Round 8 Feature Match: Black Ops vs. Hampton Court Palace
by Sideboard Staff
Team Black Ops is the French team comprised of brothers Antoine and Olivier Ruel, and Florent Jeudon. They won the Team PT Challenge in New York last year, and Antoine and Olivier met in the finals of GP Porto last week. The British team HCP, Warren Marsh, John Ormerod and Ben Ronaldson, are experienced Pro Tour veterans, with Ben Ronaldson being the current reigning English National Champion.
Olivier Ruel drafted a green/white deck with Troubled Healer as the centerpiece. Olivier also drafted a large amount of fat, including two Thresher Beasts and a Woodripper. Ben Ronaldson drafted green/white also, with two Topples to fight off the large creatures on the other side of the board, as well as a solid Rebel chain and some green and white tricks. Game one started with Ben playing an early Ramosian Sergeant, and Olivier started his army on turn three with a Silt Crawler and then played the game-breaking Troubled Healer on turn four. Ben was able to Topple the next threat, a Woodripper, but had to fall back on defense, casting Thrive to build up his creatures, and summoning an Alabaster Wall. The ground battle came to a halt, and Ben was able to recover and go back on offense by casting Treetop Bracers on a Silkenfist Fighter. Olivier eventually removed the Treetop Bracers, and cast a Squallmonger, pinging both players to push the damage race. Ben attempted a late comeback, using Ramosian Rally to pump up his creatures yet again, but Olivier's Squallmonger was finally able to kill Ben. In game two, Ben plays a Defiant Vanguard, a Mine Bearer, and a Lawbringer while Olivier started with a Chieftain en-Dal and back-to-back Thresher Beasts. The ground game again stalled, due in part to a second Mine Bearer, and Ben searches all the Rebels out of his deck to hold back on defense. Olivier summoned the 10/10 Skyshroud Behemoth, but Ben threw blockers in front of it. The ground stall continued until Olivier played his Wishmonger, which allowed him to attack for 10 that turn. Ben could not kill Olivier on his turn, and conceded. Olivier Ruel wins, 2-0.
Antoine Ruel drafted black/red with heavy creatures and heavy removal, including Thunderclap, Vendetta, Arc Mage, and Flameshot. The creatures provided Antoine with a good ground game, but no fliers. John Ormerod pulled blue/red with an impressive aerial attack backed up with blue bounce, including two Withdraws and a Waterfront Bouncer, the first pick of the draft. In game one, Antoine started out aggressively with a Fault Riders and a Laccolith Warrior, while John played a Drake Hatchling and a Saprazzan Outrigger. Antoine went on offense, attacking and playing two Spineless Thugs. John tapped out to cast an Ancient Hydra, but Antoine was able to destroy it with Rhystic Lightning, and the Hydra did no damage. Antoine continued to press his aggressive advantage with Gerrard's Irregulars, and even though John was able to cast a Troublesome Spirit and enchant it with Cave Sense, Antoine was able to overwhelm his defenses. Game two started with Antoine's Arc Mage, and the players traded early creatures. John's early Troublesome Spirit was removed with Antoine's Vendetta. A ground struggle ensued, and John attempted to break it by casting Cave Sense on his Blaster Mage, but the Mage was taken out with a Flameshot. John's pro-blue Oraxid made all the difference, and John was eventually able to pull above the carnage with a Drake Hatchling. In the third game, both players summoned Fault Riders, which collided with each other. John again took to the air, playing a Cloudskate and the Troublesome Spirit. When John used Withdraw to bounce the Cloudskate back to his hand and recast it, he was able to continue his aerial assault to take the match. John Ormerod wins, 2-1.
Florent Jeudon drafted a white/blue deck that had a fair number of fliers, but really needed extra removal. He drafted a Vendetta that could be splashed in, as well as hate-drafting a Flowstone Slide, but ultimately decided to splash green for Root Cage and Wild Might. Warren Marsh drafted black/green with a solid Mercenary chain and good black removal, as well as big green creatures and a Flowstone Thopter. In the first game, Warren opened up early with a Death Charmer and a Darba, which was Dehydrated and removed when Warren decided not to pay the upkeep. Florent took to the air, playing a Spiketail Drake and a Cloudskate, but Warren's second Death Charmer and a Plague Witch were able to cause enough combat fatalities to even the board again. Warren then dropped his Cateran Enforcer, pushing his board advantage. Florent cast a Sliptide Serpent, then cast Root Cage to lock down the remaining Mercenaries. Warren's Blastoderm is countered with a Rethink, and Florent gets out a Ribbon Snake and deals the killing blow with a Wild Might. Warren sided in his enchantment removal, determined not to get locked down by Root Cage again. Game two has Warren off to an early start, with a Blastoderm who hits twice, as well as a Stampede Driver and a Cackling Witch. Florent has some flying creatures, but can't cope with the pumping action of the Cackling Witch. The final, deciding game, Warren starts early again with a Plague Witch and a Thresher Beast, and removes Florent's Cloudskate with a Vendetta to keep on the offensive. A Venomous Dragonfly and a Percher are too much for Florent to handle. Warren Marsh wins 2-1, and Team HCP wins 2-1.