Quarterfinals: "It Was Just as Close as We Thought"

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"I keep thinking that's a person," Cheon laughed. Directly over Sharfman's left shoulder, Chandra Nalaar was running security duty, keeping the crowd at bay. Sharfman had a good chuckle at that, and the players shuffled up for the first game.

Rich Hagon introduced the players to the spectators before the Quarterfinals began. Sharfman's name was met with a round of cheers and applause. Cheon's name was also met with cheers and applause. And a muted "Boo!" from Shaheen Soorani right behind him. When Cheon turned around to face him, Soorani broke into a big smile and laughed, "I'm just kidding! We all love Cheon." Someone should make that into a shirt.

Game 1

Cheon started out with a first-turn Ancestral Vision, the reason he played the deck. Sharfman started the game with two Calciform Pools, which he began getting charged up. He evoked a Mulldrifter and discarded a Firespout since Cheon had only a Faerie Conclave for creatures.

When Cheon's Vision came off suspend, Sharfman was ready for it with a Cryptic Command, countering the spell and returning Cheon's Conclave to his hand. Sharfman stalled out on four lands, and Cheon soon overtook him on the mana front, despite getting set back by the Command. His Faerie Conclave and Sharfman's own Shivan Reef dropped Sharfman quickly to 12.

Paul Cheon and David Sharfman play under Ms. Nalaar's supervision.
A Bitterblossom showed up before Sharfman found a fifth land, but not before he got himself a Greater Gargadon. Unfortunately, he couldn't find much to get into play to sacrifice. His deck did eventually turn up a Murderous Redcap, but Cheon had a Rune Snag that Sharfman couldn't pay for. Cheon's little flying army kept growing, and Sharfman was dropping lower every turn He tried to play a Sower of Temptation to even things out a bit, but Cheon had the Terror to force Sharfman to sacrifice his Sower before he could get a creature.

Cheon made a move to put the game away at the beginning of Sharfman's next turn. A Mistbind Clique during Sharfman's upkeep met a double Rune Snag, which completely tapped Sharfman out, but prevented Cheon from having a 4/4 flier. When Sharfman's Kitchen Finks was countered on the following turn by a Cryptic Command, Sharfman scooped his lands up.

"No lands," Sharfman said dejectedly.

"Yeah," was all Cheon could reply.

Cheon 1, Sharfman 0

"That's unfortunate," said Sharfman, a smile creeping back onto his face. "I knew you had a bad hand when you were attacking on turn three with your Conclave. If I'd only had lands..."

"Yeah, I gotta put the pressure on somehow," Paul responded. "When you Cryptic Commanded my Vision..."

Game 2

Cheon shipped his first hand, then took a peek at the top of his deck. "I always look, I just gotta know."

"Yeah, so the next time you get the one-land, Bitterblossom draw, you keep it, and don't draw the other land."

"Hey, I keep that anyway. Gotta get there, you know?"

I have no idea how to type the sound that came out of Cheon's mouth after looking at his second hand, but I think it was something like "Eugkthck." It sounded like he had a mouthful of peanut butter.

"Only three more games of this," he joked as he shuffled his hand back in. "By the time I'm done mulliganing, the other matches will be done!"

He started with a five-card hand, and when he played Ancestral Vision and followed that up with a Thoughtseize, it was easy to see why. Sharfman had a third-turn Kitchen Finks that escaped the Thoughtseize, but his Mulldrifter wasn't so lucky. A Remove Soul took care of an attempt to make another, and a Terror shrunk the one that he already had in play.

Paul's Vision resolved and filled his hand back up, starting to negate the card disadvantage that he incurred with his double mulligan. Sharfman wasn't putting any more pressure on Cheon than with his single Kitchen Finks, but Cheon wasn't really doing anything, either. He did have a full hand of cards, but he knew that Sharfman had two copies of Pact of Negation waiting for his first play. When Sharfman played a Crovax, Ascendant Hero, Cheon tried to Rune Snag it, which met the first of the Pacts from Sharfman.

Cheon tried to remove the problem creature with a Slaughter Pact. "Split second," Cheon jokingly said, as Sharfman paid two life to return the big white legend. He followed that up with a Thoughtseize, stripping Sharfman of his recurring threat. Cheon started attacking on the following turn with his Faerie Conclave. He was down to nine already, and with Sharfman still at 18, he had some ground to make up. Sharfman took the 2 and dropped to 16.

At the end of Cheon's turn, Sharfman tried to Cryptic Command, returning Cheon's Conclave and drawing himself a card. Cheon tried to make a Mistbind Clique in response, but that met a Rune Snag. Cheon picked his Conclave up and let Sharfman take his turn.

Sharfman untapped and made a Murderous Redcap, which knocked Cheon to 7. Cheon dropped a Shadowmage Infiltrator in the way, but Sharfman was at the ready with a Firespout to clear the board and drop Cheon to 6. When Cheon tried to Thoughtseize Sharfman, he just played Cryptic Command to counter the spell and return his Redcap to his hand. Cheon tried to Dismiss that with a Cryptic Command of his own, but Sharfman had a Rune Snag for it.

When Sharfman replayed the Redcap, Cheon dropped to 4. All he could do was throw a Faerie Conclave in the way of the next attack, which dropped him to 3. When the 1/1 Redcap swung in on the following turn, Cheon flashed a Spellstutter Sprite into play to finish it off. Sharfman had two cards left in his hand at this point, and one of them happened to be another Cryptic Command, which he used to counter the Spellstutter Sprite and return his Redcap to his hand.

Despite the intense back-and-forth of this match-up, Cheon keeps a smile on his face.
"What?! Why? It's just a Spellstutter Sprite!" Cheon animatedly asked. The crowd thought that was pretty funny, and gave it a good laugh.

"That's three Commands I've had to use returning this Redcap," said Sharfman

"Hey, whatever gets the job done."

Cheon 1, Sharfman 1

Game 3

Sharfman had the first play of the game, this time, with a Greater Gargodon. Cheon wasn't far behind with the always impressive Bitterblossom. Those two cards work pretty well together. Maybe these guys should consider setting aside their differences and teaming up. Cheon followed that up with a Thoughtseize, revealing a hand containing Mulldrifter; Venser, Shaper Savant; Crovax, Ascendant Hero; Rune Snag; and two lands. After a good two minutes of thought, Cheon eventually settled on denying Sharfman the extra cards. He also managed to get the Rune Snag out of Sharfman's hand, though it cost him a second Bitterblossom.

Cheon added to his board with a Shadowmage Infiltrator, since he didn't fear a Firespout. Sharfman did return it to his hand with a Venser, though, which forced Cheon to replay it on the following turn. Cheon's Faeries were dropping Sharfman lower each turn with a little help from his own mana base. He currently sat at 13. He had a Kitchen Finks to bring himself a little higher, though Cheon was starting to grow a little out of control. A second Infiltrator joined the mix, and Sharfman was going to need to resolve a Firespout soon. He tried a Crovax, but Cheon had the Rune Snag to send him to the bin.

It took Cheon six creatures, to do it, but he took a 6-point chunk out of Sharfman's life total, halving it. He also added a Faerie Conclave to his side, giving him two man-lands to survive any catastrophe that may befall him. A second Crovax came down for Sharfman, though, which gave Cheon some serious pause. After thinking for a minute, he picked up his Faerie Rogue tokens and sighed at his neutered Infiltrators.

Sharfman decided the time was right. He had one card left in his hand, presumably a Pact of Negation. He sacrificed all but two of his lands to bring the Gargadon into play. Sharfman sent his Gargadon, Venser, and Kitchen Finks into attack Cheon. Cheon Terrored the Crovax, and then activated his Mutavault to block the Gargadon. He dropped to 2. His Bitterblossom dropped him to his last point. Sharfman was at 6, but Cheon couldn't find 6 points of damage. He attacked with his Infiltrators and drew his cards. When he couldn't find a Mistbind Clique or a Cryptic Command, he gave up.

Sharfman 2, Cheon 1

Cheon was against the ropes in a matchup that should be pretty favorable for him. However, despite getting a turn-two Bitterblossom in the previous game, his draws had been unspectacular to say the least. Sharfman's haven't been too great, either, but he was able to get enough of an advantage to take the lead in the match.

As they shuffled each other's decks before the fourth game, they joked about Sharfman's decimation of Cheon's air force that game. "You've gotta stop killing my dudes, man. Really."

Game 4

Sharfman works to bring it home.
Cheon led off with a Thoughtseize revealing a Kitchen Finks; Cryptic Command; Thoughtseize; Murderous Redcap; Crovax, Ascendant Hero; and two lands, neither of which produced black. Another long pause followed before Cheon was prompted by a judge to select, and he took the Crovax. Cheon followed that up with a Bitterblossom on the following turn, but failed to find a fourth land soon thereafter.

Sharfman found himself a Vivid Meadow, which he used to power out his Thoughtseize, but not before Cheon had a chance to suspend an Ancestral Vision. He was able to take a Spellstutter Sprite out of a hand that also contained Rune Snag, Cryptic Command, and two Slaughter Pacts. Cheon had to use his Rune Snag on a Kitchen Finks on the same turn. After that, still denied his fourth land, he was forced to activate his Mutavault and send it in with some tokens to drop Sharfman to 9.

Sharfman had a Murderous Redcap to kill a token, but the remaining three still dropped him to 6. He had a Cryptic Command for Cheon's next upkeep, choosing to tap all of Cheon's creatures and draw a card. When Cheon tried some tricks of his own during Sharfman's upkeep, he was denied. Rune Snag stopped the Mistbind Clique before it could lock him down. Despite that, he didn't have anything else to stop the flying troops that came over to finish him off. Cheon's second-turn Bitterblossom managed to go all the way for him.

Cheon 2, Sharfman 2

"This is a close match, some good Magic," Cheon admitted to Sharfman's approval. He followed that up by mentioning that he would "like to draw this game." Sharfman granted his wish and chose to play first.

Game 5

An opening draw containing Mulldrifter, Gargadon, Rune Snag, Pact of Negation, and three Cascade Bluffs met some serious consideration from Sharfman. His hand had a lot of good cards, but he would need to draw a land that produced some colored mana to get things actually moving.

Cheon started strong with a first-turn Ancestral Vision, but didn't really follow it up with anything. Sharfman drew a Reflecting Pool for his fourth turn, which allowed him to suspend a Gargadon and attempt a Mulldrifter. Cheon had a Rune Snag for the ‘Drifter, and Sharfman put it in the bin. At the end of Sharfman's turn, Cheon made a Spellstutter Sprite, which allowed future Sprites to counter Rune Snags.

When he tried to resolve his Ancestral Vision, Sharfman had a Pact of Negation for it. Cheon tried countering it with another Spellstutter Sprite. When Sharfman tried to Rune Snag it, Cheon used a Rune Snag of his own to replace the cards he had just used to win that counter war. All tapped out now, he passed the turn.

Sharfman drew a card and tapped some mana before timidly putting a card into play.

"It isn't a Crovax, because you would have slammed that," Cheon said.

Sharfman revealed it to be a Kitchen Finks. Cheon just attacked on his turn and passed it back to Sharfman, whose time was running out. Cheon had a Mistbind Clique to shut Sharfman down for a turn, and provide him with even more flying beats. Sharfman had to make something happen, and suspended a second Greater Gargadon before sacrificing four lands to bring his other one into play. Cheon had a Remove Soul ready for it, though, to which Sharfman shrugged his shoulders. He was done. After Cheon attacked him one more time, he drew one more card and then conceded. It was a hard-fought match, but Paul Cheon managed to pull out the victory, keeping his chances of repeating as U.S. National champion alive.

As they finished, Luis Scott-Vargas, who had helped Cheon test, stopped by to congratulate him.

"It was as close as we thought, about 50/50," Paul said to him, with a slightly haggard look in his eyes. "He sided out his Reveillarks and brought in the extra beats. I got beat one game by Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks."

Paul Cheon defeats David Sharfman 3-2 and advances to the Semifinals!

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