Gateway Round 1: Patrick Mello vs. Mike Long
by Sideboard Staff
Over 100 players started this tournament, looking for one of only two slots to the Masters Series which starts later today. Every one of these players has proved themselves at Magic Pro Events previously, as they needed six or more Pro Tour Points to be eligible to play. As the format is single elimination, Round 1 reduces the field to sixty-four. This means that a lot of players got byes in this round, but Patrick Mello and Mike Long were not among the lucky ones.
Patrick Mello had a Grand Prix Top 8 to his credit, from Madrid. Mike Long is a very well known face on the Pro Tour, as he was the winner of the first European Tour, in Paris 1997. He also made it through to the last eight of Pro Tour LA this year, and is a past winner of the Duellist Invitational.
Patrick was playing Necro-Donate, which was the most powerful extended deck a few months ago. It got severely weakened by the bannings of Dark Ritual and Mana Vault, which removed all of its fast mana. These days, it has to rely on Mox Diamonds, so other decks generally get a turn or two extra to find an answer. The deck wins by playing an Illusios of Grandeur, and then Donating it to the opponent. The opponent then loses twenty life when he can't pay for the cumulative upkeep.
Mike Long was playing White Weenie. This is a deck that most top players don't have a lot of respect for, as it doesn't do well against a lot of the best decks. It is an old standby for Mike Long though, and he has a few good main-deck answers to Patrick, such as Seal of Cleansing. The matchup should still favor Patrick though, and similar games would rarely go on for more than a few turns.
Patrick went first and got a fine draw, with a Mox Diamond, some land and a Necropotence. Mike couldn't do anything except Tithe as Patrick lay out the Necropotence on turn two and drew twelve cards. Unsurprisingly, Mike's Seal of Cleansing on his second turn was Force of Willed - Patrick had sixteen cards at the end of his last turn!
Patrick had everything he needed, playing an Illusions of Grandeur, allowing him to draw another lot of cards, and the next turn he used a Donate to give the unwanted enchantment to Mike. Mike had no way of meeting the four mana cumulative upkeep, so he conceded. Going second against a draw like this meant that Mike had no chance; Patrick gained far too much advantage from the Necropotence, and always had plenty of Forces of Will.
Patrick sided in Annuls to deal with Seal of Cleansing, and a Firestorm as an extra route to victory, as well as a measure to keep Mike's creatures under control. Mike went up to four of his Seals, and brought in Enlightened Tutors as well to fetch them.
With Mike going first, he hoped to fare a lot bettter in game 2. On turn two, Mike was faced with a choice between casting a Soltari Monk or a Seal of Cleansing. Interestingly, he opted for the Monk. Most players would definitely have cast the Seal in thiat position, and Mike thought after the game that it was probably a mistake. The logic was that Patrick isn't so likely to have a Force of Will thiat turn, with only seven cards in his hand, as next turn, when a Necropotence could give him up to twenty cards to choose from.
Patrick did indeed have a Necropotence, and he drew thirteen cards. Mike tried to cast his Seal of Cleansing on the next turn, but it was already too late as Patrick had a Force of Will. The game followed exactly the same pattern as the first, as the next turn an Illusions of Grandeur got played, and more cards were drawn. Perhaps Patrick drew one too many cards thiat time, as after Mike's attack he was forced to Force of Will a Soltari Priest to keep from dying on the next turn. Thiat means that he had no Force of Will for the Swords to Plowshares which Mike cast on his own Soltari Priest. This kept Mike at two life, as the Illusions has reduced his life by twenty. Ideally Patrick would have liked to have Force of Willed this spell, but it didn't matter, as he had a Firestorm. Firestroming himself and Mike for two pointe each, Patrick moved into the round of sixty-four.
Patrick Mello beat Mike Long 2-0