Mark Herberholz and Michael Jacob square off.
Mark Herberholz and Michael Jacob are no strangers to the Sunday stage... or each other. The pair of Michiganites spent much of their time preparing together at R.I.W. Hobbies along with Josh Wludyka, Patrick Chapin, and others. They even had matching shirts.
Herberholz sleeved up an updated version of Quick ‘n Toast, chock full of one-ofs like Oona, Queen of the Fae, Damnation, Murderous Redcap, Slaughter Pact, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, and the lone nonland addition from Eventide, Nucklavee, a card that’s been turning heads all weekend.
Michael Jacob is no stranger to the Sunday stage at U.S. Nationals, having represented the U.S. as a team member in 2007. He was packing a deck that was, in many regards, the exact opposite of Herberholz’s: mono-red packing full sets of the best creatures and burn spells in the format, including the recently forgotten Skred, former "best card in the format." With Figure of Destiny, Demigod of Revenge, and Ashenmoor Gouger all ready to go large, this wasn’t your daddy’s mono-red.
Herberholz won the right to play first as both players wished each other good luck.
On turn one, Jacob started things quickly and dropped Magus of the... Moon? He quickly took back the accidental reveal and laid down Magus of the Scroll.
"All these Maguses," said Jacob as he sent the turn back. Herberholz simply played another Vivid land and passed back.
Jacob attacked Herberholz to 19 and followed up with another Magus in Magus of the Scroll. Once again, Herberholz played land, go.
The two Magi Who Could dropped Herberholz to 17, and were finally joined by their wizardly cohort Magus of the Moon. Herberholz, still sporting a full hand, thought briefly before allowing the latest Magus to resolve.
The reason for this became apparent when the three Magi were Firespouted away. The battle between Magus of the Moon and Firespout was one of the keys to this matchup, and Herberholz had handled the first blow.
But Jacob had the backup Magus of the Moon, and attacked Herberholz to 15 before dropping Ashenmoor Gouger, all while Herberholz stared at a hand of unplayable cards. One more attack to 9 followed by a second Ashenmoor Gouger, and Game 1 was over just like that.
Jacob 1, Herberholz 0
In testing with Patrick Chapin the night before, Jacob had found Game 1 was virtually impossible to lose.
"All I had to do was stick a 4-toughness creature and keep attacking with it," said Jacob. Post-board, however, Jacob didn’t like his chances as much, putting them at 50/50 or worse.
Speaking of sideboards, Jacob removed his Skreds and traded them for Murderous Redcaps while Herberholz brought in his Condemns, Teferi’s Moat and Slaughter Pact, notably removing his Rune Snags. Rune Snag, while a potent weapon while ahead on the board, was a poor answer to both Figure of Destiny – which resolved through and before it – and Demigod of Revenge, which could shrug it off if it showed up in multiples.
While they shuffled up, Jacob got a bit chatty and mentioned that he had heard Herberholz was just too lazy to go get Wrath of God instead of Damnation for his deck.
Mark Herberholz is playing the five-color Quick ‘n Toast deck...
"Yeah, I already had the Damnation
s in front of me," said Herberholz, a testament to just how flexible the Quick ‘n Toast mana base can be.
That flexible mana base allowed Herberholz to keep his opening seven, but Michael Jacob wasn’t pleased with a hand of five lands and nothing costing less than three. He traded his seven in for six.
Jacob led with Figure of Destiny, which was quickly—if temporarily—stymied by a Wall of Roots from Herberholz. Jacob grew it to 2/2 anyway before passing back.
Herberholz missed his third land drop, but hoped to keep up by adding counters to his Dreadship Reef. Unfortunately, this meant he had to let the 2/2 Figure of Destiny go unblocked, as he was more concerned about his mana situation than his life total. Jacob added a Blood Knight before passing back.
The top of Herberholz’s deck yielded a Vivid Creek, allowing him the option to block with his Wall of Roots the following turn. He did, and Jacob flashed the Incinerate to clear out the pesky blocker.
Yet another land off the top, Flooded Grove, replaced the mana production of Wall of Roots. Now without a creature of his own, Herberholz could profitably cast Damnation and clear the board.
Magus of the Moon, however, completely shut off Herberholz’s mana the following turn, and was joined in the next attack by a Demigod of Revenge trying to end the game quickly.
Herberholz, however, reached into his bag of tricks. First, Slaughter Pact killed the Magus and turned his mana back on. Then, now able to cast his spells, Herberholz Condemned the Demigod of Revenge, ending any hopes of a return engagement.
After paying for the Pact, Herberholz cast Careful Consideration and pitched two of his now abundant lands.
This was all the window Jacob needed. Another Magus of the Moon once again shut down Quick ‘n Toast’s mana, and from there it was academic. An Ashenmoor Gouger and a Murderous Redcap on successive turns gave Jacob all the offense he needed to go up two games to none.
Jacob 2, Herberholz 0
Herberholz again elected to play first, because nothing about Magic had changed between games 2 and 3. A one-land hand with five- and six-drops isn’t the way to go, either, and Herberholz mulliganed into a far superior hand of six.
Jacobs kept and led with Figure of Destiny, while Herberholz answered with a Wall of Roots. Jacobs simply grew his Figure on the attack and played a Magus of the Scroll while Herberholz evoked a Mulldrifter.
...but Michael Jacob has toast for breakfast.
On Jacob’s third turn, he attacked with Magus of the Scroll
and a 2/2 Figure of Destiny
, which combined with a Flame Javelin
to finish the Wall off.
An Ashenmoor Gouger resolved, but so did Herberholz’s singleton Teferi’s Moat, naming red, of course. Jacob, though, had the perfect answer in Demigod of Revenge, which took Herberholz to 11.
A Firespout took out Magus and the Figure of Destiny, but that only signaled to Jacob that it was time to add Magus of the Moon to the table alongside a new Figure of Destiny which, while it couldn’t attack through the Teferi’s Moat now, seemed, um, destined for wings should the need arise.
It never did. Another swing from Demigod and a main-phase Flame Javelin were more than enough to force Herberholz to pick up his cards.
Afterwards, Jacob said the key to the matchup was never to play Magus of the Moon first, but instead to play it last as a way to protect his creatures from Condemn. The strategy paid off as he rode the Magus all the way to the Semifinals.
Michael Jacob defeats Mark Herberholz 3-0 and advances to the Semifinals!