by Mark Wraith
Potato Nation came into today's semifinals as the top seed, and team members Gary Wise, Scott Johns, and Mike Turian were looking in fine form as they took their places under the lights on the stage in the Theater at Madison Square Gardens. Gary was his usual affable self, joking around with opponent Christian Luhrs while the players waited for the go-ahead to play. Christian and fellow Germans Patrick Mello and Stephan Valkyser make up Draften und Spielen, the number four seed.
Gary Wise drafted almost a completely white Rebel deck, with four searchers and six other Rebels. He splashed green for two cards: Squirrel Wrangler and Snorting Gahr. Christian Luhrs drafted a black/blue deck in the middle seat, with Waterfront Bouncer and Stinging Barrier shoring up the creature base and good removal in cards like Dominate, Vicious Hunger and Plague Witch. The first game began with Gary casting all four of his Rebel searchers, and Christian started out well with a Waterfront Bouncer on turn two and a Plague Witch on turn three. Gary pressed his advantage by attacking, at first with just his Ramosian Lieutenant, and then with his Sergeant and Defiant Falcon. The Lieutenant searched out a Defiant Vanguard for Gary's fourth and final searcher, and Christian killed the Falcon with his Plague Witch as Gary swooped in for four. The unblocked attackers took Christian to 14. Christian played his fifth land and played his Coffin Puppets, stalling the ground game, and Gary took to the air instead, searching out a Thermal Glider with his Lieutenant at the end of the turn. Gary's attack took Christian to 12, and Christian played his Stinging Barrier to help take care of Gary's flying attackers. But Gary broke the ground stalemate by playing Parallax Wave, then phased out three of Christian's blockers and attacked with everything. Christian had a Rethink in hand, but had used most of his mana to cast the Barrier earlier in the turn, and couldn't counter the Wave. Christian used his Plague Witch to kill the Glider, and dropped to 6 life. Christian attempted to Dominate Gary's Lightbringer, badly needing the additional defense, but Gary protected it by putting it under his Parralax Wave. Gary attacked again for four, and played a Diving Griffin and an Avenger en-Dal, hoping to use the Griffin to attack for the last two damage once the Wave left play. Christian had no play on his turn, and couldn't deal with the Cho-Manno's Blessing Gary used to protect his Griffin. Game two started with Christian applying early pressure with a Spineless Thug and a Plague Witch, and killed off two consecutive Soul Charmers. But Gary quickly shifted the balance on the board by playing his fifth land and casting Squirrel Wrangler, and backed it up with Snorting Gahr. Christian, stuck on only three lands, ended up having to discard. Gary made a total of eight Squirrel tokens, and quickly overwhelmed Christian. Gary Wise wins, 2-0, and he also won the third game they played for fun.
Scott Johns drafted red/green with two Fault Riders, a Woodripper, and a Silt Crawler backed up by red removal. Patrick Mello drafted black/green with an impressive creature base containing two Blastoderms, Silt Crawler, and Living Terrain, with black removal, including Sever Soul. Game one was lopsided, with Patrick playing a creature every turn and keeping on offense. Scott cast a Silt Crawler and a Fault Riders, but ended up saccing too much land to the Fault Riders early on to keep up with Patrick's continued offense. In the second game, Patrick got stuck on four land, and after Scott removed his Skulking Fugitive using a Seal of Strength, he fell way behind in life totals, with Scott attacking with a Silt Crawler and both Fault Riders. Patrick killed a newly-cast Woodripper using Sever Soul, and bought himself enough time to stabilize the board at one life. The two players kept drawing and passing until Scott found a fifth land to kill Patrick with Devastate. The third game was all offense, with Patrick starting with an early Pygmy Razorback and Belbe's Percher, and Scott matching with a third-turn Silt Crawler. Patrick seemed to take control of the board with a fifth-turn Blastoderm, but Scott found a Horned Troll to hold off the incoming 5/5. Patrick opened up the way for the Blastoderm, removing the Horned Troll with a Sever Soul, and even though Scott removed the flying Percher with a Lunge, Patrick added a Living Terrain to his army, and Scott conceded. Patrick Mello wins, 2-1.
The final and deciding match in the series pitted Mike Turian against Stephan Valkyser. Mike played blue/red, starting off strong with Kyren Negotiations and Stinging Barrier, and later added large creatures like Lesser Gargadon and Llacolith Warrior. Stephan drafted white/red with some immense game-breaking cards, including both Power Matrix and Mageta, the Lion, as well as two Troubled Healers. In game one it appeared as though Mike Turian was playing mono-blue, since he had numerous Islands but no Mountains. Even Mike's Soothsaying, which he cast on turn one, couldn't help him find any red mana. Mike did find a Cloudskate and a Stinging Barrier, and Stephan replied with two Lawbringers. Stephan attempted to use Thunderclap to take out Mike's Barrier (along with some Lawbringer damage), but Mike cast Withdraw, returning the Lawbringer to Stephan's hand along with his own Cloudskate, which had run out of fading counters. The Cloudskate and the Barrier couldn't hold up, though, as Stephan dropped Troubled Healer, Mageta, and the Power Matrix on successive turns. Mike got out a Trickster Mage and a Jolting Merfolk, but they weren't enough to overcome the Power Matrix. Stephan almost was considering siding out the Lawbringers for game two, until Mike discarded a big red creature to Trickster Mage. Mike's first play in game two was a Rishadan Airship, which was tied down with an Arrest. Both players engaged in a fast damage race, with Mike getting out Kyren Negotiations, and Stephan using Kyren Sniper and Rootwater Commando to get around the ground stalemate. Stephan played a Defender en-Vec, hoping to stop the blood loss, but Mike countered it with a Rethink. Stephan played a Mine Bearer, tapping out, which gave Mike a great opportunity to Withdraw the Mine Bearer and the Commando, and play his own Stinging Barrier. Kyren Negotiations was hitting for three damage each turn, and Stephan, at three life, was forced to kill the Arrested Airship to keep from losing, but it ended up not making any difference, as Mike played a Rishadan Footpad and dealt the killing blow. The deciding game three started with Stephan spending a good amount of time deciding how he liked his hand. It contained Wild Jhovall, Mine Bearer, Kyren Sniper, Aura Fracture, Mageta's Boon, Island, Mountain. He decided finally to mulligan, and started out again short on land. Mike couldn't capitalize, because while he had plenty of land, he couldn't draw any permanents to go with them. Stephan cast a Lawbringer, and Mike played out his Stinging Barrier, which Stephan locked down with Arrest. Stephan cast a Defender en-Vec, and Mike evened the odds with a Keldon Berserker. Stephan attacked with both of his creatures, and attempted to cast Mageta's Boon on the Lawbringer to keep it alive, but Mike saw this as a great opportunity to cast Withdraw. Mike targeted the Lawbringer with the mandatory effect, causing the Boon to fizzle, and then targeted his own Stinging Barrier with the optional effect, getting rid of the Arrest. Stephan replayed his Lawbringer, this time adding a Troubled Healer, and eventually added a Panacea to his defensive stance, with plenty of land in play. Mike ordered his library with Soothsaying, and played out creature after creature, including Rishadan Airship, Llacolith Warrior, and Lesser Gargadon, also with plenty of land. Stephan killed the Soothsaying, but it had already set up Mike's library eight cards deep. Mike continues to mount all-out attacks, but couldn't force any damage through due to the Panacea and the Healer. Stephan enchants his Healer with Cho-Manno's Blessing, but Mike finally is able to use Trickster Mage to tap the Panacea during Stephan's end step. Mike used his Jolting Merfolk to tap the Healer, removing it as a blocker, and an all-out attack dealt the final six points of damage. Mike Turian wins, 2-1, and Potato Nation wins 2-1.
After the match, both Gary Wise and Scott Johns congratulated Mike, with Scott jumping up and down on the stage in excitement, shaking the ESPN cameras.
© 1995-2003 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wizards is headquartered in Renton, Washington, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057.