hmm, cagey. A career in politics awaits the young Dutchman, perhaps?

Game 2

Geothermal Crevice came into play tapped for Frank, and he suspended a Lotus Bloom. Had he played a Lotus Bloom in the first game Frank would have died before it ever entered play, so would this actually help him? Meanwhile Arnost started with a Mountain and a Skirk Prospector. Both players were out of the blocks in Game 2. Strictly speaking Frank was yet to even play a spell in the match as the Lotus Bloom was suspended, but he built on his explosive mana base with a Tinder Farm.

Arnost's Skirk Prospector was made to take one for the team, hurling itself into the abyss to generate the extra Red Mana that was needed to bring in the dreaded Warchief, who turned sideways to put Frank Karsten down to 18 life. The Warchief would sound alarm bells for Frank, but his life total seemed quite healthy, so on his turn he finally played a spell... a Burning Wish to pull up a Pyroclasm. In fact, although his opponent and the spectators couldn't know it, Frank had a real problem: he had drawn both of his Form of the Dragons, his kill card. If he played the Enduring Ideal he would have no kill cards in his library to search for, and because Enduring Ideal is an epic spell he would be unable to play either of the Forms in his hand. His only route forward could be to put one of the Form of the Dragons onto the table before he played Enduring Ideal. Pyroclasm would buy him the time he needed.

He never got the chance.

Arnost laid a Mountain, giving himself three red mana. That was enough to play Mogg War Marshal, Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Piledriver—and the Warchief gave each of them haste. The audience in the feature match area gasped audibly as the second Piledriver hit play. Arnost's sudden Goblin horde entered the red zone and a staggered Frank Karsten could only ask if it was enough to win the game. And it was. Tapped out, with two 1/1s, a 2/2 and two enormous 9/2 Goblin Piledrivers heading his way, Frank was on the receiving end of a 22-point attack on Arnost's third turn!

Zidek 2, Karsten 0

Arnost seemed a little sheepish in his victory, apologizing for the quality of his draw in the second game.

"Such a crazy format" said Karsten, who could only shake his head as his picked up his cards, having played only a single spell in the entire match.

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