ound twelve saw a pairing between the top two players in the standings--a grizzled veteran in the midst of the Player of the Year Race and an amateur player who acquired his first Pro Points at the start of play on Friday. Largely on the basis of having won Pro Tour Amsterdam Norway's Nicolai Herzog is tied for third place in the player of the year race--or should we say, "was tied"? Since Kai could be seen prowling the sidelines with a press badge around his neck it is safe to say that Nicolai would be putting a little distance between himself and the German. Both Gabriel Nassif and Rickard Osterberg had fallen back in the standings as well so there was a chance he could pass the two players ahead of him with another Top 8 performance this weekend.
Nicolai had won his Amsterdam Top 8 table with a green-red monstrosity that featured Molder Slug and abundant removal. His deck in the fourth draft this weekend was the talk of the tournament. It also featured Molder Slug. It also had the still-undervalued Panoptic Mirror along with Grab the Reins, One Dozen Eyes, Barbed Lightning, and Electrostatic Bolt to imprint on it. He was 2-0 in his pod and 10-1 overall to this point and a victory this round would almost ensure him of a Top 8 berth. "My deck has proven to be as good as advertised."
Standing in his way was virtual unknown Angel Luis Perez Del Pozo the Cinderella story of the tournament. Angel was sitting in second place in the standings with a 9-1-1 record. He won the invitation to this weekend's event at a PTQ in his hometown of Madrid, Spain. He had never so much as made Day Two of a Grand Prix prior to his breakthrough performance this weekend. Angel was running a green-black deck that sported Barter in Blood and Death Cloud as well as his own Panoptic Mirror. In addition to the Barter in Blood he could also imprint Terror, Essence Drain, and Reap and Sow.
Angel opened on a Viridian Longbow but had no creatures to wield it. Nicolai had a turn three Elf Replica and a Hematite Golem but no Mountains to pump. Nicolai seemed surprised when Angel's fourth turn was a Reap and Sow for a Swamp, "That was not Barter in Blood. He has that and Death Cloud."
Nicolai seemed embarrassed as he played a second Elf Replica and then a Copperhoof Vorrac on the following turns. "I am drawing all the bad cards in my deck." Angel sandwiched a Malachite Golem in between those platinum hits. The Malachite Golem was double blocked by Hematite Golem and Elf Replica and Nicolai awaited, "Predator's Strike?"
Angel obliged and then finished off the Vorrac by tapping out for an Essence Drain. Angel played another Malachite Golem on the following turn. Nicolai was sitting on five lands--no Mountains--and shook his head, "This draw is the worst."
He played a Fangren Hunter to absorb one of the Golems and Angel added a Wizard Replica. Nico's draw got better with a Molder Slug. Angel sacrificed his Longbow and attacked with both creatures. Nicolai shook his head, "I am about to lose to Death Cloud--or Wail of the Nim. How many cards do you have?"
"Death Cloud and Wail of the Nim?"
He put his Molder Slug and Elf Replica in the path of the Golem and Angel had the Wail to finish off the Slug. Nico untapped and killed the Golem with a Viridian Shaman but he was taking one a turn in the air from Wizard Replica and he fell to five. Angel played a Yotian Soldier.
Nicolai sent his pair of gray ogres in to get two points past the Yotian and played a Tel-Jilad Exile. Angel cast a Panoptic Mirror and the mana-screwed Nico glared at his hand of red cards and six casting cost spells. Nicolai drew and played his sixth Forest and passed the turn. Angel imprinted Terror during his upkeep and smoked the Tel-Jilad Exile. He played a Chittering Rats and then attacked with his one power creatures. Nico flashed out a Tangle Spider and ate the Wizard Replica.
Nicola untapped and made five 1/1 creatures with One Dozen Eyes. He was still shaking his head when the Spanish player laid down his hand unable to win. Nicolai could scarcely believe that he had pulled out the game without any red mana to be seen, not to mention in the face of Mirror/Terror. "I win? Who needs red mana? Go Elf Replicas."
Nicolai - 1 Angel - 0
Nico's turn two Copper Myr powered out a turn three Elf Replica when he missed his third land drop. Angel had played a Wizard Replica and he got in for one in the air. Angel had a fourth turn Dross Golem which traded with the Elf Replica. Nico seemed surprised to find a third land and played a Tel-Jilad Exile.
Angel played land number five and made a Clockwork Vorrac. As he reached for his counters Nico told him not to bother and then rethought that as he looked at his hand, "Is that a tell?"
He was holding a Fangren Hunter and when he drew a land he decided to play that instead of killing the Vorrac. Angel played a Malachite Golem. Nicolai untapped and took the Golem out with an entwined Barbed Lightning. He attacked with his Fangren Hunter and was relieved when Angel chose not to block. When Angel tapped his Vorrac to put a counter on it at the end of the turn Nico killed it with Electrostatic Bolt. "Did you see how bad that was? I should not have attacked there. I am lucky he didn't block. I make so many bad plays and get away with them."
Angel played a Panoptic Mirror. Nico attacked with his Exile and Hunter. Angel's Wizard Replica blocked the Exile and the Spaniard fell to nine. Nico followed with a 5/5 One Dozen Eyes token. Angel drew an Essence Drain but could not wait to imprint it on his Mirror next turn and killed the Exile.
Nico attacked with everyone and the Replica jumped in the way of the token--Angel fell to five. The Spanish player untapped and attempted to stabilize at two with a Death Cloud for three but Nico had Grab the Reins and threw his 5/5 token at the amateur player.
Final result: Nicolai Herzog - 2 Angel Luis Perez Del Pozo - 0