While Shaheen Soorani waxed philosophical about his "Middle Eastern shuffling" tactics against Paul Cheon's more standard, boring shuffling style, the two fast-playing 8-1s, mentally sized up one another's decks.
Paul Cheon is running the popular mono-red deck.
Soorani knew the match was in Cheon's favor. His beast of a red deck comes out of the gates blazing and only seems to gain momentum with each turn. Soorani said that Puncture Bolt
, Flame Jab
and a Fire at Will
were his only hopes, as his two-drop suite is basically summed up by Devoted Druid
, and that doesn't bode well against an Intimidator Initiate
/ Mudbrawler Cohort
on the play.
Speak of the devil, Paul Cheon won the roll and opened with the red Initiate and Cohort getting in there twice before Soorani's first spell, Farhaven Elf. A turn-four conspired Giantbaiting (with the requisite Initiate activiation) took Soorani quickly to 4. It was the beginning of the game, and already Soorani needed an answer badly.
Without playing a spell, he passed with five mana up (two Mountains and three Forests) and chumped Cheon's Mudbrawler Cohort with the Elf. When the next turn brought Soorani another Forest, Cheon saw the finish line clearly, as Soorani's only real out would be a Fire at Will (or Puncture Bolt and Flame Jab, which he clearly did not have). And so on Cheon's next attack he sent his team with the best of intentions. The play he didn't see, the play nobody but Soorani saw, was a Manamorphose into that exact Fire at Will, clearing the board away. Soorani had, so far, stabilized at 4 life.
He quickly turned the tables on Cheon, tapping out for a Howl of the Night Pack for five Wolves. Cheon had no retaliation, and a Wildslayer Elves joined the wolf parade as Cheon lost half his life. And just as quickly as he had found it, Cheon lost it and scooped into Game 2.
Soorani 1, Cheon 0
That roller coaster of a game had both players wildly riffling through their sideboards. Rustrazor Butchers came out for Cheon in favor of Heartlash Cinder and Scuzzback Scrapper. Talk about going for the heart.
They both kept again, and sadly for Cheon, he had no turn-one play. Though his Riverfall Mimic was quickly Jabbed, Crag Puca brought his fevered dream down on turn three, keeping some sort of pressure on. And when all Soorani could retort was a Hoof Skulkin, the Puca started looking pretty good.
Shaheen Soorani holds the fort.
The pace was considerably slower than the last game, each player jostling with what appeared to be less than optimal hands. A fashionably late Initate and a Puca attacked later, putting it at 16-20 in favor of Cheon. Soorani apologized for taking so long deciding what card to discard to Flame Jab
to kill the Initiate. He ultimately decided on Howl of the Night Pack
before Cheon pointed out its nonland status. Let the mind games begin. Both players shook their heads and Soorani passed.
On Cheon's next attack, the Puca was taken down by a Hoof Skulkin (with the help of a Puncture Bolt), and postcombat, Cheon summoned some Sootwalkers. "I'm glad I didn't discard [the Howl]" Soorani said as he laid another Forest. He decided not to play anything more than that quip and a glare, and passed the turn.
Manamorphose into Slinking Giant meant that the Skulkin couldn't block, and the Sootwalkers sootwalked their way right into another timely Fire at Will from Soorani. For only having three outs against Cheon, Shaheen was doing a pretty good job of drawing them. Soorani's new Valleymaker dwarfed Cheon's Scuzzback Scrapper, but the Slinking Giant got in there thanks to Intimidator Initiate.
The Valleymaker tied up the score at 15 before Soorani made a Farhaven Elf and a Cinder Pyromancer, bringing an all-out attack from Cheon (Scrapper, Inititate and Slinking Giant). This spelled the end of the Skulkin, which Soorani sacrificed to the Giant.
After the ‘maker took Cheon to 9, a Howl of the Night Pack for six muddled things further for him. His one card had better be the magic answer for 12 power of Wolves.
After drawing for the turn, Cheon sat with his hand perched on his chin. He spoke calculations and additions, and a long time later, he pinged Soorani with Cinder Pyromancer, Traitor's Roared a Wolf token, untapped the ‘mancer, and passed. Soorani was reasonably faster, trading his fresh, new land for an old, musty Flame Jab pointed at the Pyromancer. The six Wolves and Farhaven Elf crashed into the red zone, and Cheon fed his remaining creatures to the Wolves and sunk even lower. A draw step later, it was all over.
Soorani 2, Cheon 0