Pro Tour Amsterdam Champion Paul Rietzl is playing to his strengths this weekend, sleeving up a deck with a base of small white creatures. Designed by Sam Black and going by the name The Aristocrats, it has surprised the opposition this weekend. Likewise for Shahar Shenhar's 18-land Gruul Aggro deck. At 8-3, both are looking to close the tournament out strong and wind up under the lights on Sunday.
"Revenge!" said a smiling Rietzl as he walked to the table. Shenhar had defeated him earlier in the draft rounds. "Only one person has defeated me twice in the same tournament."
"Oh yeah, who's that?"
Shenhar led out with Mountain and Stromkirk Noble, who had little to fear from Rietzl's humans. After Rietzl paid two life for Godless Shrine to cast a Champion of the Parish, Shenhar did the same for Stomping Ground and a Flinthoof Boar. He hit for 1 and passed.
Rietzl played a tapped Sacred Foundry and a Doomed Traveler, hitting for 2 with his Champion. Shenhar had Pillar of Flame for it before it could get out of hand, then crashed in with his team. Rietzl took 5. Shenhar added a second Stromkirk to his board and passed without playing a third land. Rietzl had to pay 2 life down to just 10 in order to get access to Sacred Foundry and Boros Reckoner, hoping it would stabilize things.
"Not a human... so sad." - Shahar Shenhar
"What, you don't want to play an interesting game?" - Paul Rietzl
Shenhar's land-light Gruul Aggro deck can blaze out of the gates, which can be particularly painful for opponents running lands that can shock you.
Shenhar paused to think here. He frowned and counted, then tapped two for Burning-Tree Emissary, and spent the two bonus mana on Lightning Mauler, soulbonding the two. His whole team hit the red zone. Now it was Rietzl's turn to think. He made a move, balked, double-checked his hand, then went with what looked like the natural blocks: Reckoner on the 3/3 Stromkirk Noble and the Doomed Traveler on Lightning Mauler. He was down to 4, but the Reckoner took care of the Boar. Shenhar was left with a pair of 2/2s opposite Rietzl's 1/1 spirit.
Unfortunately, Rietzl needed to pay 2 more life for his fourth land and Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Shenhar flashed him the lethal Pillar of Flame.
Rietzl 0, Shenhar 1
For the second game, Shenhar boarded out his Lightning Maulers for three Mizzium Mortars and a Hellrider. Rietzl swapped out three Knight of Infamy, two Falkenrath Aristocrat, and two Zealous Conscripts for two Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, three Tragic Slips, an Oblivion Ring, and Obzedat, Ghost Council.
Shenhar had to send back his seven. Rietzl was still thinking about the last game. "Maybe I should've taken a mulligan. Hurt myself too much that game. Hard to mulligan Champion, Doomed Traveler and all my colors though."
"You're playing twelve shock lands. What are you going to mulligan into?"
Shenhar kept six. Rietzl took two from Sacred Foundry for Champion of the Parish. After Shenhar dropped Mountain and an unleashed Rakdos Cackler, Rietzl powered up further with Godless Shrine, another Champion and a Doomed Traveler.
"That's a good start." - Shahar Shenhar
He didn't know the half of it. He played Rootbound Crag and summoned Ash Zealot, then attacked with both, refusing to be suckered into a defensive stance. Rietzl blocked one with the Traveler and went to 14. That was all part of the plan, however. Orzhov Charm got back the Traveler and grew both his Champions, hitting Shenhar for 8 and leaving him at just 9.
Rietzl doing what he does best: attacking with small white creatures.
Shenhar played a third land and thought hard. He hit with both his creatures again. Again the Traveler jumped in front of an attacker. Shenhar cast a creature but Reitzl had yet another Orzhov Charm in hand, and the game was shortly over.
Rietzl 1, Shenhar 1
"So, is the die roll important in this match?" - Paul Rietzl
Shenhar wasted no time keeping his opener. Rietzl took a moment, then took a mulligan. He checked the top two and nodded to himself. His six were acceptable.
Shenhar opened with Mountain but no play off it. Rietzl agonized over what land to play, and how, before settling on a Cavern of Souls for Humans, getting him a Doomed Traveler. Shenhar played a second Mountain, and summoned Burning-Tree Emissary and a Flinthoof Boar to his side. Rietzl took 2 from Blood Crypt to get out Cartel Aristocrat and passed.
Shenhar aimed Pillar of Flame at the Aristocrat, forcing a sacrifice, then hit with his Boar. Rietzl let it through, going to 15. Shenhar played a third mountain and a post-combat Ash Zealot. Rietzl played a painless Clifftop Retreat and Lingering Souls, holding steady.
Shenhar shuffled his hand as he considered his next move. Tentatively, he turned the Boar sideways. Rietzl tripled up with Aristocrat and two spirits. Shenhar ordered the spirits first. Both players passed, and the Boar was traded for the spirits. Shenhar summoned another Ash Zealot then passed, two cards still in hand.
Rietzl tapped his Cavern for a second Doomed Traveler and passed the turn with two very significant sources of mana untapped. Shenhar played a Rootbound Crag and a Burning-Tree Emissary, then passed. Rietzl killed one of the Zealots with Orzhov Charm and dropped to 13, still a comfortable life total. He untapped and dropped Silverblade Paladin, soulbonding it to a spirit that flew over for 2 damage.
He was tapped out, but Shenhar could not punish him. He cleared out the Paladin with Pillar of Flame (Rietzl sacrificed it for pro-red) and passed. Rietzl swung in for 1, then flashed back his Lingering Souls, falling to 10 from the Ash Zealot.
Flashback spells can hurt.
Things got worse in a hurry from there. Shenhar summoned Hellrider and swung out, knocking Rietzl to 6. Rietzl moved his creatures around before settling on his blocks: Cartel Aristocrat and Doomed Traveler on Hellrider, and a spirit on one of the Emissaries and the Ash Zealot. The unblocked Emissary put him to 4 and he was left with his Aristocart and two Spirits. He untapped, but did nothing more than play a fifth land and pass.
Shenhar unleashed a Rakdos Cackler and passed. Another land for Rietzl. Shenhar sent his four creatures in. Rietzl played Orzhov Charm to get back his Doomed Traveler. He decided he was willing to go to 2. The Aristocrat set up opposite the Ash Zealot, two spirits blocked an Emissary, and the Doom Traveler chumped and made sure the Aristocrat survived. Shenhar took a moment to make sure that nothing could go wrong, and showed Rietzl Searing Spear, taking the match.
Afterward, Reitzl was shaking his head. "I played that wrong. I had the Orzhov Charm in hand the turn you played Hellrider. I shouldn't have flashed back the Souls. Being at 13 would've been a lot better."
Rietzl 1, Shenhar 2
Shahar Shenhar's Gruul Aggro
Standard – Pro Tour Gatecrash
Paul Rietzl's The Aristocrats
Standard – Pro Tour Gatecrash