Christopher O'Bryant and David Sharfman may not have been household names before this weekend, but with the pair looking down on a room full of pros at 7-0 after Day One, people are starting to take notice.
Christopher O'Bryant has found success with the unpopular mono-black archetype.
Sharfman has had some previous success at U.S. Nationals, finishing a frustrating 9th in 2006. This is Sharfman's fourth straight U.S. Nationals appearance, but the first one he qualified for without having to grind in. This year he found his way to Chicago the old fashioned way, earning his invite through Regionals in Orlando, Fla.
Sharfman traveled with quite the contingent this weekend, several of whom are quick to point out Sharfman's dominance in Standard over the years.
"I've never lost a Standard match at Nationals. I'm like 20-0," said Sharfman. "But I'm like 4-13 in drafts."
Add a 4-0 day one draft to that, and his record starts to look a little better. And later today he'll put that undefeated Standard record to the test.
Christopher O'Bryant, by his own admission, hasn't had much time to try Magic at a higher level. This is both his first Nationals appearance and his first major tournament after qualifying through Regionals at Indianapolis. O'Bryant made some interesting choices that have paid off so far. In Standard, he's sporting the same green-red Snow deck that got him here, and he owes his undefeated Draft record to the much-maligned mono-black deck.
Once again he was sporting Swamps on day two, this time with a few Islands for spice, while Sharfman paired his Swamps with Mountains.
Unfortunately for O'Bryant, prior to the first game he got the dreaded, "Could you come here for a second?" call from the judge. A few minutes and one deck list error later and O'Bryant was already down a game.
The news prompted one of Sharfman's entourage to ask, "Is this your year, Sharfman?"
Sharfman 1, O'Bryant 0
Apparently eager to get started, both players pushed the tempo in Game "2," playing lightning fast without much fanfare, dropping creatures and trading rapidly. A Nightsky Mimic traded with an Emberstrike Duo, and two Sootwalkers from Sharfman stared down a Rendclaw Trow and a Faerie Macabre from O'Bryant, all in about the first 60 seconds of the game.
O'Bryant, looking to press the advantage his Trow afforded him on the ground, attacked with the Faeries through the air and made a Loch Korrigan that threatened to get large quickly.
Sharfman, watching his position slowly slip away, chose to send both of his Sootwalkers right into the Trow, which shrunk one of them before persisting back in. Intimidator Initiate as a follow-up looked pretty meek on the defensive.
O'Bryant kept pushing, swinging with the Korrigan and Faerie Macabre before he used Gloomlance to finish off the 3/3 Sootwalkers.
Now it was Sharfman, up a game but down on the board, who looked concerned as O'Bryant cast Merrow Levitator and attacked again. Even Valleymaker couldn't tilt the scales back in his favor, as a 7/7 Korrigan, flying thanks to the Levitator, and Faerie Macabre dropped Sharfman all the way to one. With no way to stop two flyers, Sharfman scooped in his draw step.
Sharfman 1, O'Bryant 1
As if the initial game loss wasn't enough of a blow, O'Bryant was then forced to mulligan two land-light (or just plain land-absent) hands, going down to five. Could Sharfman really go to 8-0 thanks to a game loss and a mulligan?
David Sharfman is a Standard specialist, but Draft has been kind to him today.
O'Bryant actually looked to be out-drawing Sharfman for the first six turns, taking two-point chunks out of his color screwed opponent with Faerie Macabre
However, O'Bryant unfortunately compounded his mulligan with what could have been the decisive mistake of the match. With Sharfman stuck on three lands and no creatures, O'Bryant made a Grief Tyrant, possibly hoping to hit harder before more land turned on Sharfman's stocked hand. That Grief Tyrant became a liability, though, when Soul Reap took it and, consequently, the Faerie Macabre out.
Doesn't it just seem wrong for a spell to kill a 4/4 black creature?
But O'Bryant, despite the mulligan, was not done yet. He emptied his hand onto the table and summoned a Wasp Lancer and Merrow Levitator to best Sharfman's relatively un-scary Lingering Tormentor.
Finally, Sharfman found his red mana and went to work on O'Brant's creatures. First Wasp Lancer fell to Puncture Bolt, then Soul Reap took out another attacker. Cultbrand Cinder took out a Nightsky Mimic a few turns later and was able to go on the offensive. O'Bryant could only manage to make two Merrow Levitators and a single blocker.
But the blocker never got to do his job, as Puncture Blast dealt 3 to O'Bryant's life total and triggered Sharfman's Intimidator Initiate, clearing the way for lethal damage and an undefeated record (and 5-0 in drafts so far).
Could this be Sharfman's year?
David Sharman defeats Christopher O'Bryant 2-1 and is the only remaining undefeated player at 8-0.