Saturday, August 27: 11:17 am - Drafting with Elijah
As the players sat down to draft at table one half of them were cringing from the bright sunlight pouring through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the venue. For one reason or another most of the players at the table failed to get a good night's sleep and the blinding sunlight was only compounding matters.
"The Marriott was evacuated last night at 11pm for a false fire alarm," explained Brian Taylor.
Elijah Pollack and Mike Handfield could only shake their heads and laugh. "We have at least two players at the table last night who are extremely hungover," groaned Pollack. He looked around at the table and noticed the two small children - Tyler Blum and Derek Denholm. "And at least two players who can't drink for five more years."
Elijah Pollack had explained to me Friday that despite not having much Kamigawa draft experience he felt relatively confident since there were not any mechanics like Threshold or Affinity that dramatically changed the value of otherwise marginally playable cards. With Kamigawa Block, according to Elijah, you could take the cards at face value.
The first pack of cards that he opened offered him a buffet of removal with Glacial Ray, Blind With Anger and Rend Flesh standing out from the other twelve choices. The temptation to pass the pair of red cards was obvious but in the end he took Glacial Ray and followed it up with a Ronin Houndmaster in the next pack.
His third pick was between Feral Deceiver and Wicked Akuba who were vying to kick off his second color. Elijah - no doubt recalling the Rend Flesh in the first pack opted to try the green route. His inexperience with the set stood out when he took Kusari-Gama with his fourth pick - the pack was not especially exciting for either of his colors but still…
"I can still read a signal," laughed Pollack after the draft recalling his fifth pick Kami of Ancient Law, sixth pick Mothrider Samurai, and eighth pick Blessed Breath. He rounded out the packs with Harsh Deceiver and Kami of Painted Road.
The first Betrayers pack was obviously a Sealed Deck pack in a previous life because it had three top notch black cards in Yokora the Prisoner, Horobi's Whisper, and Takenuma Bleeder. The only card in either of Elijah's colors was Blademane Baku. He considered taking one of the black cards but again assumed that Derek to his left was in black and that he would not see anything. Elijah didn't think twice about taking a second pick Genju of the Fields. He took a third pick Frostling but his eyes bulged as he had to pass on the second Horobi's Whisper that crossed his seat - there was also Okiba-Gang Shinobi. Someone somewhere along the line was getting a sick hook-up into black.
Betrayers rounded out for Elijah with a Terashi's Verdict, another Blademane Baku, First Volley, and a Goblin Cohort. He opened up Saviors but found little more than a Sokenzan Spellblade waiting for him. He more than made up for it in the second pack when he was rewarded for passing all that ridiculous black with Charge Across Araba. He ended up with something like ten playable white cards over the rest of the pack with an assortment of Shinen of Star's Light, Kitsune Loreweaver, and a couple of fliers.
"That was fantastic for me," Elijah explained afterward. "With the white Genju and Charge you just want to have Plains in your deck. I am hoping it works out that I only have to play 7 Mountains. Although I do have two Frostlings…"
The only regret Elijah had about the draft was all the black he had to pass in the second pack. "Maybe I should have taken the Rend and passed both red cards. I could have sworn the guy to my left would have been black."
Actually Derek was in white right from the start with Kitsune Blademaster. Although Elijah did not think that was the case. "I got passed Genju and Terashi's Verdict so I don't think he can be white - unless he took better cards each time. Are there better cards in white?"
Elijah's deck ended up looking like a solid 2-1 build. He had great cards but he had no way to take advantage of his Blademane Bakus. His deck needed to have more removal, a Kami of Fire's Roar, or a Waxmane Baku to get full value of the potentially game breaking 1/1 spirits to push it over into 3-0 territory.
Saturday, August 27: 12:44 pm - Mixed Signals
"Jeff?!!?" called out an obviously distressed Mark Zajdner to Jeff Cunningham. Jeff was doing his best not to look at Mark and pretended not to hear him. "Seriously, ffeJ, what could I do? When a guy passes you a fourth pick Cage of Hands you have to take it."
Mark turned back to me and shook his head. "If he can't accept that then I guess we aren't friends. I passed him the white Myojin and took Sosuke in the first pack - that's probably wrong but I like green - but I never saw another playable green card."
Jeff was sitting to Mark's right for the draft and was sent straight into white with the powerful Myojin. Mark also passed Soratami Mirror-Guard in that same pack and Jeff took it as a signal that blue and white were open. Mark's second pick was a Mirror-Guard of his own and by time he took that fateful fourth pick Cage of Hands both players were blue-white - much to Jeff's surprise.
The ironic thing about the whole situation is that the two roommates had worked out a detailed scenario for my benefit should they end up playing against each other. They had scripted dialogue and everything that would sound something like an old married couple having a fight. There was no faking here though as Jeff seemed genuinely hurt and angry about how the draft played out. Of course they were paired for the first round of draft play on the day.
Since both players had already picked up four losses Friday this was an elimination match on top of everything, with the winner only having an outside shot at the Top 8 if he wins out for the rest of the day.
As they sat down, Jeff shook his head slowly as Mark tried to figure out the extent of his anger. "You left me no outs for the draft."
"I am trying to explain that I had no choice," pleaded Mark. "Are we still friends?"
"I'm not even sure."
Mark was wide-eyed with disbelief at how seriously Jeff was taking this. "ffeJ! C'mon! It's Canadian Nationals and we are both two and four - I nearly first picked a Twincast in the third pack."
That seemed to thaw Jeff's icy exterior. "I thought about it too."
Both players kept their opening hands which prompted a raised eyebrow from Cunningham. "No mulligans between the two of us? What are the odds?"
Mark was on the draw but opened up fast with Dreamcatcher and Soratami Cloudskater. Jeff made his first play on turn three - a Waxmane Baku. Mark teased, "What? That should have been mine!"
Mark cycled the one-drop with Kami of False Hope and Jeff added Shinen of Star's Light to his board. Mark made another fog guy and passed the turn after attacking for one in the air. Jeff was wary of attacking his first striker into the two Kamis and looked hard at Mark and the players behind him watching along the rail.
"It's either a Will or a Talon Strike…"
"Or both," offered Mark. Mark kept his cards close to his chest as he became aware of the spectators. "He's trying to get a read off the guys behind me. I don't like it." Jeff attacked and Mark did have the Indomitable Will to kill the Shinen. Jeff played out Kitsune Riftwalker which settled the board into parity for a while - although Mark was digging through his deck with his Cloudskater.
When Jeff played the Myojin a few turns later, Mark was crestfallen. "Who has that guy there, ffeJ?"
"I went into white for this guy," deadpanned Cunningham who reached over and counted Mark's library. Between the threat of the Myojin a growing pile of counters on the Waxmane, and the Riftwalker, Mark could not really find a way through to mount any kind of offense. With two Kami of False Hopes on Mark's side of the table Jeff was content to let the game come down to decking.
"I shouldn't have passed you that guy," sighed Mark as the game approached its inevitable conclusion. Eventually Jeff drew his Soratami Mindsweeper and Mark conceded rather than let Jeff see the Ghost-Lit Raider that was lurking on the very bottom of his deck.
Mark looked through his sideboard and asked the judge to bring him two Forests so he could side in Matsu-Tribe Sniper. "Fourth color," asked Jeff.
The Matsu-Tribe sniper showed up in Game 2 but Jeff's deck announced its presence with authority spitting out high quality blue-white guy after guy. Moonwing Moth, Indebted Samurai, Faithful Squire, Sire of the Storm, and Waxmane Bake had all seen play by turn seven. Mark got to snipe the Moth and was able to lock up the Sire but he could do nothing about the Waxmane and Faithful Squire - not to mention the card drawing.
"His deck is sooo much better than mine in the mirror. Whatever. I am dead. I am going to drop and go watch CSI."
Jeff Cunningham - 2 Mark Zajdner - 0 and drop.
Saturday, August 27: 12:59 pm - Bad News/Good News
Shortly after Mark Zajdner dropped I was approached by occasional coverage contributor and member of last year's National team Mike Thicke. "So do you need any help today?" Mike had taken another loss and fell to 2-4-1. While I am sad that he won't be repeating I welcome the high quality of his writing and look forward to his assist for the remainder of the tournament.
Saturday, August 27: 2:17 pm - Round 8: Elijah Pollock vs. Mike Handfield
Elijah Pollock is a well-known Canadian player, having been a member of team 2020 along with Dave Rood and Steve Wolfman and being recognized as one of the top Canadian players since he was a junior. Mike Handfield is less well-known outside of Canada, but among Canadians is well-respected as a long-time, solid player. He has come close to the top eight of Canadian nationals several times but always falls short near the end of the tournament. Most notably, he once missed his first match of day two because
he went out drinking the night before and didn't make it to the site on time. He proceeded to play it out and finish ninth.
Apparently not scarred too much by that event, Mike went out drinking with Elijah the night before and apparently barely made it back to his friend's house late last night. Along with Murray Evans, these are the last two well-known plays still in contention.
Mike is playing a bomb-laden blue white deck against Elijah's red white with
Charge Across the Araba.
Elijah was on the play and kept his hand of five plains, Shinen of Stars' Light and Kitsune Blademaster, not an all-star hand by any means. Mike mulliganed to six.
Mike had the first play of the game with Kentaro, the Smiling Cat while Elijah had Shinen of Star's Light on turn three. Mike missed his third land drop and had to blow Hail of Arrows on the Shinen while Elijah drew and played Araba Mothrider.
Kitsune Dawnblade narrowly beat Mike's third land into play, which allowed Mike to play Moonwing Moth.
Elijah took Mike down to 17 and played out Kami of Ancient Law while Mike stayed stuck on three lands. "Come on deck," he muttered, understandably a little frustrated, and said he was reconsidering the wisdom of his mulligan.
On his turn Elijah had a think, maybe considering Charge Across the Araba, but went with Ronin Houndmaster and attacked with it and Kitsune Dawnblade. Kentaro and Houndmaster traded while Mike pumped his Moth to bounce with the Dawnbalde.
Mike, still short on land, played Kami of Hope, which would stave off Charge Across the Araba for a while at least. Elijah made a Moonwing Moth and passed. Mike then finally found a fourth land to play Nagao, Bound by Honor.
Elijah had "just" Charge Across the Araba left and attacked Mike down to 11 with his Moth. At this point Elijah's plan had to be to force Mike to use the Kami of Hope somehow so Charge could win it for him. Mike did know about the Charge though, despite this being the first game, so he wasn't going to lose the Kami without good reason.
The next significant play was Elijah's Mothrider Samurai which threatened to double the rate of damage to Mike, while Mike had Oboro Breezecaller after finding his first Island of the game. The Breezecaller teamed up with his Moonwing Moth to trade with Mothrider Samurai when Elijah attacked, but Elijah had Shinen of Stars' Light in his hand to give his Samurai first strike. This forced Mike to sacrifice Kami of Hope to stop a bad combat phase.
On his next turn Mike used the Breezecaller to get him double blue, leading to Teller of Tales.
With the Kami of Hope gone, Elijah sent in his team with five plains ready to jump back into his hand. Mike had just one plains untapped. Elijah played the Charge and Mike scooped. Elijah explained that he would have just flashed the Charge to make things quicker but he didn't know what tricks were in the format for one white.
Elijah 1 - 0 Mike
In Game 2 Elijah kept another underwhelming hand of five land, Kitsune Loreweaver and Blessed Breath.
Mike got off to a decent start with Inner Chamber Guard and Threads of Disloyalty on the Loreweaver. On the next turn Elijah attempted to Blessed Breath the Loreweaver but Mike pointed out that it only targets creatures you control. Elijah came into this tournament essentially cold on the format and often had to read his opponent's card. Apparently he isn't quite solid on what his cards do either, but it's a testament to his skill that he's still doing very well.
Both players began building up their forces. Mike had Teller of Tales, Lantern Kami, and Nagao, Bound by Honor while Elijah had Ronin Houndmaster, Sokenzan Spellblade, and Glacial Ray waiting in his hand along with the Blessed Breath.
Elijah drew Kami of Ancient Law and made a comment about being disgusted that Blessed Breath couldn't get his Loreweaver back before attacking with Spellblade. He may have been trying to induce Mike not to chump with Loreweaver so he could play the Kami later and get it back, or he could have been just honestly disgusted. Whatever his intention, Mike chose to chump block with Inner Chamber Guard.
Mike attacked back with Teller of Tales and Lantern Kami taking Elijah down to 11.
Elijah drew Cowed by Wisdom, played the Kami and killed Threads, and attacked with Spellblade. Nagao blocked it, which signaled that Mike must have something as he knew about Blessed Breath. They put damage on the stack, Elijah played the Blessed Breath, and Mike had Hail of Arrows in response, complaining that he wished Elijah had played the Breath before combat damage. Can't have everything I guess.
He took Elijah down to 7 and played Soratami Rainshaper.
Elijah drew Terashi's Verdict to deal with Teller of Tales and put Mike back to a very meager board of a new Orboro Breezecaller and Lantern Kami. With Charge in Elijah's hand it was looking bad for Mike despite being way up in life.
Elijah's next attack took Mike down to 12 and he increased his advantage with Araba Mothrider, followed by Genju of the Fields on his next turn. Hail of Arrows number two took down a huge chunk of Elijah's army and brought Mike right back into the game, killing Ronin Houndmaster, Kitsune Loreweaver, and Araba Mothrider. The Genju hit and gained Elijah four life, making him feel much more secure about the game. He still had Charge in hand after all.
Mike played Patron of the Moon, tapping out, which let Elijah Cowed by Wisdom it and take a chunk out of Mike's life, but he couldn't also cast charge and attack with the Genju so Mike just went down to 3 while Elijah went up to 14. A win for Elijah seemed inevitable at this point.
The board was stalled for a while though as both players passed back and forth. Elijah was building up lands in his hand for his Cowed by Wisdom on the Patron. Opal-Eye, Konda's Yojimbo from Mike mucked up the board even more and gave him a little hope against the Charge that he must have been expecting.
Sure enough, a few turns later Elijah decided the time was right to charge after Mike had attacked with Patron of the Moon the previous turn. Mike had Opal-Eye block the Genju and Lantern Kami block a Blademane Baku, letting Araba Mothrider and Mothrider Samurai through. Elijah played the Charge, for five. Mike would need to have something here just to survive and it looked like his team would get smashed even when he did. But it turns out he had a great answer to the Charge with Spiritual Visit splicing Consuming Vortex to bounce the Mothrider Samurai, followed by Consuming Vortex on the Genju.
Opal-Eye then took the Araba Mothrider damage and Mike emerged unscathed.
Mike still had his Patron of the Moon, which was joined by Oyobi, Who Split the Heavens the turn after. Elijah had just Mothrider Samurai and Araba Mothrider. Elijah sent his fliers in, but it was a desperation suicide attack that was stopped by Mike just blocking and killing both creatures. Elijah conceded on the next turn.
What a stunning turn of events.
There were only 16 minutes left after the marathon Game 2. Mike mentioned that a draw was the same as a loss for both players so they would have to play quickly. That didn't end up being a concern though. Elijah kept a solid-looking hand with two forests for land. While Mike curved out with Breezecaller, Soratami Rainshaper, and Nagao, Bound by Honor, Elijah stalled. Facing an insuperable board position Elijah conceded quickly, clearly frustrated at this turn of events. Just minutes ago it looked like he had the match well in hand, cruising to a top eight, and now he must go 2-1 in the constructed portion to make it.
Mike Handfield 2 - 1 Elijah Pollock
Saturday, August 27: 2:35 pm - Round 9: Kyle Smith vs. Adam Hein
Adam Hein is the last undefeated player in the tournament at 7-0-1, with a four-point clearance on the field. "Better lucky than good," he explained, though you probably have to be lucky AND good to be 7-0-1. Kyle Smith, an occasional internet author, was sitting at 6-2. A win for Kyle here would make him much more comfortable about his chances, as his mono-blue control would have to wade through a field of rats decks in the coming Standard rounds.
Kyle was playing heavy green with a little black, mainly for two Horobi's Whispers that he switched into black for after having already passed one Whisper in the second pack. Adam was playing an aggressive red black deck.
Adam kept a hand of two Swamp, Horobi's Whisper, Captive Flame, and Cruel Deceiver. Kyle, on the play, led with Sakura-Tribe scout followed by Gnarled Mass. Not bad. Adam struggled to stabilize with Bile Urchin, Cruel Deceiver and Captive Flame. The Urchin traded with the Scout, but the Scout had done his job. Captive Flame allowed the Deceiver to trade with Gnarled Mass, but Kyle had already played out a Lifebringer and a Ghost-Lit Nourisher that Adam had Whispered.
Adam had Akki Raider and Cursed Ronin on the next couple of turns, but Kyle had Rootrunner and Elder Pine of Jukai. To make matters worse, the Rootrunner brought back the Nourisher when it died. Adam never really had a chance.
While they shuffled for Game 2 Kyle mentioned that he heard Adam had two Okiba-Gang Shinobis. Given the apparent card quality discrepancy seen in Game 1, Adam would probably need to hit with at least one to have a good shot at getting back into the match.
Adam kept a hand with several decent spells but only two lands. He had a Cruel Deceiver on turn two but then stalled out while Kyle again came out strong. When Kyle had Serpent's Skin for Shinen of Life's Roar and Ghost-Lit Nourisher along with some other guys Adam really had no good outs. He scooped after continuing to miss his land drops.
This win is great for Kyle as it gives him a real shot at the top eight while Adam should still be able to get in pretty easily.
Kyle Smith 2 - 0 Adam Hein
Saturday, August 27: 3:20 pm - Taylor's Chucks
There were six players with 21 points or better and eleven with 18 going into the home stretch of Standard. Almost all of the players sitting at 21 or better seemed to be playing Rats and were all pulling for Elijah to win his way into the Top 8 along with them.
"I have this fantasy of seven rats players and Elijah in the Top 8," drooled Kyle Smith who was one win away from clinching. Elijah was playing a deck closely resembling the deck Neil Reeves piloted to his second-place finish at U.S. Nats - a deck that gets gnawed to pieces by Rats.
"Do I have any good matchups?" asked Elijah. "My best match-up is supposed to be Mono-Blue Tron and even that is 50/50."
Elijah was paired with Taylor Putnam - last seen in the finals of GP Seattle. Both players were in the survivor bracket of 18 pointers. Taylor was playing Tooth and Nail and felt confident in his match up with Mono-Blue Control after board. He brings in Pithing Needles and sets them on Uyo or Triskelion to shut down the Twincast sideboard package the blue deck usually runs.
"They never counter the Needle," Taylor announced confidently - and well out of Elijah's earshot.
As the crowd gathered around to watch the match one of the spectators pointed out that I needed to get a shot of Taylor's Chuck Taylors and I wholeheartedly agreed. Apparently among Chuck aficionados my shot of Bill Stead's threadbare red Chucks from last year's U.S. Nationals is the second best picture in the history of coverage. (Obviously Josh Bennett's snap of Trey Van Cleave looking at his table mate's draft choices remains the all-time winner.)
Taylor came out of the gate with a Sakura-Tribe-Elder and Llanowar Elf over the first three turns. He was content to beat down with them while waiting for the Tron. Elijah cast Shackles on turn five and passed back the turn with only two mana left up.
Putnam took that opportunity to Reap and Sow for his maindecked Boseiju. With the Boseiju in play it was just a matter of a couple of turns and two uncounterable Tooth and Nails before Elijah scooped and reached for his Twincast package.
Taylor took out two Oblivion Stones and Mephidross Vampire for three Pithing Needles. Elijah took out 4 Annul, 2 Shackles, and 2 Golems to bring in his Twincast package.
Elijah mulled a one land hand but liked his next six. Taylor led off with Divining Top and Elijah played a second turn Jushi Apprentice. Both players revved their respective engines for several turns waiting for someone to wave the starter flag.
Finally Taylor offered up a Pithing Needle. Elijah read the card and thought for awhile. He let it resolve and Taylor named Jushi Apprentice. Rewind hit a Reap and Sow and Elijah cast Thirst for Knowledge EOT discarding an Oblivion Stone.
Jushi got his beat on and slipped in for one. Condescend forestalled another Reap and Sow. There was nothing of consequence in Elijah's hand and he had eight mana so he simply played Uyo straight up with two mana left.
Putnam flipped his Top and completed the Tron and cast Tooth and Nail with entwine. Elijah copied it to get Mephidross Vampire and Sakashima the Imposter. He put Triskelion and Vampire into play. Taylor searched for Witness and Shaman. He put them both into play targeting Trike and Tooth. Elijah shot them both and then did three to Taylor on its way out.
Elijah untapped with his Uyo still in play and Putnam scooped.
"I was going to name Uyo," Putnam kicked himself after the game while Elijah discussed something with a judge. Then he brightened, "But he did let it resolve."
The two players both fiddled with their boards but neither one made a committed move to change their Game 2 configuration. Elijah laughed at the game of chicken, "So we are just going to stare at each other until one of us sideboards?"
"Can I go somewhere else to sideboard?" The answer from the table judge was that he could not. The judge also reminded both players that they needed to start the game within three minutes.
Taylor looked at Elijah's unsleeved board and realized, "I have the advantage since my sideboard is sleeved. I could just shuffle them all in."
"Why didn't you just do that?"
"It hardly seems fair to you."
"I appreciate that. Who sells sleeves in only sixty? On a funny note…my opponent last round was playing with his hand practically face-up but I couldn't even take advantage of the info if I wanted to - I don't know the cards by their pictures yet."
Taylor mulliganed his opening hand and muttered under his breath. He opened with an elf and Scryed for Boseiju on the next turn. Elijah Boomeranged a Forest to slow things down.
Taylor was behind a land drop as a consequence but he made up for it with a second mana elf. Elijah stole one with Shackles to set him back again. Taylor used Reap and Sow to complete his tron and it was Elijah's turn to mutter, "Huh," as he rubbed his eyes and tried to figure out his play. He took advantage of the Llanowar Elf to tap out and play Uyo.
Putnam Shamaned the Shackles. He flipped his Top and used Reap and Sow to kill an Island. "Four mana Stone Rain."
Elijah went on the offensive from that point on. He ended up letting a Pithing Needle resolve (he had nothing of note in hand) and just started attacking with Uyo, Spire Golem, and an animated Stalking Stones.
Taylor kept digging with his Top but he found nothing and soon extended the hand. Twincast never even figured into the picture - it was just Uyo straight up in both games.
Final result: Elijah - 2 Taylor - 1
Saturday, August 27: 3:55 pm - TurboRoy Revealed
Roy's fiendish creatures.
Okay, the deck did not really post any kind of numbers to warrant singling it out for a deck tech but Jim Roy's post-Ninth Standard remake of old-school prison decks spoke to my inner rogue deckbuilder. I watched him Friday during the second round when he won his first game by getting his opponent locked out of the game with recursive Beacon of Tomorrows. In the second game he was hit with a turn-three Cranial Extraction but still wiped the floor with his BlueTooth opponent by resolving a second turn Temporal Adept and backing it up with Annexes, Boomerangs, and Time Stops.
And the deck runs Exhaustion. I love Exhaustion and have a play set of Chinese Portal versions of the card that I actually played in an eerily similar deck back in the days of Time Warp and Iron Maiden.
Canadian Nationals - Post-Ninth Standard
Jim Roy is known for his wild creations by most Canadian players. He reached a wider audience when there was a blog item in the Pro Tour-Philadelphia coverage about his Metamorphose Tog deck that had qualified him for that event.
"Usually I build all kind of decks on Apprentice. Ideas pop up and I build a deck. For this format I have like forty different decks built. I almost played a Polymorph deck that I thought was really good. I actually made like ten different versions of it. It basically plays like Draw-Go and has no actual creatures except for one Darksteel Colossus that can hit play on turn three."
"I decided to play this one though. I like Boomerang and Annex and somehow I just morphed them together with Howling Mine. My opponents usually just concede in Game 1. Because of Cranial Extraction you usually need to beat them down with Magpies in the second game."
Saturday, August 27: 4:41 pm - Round 11: Murray Evans vs. Mike Handfield
At the beginning of the tournament everyone thought that 8-4 would be a lock for top eight, but it looks like the draft pods have made fast work of everyone's beautiful calculations and perhaps only one 8-4 will make it. That makes this an elimination match for one or both of these players.
Murray "the Mauler" Evans has been known by Magic fans since his appearance at Worlds on the Canadian team before he was legal for roller-coasters, but he had some major success in the last year putting him briefly back in the spotlight, with a top eight at worlds and a top eight at Nagoya. Since then he hasn't played all that much Magic, but success here could put him right back in the game.
Similarly, Mike is looking for a team spot here to propel him on to the world stage after a long stint as a top Canadian player without any Pro Tour success.
Murray is playing mono-blue control and Mike has the deck that has been swarming Canadian nationals - rats. This should be Murray's worst matchup by far, but he has Culling Scales after boarding to even the playing field. He took down a rats deck last round, so we know it can be done.
Murray got off to a good start, with Condescend on Ravenous Rats and a Jushi Apprentice with Annul for Pithing Needle.
Rather that keep mana up on turn four, Murray played out Vedalken Shackles, missing his fourth land drop, and attacked Mike down to 19. Mike took the opportunity to Nekrataal the Jushi.
On his next turn Mike played out a couple of Ravenous Rats and Murray took the Nekrataal. On his turn Murray attacked with the Nekrataal and played a second Shackles without the mana to use it. Mike played out Jitte, equipped it, and swung with the two rats. Jitte got counters.
On Murray's next turn he played Thirst of Knowledge, didn't get anything useful, and conceded. This turn of events really brought into question the Nekrataal attack, but Murray said afterward he was just hoping Mike didn't have the Jitte.
Murray brought in four Culling Scales for Game 2 and Mike brought in three Distress.
Mike started off the game with Aether Vial and Murray had no Annul. Since the Vial would allow Mike to play creatures anyways, Murray chose to play Jushi Apprentice on his second turn rather than keep up mana for Mana Leak. Mike had Rend Flesh for the Apprentice, though, and Vialed out Nezumi Shortfang.
Murray had a pair of Spire Golems next. The first died to Rend Flesh and the second to Viridian Shaman. This cleared the way for Hypnotic Specter, and then Mike played Distress. He saw Boomerang, Mana Leak, and two Vedalken Shackles and chose the Boomerang. As Murray had two Shackles and he had already played his Shaman, Mike probably just planned on waiting for a Pithing Needle to lock out the Shackles. The Distress left Mike out of cards in hand.
Murray used the Shackles to stabilize and even start attacking with Hypnotic Specter. Mike played out multiple Nezumi Shortfangs setting up an interesting situation where flipping a Shortfang could be detrimental because of Shackles, Mike's empty hand, and "Murray's" Hypnotic Specter.
Meanwhile Mike was able to swing back for some damage with some Nexuses, Viridian Shaman and a couple of his three Shortfangs. This brought the life totals to Murray 6, Mike 8. Another attack made it Murray at six. At this point Mike used and flipped one Shortfang. Murray of course took it with Shackles, and then on Murray's end of turn Mike flipped another for mutual death. Murray gave back the Hypnotic Specter at the beginning of the turn, so he had one untapped Shackles and one tapped Shackles.
Both players were now dry, with Murray at 6 and Mike at 5. A top-decked Night's Whisper took Mike to 3, but it gave him an amazing Pithing Needle. Murray took Shortfang as it threatened to kill him if he didn't, but now he couldn't stop Hypnotic Specter or the Nexuses. Murray failed to draw anything amazing and conceded on the next turn.
Murray commented correctly that if he had drawn Culling Scales at any point during that game he would have pretty much just automatically won. As it is, it looks like Murray will need a miracle to make the final day now and Mike is a lock.
Saturday, August 27: 5:30 pm - Bubble, Bubble Who's in Trouble?
||Dean, J. Evan
Kyle Smith, left, and Tyler Blum.
Those were the top tables going into round twelve and technically anyone from table one to nine was still in it. Table one drew as did table three but Adam Hein chose to play in order to help several people's tiebreakers that he had played along the way.
Tyler Blum was forced to play when he got paired down with Kyle Smith in the last round. Kyle had some of the top breakers among the 21 point players and a win seemed likely to propel him forward. In Game 1 Kyle scuffled for green with two Shamans in hand while Triskelions worked him over. In Game 2, Kyle ripped apart his hand - like Rat deck will do - and they were quickly onto Game 3. In the final game Kyle randomly hit Meloku with his Hippie and then was able to rip away the rest of Tyler's cards by hitting the two Triskelions in hand with Cranial Extraction.
Kyle - 2 Tyler - 1
Adam Hein, left, and Jared Gushattey
Adam Hein and Jared Gushattey were locked in a Rat mirror match - a preview of things to come Sunday with six Rat decks heading for the elimination rounds. The match came down to Game 3 but Adam's techy Patron of the Nezumi outraced a flipped Shortfang for the match.
Adam - 2 Jared - 1
Elijah Pollack had to square off with Paul Thiessen in a rematch of the U.S. Nats finals - MUC vs. BlueTooth. Again it came down to a Game 3 and you could see Elijah slump as Paul played a natural tron by turn three on the play. Paul was lacking blue mana and Pollack Annuled two straight Solemn Simulacrums but chose not to Rewind a Talisman. The blue mana source allowed Paul to start tearing through his deck with Serum Visions and a pair of Thirst for Knowledges.
Elijah scrapped it out but could not compete with the massive mana advantage provided by the Urza lands. On the final turn of the game Elijah managed to Annul Memnarch and pay for the Mana Leak but tapped out. Paul still had enough mana to shoot Pollack three times with Triskelion, Echoing Truth it, and replay the Trike for the win.
Elijah Pollack, left, and Paul Thiessen
It was a heartbreaking loss for Pollack who had been pretty sanguine about playing in the tournament but as the possibility of the Top 8 loomed larger and larger he let down his guard and became excited about it. I think the loss may mark the last time we see Elijah at a Magic tournament for a long time.
Paul - 2 Elijah - 1
In the end those were the relevant matches for the three players with 24 points who would make it in. Tyler Blum got in despite his loss to Kyle Smith who joined him in the Top 8. Adam knocked Jared out of the Top 8 by choosing to play which opened the door for Paul Thiessen.