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Quarterfinals: Ollie Schneider vs Michael Groves

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Ollie is a one of the most established players in the UK with many Pro-Tour appearances to his credit. This is his fifth appearance in the Nationals Top 8 and if he makes the Worlds team it’ll be the fourth time he’s made it. Michael is probably the underdog, as he’s comparatively new to the UK Magic scene but his performance this weekend show he’s no slouch.

The quarter-final here features perhaps one of the most common match-ups in the standard format – UG Madness vs Psychatog. Both players have up-to-date deck-lists with Michael having Gigapedes in his sideboard and also a lone one main-deck. Ollie is prepared for these having Engineered Plague in his.

The players were given the deck-lists the night before the match so Michael has the advantage that he’ll known to board in extra Ray of Revelation so that he has answers to both the Plagues and the Persuasion that Ollie will no doubt bring in.

Ollie has one change from the standard Psychatog deck configuration – a main-deck Secluded Steppe! A deck mis-registration error on the first day was never caught and the Judges ruled that Ollie would be forced to play with the Steppe instead of the Lonely Sandbar that he meant to register.

Game 1

Michael kicks off and has a Mongrel on his second turn whilst Ollie can only answer with a Compulsion. Mike shows his nerves the very next turn as he casts Quiet Speculation for Ray of Revelation, Deep Analysis and Roar of the Wurm only to find he tapped his lone Forest leaving him unable to Flashback the Ray and take out the Compulsion. He discards another Roar on his attack leaving his graveyard full of threats.

Michael’s next attack sees his Mongrel pumped with a Rootwalla, but his Flashbacked Roar is met with a Counterspell. Ollie fails to play a fourth land and his Chainer’s Edict only takes out the Rootwalla. Mike’s next turn sees him resolve the second Roar and the Ray which takes care of the Compulsion. Ollie fails to play a 4th land again and is just too far behind to catch-up. The Wurm and the Mongrel finish the game in two swift attacks.

Game 2

Ollie leads with Secluded Steppe! An Aquamoeba is Smothered but not before it’s used to discard a Ray and a Deep Analysis. Ollie once again Stalls on lands, as he has only an Underground River in addition to the Steppe. The mis-registration costs him dearly here as he’s thus unable to Counterspell Mike’s 3rd turn Speculation despite having the Counter in hand. A 2nd Ray, another Deep Analysis and a Roar make it to Mike’s graveyard. Ollie draws lands over the next turn and manages to Force Spike a second Speculation after Mike Flashbacks his Analysis. Ollie continues to draw some lands and is able to Counter a third Speculation and also resolve a Callous Oppressor – unable to steal Wurms – forcing it through a Logic with a Logic of his own.

Mike resolves a Gigapede which will be a huge problem for Ollie as he doesn’t yet have a Plague and even if he were to find one he still has to deal with both of the Rays in Mikes graveyard. The following turn Mike makes a Mongrel with the intention of discarding an Arrogant Wurm, but then Ollie steals it and Mike declares an attack, completely forgetting about the Wurm. The Mongrel trades with the Gigapede giving Ollie a bit of breathing space.

The Oppressor is being largely ineffectual and looks to be more so as Mike casts a Careful Study on his next turn and has the mana to pay the Madness on both of the Arrogant Wurms he discards. Ollie has the Counter for one but the other resolves. A Persuasion and an Innocent Blood takes out the Wurm and the Gigapede as Mike is tapped out and can’t use a Ray, but Mike keeps up the pressure with a flashbacked Roar. Ollie’s Smother is met with a Logic and he’s then forced to Upheavel to reset the game.

Ollie recast his Oppressor whilst Mike madnesses out an Arrogant Wurm to return his Gigapede over the first few turns. Despite having lands in hand after the Upheaval Ollie continues to draw plenty more of them. He has to tap out for Concentrate which gives Mike an opening to resolve Gigapede. He draws into a Persuasion on a the tapped Arrogant Wurm but he’s low on life and is forced to trade his Callous Oppressor with Mike’s attacking Gigapede. This allows Mike to drop a Mongrel and an Aquamoeba and next turn he flashes back a Ray to take out the Persuasion. Ollie concedes showing his hand of five lands.

Game 3

A second turn Mongrel is met with a Smother, but again Mike gets to use it to discard a Roar and a Gigapede. For the first time in the match Ollie gets a Pyschatog in play on his third turn and is able to get in an attack before Mike discards an Arrogant Wurm to his Gigapede and madnesses it into play. Mike is sitting on four Forests at the end of the turn, and with no Ray in his graveyard Ollie has a quiet chat with the Wurm and Persuades it to join his side of the board. Mike’s position starts to look precarious, as his Flashbacked Roar is met with a Smother and then another Roar discarded via Careful Study is Countered. Mike only has a Gigapede on his next turn and when Ollie shows him the Logic Mike scoops to the lethal Tog and traitorous Wurm.

Game 4

Ollie mulligans Edict, Persuasion and 5 lands going second. A tough decision perhaps influenced by the multiple Ray of Revelations Mike has after boarding. He keeps his 6 cards.

Both players lead with Islands, and an Aquamoeba sticks as Ollie has a Compulsion on his second turn. Mike attacks for three discarding Analysis and then also discards a Ray and flashes it back to take out the Compulsion. Ollie has the third turn Oppressor though, but unusually Mike names Beast to protect his Aquamoeba. His decision becomes clear as he discards Wonder to fly over the Oppressor for another three damage the following turn and backs it up with a second Aquamoeba. A Speculation is countered but Mike madnesses a Logic through an Aquamoeba to force it through and pump the beast for an extra two damage. Ollie makes his fourth Island, and sinks into his chair as he has no play. He counters Mike’s Flashbacked Analysis but Mike still discard random creature to pump both his Aquamoebas. On just two life Ollie drops his hand on the table. Two Smothers are there, uncastable due to the lack of black mana.

Mike made a couple of errors early in the match, no doubt due to nerves, but once he settled down he played a solid game. Ollie’s play wasn’t flawless either, his opening hand with no answer to a second turn Madness outlet should probably have been mulliganed and the deck registration error cost him dearly as he was unable to counter Mike’s Speculation early in the second game. However with a screw, a flood and a mulligan for Ollie lukc clearly wasn’t on his side either. Ollie will now have to wait until next year to find out if he can make his fourth National team whereas Mike just needs to win of his next two matches to make his first.

Mike wins 3-1

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