Round 9: Forty What?

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The letter T!homas Drake sat down for this match a bit nervous and skittish. It was his first time on this side of the ropes in a Feature Match area, and he was staring down a tough opponent. The good Doctor Craig Krempels is a former National Champion and on a tear at this year's Nationals looking to become the first two-time U.S. National Champ.

Thomas Drake is a newcomer to the Feature Match area, while former U.S. National Champion Craig Krempels has been here once or twice before.

Despite all his bluster, Craig is a really nice guy wand tried to help acclimate Thomas to the feature match area. As Craig was explaining the different zones on the map, Thomas noticed a problem with his deck.

"Can I get a Mountain? This one's got a bent corner," he called to a judge.

"Ooh! He's playing red. Figured that one out all by myself!" Craig really can showcase the skills that led him to become our nation's representative.

"You registered 41?" Craig questioned as he shuffled Thomas' deck.

"Uhh. . ." Thomas just stared at Craig with a bit of panic in his eyes.

"Just joking," Craig laughed before he let Thomas worry too much.

"Jeez!" Thomas looked about to have a heart attack.

Game 1

Both players made turn-two creatures, with Craig making a Rathi Trapper, and Thomas making a Dreamscape Artist. A Feebleness from Craig took out the Artist, but Thomas just decided to upgrade to a Looter il-Kor. That put the Trapper back on defense, where it managed to keep the Looter locked down until it was Erratic Mutationed away.

Thomas's next attack madnessed a Brain Gorgers into play, which met a loud "BRAINS!!" from Doctor Krempels. Thomas also played another Looter which went straight from Cradle to Grave. Craig made a Mana Skimmer on his turn which was able to block and trade with the Gorgers, but Thomas had a Grave Scrabbler to get the Zombies back.

"Stop it," Craig pleaded. Thomas smiled back at him and passed the turn. Craig drew and tapped out for a Phthisis. Thomas's Looter bit the dust, and he was left with only the Scrabblers and a Brain Gorgers that he just cast. Craig played a Thornweald Archer and an Essence Warden in an attempt to get some men on the board. After the Archers traded with the Brain Gorgers, Thomas one-upped Craig with two better men in an morph and a Whip-Spine Drake. The morph turned out to be a Shaper Parasite that killed Craig's last man, and it appeared that Thomas had gotten over his jitters as he scored his first win against the former National Champion.

Thomas Drake 1, Craig Krempels 0

The players shuffled up for the second game more or less in silence, which is a difficult thing to accomplish when one of the players is Craig Krempels. He actually has a unit of measure for volume named after him. Eventually, as I predicted, Craig broke the silence with an astute observation.

"So that was your bad draw?" he asked.

"Nah, that was pretty good," Thomas replied, unfazed by Craig's sarcasm.

After shuffling Thomas' deck, Craig remarked, "Alright, this time you actually do have 41."

"I do indeed," Thomas replied.

"K, just checking."

Game 2

That's our Krempels!

Craig began the second game with a turn-two Blightspeaker, which Thomas matched with a Dunerider Outlaw. Mindstab got suspended on the Doctor's side a couple of turns after he would have liked it, but what can you do? When Thomas used Erratic Mutation to clear the way for his Outlaw, Craig con only take solace in the fact that it sent a Grave Scrabbler to the bottom of Thomas' deck.

Craig did manage to find an answer to the Outrider in Feebleness. It couldn't kill the rogue anymore, but it did stop it from getting any bigger. Thomas took advantage of Craig's empty board to build his up with a Brain Gorgers. Craig played the card advantage game with a Llanowar Empath netting him a Scarwood Treefolk. Thomas had his own card advantage engine, though, as he used Forsee to dig a bit deeper. Brain Gorgers ate Craig's Empath, and the game was back to parity.

Craig was the first back on the board with a Mana Skimmer, which Thomas could not follow up. He passed the turn with a grip full of cards and a bunch of untapped mana. Mindstab finally came out of the removed-from -game zone and hit Thomas' hand. He had to call a judge for a second to assess a play, and ended up nearly nullifying the Mindstab by discarding a creature and a madness-enabled Grave Scrabblers to immediately re-grow it.

Craig continued to build his air force after his Mindstab whiffed, and, if they stayed alive, he would be able to lock Thomas out of a color of his choice. Before he could get locked down, though, Thomas played Sol'Kanar the Swamp King, which would be a rough thing for Craig to deal with since he's, you know, playing Swamps and black cards.
Craig swung in and locked Thomas out of black mana, then played a Rathi Trapper to deal with Thomas' royalty. Thomas just untapped and played a morph. As expected, it turned out to be a Shaper Parasite which ate one of Craig's Skimmers. A Death Rattle took out Craig's Trapper, and Thomas swung to knock Craig to 6. Craig put the top card of his deck face-down in front of him for his draw. He peeked at it, and then immediately glanced at the life totals. He was at 6 and Thomas was at 11. Craig played his freshly drawn Swamp and then placed Phthisis right on top of Sol'Kanar. The 10 point hit from Phthisis combined with Mana Skimmer's attack stole the game for Craig.

Thomas Drake 1, Craig Krempels 1

"So you were drawing to the Swamp?" asked Thomas.

"Yeah, but there are a lot of them. Man, it would have been better if I was drawing to the Phthisis. More dramatic."

Game 3

For the final game, Craig started out with a nice curve featuring Essence Warden and Mire Boa, which seemed effective against Thomas' Swamps. Thomas had a Dreamscape Artist, however, so he could sacrifice his one Swamp if he wanted to in order to keep the Boa from walking all over him. (Yes, I realize that snakes don't have legs. Deal with it.)

Craig's little army went into the red zone, and Thomas stuck his Artist in the path of Craig's Essence Warden before activating it. He chose to diversify his mana and lost an Island to gain another Swamp and a Mountain. Craig finished his turn with a suspended Corpulent Corpse and a suspended Giant Dustwasp. Thomas's many lands allowed him to drop a Sol'kanar the Swamp King on turn four, which was sure to give Krempels some trouble. All Craig could do was give it a case of Feebleness and pass the turn. Thomas showed why he wasn't afraid of the Mire Boa by playing Nightshade Assassin to kill it.

Drake keeps his head despite the added pressure of the Feature Match area.

Craig was unable to play a fifth land and was forced to just drop a Citanul Woodreaders without the kicker to hold off Thomas' army. When Thomas played a Brain Gorgers, though, he gained a guy that the Woodreaders couldn't really stop. Craig played a Mana Skimmer to jump in the way, but Thomas wasn't having any of that. He immediately Death Rattled the Skimmer and sent his swampwalking King and the Gorgers in to knock Craig to 10. Craig did get to have the pro-black Dustwasp come onto his side to help with the Gorgers, but that still left Thomas with a three-powered swampwalker.

Thomas raised Craig with a pro-green Dunerider Outlaw and swung Craig to 7. Craig's suspended Corpse finally came into play as well adding another large body to the defense. He played a Mana Skimmer to get him another creature, and he seemed to have the game stabilized, assuming he could deal with Sol'Kanar. Thomas had a Muck Drubb at the end of Craig's turn, though, and the advantage firmly swung back to Thomas.

When Thomas attacked in, Craig was forced to blow a Sprout Swarm to stay alive for another turn, but it wouldn't really matter. Thomas had been steadily gaining life from Sol'Kanar, and the last attack had depleted Craig's team. Left with no outs and no options, Craig conceded.

Thomas Drake 2, Craig Krempels 1

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