Top 8 MtG Matches

Posted December 1, 2016 by Abdullah Elhawary in Nerdy Bits

Why hello there avid reader! I see you have stumbled upon the part of the internet where pure gold is aplenty. My name is Abdullah Elhawary but feel free to call me Hawary and I shall be your guide. I know what you must be wondering: “Where am I?” “What am I doing here?” among others of course. I will do my best to answer those questions but I must disclose that I haven’t reached omniscience yet (was that a Magic reference or did I do by accident). I am a slightly proficient Magic player who plays most formats and Jund in all of those formats. I excel at midrange-control decks but I have no problem bringing the beats when necessary. I believe that telling you about my favorite matches will give you some insight as to what content I will be posting. These matches have a bit of everything for everyone; innovative decks for the brewers, sick top-decks for the thrill seekers and crisp, tight play for the perfectionists. So without further ado, I present to you my Top 8 Favorite Matches of all time.

8. Justin Cohen vs Jesse Hampton – Modern – Pro Tour Fate Reforged Semifinals

Amulet Bloom vs Abzan

Oh, how I miss you Amulet Bloom… a deck that emerged from obscurity into the limelight of Modern at Pro Tour Fate Reforged in the hands of an expert pilot, Justin Cohen. One of the most intricate combo decks in Magic’s history against the new Jund; Abzan. Usually decks with heavy disruption such as GBx can give combo decks a hard time, so Cohen had to find the right mix between speed and protection considering he had one shot at the game. For Hampton, the game plan was simple: strip away the hand and present a clock. Classic Abzan. The reason it was such a nailbiter is that Hampton had an Aven Mindcensor on the battlefield and Cohen was dead on the backswing. So Cohen needed to find exactly 2 one of lands in his deck. The match itself is a great primer to learn how combo vs midrange plays out.

7. Todd Anderson vs Tom Ross – Standard – SCG DEN Open Round 13

Dark Jeskai vs Atarka Red

A masterclass in risk assessment by two players I have nothing but respect for. Both players feared the explosive elements of the other’s deck. Specifically, Tom Ross feared the lifegain and sweepers out of Dark Jeskai whilst Anderson had to worry about the combo kill or getting burned out. The players attempted to commit the minimum amount of resources to execute their game-plan and not play into the other’s hands. There is also a fine line between generating an advantage by playing around a card and compromising your game-plan to avoid getting got, so to speak, and I feel that this match is a perfect demonstration of this by both players.

6. Yuuya Watanabe vs Shaun Mclaren – Modern – 2015 Magic World Championship Round 5

UW Control vs UR Pyromaster

At this point you must be realizing that I am a sucker for control decks – not because I feel that aggro decks are less skill intensive, but rather the resource management and allocation is what I find to be the best part of Magic. McClaren’s aggro/control deck aimed to get ahead and generate value through efficient threats that provided a repeatable advantage, such as Grim Lavamancer and Young Pyromancer. Yuuya was not as subtle in the match, as he wanted to survive until his finishers like Restoration Angel and Dragonlord Ojutai took over. It’s always interesting to see how Cryptic Command decks line up against decks full of cheap disruption. Also, the patience that both player demonstrate throughout this match is truly phenomenal because it may not seem like anything is going, but so much information is being processed simply by what they believe the other has in hand.

5. Gerard Fabiano vs Jeff Hoogland – Modern – SCG Balt Open Quarterfinals

Sultai Control vs Temur Moon

Two veterans of the SCG circuit battling in modern with two innovative decks of their own design using two of the underrepresented color combinations. Both players also belong to the camp of 1 and 2 ofs being valuable compared to the camp that jammed 4 ofs in most decks. That added an interesting dynamic to the match because the decks weren’t as consistent, but had the ability to claw their way back or pull ahead promptly due to this feature. The match was fought on so many axes – mana denial from Jeff’s side, Ashiok from Gerard, and multiple huge haymakers from both players. Watching the two decide how to manage their resources in an attrition fight in a good old fashioned control mirror is truly one of the most underrated aspects of the game.

4. Yuuki Ichikawa vs Jon Finkel – Standard – Pro Tour Magic 2015 Round 16
Jund Walkers vs BW Midrange

Yuuki Ichikawa came into PTM15 with a deck that wasn’t on anyone’s radar – not even Johnny Magic’s. Truly an innovative take on how to use the powerful green shell of Courser of Kruphix, Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid, Yuuki was casting Planeswalkers multiple turns ahead of curve. Finkel brought a known commodity in BW midrange with, everyone’s favorite draft rare, Pack Rat, backed up by the usual devotion suspects and a powerful white splash. Each player had big threats followed up by efficient removal which is the hallmark of a true midrange mirror. The grind is one of my favorite aspects of the game, and this game personified it perfectly. With so many moving parts in play or in hand, so many decisions have to be factored in in order to give yourself the best chance of winning in a relatively short period of time. That was the kind of battle that Ichikawa and Finkel were locked in; a battle won by small, incremental edges rather than by a landslide.

3. Ivan Floch vs Jackson Cunningham – Standard – Pro Tour Magic 2015 Finals

UW Control vs GW Aggro

Magic’s 2nd longest running rivalry, right after Bolt vs Birds, is aggro vs control. Floch’s control was old school, and when I say old school I don’t even mean it had a win con like Serra Angel. Instead, it just bored his opponent to death with Elixir of Immortality. On the other hand, Cunningham’s aggro deck was all about efficient threats with 2 mana 3/3’s, 3 mana 4/4’s, cheap planeswalkers, 4 mana 5/5 flash creatures, etc. A 5 game thriller that included some great moments, from Cunningham stealing a game with double Ajani, Caller of the Pride to Floch casting Sphinx’s Revelation for a billion. Maybe it wasn’t literally a billion, but hey, it was pretty close.

2. Yuuya Watanabe vs Owen Turtenwald – Standard – Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir Round 16

Jeskai Wins vs UB Control

The Jon Finkel & Kai Budde of their generation met at PT KTK with the Top 8 on the line. Yuuya assumed the role of the beatdown and Turtenwald that of the control player. It was a clinic from Yuuya on how to play an aggro burn deck as he never took any unnecessary risks or ran his cards into Owen’s counter magic unless he had to. One of the best plays I have ever seen is Yuuya deciding to play a second Mantis Rider into open mana from a deck with Bile Blight in it. As Randy Buehler put it, “You have to really good or really bad at Magic to play that second Mantis Rider”.

1. Yuuya Watanabe vs Shota Yasooka – Modern – Player’s Championship 2012 Finals

Jund vs Eternal Command

The match that got me hooked on Magic. This match had absolutely everything going for it, as it was a clash of two titans of the game with two sweet decks in the finals of the World Championships (technically it was the Player’s Championship that year) in a 5 game thriller. This is a match that really has to be watched to be fully appreciated, but as I have said on multiple instances the decision to use or deploy a certain resource at a certain point at the fast pace that these players do is truly mind-boggling. Both players assumed the role of the aggro and control player. Plus, Yuuya and Shota brought in some sweet tech from the sideboard, Olivia Voldaren and Huntmaster of the Fells respectively.

About the Author

Abdullah Elhawary