ine months ago at Grand Prix-Chicago, Antonino De Rosa introduced me to teammate Alex Lieberman with the words, "You probably don't know him yet, but he's going to be great."
About a month ago in Minneapolis, the world was introduced to Alex as well as he took first in that particular Grand Prix, and Alex has a real chance to put his mark on the Magic world this weekend if he can just get one more win and make it to the Top 8 of U.S. Nationals.
Standing in his way is Michael Jacob, a Michigan native and member of R.I.W. Hobbies, who just happens to be one of the nicest guys on the planet. The deck matchup for this one is Monogreen Aggro versus the Seven Kings Monoblue Tron deck - a matchup that could go for either player, depending on how the early game goes.
Osyp Lebedowicz and Bill Stead were entertaining the crowd with commentary while the players were shuffling up for this elimination match. After winning his last round, Jacob figured he'd be able to draw and then coast into his first Nationals Top 8, but he was the unfortunate recipient of getting paired down for this round. That meant he had to win in order to make it in.
Jacob had to mulligan his first hand in Game 1 before keeping a hand with three lands and some mana accelerators. Lieberman kept his opening hand and they were off.
Lieberman played the first spell of the game in Serum Visions, while Lieberman kicked things off on his side of the board with Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Jacob started shaking his head on turn three before running his Kodama's Reach into a Mana Leak. "No whammies!" was Jacob's cry on the next turn as Michael tried to cast a Fangren Firstborn, only to see it Condescended.
The same thing happened on the next turn, except it was Mana Leak that did the countering this time. Meloku tried to enter play on the next turn for the Michigander, but Thirst for Knowledge found Condescend and Jacob was officially out of threats. Jacob resolved Umezawa's Jitte for his first real threat of the game, but that was significantly behind the schedule he was hoping to keep with his deck and Lieberman had plenty of life to use for breathing space.
A threat appeared in the form of Blinkmoth Nexus for Jacob and things looked up briefly, but only until Lieberman cast Triskelion on his turn. Interestingly, Jacob had a maindeck Naturalize to take down the robot, and swung in with his equipped Nexus on the next turn.
The two players battled back and forth for some time, trying to create an advantage, but when Lieberman blunted Jacob's aggression so effectively in the early turns, it looked as if Jacob would not be able to win. This perception proved correct, as Alex found a Mindslaver, demolished Jacob's board, and that was it.
"Iwamori into Memnarch is a good play - I'm so glad I made it," quipped Jacob, now just a game away from seeing a near lock for Top 8 completely disappear.
Jacob again had to mulligan to start Game 2 and was clearly very frustrated at this point. Things just got worse with a second mulligan and Jacob began flipping cards into and out of play as he put them on the stack, waiting for Lieberman's inevitable responses.
A natural Urzatron off of a couple Thirst For Knowledges gave Alex a Memnarch in play with counterspell backup. Meloku and Mindslaver followed and Jacob took a very bad beat from the pairings and from Lieberman - he'll have to settle for a Top 16 finish while Alex makes his second Top 8 in as many tournaments.
Lieberman 2, Jacob 0