gbnat10

Great Scot! Jackson wins Great Britain Nationals

  • Print

Congratulations to Joe Jackson, the 2010 Great Britain National Champion, and his teammates going to Chiba, Richard Bland, Daniel Gardner and Jonathan Randle! 172 players sat down on Friday as Great Britain's National Championships began, but on Sunday only eight remained. There were two past National Champions, in Dan Gardner and Jonathan Randle, and neither disappointed in making it to the final four. It was Joe Jackson and Richard Bland, who had built their deck together the night before the event, who proved the toughest competitors in the final stages though. Bland had lost only a single Standard game with his deck before facing his teammate in the 75-card mirror. It was not to be his day though, as Jackson powered through to victory to become the first Scottish player to hoist high the trophy of Great Britain National Champion.

So ends a fantastic four days of Magic here in London, England. We've had just about every format under the sun all under one roof here, and the party atmosphere continues even after the main event has finished. While it may still be months away, Britain's national team are already looking expectantly toward December in Chiba. We'll see you there.



Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Joseph Jackson   Joseph Jackson, 3-1        
8 James Foster   Joseph Jackson, 3-1
       
4 Jonathan Randle   Jonathan Randle, 3-1   Joseph Jackson, 3-0
5 James Cleak    
       
2 Andrew Morrison   Daniel Gardner, 3-1
7 Daniel Gardner   Richard Bland, 3-1
       
3 Richard Bland   Richard Bland, 3-0
6 Eduardo Sajgalik    

3rd Place Playoff  
Jonathan Randle Daniel Gardner, 3-2
Daniel Gardner



EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER
  • by Tim Willoughby
    Finals
    Joe Jackson vs Richard Bland

  • by Rich Hagon
    3rd / 4th playoff
    Jonathan Randle v Dan Gardner

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Semifinals
    Dan Gardner vs Richard Bland

  • by Rich Hagon
    Semifinals
    Joe Jackson v Jonathan Randle

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Quarterfinals
    James Cleak vs. Jonathan Randle

  • by Richard Coates
    Quarterfinals
    Joe Jackson v James Foster

  • by Tim Willoughby
    Quarterfinals
    Dan Gardner vs Andrew Morrison

  • by Rich Hagon
    Quarterfinals
    Richard Bland v Eduardo Sajgalik

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Decklists

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8:
    Player Profiles


  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2:
    Event Coverage


  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1:
    Event Coverage

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info:
    Day 1 Playerlist

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

INFORMATION
Pairings Results Standings
Final

14
13
12
11
10
9
8
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
14
13
12
11
10
9
8

7
6
5
4
3
2
1
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
7
6
5
4
3
2
1



 
  • Top 8 – Player Profiles
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Name: Eduardo Sajgalik

    Nickname(s): Waloumpa

    Age: 22

    Occupation: French customer services at a computer games company

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? I live in Cambridge but am from France

    Where do you normally play? Cambridge, plus PTQs and the odd GP

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? 6th at GB Nationals, 3rd and 11th at Canadian Nationals

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Getting my chemistry degree

    How did you test for nationals? Drafted, played some Standard, was on a mailing list. Thanks to Les Gaulois du Magic and Inner Sanctum Collectibles

    What deck did you play in Standard? Jund

    What was your record in Standard? 5 – 2 - 1

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? UW if possible, hope to get passed bombs (it worked!)

    What was your record in draft? 5 - 1


    Name: James Foster

    Nickname(s): Corrupt Official, River D

    Age: 26

    Occupation: Hustler

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Newbury, England

    Where do you normally play? Eclectic Games in Reading

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? Top 4'd FNM. One time!

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Playing chess for England Juniors

    How did you test for nationals? Tested constructed/limited with team Gyro, and played Magic online

    What deck did you play in Standard? Bant with Sovereigns of Lost Alara

    What was your record in Standard? 5 – 3

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Draft green or black with blue as a support colour

    What was your record in draft? 5 - 1


    Name: Jonathan Randle

    Nickname(s): JohnO

    Age: 28

    Occupation: Dark Horse

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Chester, England

    Where do you normally play? Birmingham – Brum Magic

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? 1 GP top 8, 2008 GB National Champion

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Finding the love of my life – Dunja VTV.

    How did you test for nationals? Tested with Gavin Goh, and played Magic online

    What deck did you play in Standard? Bant (big thanks to Manaleak.com for the deck)

    What was your record in Standard? 7 – 0 - 1

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Not really, just try to find the open colour

    What was your record in draft? 3 – 3


    Name: Andrew Morrison

    Nickname(s): 'All In' Andy 'All the Time'

    Age: 32

    Occupation: Restaurant Worker

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Edinburgh, Scotland

    Where do you normally play? Edinburgh and Glasgow, in games shops and pubs

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? 0-5 at Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur, about 10 PTQ top 8s

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Being lucky enough to have wonderful friends and family

    How did you test for nationals? Played with friends for constructed, plus real life and online drafts

    What deck did you play in Standard? Jund (last minute audible from Runeflare trap)

    What was your record in Standard? 5 - 2 - 1

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Stay open, pick removal highly and try to build a curve

    What was your record in draft? 6 – 0


    Name: James Cleak

    Age: 33

    Occupation: Research Scientist

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Oxford, England

    Where do you normally play? Oxford

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? Won the Guildpact prerelease in Birmingham

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Becoming a father, earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University, and running the 25th London Marathon

    How did you test for nationals? With the rest of the Oxford Magic players and my wife who always beats me

    What deck did you play in Standard? Naya Fauna Shaman

    What was your record in Standard? 6 – 1 - 1

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Try and draft blue

    What was your record in draft? 4 - 2


    Name: Dan Gardner

    Age: 19

    Occupation: Student / Baller

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Ipswich, England

    Where do you normally play? Online

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? 2009 GB National Champion, 19th at Pro Tour San Diego

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Befriending the Orsini-Jones brothers

    How did you test for nationals? I watched Marco playing Standard, then got a deck from Quentin Martin (thanks to Manaleak.com for the foil deck)

    What deck did you play in Standard? UW Baneslayer control

    What was your record in Standard? 7 - 1

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Open bomb and take blue cards

    What was your record in draft? 3 – 3


    Name: Richard Bland

    Age: 22

    Occupation: Housewife

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Coventry, England

    Where do you normally play? Warwick University

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? 3rd GP Madrid 2010

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Learning to tie my own shoelaces

    How did you test for nationals? Drafted a bit, built a deck at 1am the day before the tournament with Joe Jackson and Jon Hagan

    What deck did you play in Standard? Naya Shaman

    What was your record in Standard? 5 – 0 - 3

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Got passed Conundrum Sphinx, opened Titans

    What was your record in draft? 5 – 1

    Name: Joe Jackson

    Nickname(s): Jar

    Age: 29

    Occupation: PhD English Literature

    Where are you from (town/city and country)? Glasgow, Scotland

    Where do you normally play? Coventry, England

    What are your previous achievements in Magic? Coventry City Champion 2007, GP Brighton Top 8

    What is the achievement you are most proud of outside of Magic? Sober for 15 years and counting

    How did you test for nationals? With Rob Hall and Richard Bland, then with the Coventry boys (and Martha) in London

    What deck did you play in Standard? Naya, built with Jon Hagan + Richard Bland

    What was your record in Standard? 5 – 1 - 2

    Did you have a particular strategy for draft? Draft black. Failed

    What was your record in draft? 6 - 0



     
  • Top 8 - Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Dan Gardner
    Top 8 - Great Britain National Championship 2010

    Eduardo Sajgalik
    Top 8 - Great Britain National Championship 2010

    Andrew Morrison
    Top 8 - Great Britain National Championship 2010



     
  • Quarterfinals – Richard Bland v Eduardo Sajgalik
    by Rich Hagon
  • Looking around the top 8 of nationals this year, at least five could reasonably expect to be the leading British finisher at a typical European Grand Prix, and that would certainly be true of both of these players. Sajgalik is in his second GB nationals top 8, having lost to eventual champion Craig Jones in 2007. In the meantime, the globe-trotting Sajgalik has represented Canada at Worlds, having made their team in 2008. As for Bland, his most notable accomplishment came at the gigantic Legacy Grand Prix in Madrid earlier this year, where he fought the good fight all the way to the semi-finals.

    Sajgalik vs Bland - tried to come up with a funny caption, but could only come up with a bland one.

    Sajgalik opened proceedings, with Bland the first to get a creature onto the battlefield, his Sylvan Ranger fetching a Plains. That was soon joined by Qasali Pridemage. Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Maelstrom Pulse, killing Bland's Qasali Pridemage. Vengevine piled in, dropping Sajgalik to twelve.

    With five mana up, Sajgalik had done little so far, and continued that trend when he simply passed the turn. Bland added a second Vengevine before turning both sideways. Bituminous Blast from Sajgalik Cascaded into Blightning, leaving Bland a difficult discard decision. After some thought, Basilisk Collar and Birds of Paradise bit the dust, leaving him Arid Mesa, Bloodbraid Elf, and Baneslayer Angel in hand. Sajgalik fell to seven from the remaining Vengevine.

    That said, he continued to be aggressive with his Bloodbraid Elf, forcing Bland to chump with his Sylvan Ranger. Sajgalik's singleton Obstinate Baloth brought him a welcome four point life swing, leaving the scores at eleven to ten in his favor.

    Bloodbraid Elf from Bland handily brought him Qasali Pridemage, and that meant more Vengevine action. Sajgalik had Obstinate Baloth back, but he faced double Vengevine, which he manfully took, dropping to just three.

    Five mana on his own turn meant Bituminous Blast from Sajgalik, and when he Cascaded into Blightning, it was clear why Bland had kept Arid Mesa in his hand, allowing him to discard it and Sun Titan, and leaving him Baneslayer Angel in hand. Now he needed a land to make the Baneslayer cost. He didn't find it, but he found something better, a third Vengevine. Boy that card's good.

    Bland 1 – 0 Sajgalik

    Noble Hierarch allowed Bland to fast-track Knight of the Reliquary on turn two, while Sajgalik opened on a turn three Sprouting Thrinax. A dying Thrinax can be a problem, but an Exiled Thrinax isn't, and that's what Celestial Purge turned the Thrinax into. With Sajgalik now struggling, Bland added Vengevine and Basilisk Collar, and then a second Vengevine to leave Sajgalik in big trouble. Five mana was Bituminous Blast for the Knight of the Reliquary, and the Cascade gifted Sajgalik a Putrid Leech. Once the Putrid Leech resolved, Bland went to work with the old Sejiri Steppe wheeze, activating his Knight to give itself protection from the Bituminous Blast.

    Sajgalik had Lightning Bolt the following turn to finally deal with the Knight, but at six life he was still under the gun. Lavaclaw Reaches brought him some small measure of blocking prowess, and with one mana open he had enough to allow the Reaches to trade with one of the Vengevines. Bland added Fauna Shaman, and now at just two life, Sajgalik needed something amazing.

    He had Grave Titan. Plus friends.

    Bland had Bloodbraid Elf, Cascading into Noble Hierarch, bringing back the Vengevine, and leaving a battlefield team of double Noble Hierarch, double Vengevine, Fauna Shaman, and Bloodbraid Elf, facing Sajgalik with Grave Titan, two Zombie tokens, and the Putrid Leech, which could never be activated. Thanks to the Hierarchs, a single Vengevine attacked as a 6/5, with Sajgalik losing a Zombie token.

    Sajgalik attacked with the Grave Titan to bring him two more tokens, and Bland wasted no time trading Bloodbraid Elf and Vengevine for the Grave Titan. The black Mythic, after all, wouldn't be coming back, and the Vengevine probably would be.

    Bland discarded Vengevine to his Fauna Shaman, tutoring up Sun Titan. With Bloodbraid Elf Cascading into yet another Noble Hierarch, the third Vengevine came calling. Sajgalik kept trying, falling to one via Verdant Catacombs. Siege-Gang Commander brought him three more tokens.

    'You'd be shocked if I won this game' said Sajgalik.

    'I would be a little bit surprised, I'm not gonna lie' replied the ever-calm Bland.

    He found another Bloodbraid Elf on top of his library, and yet again Cascaded into usefulness with Knight of the Reliquary. Thanks to Basilisk Collar he was twenty five to one ahead, but it was the one he was interested in. Five attackers meant five blockers. Time for another Sajgalik miracle. Maelstrom Pulse off the top sent three Vengevine packing.

    Time for Bland to stop the foolishness. Sun Titan arrived. The Knight fetched a land. Bland had three mana. Three mana meant Cunning Sparkmage. Cunning Sparkmage meant game over.

    Bland 2 – 0 Sajgalik.

    Bland could do it blindfold, but our budget doesn't stretch to that, so he just closes his eyes.

    So far, things had gone very smoothly for Bland. That changed when he mulliganed to six, and saw his turn one Noble Hierarch meet a swift Lightning Bolt from Sajgalik, who also had the hyper-efficient burn spell ready for Bland's next offering, a Fauna Shaman. Bland's Bloodbraid Elf found him Birds of Paradise, but Sajgalik was getting into tokens mode, making a pair of Sprouting Thrinax, and a Nest Invader.

    With the ground clogged, Bland looked to take the battle to the skies, casting the mighty Baneslayer Angel. Sajgalik came back with Siege-Gang Commander, continuing the token theme. In came the Baneslayer, and Bland had the answer for the Siege-Gang, with Celestial Purge finding a more important target than a Sprouting Thrinax.

    Using the Nest Invader token, Sajgalik reached a critical six mana, and that meant Grave Titan (and pals.) For the first time in the match, Vengevines weren't looking completely dominant. Bland discarded Vengevine to Fauna Shaman to rustle up a Bloodbraid Elf, which he promptly cast, Cascading into Knight of the Reliquary, bringing back the Vengevine.

    Just think about that last sentence for a moment. Seriously, how much fun is Magic right now?

    To be fair, you can probably think about it a bit longer, because the players went into mental overdrive, trying to work out what combat was going to look like. Eventually, Sajgalik went into the red zone with (deep breath):

    Grave Titan, Two 2/2 Zombie Tokens, Two 1/1 Goblin Tokens,Two Sprouting Thrinax

    ...

    Four hundred and sixty two blocks and a Doom Blade later, Bland was left with Fauna Shaman, Knight of the Reliquary, Birds of Paradise, and a life score that read nine to both players. Fauna Shaman activated, and the Bloodbraid Elf Bland searched up Cascaded nicely yet again into Knight of the Reliquary.

    Nine life each.

    One card each.

    Seventy three creatures each (approximately).

    Eduardo Sajgalik - he's got all the morphs.

    More super-complicated head-scratching ensued once more, with Sajgalik forcing through three more damage, and dropping a third Sprouting Thrinax. Those Thrinax were making life awkward for Bland, who had the creatures to deal with them, but not the flood of tokens they would produce. Fauna Shaman continued to do the business, converting Birds of Paradise into Obstinate Baloth, which he swiftly added to the battlefield.

    'Six saprolings' were the next words heard, bringing you in two words the significant moments of that particular combat. Bland discarded Noble Hierarch to fetch Stoneforge Mystic, which in turn brought Basilisk Collar to the party.

    With fifteen creatures on the battlefield, things started to shift. For the first time in a while, Sajgalik felt unable to attack. Bland searched up Cunning Sparkmage, and the last time I checked, Cunning Sparkmage was quite good against 1/1 tokens. Cunning Sparkmage plus Basilisk Collar, meanwhile, is quite good against everything.

    Ping – Goblin token gone.

    Ping – Zombie token gone.

    Bland equipped the Basilisk Collar to his Obstinate Baloth, and sent it into the red zone. Sajgalik blocked with Sprouting Thrinax, and avoided lifegain for Bland by shooting his own Thrinax with Lightning Bolt. Time was running out for Sajgalik. He activated Lavaclaw Reaches, and sent the team of doom into battle for what would surely be the final time. Nine tokens joined the Lavaclaw Reaches in Sajgalik's last stand. Bland had blockers for six, leaving four tokens unblocked. Could Sajgalik possibly conjure up six final points of damage?

    He could not, and Richard Bland had booked his trip to Worlds.

    Richard Bland 3 – 0 Eduardo Sajgalik.



     
  • Quarterfinals – Dan Gardner vs Andrew Morrison
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Dan Gardner, the current Great Britain National Champion is poised for an unprecedented repeat performance. He snuck into top 8 on tie-breakers, and now that he's in, in spite of any posturing he might make to suggest he's not bothered, he really is. Playing a deck similar to that of his 2009 win, updated by Quentin Martin, Gardner's plan was to stick a Baneslayer Angel, and ride it to victory, backed up by blue control and planeswalkers. His opponent, Andrew Morrison of Scotland, piloted the great menace of Jund, the cockroach of the format that just won't die. Morrison had been testing the matchup late into the night, and seemed confident that it would be a good one. This coverage reporter hopes he was right.

    Dan had the first play of the best of five match, in Wall of Omens, that would prove a fine blocker for Sprouting Thrinax from Morrison. Each player's deck was loaded with two for one potential, and Dan was the first to get ahead on cards. Gardner had a second wall, and when Sprouting Thrinax hit the red zone he was quick to block. A Lightning Bolt from Morrison saw Dan use Path to Exile on his own wall to get more lands, effectively letting him catch up on being a land behind from being on the draw. Morrison added a Putrid Leech to his board.

    A Tectonic Edge on Rootbound Crag from Dan left Andrew without access to green mana, and Jace Beleren drew Gardner another card. Morrison wasn't able to get to Jace, and on his swings only got as far as killing off the second Wall of Omens after blockers with a Lightning Bolt.

    Dan Gardner vs Andrew Morrison

    Gardner's planeswalkers plan was furthered with Elspeth, Knight-Errant, who made a Soldier token. Morrison simply ignored them, attacking Dan directly to put him on 14, then using Maelstrom Pulse to kill Elspeth. Dan killed off his own Jace Beleren by using it to draw a third card, and replaced it with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He used the Brainstorm ability, before passing the turn with two mana up.

    Morrison found a Forest to take him back up to four mana. Putrid Leech killed off Jace, while Sprouting Thrinax attacked Dan down to 11. That life total went down to 10 following a fetchland activation, but Gardner was hopeful to get it back up with a Baneslayer Angel. Dan had a Mana Leak for Terminate from Morrison, but could do nothing about the Maelstrom Pulse that followed. He dropped to just 3 on attacks.

    Gardner was well on the back foot. He cast a Wall of Omens, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, who bounced Putrid Leech. Morrison wasn't about to replay his Leech though. He cast Sarkhan the Mad, and used the planeswalker to sacrifice Sprouting Thrinax, and make a dragon token. Jace, the Mind Sculptor had to bounce that dragon, lest Sarkhan's third ability burned him out. Morrison, for his turn, attacked with his three Saprolings, getting in one damage as Celestial Colonnade and Wall of Omens blocked.

    For the second time Sarkhan the Mad turned a Saproling into a Dragon. Morrison followed up with Sprouting Thrinax and a Putrid Leech that was hit by a Mana Leak. Gardner was on two, and remained in rough shape. He used Jace to Brainstorm, before casting Jace's Ingenuity to draw three more. A Wall of Omens drew him yet another card, but it was all for nought, and he scooped up his cards for game 2.

    Dan Gardner 0 – 1 Andrew Morrison

    Game two saw no spells from either player for the first few turns, though a pair of Tectonic Edges from Gardner looked a little threatening. Morrison seemed unconcerned. His mana base was almost all basics, and he had a land destruction plan too, in the form of Goblin Ruinblaster. The goblin destroyed Dan's Celestial Colonnade, but not before he'd used it for mana to cast Celestial Purge on the hasty 2/1.

    Dan used Tectonic Edge on a Lavaclaw Reaches that was coming in, and was suddenly well down on lands, and all out of white mana sources. Another Tectonic Edge from Dan meant his hand could not cast any white spells, and Goblin Ruinblaster number two from Morrison meant that even casting blue spells was getting tougher.

    Ruinblaster #2 took Dan to 14 before he drew a much needed Glacial Fortress. There was still no play from Gardner though, who had only been able to play one spell in the game. Andrew cast Blightning targeting Dan, which seemed a fine test spell against a hand that might be able to cast spells now. Gardner discarded Oblivion Ring and Day of Judgment. Morrison then attacked with Goblin Ruinblaster and Raging Ravine. Gardner could not really afford to be throwing away another Tectonic Edge, putting him back down to three lands, as having the chance to cast Baneslayer Angel was one of the ways for him to get into the game. The threat of that damage was too much though. He used an Edge on the Ravine, and a Celestial Purge on Goblin Ruinblaster.

    Dan Gardner, the current champ looking for the repeat.

    Dan had a brief respite, while Morrison rebuilt. In this time he drew some lands, to open up his options. Morrison cast a Bloodbraid Elf, which found a Sprouting Thrinax, with the elf hitting a Cancel. Dan used back to back copies of Jace's Ingenuity on successive turns, meaning that all his land woes were at an end, and that he could gradually mount a defence, albeit from 8 life. Another Bloodbraid Elf came along, bringing Putrid Leech, to which Dan used Path to Exile on Sprouting Thrinax. Gardner was down to five, and cast Day of Judgment.

    Morrison looked at his opponent's graveyard. Both copies of Day of Judgment from Gardner's list had been used, the Scotsman noted with a pleased tone. Dan was now on the fight back though. He cast Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and had a look at the top of his deck. He had 2 mana up for a counterspell of some sort, which would likely need to be Flashfreeze, as Mana Leak would do little against the 10 lands on Morrison's side of the board.

    That Morrison did not have a spell for his turn suggested either mana flood, or a hand with nothing but removal, which would be impotent against the Sphinx. Dan was almost nonchalant in his attacks. With so big a flyer, it wouldn't take him long to close out the game, and he even played a Jace Beleren to keep him in counterMagic by drawing more cards.

    Morrison tried a kicked Goblin Ruinblaster, but it met with a Cancel. Sphinx of Jwar Isle kept on rumbling in, and when Dan discarded Mana Leak at the end of turn, Morrison looked on in despair. He drew for his turn and scooped up his cards. This quarter-final would not be a sweep.

    Dan Gardner 1 – 1 Andrew Morrison

    For the third game, Morrison was on the play with a mulligan, while Dan had a full grip, and a rock solid mana base with Sejiri Refuge and Celestial Colonnade for the first two turns.

    Morrison, after a little thought, played Blightning on turn three, hitting a Path to Exile and a Glacial Fortress from Gardner's hand. Dan rebuild his hand by casting Wall of Omens, making the most of the fact that Morrison's start had afforded him time to set up.

    A kicked Goblin Ruinblaster destroyed Celestial Colonnade, but this time Dan had both defence and lands of each colour to work with, while Morrison had little going on. Another Wall of Omens came out for Gardner, and drew him into another land, which he quickly played. Morrison looked vexed. He went through his hand carefully before casting Bloodbraid Elf. With those walls there, he was likely still not doing much in combat, but he did hit another Goblin Ruinblaster. The Goblin got hit by Mana Leak.

    Dan drew and passed for the turn, ready with a Path to Exile to stop Maelstrom Pulse from being too much of a blowout in Morrison's favour. Only having one wall meant he did take two from a Ruinblaster, but Gardner's life total was far from concerningly low.

    The following turn, Morrison had yet another Goblin Ruinblaster, putting Gardner back down to five lands. Dan used the mana from the Glacial Fortress that hit the bin to cast Path to Exile on Bloodbraid Elf. Dan still had enough lands to cast Jace's Ingenuity at end of turn, setting up for Jace, the Mind Sculptor on his. Morrison pointed at one of his Goblin Ruinblasters with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky smile. These creatures were not for bouncing. Gardner used Jace to fateseal Morrison, and left a card on top. Morrison was not about to start trying to knock 5 loyalty off Jace, and simply kept going in on Gardner to take him to 12. A Maelstrom Pulse was the fate for the planeswalker.

    Morrison cast a Sprouting Thrinax for his turn, but Gardner was able to do better in terms of creatures, in Baneslayer Angel. Morrison didn't like this, and started dropping more monsters of his own, in Siege-Gang Commander (which itself met a Celestial Purge). Morrison had a Maelstrom Pulse for Baneslayer, and attacked Dan down t 10.

    Gardner was neither down nor out. He had a second Baneslayer Angel to replace the on that had gone away. The angel did a good job of evening up life totals, which Morrison then tried to undo, with a Bloodbraid Elf into a big set of attacks. The life point swing of Baneslayer Angel, combined with a Wall of Omens and Celestial Colonnade to block with were enough to make this sort of race a losing proposition.

    Morrison fired off a Duress, seeing three lands. He attacked in, but couldn't do enough to just die on the swingback.

    Dan Gardner 2 – 1 Andrew Morrison

    Morrison on the offensive.

    If it weren't the top eight, the match would at this point be done. With best of five play at the knockout stage though, Morrison had an extra life to work with. Both players kept the grips for game 4, and Morrison had the start of turn 2 Putrid Leech that is frequently the source of Jund's more dangerous openings. Gardner had a Path to Exile for the Leech when it swung in and pumped, but was soon staring down a Sprouting Thrinax that replaced it. A Wall of Omens came from Gardner, who lost his Colonnade to Goblin Ruinblaster. He did have another Wall of Omens though, meaning that he was not going to be taking much in the way of combat damage.

    Morrison cast Bloodbraid Elf into Putrid Leech. He snuck through 2 points of damage on attacks and passed. Dan cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and used the Brainstorm ability. Dan's deck was a veritable card drawing machine, so as long as he could stay clear of too much beatdown, he'd be in good shape in the late game. Morrison did not want this to happen, and swung with his whole team, including a Raging Ravine, in order to take Dan to six, even with two walls slowing his offence down a little.

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor bounced Putrid Leech, after which Dan played a Sejiri Refuge and passed. Morrison tried for a Blightning but was thwarted by Flashfreeze. Morrison sent his team after Dan, again ignoring planeswalkers. Gardner went to 5. Putrid Leech then came down for Morrison.

    Gardner had an end of turn Celestial Purge for Putrid Leech, and on just five lands he did a little digging with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He found another land, and cast his third Wall of Omens before passing. Morrison had a potentially devastating Maelstrom Pulse on Wall of Omens, which hit a Flashfreeze from Gardner, who now had all the blocking options he needed, including a Tectonic Edge for Raging Ravine.

    Morrison activated another Raging Ravine and ran in, forcing another Tectonic Edge from Garnder. This left Gardner on 4 lands – rather fewer than he really wanted to really be able to take command of the game. Gardner used Jace's fateseal ability before playing Elspeth, Knight-Errant, making a Soldier token, and passing.

    With two planeswalkers active, even if Gardner was short on land, he was not short on action. Jace's Brainstorm ability found Dan a fifth land, and he passed, content to sit back on his hand and wait for Morrison to try something.

    By now Morrison had drawn all of his Raging Ravines, and was dangerously close to being able to activate two in a turn. Meanwhile though, Dan's two planeswalkers were each at 6 loyalty, creeping toward ultimate levels. Elspeth making a token got up to 7.

    Morrison activated both Raging Ravines, and attacked in, building his board position by finally being able to kill off a Wall of Omens in addition to a Soldier token. Dan dropped to 3, as a Goblin Ruinblaster got through. The game was in the balance. Dan played a Baneslayer Angel, with mana up to protect it. Morrison played Duress, but seeing Cancel, Flashfreeze, Mana Leak, Baneslayer Angel, Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Day of Judgment could not have made him very happy. Dan had 2 mana up, so one way or another he would have some sort of counter. If Morrison had some sort of burn spell, that was cheap enough to get around mana leak, then taking Flashfreeze would end the game. The length of time Morrison thought though suggested that Morrison's hand was not so well stocked, which would make sense given the amount of fatesealing that Jace had been doing.

    He took Flashfreeze and cast Siege-Gang Commander, paying for Mana Leak. This seemed pretty good, but was not quite as good as Elspeth popped her ultimate, making Day of Judgment a thoroughly unfair spell that only killed Morrison's creatures. Attacks from Dan with Baneslayer Angel, along with the promise of Sphinx of Jwar Isle was enough to cause Andrew Morrison to extend his hand.

    Dan jumped up cheerily. He had just locked up level 4 status for the Pro Players club by year end.

    Dan Gardner wins 3-1



     
  • Quarterfinals – Joe Jackson v James Foster
    by Richard Coates
  • Joe, who made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Brighton last year, is a PhD student originally from Glasgow, but now lives in Coventry, where he tests with fellow GB Nationals Top 8 player Richard Bland. James, a self-confessed Magic Online 'grinder', made it into Nationals in the Last Chance Qualifier on Thursday night. Playing mainly at Eclectic Games in Reading, he is a limited specialist, and was glad of the chance to qualify for Nationals in a 40-card format. Despite being widely considered to be favoured in this matchup, Joe couldn't sleep for nerves last night, having been testing late into the night with teammate, Bradley Barclay.

    Game 1:

    Joe won the roll, deciding to play, and after a long time pondering, kept his seven cards. James too kept, but with much less thought. Joe led with a Noble Hierarch, as did James. Dropping to 18 after his second Fetchland, Joe then played Knight of the Reliquary, much to James' relief - a Cunning Sparkmage would have been devastating. James too made a Knight of the Reliquary, but his was powered out by a Lotus Cobra. Getting his third land type with his third fetchland, Joe played Linvala, Keeper of Silence, but opted not to attack with the Knight. Celestial Colonnade was James' next play, and Joe answered with a Fauna Shaman, before attacking with the Linvala. With his Noble Hierarch and Knight 'Linvalidated' James played the first Vengevine of the match, and with no blocks from Joe, attacked him down to 12, who fetched a Plains at the end of James' turn with Knight of the Reliquary. Bloodbraid Elf invited a Birds of Paradise to join Joe's team, and attacked along with the Linvala, trading with James' Knight. James cast a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and attempted to bounce the Linvala, but a Sejiri Steppe, courtesy of Knight of the Reliquary kept the Linvala squarely in play. Qasali Pridemage beefed up Linvala's attack and dropped Joe to 7, before being returned to Joe's hand by the Jace. A devastating turn for James, where Vengevine and Knight of the Reliquary appeared on the battlefield, was sadly to no avail, as Sejiri Steppe number two made Joe's Knight of the Reliquary unblockable, and the game was shortly over.

    Joe Jackson 1 - 0 James Foster

    The players sideboarded as follows:

    James: 2 Vengevines and 1 Ranger of Eos came out for 1 Qasali Pridemage 2 Sovereigns of Lost Alara

    Joe: Realm Razer, Obstinate Baloth, Sylvan Ranger, Vengevine, and Sun Titan came out for 2 Oblivion Ring, 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence, 1 Basilisk Collar and 1 Cunning Sparkmage

    Game 2:

    Pessimistic about his chances in the match, James took the opportunity to reflect with Joe about Magic Online, and how to play more than one online event at once, before deciding to play, despite Joe's attempts to dissuade him. While James kept his seven, and led with a Noble Hierarch, Joe mulliganed, and could only manage a Sunpetal Grove. James brought a Qasali Pridemage onto the battlefield, and Joe matched with one of his own. James attacked with his Pridemage, dropping Joe to 16, and added a Knight of the Reliquary. Joe's Cunning Sparkmage showed up on his turn 3, and James' Noble Hierarch was swiftly dispatched to the graveyard. Dropping to 11 after a Pridemage attack and a Misty Rainforest, Joe tried to stem the Bant onslaught with a Vengevine. After Knight of the Reliquary shenanigans at the end of Joe's turn, James attacked with his Pridemage and landed a Baneslayer Angel by floating mana through a Knight of the Reliquary. Joe Basilisk Collared up his Sparkmage and the Pridemage was destroyed. A topdecked Sejiri Steppe, however, meant James tied up the match, as the unblockable Knight dropped Joe to zero.

    Joe Jackson 1 - 1 James Foster

    Game 3:

    After a brief interlude while Joe visited the restroom, we moved onto the third game, after James explained to me how one can g o 'more infinite' on Magic Online. Joe decided to play fikept their hands. For the first time, neither player had a first turn Noble Hierarch, the first play being Joe's Cunning Sparkmage on turn 3. James' Fauna Shaman had a brief visit to the battlefield before a second Sparkmage sent it to the Graveyard. Bloodbraid Elf again hit a Birds of Paradise, but was quickly matched by James' Vengevine. A second Bloodbraid Elf hit another Birds, but Joe's board was becoming very crowded with high quality creatures. James' board was no less impressive after his next turn, as his Knight of the Reliquary and Qasali Pridemage returned a Vengevine to the battlefield, after his Path to Exile dealt with Joe's Knight. An Oblivion Ring from Joe dealt with the Knight, and the Qasali Pridemage met an end from the Sparkamges, and soon James was scooping up his cards.

    Joe Jackson 2 - 1 James Foster

    Game 4:

    Lamenting his loss of the die roll, James again decides to play first, as Joe reflects on the mediocre quality of his Bloodbraid Elf cascades in the last game. Both players mulliganed to 5, and with heavy sighs on both sides, kept. Joe had a decent start with a Birds of Paradise, and James responded with a Qasali Pridemage. A turn 3 Vengevine for Joe met with a Jace, the Mind Sculptor from James, which temporarily bounced the Vengevine. A Lotus Cobra hit the board for the Bant player, matched with a Bloodbraid Elf into Cunning Sparkmage representing Naya, and the Lotus Cobra hit the bin. James considered his options, and with a final sigh, scooped up his cards.

    Joe Jackson 3 - 1 James Foster

    Joe Jackson wins 3-1 and advances to the Semi-Finals.

     

  • Quarter Finals – James Cleak vs. Jonathan Randle
    by Richard Moore
  • Jonathan Randle is probably best known for being the 2008 Great British national champion and is a regular English presence at the Pro Tour. His opponent, James Cleak, while less known for his Magic achievements, excepting his Guildpact pre-release victory, has a PHD in Philosophy and has run the London Marathon.

    As the players sat down and began shuffling for the match, both seemed to be reasonably comfortable and confident with the match up. Traditionally, James Cleak's Naya deck would be considered to have the small edge against his counterparts Bant Mythic deck, in no small part due to the Cunning Sparkmage, bane of Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarchs everywhere. However, Randle was reassured by his deck's more reliable mana base and his main deck Linvala, Keeper of Silence.

    James games - it's true and it rhymes

    Game 1

    Cleak won the dice roll and elected to play, keeping his opening 7. Randle was less happy with his and sent it back but opted to keep the 6. Both players opened with Birds of Paradise and each had a 2 drop too, Qasali Pridemage for James and Fauna Shaman for Jonathan. James' third turn produced an Ajani Vengeant which took down the shaman before it could go digging for any troublesome creatures but, with only 1 remaining loyalty, Randle's Noble Hierarch allowed the Birds of Paradise (fresh with protection from black courtesy of a Sejiri Steppe) to fly over and exaltedly cast the plainswalker down.

    Cleak moved to the offensive with a Vengevine while Randle sought to solidify his board with a Knight of the Reliquary. Vengevine crashed in again and James tried to add the potentially devastating Cunning Sparkmage to his army but Randle had the Mana Leak ready. Jonathan played a Vengevine of his own, electing to hold back once again. James still had plenty of cards in his grip but was still stuck on 3 lands. He attempted to cast his own Knight of the Reliquary, Randle considered for a few moments and then allowed it to resolve.

    Cleak yet again failed to find a land but did find a Bloodbraid Elf which in turn found a second Cunning Sparkmage. James' Vengevine swung in with protection from green, a fresh Sejiri Steppe having been found by Knight of the Reliquary and Randle, sitting at a lowly 5 life, was forced to put a Celestial Colonnade in its path. With Cunning Sparkmage going to work on the 0/1 mana producing team of Randle and his lands being forced to trade with James' creatures, suddenly Randle's board was starting to look a little slim. He had a 2nd Venegevine but it couldnt compare to James' Baneslayer Angel.

    James Cleak 1 - 0 Jonathan Randle

    Randle doesn't have Ponder in his deck, ponders anyway

    Game 2

    Once again both players opened with a turn 1 mana producing creatures. Randle following his up with a turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary and James with a Stoneforge Mystic seaching up a Basilisk Collar. This time Randle had Linvala, Keeper of Silence ready on turn 3. James opted to swing in with his Stoneforge Mystic, planning to cast an Ajani Vengeant to finish off the angel if it dared to block but had forgotten that Linvala prevented his Noble Hierarch from producing mana. All he could do was cast the Basilisk Collar and pass the turn back, looking mournfully at his Stoneforge Mystic in the graveyard. Randle continued to ramp up his mana and, with the help of his Knight of the Reliquary, cast a turn 4 Primeval Titan to fetch up a Celestial Colonnade and a Tectonic Edge. James untapped, cast his Bloodbraid Elf, cascaded into a Fauna shaman and quickly conceded.

    James Cleak 1 - 1 Jonathan Randle

    As they shuffled, James and Jonathan chatted briefly about the swiss section of the tournament. James said that he had lost round 1 but it was all part of a master plan to dodge the top decks and players and sneak into the top 8. Seemed that plan worked well!

    Game 3

    The recurring theme for the match was continued with both players playing turn 1 mana producers. Both also had a Fauna Shaman to follow. James opted to use his Fauna Shaman to fetch Cunning Sparkmage and shot down Randle's Birds of Paradise. Jonathan used his to fetch up Linvala, Keeper of Silence. James added a Bloodbraid Elf and a second Fauna Shaman to the board while Randle simply cast the angel before passing the turn. James untapped and looked unhappily at his own Linnvala in hand but, with the Noble Hierarch now inactive, only one white source available meant he was unable to destroy Randle's copy of the legendary creature. Instead he cast a Vengevine and crashed in with all of his creatures, hoping to overwhelm Randle who dropped to 6 from the attack. This plan was quickly put on hold by the Jonathan's second angel, this time a Baneslayer.

    James Cleak works it out

    Draw after draw failed to yield the second white source for James Cleak, but he was able to add two Knight of the Reliquary to his side, 4/4s due to Misty Rainforest and Arid Mesa. Jonathan simply matched him knight for knight, gumming up the board while the Baneslayer flew overhead recovering the life lost from James' attacks. Four turns later, its job was done.

    James Cleak 1 - 2 Jonathan Randle

    It seems appropriate that Linvala is such an important card in this match, given that she is the Keeper of Silence. There has been very little chat in so far. In fact, nobody is saying a bloody word

    Game 4

    This game saw the second mulligan of the match for Jonathan Randle who seemed much happier with his six. This time James had the Birds of Paradise but Jonathan was only able to put a Sunpetal Grove into play tapped. James had a Raging Ravine as his second land drop but nothing to spend his two available mana on. Jonathan had a Lotus Cobra and then attempted to lay another Sunpetal Grove and Noble Hierarch before his opponent quickly pointed out that you are only allowed to lay one land a turn in Magic the Gathering, prompting a swift warning for violation of game state and a blushing Jonathan Randle. Sometimes, you can be so focused on future plans that you forget the present ones!

    James had a Vengevine ready to smash in the next turn and his Raging Ravine joined it the turn after dropping Randle to a lowly 8. Jonathan just continued to build up his base with a couple of Noble Hierarchs and a Fauna Shaman. Tectonic Edge dealt with the Raging Ravine but James just threw another Vengevine into the fray forcing Randle to throw a Fauna Shaman shaped speed bump into the way in order to survive, its parting gift to search up a Baneslayer Angel. But Jonathan didn't have the fifth land for the Baneslayer and could only manage a Linvala, Keeper of SIlence. Bloodbraid Elf for James found a Basilisk Collar and the resulting attack dropped Randle to 1 with Linvala trading for a Vengevine but the other Vengevine taking down Lotus Cobra. Again Randle missed his fifth land but this time had two more offerings in the shape of Fauna Shaman and Noble Hierarch number three to survive at 1 for another turn. Cleak had a Raging Ravine to replace the Bloodbraid but had drawn only lands so was unable to add anything further to his Vengevine and Birds of Paradise on board.

    Jonathan Randle vs James Cleak

    Randle untapped and found his land for Baneslayer, halting the attacks for a turn and then added another Linvala, Keeper of Silence, at least temporarily preventing any potential lethal Cunning Sparkmage draws. James just continued to draw land but one of them was a second Raging Ravine. Linvala took up offensive duties but James found another Vengevine and sent it crashing in along with its brother and one of the Ravines. Baneslayer took down the Raging Ravine but one of the Noble Hierarchs went to Randle's graveyard and even with Baneslayer's life gain, he dropped back down to 2. Linvala continued to attack but the army of Noble Hierarchs were shrinking, reducing the effect of exalted, but James was still down to 10.

    Randle stabilised his board a little with a Knight of the Reliquary while all James could manage was a Birds of Paradise. James found a Sejiri Steppe which would have forced his Raging Raving through for lethal damage but for the Lotus Cobra that Randle had drawn the turn before! The active Knight of the Reliquary meant that James didn't even get any life from his Basilisk Collar, with the Lotus Cobra gaining protection from red from Randle's own Sejiri Steppe. Jonathan decided it was time for Baneslayer Angel enter the red zone, giving him a comfortable life cushion and dropping James to 5. James tried another attack with the now 6/6 Raging Ravine, again with Basilisk Collar equipped but a second Sejiri Steppe search prevented any life gain. Cleak took a glance at his hand, a look at the board and offered the handshake.

    James Cleak 1 - 3 Jonathan Randle



     
  • Semifinals – Joe Jackson v Jonathan Randle
    by Rich Hagon
  • With Andrew Morrison vanquished in the quarter finals, Joe Jackson now carries the remaining hopes of a first GB Champion from Scotland. His opponent, Jonathan Randle, is here at this stage for the second time in three years, having lifted the title in 2008 and led the team at Worlds in Memphis that year.

    With both players starting at six cards, Randle was quicker out of the blocks, with Birds of Paradise leading to Knight of the Reliquary on turn two. Jackson's Knight of the Reliquary played fair, arriving on turn three. Randle made a second Knight on his turn three, while Jackson went to work with Baneslayer Angel.

    Three Knights of the Reliquary on the battlefield meant the graveyards would be packed with land pretty quickly. Randle added Vengevine, the Haste irrelevant. In came the Baneslayer, before Jackson matched Vengevine for Vengevine. When Randle attacked with one of his Knights, Jackson fetched up Sejiri Steppe to protect his own Knight of the Reliquary, while Randle pulled the same well-known stunt to keep his own Knight on the battlefield. A second Vengevine completed the turn for the former champion.

    Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into Fauna Shaman for Jackson, who reached for the skies once again with his Baneslayer Angel. He now led by twenty three life to eight. Randle was in no imminent danger of dying, however, since he had two Birds of Paradise and a Celestial Colonnade for the Baneslayer to slog through before death would become a real possibility. Cunning Sparkmage allowed Jackson to shoot down one of the Birds of Paradise before sending the Baneslayer once again.

    Randle had nothing, and that was the cue for Jackson to start abusing Fauna Shaman. He discarded Noble Hierarch to fetch Stoneforge Mystic, which in turn would complete the Cunning Sparkmage / Basilisk Collar combo. It was a pretty collection of creatures assembled on Jackson's side of the battlefield: Knight of the Reliquary, Vengevine, Baneslayer Angle, Bloodbraid Elf, Fauna Shaman, Stoneforge Mystic, Cunning Sparkmage.

    Randle activated his Stirring Wildwood, knowing that it was destined for Deathtouch death at the hands of the Cunning Sparkmage, meaning he was down to just three. He continued to thin his library with Knight of the Reliquary, but found no help.

    Jackson 1 – 0 Randle.

    Noble Hierarch and Fauna Shaman opened unopposed for Randle, who discarded Vengevine on turn three to run out Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, and the returning Vengevine, which promptly smashed face. Three mana for Jackson meant Cunning Sparkmage, quickly shooting a Noble Hierarch, but Randle was chock full of answers, adding Linvala, Keeper of Silence. It was ironic that Bloodbraid Elf for Jackson Cascaded into a second Cunning Sparkmage, just as functionally useless as the first. Moments later, Randle had made the best of five into the best of three.

    Jackson 1 – 1 Randle.

    Randle again had acceleration early in game three. While Jackson opened on turn two Qasali Pridemage, Randle had Birds of Paradise turn one, and both Fauna Shaman and Noble Hierarch turn two. In a repeat of game two, Jackson used three mana for Cunning Sparkmage, and immediately killed the Noble Hierarch. Randle still had more than enough for Knight of the Reliquary, enough to leave Fauna Shaman activation.

    Jackson, meanwhile, had assembled the Basilisk Collar to go with his Cunning Sparkmage. Randle was down to twelve, as he activated Fauna Shaman, discarding Vengevine in favor of Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Unsurprisingly, that caused a grunt of irritation from Jackson.

    A fresh Vengevine from the Scot dropped Randle to seven, with Qasali Pridemage providing Exalted support. Thanks to Fauna Shaman, Randle had lifegain at the ready, searching up Baneslayer Angel and sending it onto the battlefield. Jackson, though, had a SPECTACULAR draw, finding Oblivion Ring on top of his deck. That sent away Linvala, and allowed Cunning Sparkmage to resume utterly obscene beatings. In moments, the game was effectively done, and Jackson stood on the verge of the championship match.

    Jackson 2 – 1 Randle.

    Joe Jackson - we have it on good authority that he is wearing shoes.

    As we waited for game four to begin, Scottish spectator Silas Bath jokingly reminisced, 'I remember when you used to come into the store and get battered at Draft. 0-3 Jackson, we used to call you.' And another watching wag replied, 'And that was just last week!'

    Onto game four, and time to get serious again, not least because the loser of this one would face a titanic struggle in the 3rd/4th playoff for a slot on the GB Team against either Dan Gardner or Richard Bland, both fearsome opponents, and on top of their game, judging by the appreciate crowd watching the second semi final.

    Needing a win, Randle mulliganed to six, but still began with turn one Noble Hierarch, a move matched by Jackson. Turn two Knight of the Reliquary was also the play for both players. The symmetry shifted when Randle laid a land and passed, while Jackson exploded into Baneslayer Angel. Never one for open displays of emotion at the table, Randle let a small exhalation escape his lips. To seasoned Randle-watchers, that was a big deal.

    Jackson landed Cunning Sparkmage, and attempted to end the Birds of Paradise Randle had laid the previous turn. Knight of the Reliquary for Sejiri Steppe prevented that plan for at least one turn, but Jackson was twenty-five to eleven ahead, and clearly growing in confidence with every turn. Randle ran his hand through his hair, deep in the tank, and deep in trouble. Linvala, Keeper of Silence would keep Cunning Sparkmage in check, at least for now.

    Looking at Jackson's hand, it was hard to imagine what Randle might have to get him back in the match. Jackson attacked with Baneslayer Angel, with Randle activating Knight of the Reliquary for a second Sejiri Steppe. Jackson cast Oblivion Ring, but Randle had named white with Sejiri Steppe, and Jackson couldn't target Linvala. He disposed of Knight of the Reliquary, but that wasn't the plan at all. Fauna Shaman added to a battlefield that should have had 'game over' written all over it.

    It was a massive moment, but how massive could Randle make it?

    Next turn, he cast Sovereigns of Lost Alara, fetched up Eldrazi Conscription, equipped Linvala, and piled in for more damage than a force nine gale. Despite this, the scores remained favorable for Jackson by eleven to eight. The Scot tapped four mana for Vengevine, and sent in the team.

    Ever the gentleman, Randle extended the hand, and Scotland's Joe Jackson was through to the championship match.

    Joe Jackson 3 – 1 Jonathan Randle.



     
  • Semifinals – Dan Gardner vs Richard Bland
    by Tim Willoughby
  • As Richard Bland and Dan Gardner shuffled up for their best of five semi-finals, they each postured on how little testing they had done with their decks.

    "Joe and I built our deck the night before the tournament"

    "I got a list of Quentin and just went with that"

    "Fine, but I haven't tested this matchup, I only tested for the quarter-finals."

    "I just drafted last night…"

    It's good to know that once you are talking about the semi-finals for the national championships, that everyone is well prepared.

    Of course, in their own way, these players were both well prepared. They've both been playing great Magic in the last year. Richard got to level 3 last round in the Pro Players Club, while Dan hit level 4 (assuming he goes to Worlds). For these players, the points would be valuable in securing more solid position on the Pro Tour.

    Dan won the roll, and each player took a mulligan. Bland then took a second. While Richard did have a Basilisk Collar for the second turn, he didn't have a third land, and was without a green source. Meanwhile, Dan had a turn four Jace, the Mind Sculptor who was soon put to work fatesealing Bland's deck. It looked like the first game of the match would be a quick one.

    Dan cast a Baneslayer Angel, to which Bland just smiled and scooped.

    "That was a pretty nice keep. Five lands and Jace."

    Dan Gardner 1 – 0 Richard Bland

    Bland - is this hand a keeper.

    For the second game, Bland kept a full seven, and had a turn two Noble Hierarch off Stirring Wildwood, before playing a Qasali Pridemage that hit Flashfreeze. Bland snuck a Basilisk Collar into play with is remaining mana. That collar would be good in the face of Wall of Omens, that came from Gardner, and if the Fauna Shaman from Bland got a chance to hang around, it would pose real problems for the reigning National Champion.

    Gardner cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and used the planeswalker to bounce Fauna Shama. This tapped him out, leaving Bland free to resolve something. That something was a Vengevine, which ran straight at Jace, only to be chump blocked by Wall of Omens.

    Gardner was up to five mana, and used that mana to cast Baneslayer Angel, while Jace bounced the Vengevine. Bland calmly used Oblivion Ring to deal with Baneslayer Angel, and attacked Jace with his Noble Hierarch to finish the planeswalker off.

    Dan cast Sphinx of Jwar Isle, that in the face of Vengevine with exalted was not even a great blocker. Bland attacked Dan down to 11. With the Sphinx around, Dan always knew the top card of his deck, and he liked the card on top enough to draw it with a Wall of Omens. Sphinx then cracked in before Dan reduced Richard to just 3 lands thanks to Tectonic Edge.

    Richard played a new fourth land, and recast his Fauna Shaman. This was hit by Cancel, tapping Dan out, and allowing Richard to equip his Vengevine unimpeded, letting his attacks turn the life totals around to 11 – 17 in Bland's favour. Dan cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and had a think.

    "You should play a deck like mine… it's far easier"

    Dan smiled and bounced Vengevine. Dan was tapped out of blue mana, so Richard was fine to resolve his spells, and started with Sylvan Ranger to find a Forest. From there came Vengevine, that went for Jace, but in fact just killed a Wall of Omens.

    Dan attacked with Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Celestial Colonnade. He then bounced Vengevine yet again, stunting the amount that Richard could get done on his turn. Bland was on just 3 from attacks, to Dan's 11, so he really needed to achieve quite a lot for the turn in order to stay in the game.

    Bland chose not to play Vengevine, instead casting Bloodbraid Elf and hitting a Birds of Paradise that would serve as a crucial blocker in the face of Gardner's flyers. Without a clear win available, Dan cast Jace's Ingenuity and passed. Insodoing, he again tapped out of blue mana, and didn't draw into any more to even represent a counterspell.

    Gardner cursed Bland's luck in hitting the Birds of Paradise on the cascade. It had bought him time, allowing Basilisk Collar to put him back in the game. Swings from Bloodbraid Elf made the life totals 10 to 4 in Bland's favour. Suddenly the game could be anyone's. Knight of the Reliquary from Bland threatened danger the very next turn, as it could fetch up a Sejiri Steppe to make his Bloodbraid Elf unblockable by the lone Sphinx of Jwar Isle on Gardner's side of the board.

    Gardner cast Baneslayer Angel and passed. After a little thought, Bland cast Vengevine. He used his Knight of the Reliquary to get that Steppe and give Vengevine protection from white, after having equipped it with Basilisk Collar. Bland was now up to 15, and with Gardner having used a fetchland to go to 3, it meant ha had to be a little cagey. Knowing that another Steppe could be coming, Dan attacked with Baneslayer to go up to 8, and kill of Birds of Paradise. He then played a second Baneslayer.

    Bland equipped and attacked with an 9/9 Knight of the Reliquary thanks to exalted. When Baneslayer Angel blocked, each player ended up on a much healthier life total, even if Baneslayer herself took something of a dip in health. A Fauna Shaman from Bland was stopped by Flashfreeze, and once again Gardner was faced with touch decisions to stay alive. Attacks from Baneslayer Angel made the life totals 19 – 18 to Dan. Did nobody tell these players the directions life totals were meant to go in? Dan followed up with Elspeth, Knight Errant, which made a token. Another Flashfreeze stopped Cunning Sparkmage, that would otherwise threaten Elspeth. When Qasali Pridemage was cast, Bland got back a Vengevine, to allow for some big swings. Elspeth lost one loyalty, while Dan went to 7 on the combat. Gardner's defence was bolstered by a Wall of Omens, and he had a Jace Beleren to draw with, before using Elspeth to pump Baneslayer Angel for the attacks.

    Bland split his attacks between both planeswalkers and Dan himself. Sylvan Ranger and Vengevine had a go at Elspeth, Qasali Pridemage and Bloodbraid Elf went in on Jace, while Knight of the Reliquary went right for Dan. Wall of Omens blocked Vengevine to keep Elspeth around, but Jace was done for, and Dan himself dropped quite a bit lower on the swings. Gardner was still alive though, and with a topdecked Path to Exile he was able to deal with Knight of the Reliquary, and re-establish some sort of uneasy control of the game.

    Elspeth letting Baneslayer Angel attack for 8 and Basilisk Collar were between them causing the game to run long. Bland attacked Elspeth with more or less his whole team in order that Bland might be able to be the only one gaining life at any quick pace. In the face of this assault, Dan decided to change tack. He used Elspeth to pump Celestial Colonnade and ran in with that instead.

    Bland did what he had been doing for much of the game, casting creatures, getting back Vengevine, and making big attacks. As he had cast a Noble Hierarch as one of his creatures, that Vengevine got to kill Elspeth in one, being too big for Baneslayer Angel to block. Dan cast an Oblivion Ring, having a long think about what to remove, as there was an active Qasali Pridemage on the other side of the board. He eventually took Basilisk Collar into exile with the enchantment, before swinging in with his angel.

    Qasali Pridemage got back that collar, and it got equipped right back to Vengevine, which swung in alongside Raging Ravine, Bloodbraid Elf, Sylvan Ranger and Stoneforge Mystic. Tectonic Edge and Celestial Purge dealt with Ravine and Bloodbraid Elf respectively, and the Mana Leak that was the last card in Gardner's hand stopped a Knight of the Reliquary. Gardner dropped to 11, while Bland went up to 14.

    Gardner almost fell out of his chair when another Qasali Pridemage came down for Bland. He had held back his Baneslayer Angel in the hope that it could hold off Vengevine, but the extra point of exalted meant that this was just not an option. It seemed that Gardner was out of cards in hand and out of luck.

    "I'm such a lucksack" remarked Bland, enjoying the chance to turn the screws a little after how game one had gone.

    Eventually Baneslayer Angel was relegated to chump blocking, and with Gardner on just 9, he needed to draw something special fast. That something special was Path to Exile, which would mean Bland would have to turn to another creature to do his attacking for subsequent turns. Fortunately for him, he had plenty.

    A Sun Titan from Bland fetched back Knight of the Reliquary. It seemed a mere attack step away from the match being levelled, but neither player was in any great hurry. It was not until Knight of the Reliquary fetched a Tectonic Edge to take out the remaining blocker that Gardner had that he finally scooped up his cards.

    Dan Gardner 1 – 1 Richard Bland

    Gardner in the zone.

    Gardner looked at the top card of his deck in disgust. It was the Day of Judgment that might have put him back in things. Too late. Too bad.

    Both players kept for game three, and it was Bland with the first play in Birds of Paradise. Turn two saw a Qasali Pridemage, and an attack for 1 from those very birds. Bland was taking it slow to deploy threats in the face of untapped lands from Gardner. He merrily got his beat on with his pridemage without casting a spell on turn three, and got in for four with it the following turn when Noble Hierarch hit the board.

    Eventually, Gardner could wait no longer, and pulled the trigger on the Path to Exile that he might have hoped to use on something a little more exciting. A Fauna Shaman from Bland was a nice test spell, and it resolved before another Noble Hierarch let the first attack for two.

    Dan played his second spell of the game, in Jace's Ingenuity, digging for answers. He found a Path to Exile for Fauna Shaman, and a Baneslayer Angel to make the red zone a much less friendly place. With Gardner tapped out, Bland took the opportunity to resolve a Realm Razer, and followed up with Fauna Shaman off his mana creatures. Control plans no longer seemed an option for Gardner.

    With all his mana creatures, Bland was operating just fine without much land. He used Fauna Shaman to fetch Bloodbraid Elf and cast it. His attacks put Dan on 8. Dan was now holding back Baneslayer Angel on defence. He had got up to two lands, but his board was dwarfed by that of Bland. Richard next cast a Knight of the Reliquary. Already a 6/6, the knight would be an 8/8 if it attacke alone, and that is precisely how much life Dan had.

    Richard naturally drew the Sejiri Steppe that would allow him to attack unimpeded, and it was on to game three.

    Dan Gardner 1 – 2 Richard Bland

    After two rough games, Gardner seemed rattled. If this had been best of three it would all be over. He still had a chance at repeating his victory in 2009, but it would require two wins on the trot in this match.

    On the play, Dan had a mulligan, but was ready with a Flashfreeze to stop the first play of Bland, a Qasali Pridemage. A second Pridemage did make it in, but was unable to attack effectively, as Elspeth came out to create soldiers. The Pridemage did go for Elspeth, backed up by a Vengevine, but could not get close to killing her.

    When Dan played a Baneslayer Angel, he must have felt good about his position. A quick Sejiri Steppe allowed Vengevine to off Elspeth though, and an Oblivion Ring meant that Baneslayer Angel was out of the game. Once more Bland also had Basilisk Collar, to make racing much harder.

    Suddenly on the back foot, Dan used a fetchland to get up to 6 mana to cast Sphinx of Jwar Isle. The Sphinx didn't block Vengevine, and Dan could only look on as first Fauna Shaman, and then Knight of the Reliquary joined Richard's side of the board. An Oblivion Ring on Knight of the Reliquary meant that at least it wouldn't be active in the short term, though Qasali Pridemage could get it back. Tectonic Edges also gradually reduced the mana available to Bland to do things. There was enough mana to equip Vengevine and make some swings to take the life totals to 12 – 17 in Bland's favour. At the end of Dan's turn, which passed with just a Sphinx swing, Bland got back his Knight of the Reliquary from under Oblivion Ring with that Pridemage.

    Attacks from Bland put Gardner at 7. His Sphinx of Jwar Isle was doing a fine job of attacking in, but judging by the scowl on Gardner's face, he would rather not have known how the top of his deck looked. There was another Oblivion Ring there though, which locked down Knight of the Reliquary again.

    Dan could only look on, head in hands, as Fauna Shaman edged Bland further and further ahead. He used it first to find a Vengevine, then to discard that Vengevine to find Bloodbraid Elf. Seven power of haste was enough to finish the 2009 champion, leaving Richard Bland the victor.

    Richard Bland wins 3 – 1



     
  • 3rd / 4th playoff - Jonathan Randle v Dan Gardner
    by Rich Hagon
  • It's one of the biggest matches of the Magic year – the battle for third at Nationals. Rarely has Great Britain seen a higher quality pair competing for the final slot than 2008 Champion Jonathan Randle, and defending 2009 Champion Dan Gardner. It's a fitting end to another superb weekend for both of them. While both will play with honor at Worlds in Chiba, only one can contribute to a team performance that will be paced by finalists Joe Jackson of Scotland and England's Richard Bland.

    Noble Hierarch got Randle off to a quick start, with Gardner gaining the first of what he hoped would be huge card advantage via Wall of Omens. He added a second Wall, but not before Randle had landed Fauna Shaman unmolested by counterMagic. That Fauna Shaman soon began Vengevine shenanigans for Randle, with Gardner trying to get his head in the game after a brain-pounding semi final against Richard Bland.

    Gardner found Path to Exile for the Fauna Shaman, with Randle responding, discarding a second Vengevine and tutoring up a replacement Fauna Shaman. Four more mana tapped Gardner out, but brought him Elspeth, Knight-Errant, plus a Soldier token. The token died when Randle brought back his Vengevines, Gardner choosing to keep both Wall of Omens intact. Jace Beleren drew the control man a card, and it was back to Randle, looking to find a way through.

    The Vengevines continued to eat away the following turn, with Wall of Omens and Soldier token hitting the graveyard. When Gardner attempted Baneslayer Angel, Randle turned control mage, with Mana Leak threatening the plan. Gardner had the answer answered with Negate, and the Baneslayer hit the battlefield running. Flying. Whatever.

    Randle continued to make use of his second Fauna Shaman of the game, before casting Sovereigns of Lost Alara, equipping Vengevine with Eldrazi Conscription, and turning sideways in emphatic fashion. With double Noble Hierarch and the Sovereigns of Lost Alara, Randle's Vengevine was a colossal 17/16. With Trample. Wall of Omens blocked, but it was all academic, as Gardner drew no answers, giving the lead to Randle.

    Randle 1 – 0 Gardner.

    It seemed as if luck was deserting Gardner. He mulliganed to start game two, and found Randle with an explosive opening of Noble Hierarch into Lotus Cobra. Fauna Shaman completed turn two. At least Gardner had Oblivion Ring for the tutoring machine. In came the Cobra, but Randle had nothing to press home his advantage. Jace Beleren was next for Gardner, netting him a card, and effectively gaining him two life, as Lotus Cobra ended the blue Planeswalker.

    Wall of Omens looked to shut up shop, but a second Noble Hierarch for Randle meant Lotus Cobra now had four power, enough to take down the Wall of Omens should Gardner block. He didn't, and fell to thirteen. It was clear that he was happy enough to let Jace Beleren die, because his next turn brought the upgrade – Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which bounced Randle's Hierarch, keeping him off unfair amounts of mana.

    Randle was really stuggling for land, getting no benefit from the landfall ability on Lotus Cobra, and Gardner used his remaining mana in Randle's upkeep to off the Cobra permanently, continuing the strategy begun with Jace. Randle played another Lotus Cobra, and again Gardner was happy to exchange a loyalty counter for the Cobra back in hand. He added Baneslayer Angel to his growing collection of permanents, and was starting to look in good shape.

    That said, Randle had a full grip of seven cards, and he put two of them to good use the following turn when giving Vengevine protection with Sejiri Steppe, and finishing off Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Gardner added a second Baneslayer Angel, attacked with the first, and left himself tapped out once more. Finally reaching six mana, Randle gave the crowd a glimpse of orange, as M11 Mythic Primeval Titan hit the battlefield.

    In came Gardner for ten flying damage, leaving the scores twenty eight to four in his favor. Randle began his turn with Lotus Cobra, then attacking with Primeval Titan and Vengevine. Two fetch lands arriving tapped still got him mana via the Cobra, and he cast Summoning Trap, finding himself a Baneslayer Angel. Randle ended the turn with Knight of the Reliquary, but when Gardner drew three cards with Jace's Ingenuity, he drew into Oblivion Ring, meaning the pair of Baneslayers could even the match at one each.

    Randle 1 – 1 Gardner.

    Randle playing for a shot on the team.

    Nothing happened until turn four in the third game, with Randle's Vengevine quickly disappearing via Path to Exile. That had to be good news for Gardner, as did having a second Path to Exile for Celestial Colonnade when Randle attempted to deal the first damage of the game with the 4/4 Vigilant flyer. More good Gardner news – three new cards via Jace's Ingenuity, as threats continued to be non-existent. It kept on getting better. Two Wall of Omens meant two more cards. Shields up. Plenty of mana. A ton of cards. Did I mention things were going well for Gardner?

    Randle had Knight of the Reliquary for approximately three seconds before Gardner cast Path to Exile. Please see the previous sentence. Gardner added Elspeth, Knight-Errant to the board. Ditto. Finally, Randle did something that might (or might not) have an impact on the game – Primeval Titan. It met Path to Exile. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    So, I've mentioned fifty three good things for Gardner. Time for one bad one – Eldrazi Conscription on Noble Hierarch, that resolved despite Jace's Ingenuity drawing Gardner three more cards. Eek. Gardner hit back with Jace, the Mind Sculptor bouncing the Hierarch, killing the Conscription in the process, but Randle went back to work with Admonition Angel. Away went Jace, which Gardner objected to, so much so that he cast Oblivion Ring for the Admonition Angel, getting his Planeswalker back. Surely now that little Randle fightback was no more than a hiccup?

    Not so. Randle now had enough mana to activate both his Celestial Colonnades, and powered into action. Jace bit the dust, replaced by another from Gardner, but the reigning champion was clearly feeling the strain of his earlier exertions. Randle cast Fauna Shaman, and then went for Summoning Trap, meeting Flashfreeze. Double Tectonic Edge from Gardner sent both Colonnades to the graveyard, while Oblivion Ring showed why Gardner had allowed the Fauna Shaman.

    Baneslayer Angel was next for Gardner, and he allowed Summoning Trap to resolve for Randle, who got Knight of the Reliquary for his troubles. Wall of Reverence joined the team, and with Knight of the Reliquary an 8/8, Randle moved at a stroke from twelve life back to twenty. Gardner used his final Oblivion Ring on the Knight, and sent Baneslayer Angel to steal a quarter of Randle's life. At 2/2, Randle's new Fauna Shaman wasn't such a lifegain beating as the Knight had been. Gardner shortened the clock with a second Baneslayer Angel.

    Randle activated Fauna Shaman, getting him War Priest of Thune. So far, so good. But when he cast it to end Gardner's Oblivion Ring on his Admonition Angel, he found a nasty surprise waiting for him – Gather Specimens! Sorry, that should be a bit more dramatic...

    GATHER SPECIMENS.

    When Admonition Angel tried to re-enter the battlefield, it did so on Gardner's side of the field. Unreal.

    See? Told you it was all going well for Gardner.

    Randle 1 – 2 Gardner.

    Since Randle had lost the previous game when he'd first done something meaningful on turn eleventy-nine, a turn one Birds of Paradise was a welcome turn one play. He couldn't capitalize on turn two, but added both land and Noble Hierarch turn three. Fauna Shaman met Path to Exile, with Gardner offering Jace, the Mind Sculptor. With his control opponent tapped out, Randle had a turn to make use of a maximum seven mana. His choice was to activate Celestial Colonnade, and destroy the Planeswalker. Now untapped, Gardner passed the turn.

    Randle's turn produced Knight of the Reliquary for him, and Jace's Ingenuity for Gardner. Oblivion Ring dealt with the Knight, and it was back to Randle. Primeval Titan? Flashfreeze. Mana Leak right back atcha. Primeval Titan resolved for Randle, causing a large sigh from Gardner. Still, Day of Judgment wasn't shabby.

    Randle rebuilt with Knight of the Reliquary and War Priest of Thune, while Gardner started again with Baneslayer Angel. Lotus Cobra didn't seem like it changed much. In came the Baneslayer, but Randle had an even bigger flyer, Admonition Angel. Elspeth, Knight-Errant came next for Gardner, Randle sitting pretty with his Admonition Angel eating up Gardner's Baneslayer.

    Then came a huge moment. Oblivion Ring looked to deal with Admonition Angel. Randle sacrificed his Verdant Catacombs, triggering Landfall, which meant his Angel could ExileWar Priest of Thune. When the Oblivion Ring resolved, the Admonition Angel went away, but War Priest of Thune came back, and so did the Angel!

    Carnage. Utter, utter carnage. Still, at least Gardner got his Baneslayer Angel back. The words 'scant consolation' spring to mind. Randle had Primeval Titan, and that meant major Admonition Angel action, sending both Baneslayer and Soldier token away. In came Randle's Angel, and the following turn he activated Celestial Colonnade before sending in a veritable mountain of damage, including Primeval Titan to rob Gardner of even Wall of Omens as a potential blocker. Randle added Knight of the Reliquary, and Gardner swept them up.

    Randle 2 – 2 Gardner.

    The Constant Gardner.

    Now this is where Magic gets cruel. More than six hours after these two started the top 8 this morning, one single duel separates them from the finish line, and membership of the team of three for Worlds 2010. Both have demonstrated incredible fortitude in the past two years, and now again. Both have fallen just short of the dizzying heights of raising the trophy, but this is still possibly the most important single game of Magic either has ever played.

    Showtime.

    Turn two Fauna Shaman for Randle met Path to Exile, Gardner having established early defense with Wall of Omens. Turn three meant Vengevine for Randle, with Gardner taking the five points. A second Wall of Omens drew Gardner a card, before doing the perfect job of blocking Vengevine. Randle passed, but so did Gardner, sitting on four land. Vengevine ate the second Wall, with Gardner aiming Path to Exile in order to find land number five.

    Knowing that Gardner had to deal with Vengevine, Randle sat with a wall of cards in hand, sending the hasty green man in for five more damage. Jace's Ingenuity at end of turn met Mana Leak, leaving Gardner on the brink. He cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and went into Brainstorm mode. Back we went, Vengevine apparently unopposed, and with six mana available for Randle to work with. In came Vengevine, and Gardner fell to five. Out came Primeval Titan. It was all one way traffic in the decider. Did Gardner have one more trick up his sleeve?

    Brainstorm via Planeswalker began the next turn for Gardner. It could well be his last. Day of Judgment swept the board. Back to Randle. Primeveal Titan met Flashfreeze. Noble Hierarch triggered Vengevine, but Gardner had Path to Exile! Still alive....barely.

    More Brainstorm, facing Noble Hierarch and a pair of Celestial Colonnades, one of which Randle could activate the following turn. Elspeth, Knight-Errant made a Soldier, and Gardner passed. Was THIS the turn that Randle claimed third place on the national team?

    Fauna Shaman resolved. Celestial Colonnade activated, Tectonic Edge killed it. What a game.

    Brainstorm for Gardner yet again. Day of Judgment. Make a Soldier. Pass the turn.

    Gardner had Flashfreeze for Knight of the Reliquary, leaving Randle to cast Noble Hierarch. In theory, Randle's remaining Celestial Colonnade would now be lethal. Brainstorm via Jace suggested Gardner already had an answer, and with a second Tectonic Edge, he did. Elspeth went to seven, a second Soldier hit the battlefield. Was Gardner going to pull this one out of the bag?

    The Colonnade attacked, Tectonic Edge killed it. Randle cast War Priest of Thune. Gardner made Soldier number three, Elspeth went to eight, Jace continued to Brainstorm, Wall of Omens drew Gardner a card. Knight of the Reliquary joined Randle's team, along with Lotus Cobra. It wasn't going to be enough. Knight of the Reliquary met Path to Exile, with Soldier number four arriving.

    Baneslayer Angel for Gardner. Eight counters off Elspeth for Gardner. Everything Indestructible for Gardner. Cancel for Primeval Titan for Gardner. An 8/8 Baneslayer thanks to Elspeth crashed in. Gardner added a second Baneslayer, bounced Randle's Birds of Paradise, and swung for the fences.

    An incredible end to an incredible weekend.

    Jonathan Randle 2 – 3 Dan Gardner.




     
  • Finals – Joe Jackson vs Richard Bland
    by Tim Willoughby
  • As the finals began, Dan Gardner leaned over from the third/fourth place playoff.

    "Take a really long time playing so that I can stay champion for a little longer!"

    This best-of-five match would see these two friends who play together regularly at Warwick University in a 75 card mirror match, and it could easily take a while. Both players worked together on their deck the very night before the tournament, and between them it has served them very well indeed. While they are both currently based around Warwick, Joe is originally Scottish, and against the English Richard Bland, he is vying to become the first Scottish champion of Great Britain.

    The mirror match die roll saw a couple of draws, and then both players took a mulligan to 6. Richard, who had won the roll, then went down to 5. Then 4.

    "I'm in your head!" declared Joe triumphantly.

    "When I lose, I lose in style" retorted Bland.

    "I'll keep!"

    "Is it good?"

    Bland just laughed, played a Forest and passed the turn. He let out a little groan when he saw a Noble Hierarch from Jackson. There was no play from Bland on turn two, while Jacskon had a Fauna Shaman.

    The only way that Bland was in the race was from fetchland damage that Joe is taking. This didn't really help all that much in the long run though, as Cunning Sparkmage joined team Scotland.

    By the time that Bland had a second land, Joe also had a Linvala, Keeper of Silence. While Bland's second land did allow a Sylvan Ranger that found land number 3, it all seemed immaterial as Joe was merrily going off, fetching and casting a Bloodbraid Elf to get another Fauna Shaman.

    "I didn't get there on the mull to four. Surprisingly." Bland scooped up his cards. It was on to Game 2.

    Joe Jackson 1 – 0 Richard Bland

    "I don't really mind having all my bad luck concentrated into one game" remarked Bland casually as he worked out his sideboarding. He had lost Game 1 of his semi-finals to Dan Gardner in similar fashion.

    Richard, on the play, again took a mulligan, while Joe was happy on his seven. Again Joe had a turn one Noble Hierarch, while Bland's first play of the game was a Fauna Shaman. That accelerant from Joe was enough to ensure that on turn two he could cast an Oblivion Ring and keep the Shaman from going too crazy. Jackson had a Shaman of his own, which prompted an Oblivion Ring from Richard. Mirror matches eh? Don't you just love them?

    A Knight of the Reliquary was the next play for Jackson, who even got to beat in with his Noble Hierarch for the turn. In the mirror, there were various cards of particular importance, and Bland landed one of them. Gideon Jura quickly went up to 8 loyalty to force attacks from Jackson to which he happily obliged, knocking Jura down to 1.

    Bland emptied his hand casting Noble Hierarch and Baneslayer Angel, before again upping Jura's loyalty to force attacks. With Baneslayer held back as a blocker, attacks could easily be a messy proposition for Jackson.

    Jackson cast a Noble Hierarch and a Knight of the Reliquary, tapping his Hierarch for mana so it wouldn't have to attack, and then getting stuck in with his knight that was big enough to eat Baneslayer Angel, thanks to exalted. Bland used Jura to kill off one Knight of the Reliquary, but the second one avenged it thanks to Sejiri Steppe, which stopped Bland from being able to block it.

    First Linvala, Keeper of Silence came down for Jackson, and then a Basilisk Collar for it. Bland, with just one card in hand, seemed resigned to not winning the game.

    "I think that first of all I need to draw Linvala, and then draw pretty well following that to not just straight up be dead here."

    He didn't have one though, and it was on to Game 3.

    Joe Jackson 2 – 0 Richard Bland

    Between games, Bland pointed out to Jackson little bits of scrappy play from the last game, not that it had mattered to the result. The fact that these two players regularly play together can only help the National Team for Chiba in December, and the tone seemed quite convivial in spite of the importance of the match.

    "You have more chances to win Nationals than me, I'm an old man!" quipped Jackson.

    "You're two up! Just win one more"

    As Bland drew his hand, he just mumbled to himself. "Come on, a hand with a Forest and an accelerant... one time!"

    Bland kept his hand, and had a Birds of Paradise. Jackson had the same. Bland went for it with turn two Fauna Shaman, which immediately met an Oblivion Ring.

    "New plan... aggro!" Bland cast a pair of copies of Noble Hierarch and attacked with Birds of Paradise for two.

    "Similar plan!" For Jackson it was Noble Hierarch and Qasali Pridemage.

    When Bland had a Qasali Pridemage, he got to hit in for three with his Birds of Paradise.

    Linvala from Joe looked good to make Bland's life very difficult. He simply swung with a Raging Ravine, which thanks to exalted was a 7/7.

    A Sun Titan from Joe got back a Qasali Pridemage, meaning his Linvala could swing in for five. Bland passed without plays. Linvala then swung Bland down to 9, and followed up with Baneslayer Angel. Bland played a Knight of the Reliquary and passed. He sighed a little as he saw Bloodbraid Elf scoring a Knight for Jackson, and then a little more when he lost Birds of Paradise to Baneslayer Angel.

    "I'm an old man Richard, my heart can't stand up so well" remarked Joe as he tried to get a read on if Richard had drawn some sort of answer to his overwhelming board position.

    A Bloodbraid Elf fetched out a Noble Hierarch that pumped Baneslayer Angel's power to just one point shy of Bland's life total. He attacked his friend down to one life.

    Bland drew his card and extended his hand, he had no more fight in him.

    Joe Jackson wins 3 – 0

    Congratulations to Joe Jackson, the winner of Great Britain Nationals 2010!

    • Planeswalker Points
    • Facebook Twitter
    • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
    • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
    • Magic Locator