"Both of us are very happy to play against anyone else in the room, but I don't really know how this matchup goes," Brian Kibler said as he sat down at the table. His comment pertained to the fact that most of the competition was on Blue-White-Red, and despite that, two of the white creature decks got matched up.
"Honest men with honest creatures doing combat math. Maybe some Crusades here and there, you know. That is what Magic is supposed to be," Kibler summed it up. "Maybe some exalted triggers, a removal spell; should be a good match," Wescoe added. And a good match it was.
Kibler, a member of the Magic Hall of Fame who was sitting at a comfortable 6-3 record at the start of the round, was playing Green-White Hatebears. His deck featured Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor to reduce the effectiveness of Scapeshift and Birthing Pod, as well as Scavenging Ooze to combat any graveyard strategies. None of those, however, would matter against Wescoe's deck.
Wescoe, the Pro Tour Dragon's Maze champion who was sporting a 5-4 record at the start of the round, was battling with Black-White tokens. "I was strongly considering playing your deck, but I liked Black-White better," Wescoe told Kibler. His deck featured Raise the Alarm, Spectral Possession, and Lingering Souls to amass a critical mass of tokens, plus Honor of the Pure and Zealous Persecution to beef them up. Zealous Persecution would double as a one-sided Wrath of God against Kibler, provided that the Dragonmaster wouldn't have Wilt-Leaf Liege in play.
With three rounds remaining and having an outside chance at the Top 4, the players needed every win they could get. The action was heating up, and quite literally, in fact. "My deck is literally hot," Wescoe said. "I am dripping sweat," Kibler mentioned. The players were referring not only to the bright lights that they were playing under but also as the uncharacteristically hot weather that Amsterdam was having today.
Hall of Famer Brian Kibler, "shuffling" up.
There was a litany of funny errors before the games could get underway.
It started when Wescoe took a deck box from his bag and placed it on the table. "Oh wait, this is my draft deck," he said. "You're welcome to try that one out," Kibler laughed. "No thanks; I'm not comfortable with that matchup. Your Ghost Quarters won't be very good against my draft deck, though", Wecoe replied.
After Wescoe found the correct deck, it was Kibler's turn to find something wrong with his deck. While shuffling, he noticed that something was out of the ordinary. "I have an incorrect card in my deck," Kibler said, holding a Gavony Township in his hand as he called a judge over. "I made a last-minute change, writing down Tectonic Edge instead of Gavony Township on my decklist, but I didn't actually swap the physical cards in my deck," Kibler explained. The judge told Kibler to quickly retrieve a Tectonic Edge from someone. A minute later, Kibler returned to the table with the correct card. "At least I didn't draw it and only noticed it during the games," he said with a relieved sigh.
The decklists of all other competitors that the players had received contained some funny errors as well. Wescoe pointed out that Yuuya Watanabe was apparently playing a "Boneslayer" in his sideboard. "It's a metagame call against Wall of Bone?" Wescoe joked. For the record, this was meant to be Baneslayer Angel, of course.
After those initial problems, the match finally got underway.
"Might as well draw my best card against you," said Kibler as he played a turn 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. It didn't live for too long, as Zealous Persecution quickly sent it to the graveyard.
Soon after, Kibler got out 3 Noble Hierarch on the table, which allowed him to keep on attacking unabashed with Leonin Arbiter. Wescoe, in the meantime, generated lots of tokens with Raise the Alarm and Spectral Procession and started racing.
An important interaction was that Kibler's Stirring Wildwood had reach, which meant it could block Wescoe's flying Spirit tokens. When Kibler drew and played Tectonic Edge, Wescoe joked "You probably wished that was a Gavony Township." Alas, it was not, and Kibler was falling behind in the race.
When Wescoe found a second Zealous Persecution, he used to it to clear Kibler's board, and took the first game.
"Maybe I got a little overzealous there," Wescoe said after the first game. Oh, the puns.
While sideboarding for Game 2, the players laughed at all the useless cards that they had in their sideboards. "I don't think these are going to be very good this tournament," Wescoe said, as he fanned out Stony Silence and Rule of Law. Kibler showed Kataki, War's Wage and Torbor Orb, lamenting the fact that no one showed up with Affinity or Splinter Twin.
Kibler did mention that Wescoe's well-known preference for white creature decks encouraged him to put Sword of War and Peace in his sideboard. "I need something to beat Black-White tokens, because I knew that is what you were going to be playing", Kibler said. "Sword of War and Peace should be pretty good against you."
Wescoe's deck attacks with lots of little white creatures, but funny enough, most of the cards in his deck aren't technically creatures.
Kibler, being on the play, kept a hand containing Scavenging Ooze, Scavenging Ooze, Sword of War and Peace, Loxodon Smiter, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Forest, and Razorverge Thicket. Wescoe got to see that hand right away with a turn 1 Inquisition of Kozilek.
"Might I suggest Loxodon Smiter?" Kibler laughed. Wescoe wisely chose Sword of War and Peace instead.
The key play of the match came several turns later. Allow me to set the stage. Wescoe, at 9 life, had two 1/1 tokens from Raise the Alarm, a Tidehollow Sculler, and three lands in play. He was looking at a hand featuring Intangible Virtue, Tidehollow Sculler, and other expensive cards. Kibler, on the other side of the table, had two 2/2 Scavenging Oozes, a Stirring Wildwood, and a Wilt-Leaf Liege in play. There were no creatures in the graveyard to pump the Oozes. After considering his options, Wescoe eventually played Intangible Virtue and passed the turn with one white mana up, representing Path to Exile.
This forced Kibler into a difficult decision. If he would attack with all of his creatures and Wescoe would have Path to Exile in hand, then Wescoe could exile Wilt-Leaf Liege mid-combat and make very profitable blocks. However, if Wescoe was not holding Path to Exile, then attacking with all of his creatures would lead to a great combat outcome for Kibler.
The way Kibler tackled his predicament was by figuring out whether he had a way to beat Path to Exile. "The card would be very good against me no matter whether I attacked or not, and I didn't feel like I could beat Path to Exile, so I had to attack into it," he said after the match. That's what he did and, as it turned out, Wescoe was merely bluffing it.
"Interestingly enough, I don't have many actual creatures in my deck," Wescoe said, pointing out that there were no creatures in the graveyard to feed Scavenging Ooze in the fast game. "You do produce a lot of creatures, though," Kibler said.
Another turn Inquisition of Kozilek to start off Game 3 from Wescoe revealed Loxodon Smiter, Scavenging Ooze, Sword of War and Peace, Stirring Wildwood, Temple Garden, Razorverge Thicket, and Horizon Canopy.
Wescoe quickly separated Sword of War and Peace and Scavenging Ooze. "It's one of these two," he said. "Are you sure?" Kibler laughed, taunting Wescoe to choose Loxodon Smiter. Wescoe ended up sending the Sword to the graveyard, fearing the protection-from-white ability of the equipment.
After that, Wescoe cast several copies of Raise the Alarm. "I didn't make a lot of Spirits, but I raised the Alarms an alarming number of times," Wescoe said afterward. Oh, the puns.
Wescoe subsequently beefed up his tokens with Honor of the Pure, and started racing. Kibler fought back with Scavenging Ooze, Leonin Arbiter, Loxodon Smiter, but they were poorly matched against Wescoe's Vault of the Archangel and Zealous Persecution.
The deathtouch ability of Vault of the Archangel allowed Wescoe to trade a mere token against Kibler's Loxodon Smiter, and a mid-combat Zealous Persecution was, as Kibler described it, "a beating." In the meantime, Kibler was drawing too many lands, and couldn't find a way to stop Wescoe's onslaught of Soldier tokens.
A couple attack steps later, it was over. "Good match," Kibler said, extending his hand in defeat.
After the match, I asked Kibler for his thoughts on the matchup. "My inclination is that probably that Wescoe is favored," he said. "His token makers and Honor of the Pure match up well against my 2/2s, and my disruptive elements don't match up well against him either." Wescoe agreed: "If he gets a fast start with Noble Hierarch or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and starts Stone Raining me, it will be tough. Fortunately, the games were going the way I was hoping them to go."
Kibler 1 – Wescoe 2