fter the rush of making the final cut on Saturday, many players say they have trouble getting a good night's sleep before the Top 8. Showing up Sunday, nerves can become an even bigger issue as the bright lights, pictures, interviews, and countless other little things impress on you that this is it. Having watched a lot of Top 8s by now, in my experience a slow opening match can go a long way toward settling those nerves. Unfortunately for these guys, this match came on fast and furious.
Takahiro Suzuki and Willy Edel fight for a shot at the semifinals.
Both players began with suspend creatures on turn one; a Viscerid Deepwalker for Takahiro and a Durkwood Baloth for Edel. Suzuki continued efficiently using his mana for several turns, playing Mogg War Marshal, then next turn paying the upkeep and using a third mana to suspend a Keldon Halberdier. Edel looked a bit clunkier by missing his two-drop, followed by successive Ironclaw Buzzardiers. Takahiro began firing off Think Twice to smooth out his draw, but everything came apart at the seams next turn when Edel dropped Verdant Embrace on a Buzzardiers, sending it in for 5 and taking command of the game.
From here out, Saproling tokens began flooding the table, one for each player's upkeep. Takahiro had a Firemaw Kavu to off the smaller Buzzardier, but didn't have an answer for the real threat. With no fliers and nothing in hand able to stop the 5/5 from flying over each turn, the game spiraled rapidly away, culminating in a surprise Disintegrate for 3 to finish it.
Edel 1 - Suzuki 0
Suzuki passes the turn.
Edel mulliganed this one but was able to keep the 6-card version. He had a turn-one suspended Search for Tomorrow, but Takahiro had a much better-looking suspended Ephemeron. Next up was Foriysian Totem for Takahiro, while Edel suspended a Nantuko Shaman with the help of the extra land from Search for Tomorrow. Those turns meant both players had five mana for their fourth turns. For Suzuki that meant Viscerid Deepwalker, while Edel played Sporesower Thallid. The Deepwalker charged into the Thalid and traded, but Takahiro then suspiciously just said go with lots of mana up. Edel thought about it for all of a moment or two, then went for it and tried to get Verdant Embrace on his Shaman. Takahiro nearly came out his chair, whipping a Sudden Shock onto the table and causing an actual cringe by Edel. Clearly taken aback and still shaking his head, Edel was forced to pass the turn.
Takahiro made things worse with a very impressive Tectonic Fiend - plus this was the turn the Ephemeron came in - so just like that, the entire momentum of the match had swung around. Takahiro was visibly animated at this point, and didn't seem to mind at all when Edel added a Pardic Dragon to his side of the board. Takahiro paid his echo and sent in his giant troops. The fliers traded, but Edel had nothing for the Tectonic Fiend. Drawing one last card, Edel quickly passed the turn. This time the Tectonic Fiend was joined on the attack by Foriysian Totem. Edel shook his head one last time, took a quick final look at the Embrace in his bin, and then scooped up his cards.
Edel 1 - Suzuki 1
This time it was Takahiro who had to exchange his opener for six cards, and his hand seemed to show the effects. Playing second for the first time in the match, he had no play turn one, then had to suspend a freshly drawn Deepwalker on turn two instead. Worse, turn three he didn't have a play at all. Meanwhile, Edel began by suspending a Baloth turn one, followed by suspending Search for Tomorrow, then played Thallid Germinator and a Sporesower Thallid. Untapping, the best Takahiro had was to Sudden Shock the Germinator immediately.
Figuring this was his opening, Edel went for the Verdant Embrace on his Sporesower Thallid, smashing in. Takahiro untapped and moved his Deepwalker down to one counter, drew his card, then passed the turn quickly with nothing in play but five mana. Edel charged in again, augmented by his growing Saproling team, and Takahiro quickly scooped up his cards, clearly frustrated by the Embrace. In fact, at this point he actually requested a deck and sleeve check on his opponent, presumably because Embrace had shown up every single game so far. The judging team checked the deck and sleeves and came back to report that everything was in order, which drew what I think was a friendly, slightly embarrassed smile from Takahiro.
Edel 2 - Suzuki 1
Edel began this one with a first-turn suspended Baloth for the third time in the match, followed by a suspended Search for Tomorrow and then Thallid Germinator. During all this Takahiro was much slower, just playing land and saying go, with nothing else until a fourth turn Empty the Warrens for two Goblins. The Germinator charged in, and once the Goblins were declared as blockers Edel dropped a Strangling Soot on one, forcing the other to be killed by the Thallid. With nothing in play but land, this time Takahiro went for Stormcloud Djinn. The Germinator swung in under the Djinn, and then a sixth mana came into play along with flashback on the Soot to exterminate the Stormcloud Djinn.
Looking dangerously behind, Takahiro passed the turn. He had a Cancel for the Durkwood Baloth coming in from suspendville, but Edel had Sporesower Thallid, too. As bad as things looked right then for Takahiro, they looked a lot better a moment later when Firemaw Kavu came in, wiping out the Germinator. Edel had just a Buzzardiers to answer, but Takahiro was just getting started. Letting the Firemaw go, he offed the Sporesower Thallid then tapped everything and played Bogardan Hellkite! The last two monsters on Edel's side of the board went straight to the dumper, along with a point to the face for spite, and suddenly things had completely swung around. But somehow, it wasn't over yet. Edel had his own giant monster, dropping out a Pardic Dragon. The Hellkite went in, but the Pardic Dragon managed to take it down with the help of Thrill of the Hunt.
Again things weren't over, though, as this time the answer was a hard-cast Errant Ephemeron from Takahiro. With no access to white mana yet, Edel was stuck and had to pass the turn. Takahiro started amping up the pressure, playing a Viscerid Deepwalker with lots of blue mana available. Again Edel whiffed and had to pass the turn, taking 7 and dropping to 12 when the Deepwalker smashed in. This time the Dragon had to block the Deepwalker, but once they had traded, Takahiro played Subterranean Shambler to join his Errant Ephemeron. Desperately behind, Edel drew Search for Tomorrow, getting his white mana one turn too late to save the badly needed Dragon. Making the best of things, he cast a second Thrill of the Hunt from hand on the Shambler, flashed it back, and then dropped Grapeshot for 4 on the Ephemeron, somehow again managing to stay alive in what had been a colossal battle of bomb creatures and spells.
Takahiro sent in the Shambler to drop the Brazilian to 8 then added a Keldon Halberdier to his team, continuing to make creatures every turn. Edel thought a long time on this one. With 10 mana in play, he finally shrugged and pointed a Disintegrate at the Halberdier, clearly disappointed to not be able to point it at his opponent instead. But, staying alive was more important and this was the only way. From here Edel did his best to stay in it but Takahiro simply didn't run out of creatures, including a Tectonic Fiend that was just too big to stop. In the final turn Edel tried to make a stand with Thrill of the Hunt but an Orcish Cannonade in response put in end to his creature and his hopes for the game.
Edel 2 - Suzuki 2
A screwy thing happened just prior to this one. After sideboarding, but before presenting his deck, Edel shuffled up his deck but then went through it briefly, moving a couple cards around, presumably to avoid clumps or something. However, he shuffled only minimally after this and then presented his deck. The table judge rightly stopped the game and issued a warning for insufficient randomization, because it doesn't matter how much you shuffle prior once you stop and look at what's in your deck. This was the first such warning for Edel, so no further penalty was required. But players a chuckle at the circumstances that had been surrounding this crazy match so far, and we were off to the decider.
The piercing gaze of Willy Edel.
For this one Takahiro had to mulligan, but his draw looked pretty fluid, suspending Viscerid Deepwalkers on turns two and three followed by Foriysian Totem. For Edel, playing first, it was Thallid Shell-Dweller, Thallid Germinator, and then Penumbra Spider. Taking advantage of his Totem acceleration, Takahiro was able to cast a fourth-turn Stormcloud Djinn, but the tapped-out Japanese player looked very tense as he passed the turn, surely bracing himself for the feared Verdant Embrace. It didn't happen, though. Instead, it was Cockatrice along with an attack that put Takahiro at 14.
Freed up from playing around Embrace, Takahiro looked more comfortable. He brought his first Deepwalker into play, then pointed a Sudden Shock at the Germinator followed by an awesome Empty the Warrens for 6 Goblins. That synergy between suspend and storm has been a favorite of red-blue players this weekend, and it looked like a huge play here. Edel did what he could, using a Strangling Soot to take out the Djinn, and then bravely charged in with his Cockatrice to drop Takahiro to 12. Payback was painful though, as Deepwalker #2 joined the table to make it 8 creatures total.
Both players were down to one card at this point. Takahiro thought a bit, then activated his Totem, played that last card down as an Island, and put his whole army into the red zone. After the smoke had cleared it was Edel 11, Takahiro 12. Edel had Shell-Dweller, Cockatrice, and Penumbra Spider vs. a Viscerid Deepwalker and 6 Goblins, plus the Totem. Edel drew and had to pass the turn, but had the mana to flashback his Soot if needed. Takahiro clearly wanted to get in but decided he needed to stay back. Passing the turn, he lost his Deepwalker to the flashed-back Strangling Soot.
Drawing his card, Edel sat up quite a bit straighter in his seat and excitedly asked his opponent if he really had zero cards in hand? Getting the confirmation, he quickly cast the dreaded Verdant Embrace, plowing in with the Cockatrice for 5. Takahiro had his Firemaw to take out a Saproling then sent all the Goblins in a desperate charge, making it Edel 8, Takahiro 7. The Cockatrice came in one last time, and then Takahiro had no answer, conceding the game and advancing Edel to the semis after what had been a hard-fought match between two incredibly powerful decks.
Edel 3 - Suzuki 2