Round 2: Christian Luhrs (Germany) vs. Nicolas Labarre (France)
By Alex Shvartsman
Both of the competitors this round easily belong with the very elite of the European tournament scene. Lührs' most recent accomplishment was making top 8 at Pro Tour: Chicago this season. Labarre, considered by many to be the best French player, sports two Pro Tour top 8 finishes and recently took 2nd place in his home town at GP Tours.
Both players drafted extremely aggressive decks. Lührs is playing red-black with plenty of solid removal and decent creatures. Labarre's green-red deck sports faster (but smaller) creatures and solid red removal. His game plan is to win early as he has virtually no large creatures.
Labarre started the first game by playing a Seal of Strength. He then cast a Pygmy Razorback and used the Seal to save it from a Flowstone Strike.
Unfortunately for Lührs, he got stuck on two mana for several turns. Meanwhile Labarre was applying the pressure with Razorback and a Spur Grappler. He also played a Lesser Gargadon by the time Lührs drew his third land and cast a Deepwood Ghoul. Lührs also used his Vendetta to kill Spur Grappler on Labarre's upkeep (to take one less point of damage as Labarre's lands were untapped then).
Labarre sacrificed a land to allow his Gargadon to attack and send both of his creatures toward the Deepwood Ghoul. Lührs chose to take a lot of damage in order to kill the Razorback - he lost a total of 9 life points between Gargadon damage, trample and regenerating his creature that turn.
Having drawn some more land, Lührs was back in the game and able to remove Gargadon with Rhystic Lightning and kill the next several creatures Labarre cast. Just as it seemed like he was going to climb out, Labarre surprised him by casting an Animate Land and attacking with a 3/3 Forest for the win.
Labarre boarded in a Cavern Crawler, while Lührs brought in a Laccolith Whelp, a 1 casting cost creature that can block Labarre's numerous Razorbacks.
Labarre's hand had a pair of Forests and all red cards, so he chose to mulligan. A new hand was acceptable. Lührs opened with a Laccolith Whelp, which dealt several points of damage while Labarre only played a Seal of Strength.
Deepwood Ghoul and Phyrexian Prowler were the next threats presented by Lührs. Labarre cast a Battle Rampant and followed it up with Wild Jhovall, which had to remain on defense. The next card Lührs played however was a Puffer Extract, so Labarre knew he would not be able to play this game defensively.
Labarre enchanted his Jhovall with Treetop Bracers and began to race Lührs' creatures. Although both decks were very aggressive, this game took a very long time, as both players were forced to spend a lot of time considering their options. With several Laccolith creatures eventually showing up on both sides of the table, Puffer Extract, and plenty of potent spells in the players' hands, they had a lot to think about.
Eventually Lührs went in for an all out attack. Labarre blocked in a manner that would allow him to survive and retaliate with a killing blow on the following turn. However, it also forced to him to tap out, so Lührs could use his Rhystic Lightning to kill Labarre that turn.
Labarre took another mulligan in the third game. His hand consisted of 5 lands, Animate Land and Thunderclap. "My deck is very aggressive," Labarre explained later. "I cannot afford to keep a hand without threats." Labarre's new hand was better. Lührs kept a hand with two Mountains and a lot of black cards, but his deck yielded a Swamp quickly enough.
The two players traded a lot of creature damage and removal spells, but ultimately Lührs' creatures were larger and he came out ahead in the race. Eventually Labarre was down to 9 life and no untapped creatures, when Lührs attacked with a Phyrexian Prowler and a Zerapa Minotaur. Labarre used his Animate Land to block the Minotaur and paid to remove its first strike, leaving only one land open. His mistake was not tapping the land that was about to die in combat anyway. Lührs had a chance to win the game that turn by removing both counters off the Prowler and then dealing the remaining four points of damage with Rhystic Lightning, but he chose to play it safe instead.
On the following turn Lührs used his Rhystic Lightning to remove Labarre's blocker and win the game with creature damage.
Lührs 2 - Labarre 1