Like most people in the Magic world, my eyes were glued to the World Championship last weekend. It was amazing to watch Huey Jensen’s performance. He was putting on a clinic the whole weekend, and he is a deserving champion. While watching the tournament, I realized how jealous I was of everyone there. The realization that I didn’t qualify this year and that I might not ever qualify again made me sad. But I should be proud that I managed to play this tournament for two years straight, and watching all of these incredible players made me realize how complicated this game is.
When writing Magic content, most writers concentrate on conveying deck ideas, deck lists, sideboard guides, etc. but those aren’t the only important aspects of the game. Actual game play is important, but you don’t see people writing about that much. This makes sense because it’s really hard, I’d say almost impossible, to teach someone how to be great at Magic. On the other hand, you can give someone a deck list and tremendously increase their chances of doing well in a tournament. Magic gameplay videos and streaming are useful tools to give some of the knowledge to people, but speaking from experience, it’s really hard to play well while concentrating on commentary or interacting with the chat. Therefore, today I’ll try something different. I’ll break down game 3 of the finals between William “Huey” Jensen and Javier Dominguez. I’ll go through the major decision points and I’ll try to explain the thought process behind the plays. I chose this game because there were bunch of decisions that could influence the outcome.
First, the matchup. Huey is on Temur while Javier is piloting Mono-Red. Here are the deck lists.
In this matchup, Mono-Red is usually the aggressor and Temur tries to stop the bleeding to win with its big threats. The key card for Mono-Red is Hazoret, which is hard for Temur to deal with. On the other hand, Temur’s most potent weapon is cheap removal combined with Whirler Virtuoso, which serves as a frustrating roadblock. This deck creates a lot of energy and Hazoret becomes a lot easier to deal with if it gets chumped by a Thopter token every turn.
This is a post-board game. Thanks to the coverage, we know how both players modified their decks.
Not much changes. Rampaging Ferocidon is bit better than Ahn-Crop Crasher as it attacks better, and making Thopter tokens in the face of this Dinosaur can be painful. I like the little mind game from Huey, who takes out 3 Glorybringers while Javier brings in 2 Chandra’s Defeat. Defeat still kills Whirler Virtuoso, which we’ve established is very important.
Let’s get to the game. I’m going to give you a YouTube link and will provide screenshots of the board with a timestamp if there is something interesting to talk about. The series is tied 1-1 and Huey is going to be on the play.
Not much happens at the start of the game. Huey’s Longtusk Cub is answered cleanly by Shock, while Javier develops Kari, Zev Skyship Raider and Rampaging Ferocidon to Huey’s Rogue Refiner. The first interesting moment is Huey’s turn 4.
Huey has four lands and four 2-mana spells, and therefore many options. The most intuitive one would be to Harnessed Lightning the Ferocidon and play Longtusk Cub, which can immediately grow to a 4/4 because of the Aether Hub in hand. After that, you can attack and start racing your opponent. But as we’ve established, Hazoret the Fervent is the most dangerous card and might come down next turn for Javier. Luckily, Huey has an answer in Essence Scatter, so he wants to keep 2 mana up. Therefore, he plays Longtusk Cub and passes.
Normally you would want to pump your Longtusk Cub into a 4/4 right away to get it out of reach of Lightning Strike and Abrade. But in this case, Huey has a Harnessed Lightning that can give him energy at instant speed, so he can pass with Cub as a 2/2 and safely pump it after he blocks. This, on the other hand, gives a lot of information to Javier. He can basically deduce that Huey has both Harnessed and Essence Scatter.
Javier’s turn 4 is a pivotal moment of the game. He has Chandra, Torch of Defiance in hand, which would be a decent play on this board. Unfortunately, he misses a land drop so he is forced to play Earthshaker Khenra and pass. Huey takes this opportunity to snipe away the Rampaging Ferocidon with his Harnessed Lightning. There aren’t many better targets for the card anyway and Huey might be tight on mana in the future because he wants to keep up 2 for Scatter. There is an interesting note from Luis, who mentions that Huey lets the Earthshaker Khenra resolve instantly because he knows that he needs to save the Scatter for something else. These little details differentiate great players from good ones.
On his turn, Huey plays Servant of the Conduit and correctly sends the Longtusk Cub into the red zone. It might be tempting to keep the Cub back because you’re supposed to be the defensive deck. But Huey correctly recognizes that a) Javier doesn’t have good attacks b) Javier didn’t play a land last turn, which suggests that his hand is full of spells compared to Huey’s, who has only Essence Scatter and Servant of the Conduit in hand. Therefore, he needs to put some pressure on Javier and ride this Longtusk Cub to victory.
Turn 5, Javier draws his 4th land. He now plays Chandra and uses her plus ability to summon Earthshaker Khenra. His game plan now turns into protecting his planeswalker and hoping that she can take over the game. This could work well but unfortunately for Javier, Huey has a big draw in the form of Whirler Virtuoso.
Huey has to think for a bit about his attacks. It’s pretty clear that he can attack only with the Cub, but do you attack the Chandra or Javier? Ultimately, I think it doesn’t matter much as Javier should chump block no matter what. But I think it is slightly better to attack the player as that makes not blocking much more tempting. Huey correctly attacks before playing the Whirler, so if Javier takes it, he goes down to 6 and the Thopters might be able to get the job done. Huey does attack the player, Javier chumps, Huey plays Whirler, and passes with Scatter mana up.
On Javier’s turn, Huey finally gets to use the Scatter as he snipes the Glorybringer that got summoned thanks to Chandra’s plus ability. The game looks dire for Javier now as Huey has a lot of pressure on him and Javier is lacking Hazoret, which is his only answer to a Cub this big.
The next turn Huey draws Servant of the Conduit and we have what I think is the game-breaking moment of the game.
Huey has 1 energy, which means that playing Servant puts him up to 3—just enough to make a Thopter token. But Javier has Chandra’s Defeat as a clean answer to Whirler. Huey goes to play the Servant and Javier doesn’t have a response. I think maybe he wanted to bait Huey into some weird attacks and then blow him up mid-combat with the Chandra’s Defeat. But looking at the board, there is no real way to gain advantage in not using the Chandra’s Defeat in response to the Servant. I was a bit puzzled by the decision from Javier as I was watching the game live and still am. Huey makes some attacks, and Javier makes a good block. He then uses his Chandra’s Defeat end of turn to kill the Virtuoso and Huey makes a token in response.
Going into his turn, Javier desperately needs Hazoret to stop the Cub. He draws a land and Chandra gives him Lightning Strike, which takes care of the Servant of the Conduit. No Hazoret, and it looks like all hope is lost. Javier now needs to draw Hazoret in his next draw step and then hope that Huey blanks in every single draw step until the game ends.
Huey does a draw land and sends one token at Chandra and one token at Javier. Longtusk Cub gets chump blocked, as expected.
Javier finally finds Hazoret and and now I’m thinking that he might crawl back into this game. I’m a bit tilted by the way he tapped for her, but that’s just me nitpicking. But it does give away a strong signal to Huey that Javier doesn’t have Shock—not that it really matters, and this could actually be a mind game for future games.
On his turn, Huey draws Magma Spray. That makes his attacks a little interesting. He could send in the Servant and hope that Javier blocks it with Kari Zev, which will then die to the Spray. This might work at the FNM level, but here at Worlds, attacking with that Servant pretty much gives away that you have the Spray. If Huey attacks with the Servant, Javier will most likely eat the Servant with Hazoret and chump with Kari Zev, effectively trading Kari Zev for the Servant. This isn’t great for Huey, so he correctly attacks with the Cub and the Thopters. He splits the tokens like last turn and puts Javier down to 3. Worth noting is that it’s clear that Huey doesn’t have Harnessed Lightning or Chandra’s Defeat here. Otherwise, he would just win the game.
On his turn, Javier plays Earthshaker Khenra, targeting the Servant, and attacks with Hazoret. This is a great attack from Javier, who is under a lot of pressure from the tokens and given his lack of good answers, needs to push for Huey’s life total in order to win the game. Huey now has two options: He can block with Cub or take 5.
If he blocks, Javier can finish the Cub, which means that Huey would lose his biggest creature. On the other hand, it would give him a reasonable chance of attacking Javier with both Thopters, putting him to 1 and forcing him to find an answer for the flyers.
If he doesn’t block, he goes down to 10, which is still a reasonable life total. In this case, Javier is likely to use Chandra on the Thopter token. Huey does have the Magma Spray, so if Javier doesn’t have a follow up spell, he could very likely be dead. Chandra kills Thopter, Huey kills Earthshaker Khenra, and Servant + Thopter take the last 3 life points.
Huey does decide to take it and post-combat, Javier kills the Thopter and plays Rampaging Ferocidon. Huey needs a big draw, but draws only Servant of the Conduit.
Huey has to decide what to attack and he again goes for Javier. He has an option to go for the Chandra, which would stop her from killing a creature, but I think he correctly recognizes that Javier might try to kill him on his turn. The Rampaging Ferocidon now turns into a sort of double-edged sword, because it will damage Javier whenever a creature comes into play.
On his turn, Javier draws his 6th land and has to think about his options.
He quickly figures out that if he kills a Servant with Chandra and makes the other one unable to block with eternalized Khenra, he can go for the win. Like I mentioned from the previous turn, he does know that Huey doesn’t have Harnessed Lightning or Chandra’s Defeat, so in the end decides to go for it, only to get blown up by Magma Spray. This is an extremely complicated decision. The way I see it, Javier had 3 options.
- He goes for it and dies if Huey has Magma Spray. Huey has 2 of those and it’s entirely possible that he is sitting on 2 lands in hand.
- He can kill the Thopter token with Chandra. He would be at 2 life, which means that he can play one creature or attack with Kari Zev once. He doesn’t really have any good attacks in this case, so he would have to basically hope to kills Huey with Hazoret’s ability before Huey draws something good. Huey has 3 draw steps and if he draws 2 creatures/removal spells, Javier dies. This option seems bad to me.
- Plus Chandra to try and find an answer for the Thopter. If he whiffs, he has to hope that Huey doesn’t draw something good. If Huey doesn’t, Javier could either kill the token with Chandra or again have a shot at drawing removal. Javier would stay at 1 and then finish the game with Chandra + Hazoret, hoping that Huey doesn’t draw something good soon. This option seems a bit better than option 2, because you can find a way to kill the Thopter and if you do, you kill Huey significantly faster because of Chandra. Even if you whiff you still have a reasonable clock, even though you’re hurt a bit because you won’t be able to play an extra creature.
I think option 1 is super reasonable and it would be what I’d have gone with. But Huey did have the Magma Spray, which meant an end to this awesome game.
So there you have it. This was an interesting game where I think both players played at a super high level. I think Javier did make one small mistake that eventually lead to Huey’s victory as the game would have been a whole lot different if the Thopter token wasn’t there. Not to shame Javier or anything—he is a fantastic player and had an amazing tournament. Like I said, at the start, Magic is a hard game and we all make mistakes. Fatigue and stress can also play a role as this was a long tournament and I don’t have to tell you how anxious I’d be if I was in the finals of the World Championship and Huey Jensen was my opponent. Props to both players for this amazing final—they really put on a show.
I’ve had a lot of fun breaking down this game and I hope you learned something. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in more articles like this one!