John Cuvelier is a recent Magic Online standout who has proven his chops by winning online qualifiers for both this tournament and Pro Tour Gatecrash. His opponent this round is Jarvis Yu, a prolific Magic writer who is famed for his extensive and in-depth deck analyses.
Both players have become prominent in their respective areas; John Cuvelier earned his respect by winning multiple Magic Online qualifiers, while Jarvis Yu has been contributing to the community with his writing.
"I'm not looking forward to this game," Cuvelier admitted. "I passed to him, so I know like all of the cards in his deck. It's so much better than mine."
"Yeah, you should know like, oh, twenty or so of the cards in my deck," Yu laughed.
It took three full rounds of rolling dice to finally get a winner, with Cuvelier coming out on top.
"Yes! Needed that so bad," Cuvelier said with a pump of the fist.
It soon became clear why when the mild-mannered Yu unleashed his dark side, opening with a 2/2 Rakdos Cackler and a 2/3 Thrill-Kill Assassin. Cuvelier was dropped to 14 before he managed to stick an Ogre Jailbreaker, usually a great roadblock against Rakdos. Cuvelier wasn't interested in keeping it around for long, though, dropping it in front of the Assassin without a moment's notice. Seizing the initiative, Yu filled the void with a 4/4 Jailbreaker of his own.
Cuvelier had used his excellent "refusing to die" skills to survive the early game with a double-digit life total, a position that many fine minds believe is a fairly decent idea against Rakdos. This gave him plenty of time to leisurely stroll up to six mana, allowing him a chance to recruit the show-stopping Necropolis Regent. The Corpsejack Menace that followed it stole the show from Yu. A single swing drove the Regent up to 18/17. Still, the show must go on, and Yu sent his whole team, dropping Cuvelier to 6.
"Attack you for 18," Cuvelier said with a flourish, turning his massive flier sideways.
Ever the showman, Yu kept Cuvelier in suspense for a brief second before dramatically scooping up his cards.
John Cuvelier 1, Jarvis Yu 0
"You argued this earlier. 'Oh man, I don't think I can win if my opponent doesn't mulligan to five,'" Yu sighed with a smile and a shake of the head.
"Well, to be fair, I'm going to go to five, too," Cuvelier reassured.
"Ah, a five-card verus five-card game. This should be fun," Yu deadpanned.
"After drawing his five, Yu quickly said, "I will instantly keep this hand."
"Hmm. That's not good, is it?" Cuvelier asked.
Yu showed him that it wasn't with a first-turn 2/2 Rakdos Cackler. Based on his reaction upon seeing his opening hand, I fully expected this to be followed by a torrent of creatures, but Yu just kept playing lands and passing the turn. The only reason that he stayed ahead was that Cuvelier was doing the exact same thing, and he didn't have a creature in play. Eventually, he managed to kill the Cackler with an Avenging Arrow, but Yu just replaced it with a Rakdos Ragemutt. After that, he added a Rix Maadi Guildmage.
Cuvelier tried to stem the tide, using an Assassin's Strike to kill the Rix Maadi Guildmage, but the Ragemutt was still able to attack him down to 5. Cuvelier was able to slow things down a touch more with an Azorius Justiciar to detain the Ragemutt, followed by a Soul Tithe on the Ragemutt. Yu had made a Golgari Longlegs, and after the Ragemutt was let out of the pound, Yu sent his creatures in. Cuvelier used a Giant Growth to trade away his Justiciar with the Longlegs, dropping to two in the process.
Yu continued to pay for his Ragemutt, but he was falling behind quickly. Cuvelier added an Archweaver, Gatecreeper Vine, and Ogre Jailbreaker to his team over a few turns. Yu had no cards in hand, but the top of his deck was kind. He found an Ogre Jailbreaker on one turn, drew his card on the following turn, and then paused to think.
"One card in hand?" he asked Cuvelier.
"Well, time to see if you have anything," Yu shrugged as he dropped a Pursuit of Flight into play on his Jailbreaker. He tapped his Izzet Guildgate to give it flying and then attacked. Cuvelier slow-rolled him a little before tossing his Archweaver into the graveyard. One more attack, and Yu had pushed it to game 3.
John Cuvelier 1, Travis Yu 1
"Let's see if I can get you to go to five again this game," Cuvelier hoped aloud.
"Hey hey hey, if I go to five, you have to, too. That's the rules," Yu said, reminding Cuvelier about the gentlemen's agreement that they had apparently signed before game 2.
Fortunately, both players were fine with their opening draws, and Cuvelier started the ball rolling. For the third game in a row, Yu had a Rakdos Cackler, but this time he brought a friend. A Rakdos Shred-Freak joined the Cackler on the second turn to drop Cuvelier to 14, but that was the last damage they'd deal for a little while. Cuvelier hit his stride, setting up a Centaur's Herald and an Ogre Jailbreaker. Their powers combined, they held the fort down from thereafter, keeping Yu's creatures at bay.
Yu's Rakdos deck comes out of the gates swinging, but it also has a couple of powerful puppies with dreams of flying ready to unleash.
Yu managed to drop a Slum Reaper, which took out the Cackler and the Centaur. Later, it traded in combat with the Gatekeeper, clearing Cuvelier's board. Yu also managed to make a comment about the rares and mythic rares in Cuvelier's deck... right before dropping a Mercurial Chemister onto the board, which was soon the victim of an Assassin's Strike. Yu kept the aggression up, adding a hasty Rakdos Ragemutt to his team, attacking in for a 6-point life swing.
Unfortunately for Yu, it was his turn to portend events. All that talk about the rares in Cuvelier's deck was clearly overheard by Cuvelier's Necropolis Regent, who looked poised to steal the game back. Yu tried to close things out before the Regent took over, using a second Ragemutt and a Pursuit of flight to send for enough damage to put Cuvelier two turns from death. He attacked for six with his Regent, dropping Yu to 21. He passed the turn with six mana available and a sad look on his face. When Yu attacked, Cuvelier took the damage, dropping to 1 and watching Yu shoot up to 29. Still, the Regent was lethal in two turns, so Cuvelier wasn't out of it. He played an Avenging Arrow to take away the larger Ragemutt and untapped for his turn.
It was all on this draw step. Yu had a Rogue's Passage in play, which would allow him to get through for the last points of damage unopposed. Cuvelier needed to draw a Plains to cast the Azorius Justiciar in his hand, which would lock Yu's two creatures down for the one last turn he needed to finish the game. Unfortunately, his final card was not the land he needed and he ended up falling a scant one turn short of taking the match from Yu.
"If I had drawn a seventh land any of the previous turns, I could have played the Corpsejack Menace and cast the Arrow all at once. Or I could have drawn that Plains there. I was so close..."
John Cuvelier 1, Jarvis Yu 2