Dennis Zen’s match is probably what most people would expect for our quarterfinals featured match. Unfortunately, his match concluded in under five minutes, so we decided to look for an interesting match between less seasoned MKM players. Don’t let Daniel Ballestin and Tristan Pölzl’s relatively low MKMS rankings fool you though, both players are decorated veterans with GP Top 8 to their name.
Pölzl achieved his GP Paris Top 8 in Standard, whereas Ballestin’s Top 8 finish was in GP Lille’s Modern event. So going into the match, Ballestin seemed the more experienced Modern player and he was piloting a more unconventional Blue Moon control deck with a combo finish of Deceiver Exarch and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Was that enough, however, to overcome Pölzl’s Hatebears deck.
Pölzl won the die roll and chose, unsurprisingly, to go first. He opened with a land and passed to Ballestin’s standard island Serum Visionsopener. Ballestin thought for a second and decided to keep his cards on top, then choosing to pass back to Pölzl. Pölzl proceeded to drop a Caves of Kolios, and then tapped his lands to play a Leonin Arbiter, before finally having passed to a quick Mountain and Lightning Bolt from Ballestin, which reset the board state.
Pölzl then played a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and got a couple of swings in before attacking into a Deceiver Exarch, ending Thalia’s run, which had been, to that point, the only creature that survived more than one turn. From there, the matchup continued to play out much as a control player would like with Pölzls next creature dead instantly to a Snapcaster Mage snapping back the earlier lightning bolt. Eventually Pölzl managed to drop a Wasteland Strangler which had several turns to attack, bringing Ballestin’s life total down to a precarious four.
Ballestin finally managed to regain control of the match with a clutch Cryptic Command and, from there, managed to keep alive through his various control options until he could set up a Torrential Gearhulk to block and kill the Strangler. Ballestin quickly followed this up with a Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, which allowed him to recycle his Cryptic Commands and lock Pölzl out of the game while the Gearhulks swung in until Pölzl’s life hit zero.
Game 2 began with Pölzl mulliganing to six and opening with a plains into Aether Vial. Ballestin followed up with a first turn Serum Visions, sending both to the bottom this time. Pölzl missed multiple land drops, but fortunately his first turn vial kept him from a quick loss to a lack of lands. Following another Serum Visions from Ballestin, Pölzl managed to get his Vial to two counters and used it to play a Leonin Arbiter. Ballestin continued digging with an Opt on Pölzl’s end of turn and Pölzl responded by Ghost Quartering Ballestin’s Steam Vents. From here, Pölzl fought his way through Ballestin’s control to a commanding lead using multiple Eldrazi Displacers, a Flickerwisp, and finally a Thought-Knot Seer to bring Ballestin’s life total down to six.
Ballestin managed to keep some control over the game, however, killing every creature Pölzl brought out quickly with a wide range of control spells. Eventually, Pölzl’s relentless barrage of creatures came to an end with Thalia bringing Ballestin to a frightening three life.
Thalia’s final moments were attacking into a flashed in Deceiver Exarch, leaving Pölzl with two cards in hand against a Ballestin’s four. From here, Ballestin pecked at Pölzl for many, many turns, until Pölzl gave a last ditch effort with a new Aether Vial before falling to Ballestin’s relentless control, ending the match at 2-0 in Ballestin’s favor.