Round 1: Michael Debard vs. Marc Hernandez
By Randy Buehler
I sat down to watch a round one feature match and Stephan Valkyser cringed. He didn't want the world to see the deck he wound up with at a pretty tough table (click here to read Feature Draft coverage). Luckily for Valkyser, he was deck-checked and I therefore chose to watch Michael Debard and Marc Hernandez. These two Frenchmen have both had success at major events. Hernandez finished 2nd at Worlds '95 and also made the Top 8 of Pro Tour London. Debard was the original Grand Prix wrecking ball - long before Shvartsman or Budde or even Buehler, there was Michael Debard in every Grand Prix Top 8 in Europe.
Debard's first three lands were all mountains while Hernandez started out with forest, swamp, and a mountain of his own. Despite his inability to draw either a forest or a 4th land, Debard was able to stay in the game by removing Hernandez's first two creatures (with Seal of Fire and Flowstone Strike). Hernandez then played a Phyrexian Driver - you'd think he wouldn't have to play such a weak card in a 3-color deck, but his draft must have gone really badly. Debard drew into Laccolith Grunt and then Fault Riders. Mountain #4 allowed him to cast a pair of Zerapa Minotaurs and Hernandez rolled over and died before the horde of red weenies. Debard's deck just looked more consistent and his card quality looked higher.
Debard drew both mountains and forests in game 2 and he started with Blaster Mage, Silt Crawler, and Seal of Fire. Hernandez used Henge of Ramos to play Spidersilk Armor and force Debard to Seal away a Belbe's Percher. Hernandez then pitched a mountain to cast a Flameshot and kill the Silt Crawler. Hernandez tried to take advantage of his momentum by playing out Battlefield Percher and Pit Raptor. However, Debard sent Laccolith Grunt into the Raptor and then used Flowstone Strike to pump it up to 3-power so it could take out the Percher. Debard's play cost him "card advantage" but it was really smart: he forced Hernandez to spend most of his mana every turn just to upkeep the Pit Raptor and meanwhile the Raptor was obligated to stay back and play defense against Debard's remaining attackers. Without the Percher, Hernandez couldn't race and without any main phase mana, Hernandez couldn't play more creatures.
Next Debard played an Arc Mage. After that he sent Blaster Mage on a suicide run into the Raptor so Fault Riders could deal 4 damage and knock Hernandez down to 6. Hernandez might have been better off trading the Raptor for the Fault Riders (and a land) so he could get his mana back. Instead Debard just sat behind his Arc Mage and started dealing 2 damage per turn to Hernandez. Hernandez was eventually forced to let the Raptor go just so he could cast a Highway Robber, but that didn't help and he died after 8 points of Arc Mage damage.