"This is the real deal. It doesn't get any better than this, dude." That was the statement Aeo Paquette made just before play started.
Aeo, nicknamed CoolAeo, is a 19-year-old Canadian who listed "Professional Slacker" on his profile sheet, though he can now add Professional Magic Player to his *ahem* impressive resume. Aeo is on a bit of a hot streak at the moment, since he has made the Top 8 in both of the Pro Tours he has attended. He's ridden a speed Affinity deck past Player of the Year Gabriel Nassif and Manuel Bevand already on Sunday, using Chrome Moxes to give his deck a huge tempo boost and hasten his opponent's demise.
His opponent is a skinny, curly-haired 15-year-old kid from the Netherlands named Julien Nuijten, and he practically oozes confidence. The Dutch National team member has already earned a healthy check from the team competition with friends and playtest partners Jeroen Remie and Rogier Maaten. Can you imagine how cool it must be to be 15 and get to test with Pro Tour winners like Remie, Jelger Wiegersma, and Kamiel Cornelissen on a regular basis? It has definitely paid dividends with the kid's game, as he had few problems playing his Eternal Slide to a shot at winning the World Championship.
In addition to the $35,000 first prize on the line, the winner of this match will also receive a very healthy portion of the player-of-the-year payout and earn the title of 2004 Rookie of the Year. Looking at the two decks, Nuijten has a huge matchup advantage, particularly after he gets a chance to board in Oxidizes for his Decrees of Justice and a Plow Under. Paquette chances would be improved by optimal draws, since his deck is faster than the normal Affinity decks, but it will definitely be an uphill climb.
Nuijten kept his opening hand of Eternal Dragon, Wrath of God, Wing Shards, two cycling lands, a Forest, and Windswept Heath. Paquette kept his opener as well, and the battle for Rookie of the Year -- and World Champion -- began. A second-turn Welding Jar plus an Arcbound Ravager were the first spells of the match, as Nuijten cycled a Dragon, fetching a Plains from his deck, and then cast Astral Slide on his turn. Paquette played Chrome Mox on his turn and sacrificed it to his Ravager, drawing first blood, and then followed the attack with Arcbound Worker. Nuijten cast Rampant Growth, getting a Forest from his deck and passed the turn.
Paquette went all-in on the next turn, casting Disciple of the Vault, Arcbound Worker and Arcbound Ravager, giving him two of each, and passed the turn back to the young Dutchman saying, "What do you got?" Nuijten flashed a smile and showed him the Wrath of God he was going to cast. Julien Wrathed, wiping away all of Paquette's creatures, but losing 6 life from Disciple triggers.
"Is he still at 20?" was the question from Nuijten before casting an Eternal Dragon. Paquette couldn't find any further action with Thoughtcast, and passed the turn back, seeing Nuijten cast Viridian Shaman targeting Vault of Whispers. Paquette sacrificed his Vault in response, dropping Nuijten to a somewhat precarious 7 life. Another Shrapnel Blast made the situation even more dangerous, dropping Nuijten to 2 with Paquette sitting at 10. Another attack from the Dragon and Viridian Shaman dropped Aeo to 3, leaving Paquette two outs that he could draw (his remaining two Shrapnel Blasts) to win the game. Ornithopter was not what he was looking for, so Paquette conceded, giving Nuijten a pre-sideboard win.
Nuijten 1, Paquette 0
Nuijten's opening hand for game 2 was decent with an Eternal Dragon, Rampant Growth, Wing Shards, Viridian Shaman, and land. Paquette played five cards on turn 1 though, exploding out of the gates with Land, Chrome Mox, Frogmite, Ornithopter, and Cranial Plating, swinging for 7 on turn two. Frogmite and another Plating on turn three let Paquette swing for 10, dropping Nuijten to 3 before the young Dutchie packed it up, evening the match at a game each.
Nuijten 1, Paquette 1
Nuijten's game 3 hand was much better than last game, featuring Oxidize, Rampant Growth, Wrath of God, Renewed Faith and both colors of land. Nuijten used Oxidize to destroy Paquette's Great Furnace at the end of turn one, leaving his Arcbound Worker alone, and then cast Rampant Growth on his own turn. Aeo had no land on turn two, but did play a Chrome Mox imprinting Thoughtcast, and cast another Arcbound Worker and an Ornithopter. Julien gained a three-for-one by smashing the pretty bauble with Viridian Shaman, waiting to deal with Paquette's little beaters with an efficient Wrath of God. Instead of casting the removal spell on his turn though, Nuijten attacked with his Viridian Shaman and chose to play Eternal Witness, regrowing Oxidize from the grumper.
"You played two spells already?" Nuijten asked, making sure that Paquette had indeed played right into his hands by dropping a Frogmite and a Welding Jar before attacking, letting Julien wipe out his entire attacking force with Wing Shards before he Oxidized the Frogmite. Nuijten began to beat down with his two-power men, but it was Astral Slide that put the crimp on any comeback plans Paquette might have, since when combined with Eternal Witness, it gave Julien the ability to block a creature for free and Oxidize something every turn.
Nuijten 2, Paquette 1
Nuijten's hand for game 4 was another hot one featuring Oxidize, Rampant Growth, Viridian Shaman and Renewed Faith. Paquette vomited his hand onto the board turn one, casting two imprinted Chrome Moxes, Arcbound Worker and a Frogmite. Nuijten drew a second Oxidize, and began wiping out Paquette's Moxen, and then casting a Shaman on the next turn to smack down the Frogmite. A couple of cycles gave the young Dutchie even more gas in the form of Wing Shards and Wrath of God, and though Paquette couldn't see Nuijten's hand, he knew he was in trouble.
"This is going to be the fastest finals ever," admitted Paquette, as the pace of play was now lightning fast.
Wrath of God wiped the board clear, though Paquette recovered with an innocuous Ornithopter made dangerous via Cranial Plating. Somber Hoverguard was Paquette's next play, as he tried to overwhelm Nuijten with fliers before Julien could completely take over the game. It was not to be, as Julien simply Wrathed the board clear again. Paquette tried attacking with a Plated Blinkmoth Nexus, but Nuijten had the Wing Shards, showing himself to be quite the answer man. As Julien came closer and closer to sealing the game and the championship, his play sped up, smacking down Aeo's creatures like it ain't no thang and attacking with glee. He even began to cheekily flash the cards he drew at Paquette, showing him Eternal Witness and Viridian Shaman, now certain that he was going to win. Paquette took a moment to think and then extended his hand to Julien, the first to congratulate the new World Champion!
Julien Nuijten defeats Aeo Paquette 3-1
Worlds 2004 Top 8 / White-green Slide
Worlds Top 8 / Affinity