Mark Herberholz and Sam Stein, all business on this, the last round, mostly talked shop before their match, comparing recent performances and discussing Pro Tour experiences. Of course, with so much of the room qualifying through programs like City Champs and Regionals, most people here would be thrilled to be having such a benign conversation.
Both players brought blue decks to the table, with Herberholz splashing red for removal and Stein playing a fair number of Plains to go with his Islands.
Mark Herberholz watches Stein's play closely.
Herberholz won the die roll and elected to play. Both kept their hands.
Stein had the first action with a Briarberry Cohort on turn two, only to be trumped by Herberholz's Silkbind Faerie on three. Herberholz took the bait and blocked the 1/1 Cohort with his 1/3, only to watch Snakeform send both (now) 1/1s to the graveyard...
Glen Elendra Archmage was Herberholz's follow up, which was met by Sturdy Hatchling across the table. Herberholz had the answer there as well, with Curse of Chains. It was like watching a tennis match, as each player continued to return volley after volley. Noggle Bridgebreaker from Stein suffered a Consign to Dream, and then Puncture Blasted the following turn.
Meanwhile, the Archmage continued churning out 2 through the air.
A little of Stein's life came back with a Kitchen Finks. Even once it was joined by a Shorecrasher Mimic, the pair couldn't get through Herberholz's newly summoned Wicker Warcrawler, a monstrous 6/6 for five mana. For the first time in the match, Herberholz gave Stein pause.
That pause, in turn, gave way to Lurebound Scarecrow (naming green) and a Consign to Dream that temporarily dealt with the Warcrawler.
Stein thought for a moment before passing back the turn, and Herberholz found out why the next turn when his Archmage ran smack dab into a Plumeveil. Shell Skulkin rounded out the turn before Herberholz passed back.
A second Shorecrasher Mimic from Stein triggered the first, who, um, crashed in, intending to trade with Wicker Warcrawler. Herberholz foiled that plan thanks to a timely Banishing Knack.
This whole time, Stein was amassing quite the army, with four creatures ready to crash in past the Warcrawler when the time came. That time never really did come, however, as Herberholz added to his (considerable) defensive capabilities by stealing Plumeveil with Biting Tether.
Stein added a Steel of the Godhead to Shorecrasher Mimic to allow it to attack unscathed by creatures, but not by the Turn to Mist that followed. Briarberry Cohort gave Stein some defense through the air.
Reacting, Herberholz swung Wicker Warcrawler into a trade with Shorecrasher Mimic and Kitchen Finks. With the Finks' persist trigger on the stack, a Prismwake Merrow made the Cursed Hatchling not green, killing the until-now stationary Lurebound Scarecrow.
Idle Thoughts then came down for Herberholz, allowing him to draw multiple cards per turn. Even in draft, a bad Future Sight can be devastating in wars of attrition like this one.
In the span of a few turns, Stein's army had fallen to only two creatures, both relatively small 2/2s. One of Herberholz's own Shorecrasher Mimics triggered his first, and Stein scooped it up in the face of a rapidly growing army fueled by Idle Thoughts.
Herberholz 1, Stein 0
This time, the only talk between games was how much time was left in the round (41 minutes) prompted by the realization that the other feature mach between Louis-Scott Vargas and Chris Lachmann was long-since over. Turns out that hadn't been anything close to the attrition war this first game had been, having finished in a mere eight minutes.
In literary terms, we call that foreshadowing.
Stein, naturally, elected to play and quickly kept his hand. The reason for that will become apparent shortly.
Herberholz, for the minor role he would play in Game 2, went to 6.
The game was over five turns later. How?
Stein: Turn-two Shorecrasher Mimic
Herberholz: Nada on turn two.
Stein: Turn-three Shorecrasher Mimic, swing for 5.
Herberholz: Turn-three Wistful Selkie.
Stein: Turn-four swing with both Mimics. One gets blocked by the Selkie, which in turn gets hit by Snakeform to trigger both Mimics.
Herberholz: Turn four Silkbind Faerie
Can you guess what's coming next? Herberholz sure did.
Snakeform Silkbind Faerie, good game.
The gathered crowd, which had grown sparse through the day but picked up during this game, yelled out "Are you for real?" with every green-blue spell. Turns out, he was for real.
Herberholz 1, Stein 1
The green-blue nuts from Game 2 brought out the chatty sides of both players. Stein was psyched at what he had pulled off, and Herberholz was just left shaking his head at the turn of events.
"I just thought, 'If he has it, he has it.' Either way I get blown out."
Stein again led with a turn-two Mimic. Could he pull it off again?
Not if Curse of Chains had anything to say about it.
"I can't risk it, I just can't risk it," said Herberholz.
With a far less obvious turn three, Stein elected to play Lurebound Scarecrow, banking on his cursed Mimic to stick around.
The Lurebound Scarecrow brought Herberholz to 16 for the first damage of a Game 3 that was already going longer than Game 2. He followed it up with Sturdy Hatchling, which was bit by Biting Tether, providing a potentially dangerous creature for Herberholz's nearly mono-blue deck. Instead, Herberholz threw it in front of the oncoming Lurebound Scarecrow, effectively trading his Biting Tether for the Hatchling.
Sam Stein is no stranger to playing under the lights.
Stein followed with Briarberry Cohort
and Kitchen Finks
, while Herberholz countered with the stalwart of Game 1 in Wicker Warcrawler
threatened to make things complicated should Herberholz play a blue permanent.
This he did in the form of Shorecrasher Mimic, the little Mimic who was playing such a strong role in this matchup.
Briarberry Cohort came across again, but didn't make the return trip, as Puncture Blast took care of the pesky flyer prior to damage. Scuzzback Marauders added to Herberholz's cadre of big dudes, but it was then added to the top of his library thanks to Consign to Dream.
Stein used the impasse to swing with the Lurebound Scarecrow, Kitchen Finks, and Whimwader. Herberholz used the Warcrawler to trade with the Whimwader, but suddenly found himself facing Swans of Bryn Argoll in addition to Stein's other beaters.
The following turn, when Somnomancer came down to tap the Scuzzback Marauders (back from their dream... Marauders must have been sleepy), Herberholz scooped in the face of Stein's incoming assault.
Sam Stein defeats Mark Herberholz 2-1