wo of the game's best players faced off this round. Bob Maher had done everything there is to do in the game from Grand Prix Champion to Pro Tour winner. His schedule is not as accommodating of the time demands of the game as it was when he was younger. In addition to other interests, Bob recently took an actual, real-life job--the bane of any Pro Tour mainstay. His competitive fire still burns pretty bright despite less opportunities to play. He was disappointed with the deck he was wielding for the first three rounds, "My deck is fair-it's unspectacular. Actually, I hate saying it is fair, it's very unfair."
Brian Kibler does not have as many trophies on his mantle but he does have two pieces of Grand Prix hardware in six trips to the Top 8. He also has one Pro Tour Top 8 and countless money finishes as well. He currently writes about the game and edits the Premium side of Brain burst. "My deck is fine--it could have been amazing. I took a Shaman over Predator's Strike and never passed another green card." Despite this his opponent went green and had a pair of Fangren Hunters and a Deconstruct from the second pack that Kibler would have liked to see go one exit farther down the road.
Bob had an Iron Myr and followed with a third turn Chittering Rats. Brian's third turn saw a Krark-Clan Grunt come down with no artifact to aid it. Bob hasted up an Arcbound Hybrid and beat in for four. Brian had no blocks, "Right back at you." He had Vulshok Berserker and attacked for five on his next turn.
Bob weighed his options and chose to attack but left his Iron Myr back. Nim Lasher hit play as a 4/1 and he passed the turn. He chose not to block when Brian attacked. Kibler's post-attack Ogre Leadfoot was Terrored and Bob was able to bash across for eight and finish him off with Essence Drain.
Bob took out Dragon Blood for Game 2 and replaced it with Disciple of the Vault. Kibler made no changes. "I would like my chances better in this match-up with a pair of Fangren Hunters."
Bob laughed, "I'm betting that Leadfoot would not be there if you had some Hunters."
Brian was shocked when he wished Bob, "Good luck."
"No thank you? I'm used to the thank you."
Bob shrugged, "Some people thought it was rude."
"I am just used to it."
Bob had the same first two plays although on the draw. Brian had Spawning Pit and Cathodion. His fourth turn was without land and he played a Pyrite Spellbomb. He considered cycling it and then thought better of it.
Bob got in for two with his Chittering Rats and attempted to Essence Drain the Cathodion but Brian saved it with a Scale of Chiss-Goria. Brian was stuck on three lands and played a Grunt. His hand was chock full of goodies though and when Bob played Goblin Dirigible he was able to Electrostatic Bolt it and send in with the team.
Brian cycled into his fourth land and Bob bore down on the board to weigh his options. He would have a lot of them thanks to Skullclamp and traded his Myr in for a pair of cards. He moved the Clamp to his Rats and put a Grimclaw Bats and another Myr into play. Brian made a gagging sound and ogled the powerful uncommon, "Skullclamp? Ughhh."
He sent his men into the red zone and Bob put his Rats In the way of the Grunt. Brian sacrificed the Spawning Pit to give it first strike and Bob snatched two cards off his deck. Brian put out a Goblin War Wagon but did not seem happy about doing so. He was down to one card in hand to Bob's six after The Great One's draw step.
Bob put out Nim Lasher and Arcbound Hybrid. He equipped the modular guy and passed the turn. Brian's army of unspectacular men looked for some good attack but it was hard to find one on the board that didn't kill two of his men, give Bob two cards, and make a 3/3 Copper Myr. Finally he pushed everyone into the red zone. Bob tentatively made his blocks and then committed his troops. Lasher blocked Cathodion, Hybrid on Grunt, and Bats chumped the War Wagon. Brian had the Echoing Courage to save his Cathodion and sacrificed the Tooth to give his Grunt first strike.
When Bob counted his mana Brian's first reaction was "Fireball?" Then he realized. "I don't think you have Skullclamp and Fireball. That would be pretty embarrassing for the guy to your right."
Bob had a Mirror Golem and looked through Brian's bin, "None of your guys have died?" Bob chose his own Nim Lasher and added a Myr Enforcer to his board as well. Brian brightened when he saw his next card, "This was a good draw."
He played Tanglewalker and all of his guys ran through Bob's Great Furnace. Bob glared at his offending land, "I'm at one. I know what is coming out next game." He still had some life in him though and killed the Tanglewalker with a Consume Spirit for three. Brian looked to the top of his deck and was rewarded with Goblin Archeologist, "Oooh…Sharpshooter!"
"No fair, you know that guy is my favorite." Bob fortified his board with a 7/1 Nim Lasher and Arcbound Bruiser. He also inched his Furnace out the sleeve so he could not forget to side it out for a potential third game.
Brian activated the Archeologist and won the flip killing the Myr Enforcer. He entwined Barbed Lightning and took out the Myr. He swung with everyone and Bob lost despite being up at least seven cards in the game. "I'm going to need a Swamp. Losing a game to a second pick Tanglewalker is fine. Losing a second game to it on the other hand…"
Brian again said, "Good luck."
Bob smiled and earned a cheer from Brian and a few friends that had gathered to watch with his traditional, "Thanks."
Both players kept their hands. Bob had a land heavy draw while Brian's had only one land. Brian drew his second land on time and was able to play Pyrite Spellbomb and Tel-Jilad Chosen. Bob had a Nim Lasher. Brian got it out of he way with the spellbomb and had the third mana for Alpha Myr.
Bob had another Lasher and traded with the Chosen. Brian played a Tanglewalker and Bob killed it with Consume Spirit. His Tel-Jilad Wolf got its Essence Drained. The Alpha Myr kept beating the entire time. Brian was still on three land and played Krark-Clan Grunt. All Bob could muster was a Slagwurm Armor. He Terrored the Grunt but could still not stop the Alpha Myr.
He finally drew an Arcbound Hybrid but Brian had the fourth land and was able to Deconstruct the artifact man into a Goblin War Wagon. Bob drew an Iron Myr and equipped it next turn but Brian shoved it aside with a Viridian Shaman. Bob fell to a precariously low life total and could just squeak past another turn with a Moriok Scavenger but Brian had Echoing Courage for one of his unblocked men.
Brian seemed surprised to have won, "What was in your hand?"
Bob showed him the Mirror Golem and Goblin Dirigible that were in his opening grip. He then showed him the Myr Enforcer he had drawn a turn later. "If I had ever gotten a sixth land I would have been in good shape. I literally had every uncastable spell in my deck with five mana in play."
Brian pointed out that he had Deconstruct and Viridian Shaman. Bob acknowledged that may have been true but, "At least it would have been a game."
Both players were still in good position to make a run at Top 8. Brian had been paired up this round so both players were now bunched up in the same area of the standings.
Final result: Brian Kibler - 2 Bob Maher - 1