by Randy Buehler
Dave Humpherys went into round 14 in complete control of his own destiny. He was tied for 2nd with Jon Finkel, one game behind Pat Chapin. His opponent, Mike Long, still had a shot, but it required him to beat Dave and then beat Chris Pikula in the last round. (Even then he wasn't guaranteed anything.) Elsewhere in round 14 Chapin was trying to clinch by beating Pikula, who was trying to stay alive. And Finkel was playing Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz in a lovely Bargain mirror match. Long won the die roll, but was forced to mulligan a hand with no green mana. He next clutch - 4 land and 2 Masticores - wasn't a great draw for Stompy, but it wasn't terrible against Humpherys since Humpherys was playing a controllish red deck with a lot of land destruction ("Ponza"). Humpherys elected to keep a one-land hand since he was drawing and it was otherwise a pretty good draw. As of turn 2 he still hadn't drawn a second land, but he then drew land on each of his next two turns and Long was able to punish his slow development. Game 1 was long, but fairly uneventful. Dave blew up Mike's Treetop Villages along with every creature Mike played. Mike tried to keep around a River Boa thanks to its regeneration ability, but Dave threw three burn spells at it and Mike ran out of green mana. Eventually, Dave dropped a Lightning Dragon and beat Mike in the head with it.
Dave played a quick Masticore in game 2 that really stunted mike's creature development. Mike tried to create a timing rules confusion with Masticore and regeneration, but Humpherys didn't fall for anything. Long spent most of the time complaining about how slowly Dave played and how bored he was. When Humpherys went for the kill with a Lightning Dragon, Mike saw his opportunity. He Rancored up an Albino Troll and served. Humpherys blocked with Masticore and both players regenerated their creatures. But that tapped Dave out of mana and Mike was able to use the Creeping Mold that he'd been holding all game to destroy Masticore. This did force Mike to tap out, but in order for Dave to have much mana to use to kill the Troll, he'd have to let his Dragon go. He didn't have a burn spell anyway. Sometime during Dave's turn they realized that Mike had forgotten to officially assign a point of trample damage when the Troll fought Masticore on the previous turn. Dave said he was willing to go back and take a point of damage if Mike would stop talking so much. Mike agreed to this deal. On Mike's next turn he powered up a Treetop Village and served with that and the Troll. Humpherys blocked the Treetop with his Dragon and Mike used Giant growth to both kill the Dragon and save the Tree. Humpherys blew a Shock to finish off the Tree, but Mike had a Crop Rotation ready and simply sacrificed that Village as a response to go get another one! Humpherys drew a card that didn't help and then scooped. Afterwards some questioned his decision to play the Dragon. It tied up a lot of mana and didn't actually accomplish a whole lot. On the other hand, he couldn't just discard cards to Masticore and leave mana untapped forever.
Mike kept a hand of two Albino Trolls, an Uktabi, and 4 land for game 3. On turn two he elected to just say done rather than play an Albino Troll. Humpherys did indeed have a Pillage to blow up Mike's land. Mike once again played a land and said done rather than cast a Troll. Dave promptly Darwined away one of Mike's lands and attacked for two. On his 4th turn Mike finally committed a Troll to the board. He figured that in order for Dave to blow it up he'd at least have to lose his Avalanche Rider. It turned out that all Dave could do was let Darwin go and Hammer the Troll. Mike played another. Dave Hammered it too but Mike had Giant Growth ready to save it.
Mike served with the Troll and elected to leave regeneration mana untapped rather than Rancor it up. Humpherys was able to kill it twice thus giving away card advantage but removing a problem creature form the board. Humpherys played Masticore and Long played an Uktabi to force Dave to use up a Sandstone Needle while regenerating Masticore. Humpherys recursed a Hammer in order to pay Masticore's upkeep, but that left him without any mana and Long's 2nd Monkey smashed Masticore. Long then played a Hidden Gorilla, which never affected the game, and a River Boa, which did. Humpherys Earthquaked away both monkeys, but he never found an answer for River Boa. By playing very patiently and doing everything he could to protect his regenerating creatures, Mike was able to keep one of them alive and win the game and the match. Going into the last round there were still 6 players with a shot at finsihing it the top two. Mike Long and dave Humpherys were both among them.
Humpherys - 1
Long - 2
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