It's rare that the obvious two favorites in the top 8 successfully navigate their way to the final, but that's been the case at Great Britain Nationals 2011. These were the two experienced players, with Sunday action under their belts. Sajgalik has played on the Canadian National team at Worlds, while Royde is a Grand Prix Champion as recently as this year, with a win on home soil at GP London.
Khalni Garden opened the final for Royde, with turn two Fauna Shaman instantly dying to Dismember. Sajgalik had Squadron Hawk turn two - "of course I have" - leaving Royde to cast another Fauna Shaman, which this time stuck around. Green Sun's Zenith for one resolved, netting Royde Joraga Treespeaker, which he quickly levelled once.
Two Squadron Hawks for Sajgalik attacked, joined by Emeria Angel. Six mana brought Primeval titan to the table for Royde, who thought carefully before searching out Eldrazi Temple and a second Terramorphic Expanse. Sajgalik attacked for five through the air, leaving Royde at 12. Gideon Jura was up next, and the planeswalker spent two loyalty to kill Royde's Joraga Treespeaker.
Royde took his time over his next play, eventually sending both Fauna Shaman and Primeval Titan at Sajgalik, ignoring Gideon. Two more Eldrazi Temples landed. Down came Garruk Wildspeaker for Royde, and then Artisan of Kozilek and Fauna Shaman. Garruk went to four loyalty, meaning Royde had access to the Overrun ability.
Sajgalik sent his five power of flying beats into the red zone, and like Royde he elected to ignore an opposing planeswalker. Now the life totals stood at seven apiece. Sajgalik took out Eye of Ugin with Terramorphic Expanse, before Gideon forced all Royde's forces to attack him. Sajgalik now had all four Squadron Hawks on board, together with Emeria Angel and one Bird token.
Royde did the math and saw that Sajgalik had lethal for the following turn. Royde activated his Fauna Shaman, and fetched up Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Then there was a long pause. A long pause. It looked like he was one mana short of the plan he'd formulated. He attacked with Artisan of Kozilek and Primeval Titan. Sajgalik chose a pair of lands to sacrifice, then Royde searched up Mystifying Maze and Eldrazi Temple.
Three blocks from Sajgalik saw Gideon fall to one loyalty, but now Sajgalik had six damage through the air available, rather than the lethal seven. He did, however, also have Gideon with one loyalty.
Royde headed up to ten mana, and cast Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, destroying Gideon.
Sajgalik laid a land, generated a Bird token, and used Tectonic Edge to blow up Mystifying Maze. Royde fell to three, and Sajgalik passed the turn. Surely he couldn't turn this one around? Royde activated Fauna Shaman, searched up Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and that was indeed the end.
Eduardo Sajgalik 0 - 1 Daniel Royde
Royde was underway quickly in Game 2, with turn one Joraga Treespeaker. Sajgalik had his now customary turn two Squadron Hawk.
Overgrown Battlement and a level up for the Joraga Treespeaker was Royde's turn two, piling him up the mana ramp. How much further could he get on turn three? Not very far, since Joraga Treespeaker turned sideways to deal an unexpected one damage. Most unexciting. Even more unexciting was the Day of Judgment cast by Sajgalik. At least Royde had a response of Beast Within, turning Sajgalik's Tectonic Edge into a 3/3, which died to the Day of Judgment. Royde reloaded with two more Joraga Treespeakers, levelling one for the first time.
Sajgalik cast one Squadron Hawk, but chose not to cast another that he'd fetched up, leaving Mana Leak / Flashfreeze mana open. Royde levelled his way up to six mana, enough for a Primeval Titan, but he went for Garruk Wildspeaker. The planeswalker went to four loyalty, and Royde continued to level his Joraga Treespeakers. Squadron Hawk returned Garruk to three lovalty, Sajgalik again laying Squadron Hawk with countermagic mana left open.
Eleven mana for Royde. Eleven. That meant Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, destroying Celestial Colonnade. Although Sajgalik had Flashfreeze, that was no use against the Eldrazi. Thankfully for Sajgalik, he had an answer ready in Phantasmal Image, copying Ulamog. Both Image and Ulamog went to the graveyard, with Royde shuffling his graveyard back into his library.
Sajgalik was up to three Squadron Hawks, but he was tapped out, giving Royde another window for high-mana entertainment. That didn't occur, Royde attacking for one and putting Garruk to one loyalty, creating a beast. Then it did occur, with Green Sun's Zenith for six finding Primeval Titan, fetching in turn two Tectonic Edge. Currently at four mana, it looked as if Sajgalik might be a while before getting any further.
Sajgalik attacked through the air for two, adding Sword of Feast and Famine. At four mana, though, he couldn't cast and equip on the same turn. Royde turned his team sideways in an old-fashioned green smashing. Primeval Titan fetched Mystifying Maze and another Tectonic Edge, eleven damage piling into Sajgalik, dropping him to five.
Sajgalik equipped a Hawk, and floated a blue mana from Seachrome Coast, enabling him to cast Into the Roil on the Primeval Titan, still with blue mana available for Flashfreeze should he need it.
Royde replayed the Primeval Titan, finding Flashfreeze in the way. No doubt about it, Sajgalik was trying everything to stay in this one.
Into the Roil with kicker drew another card for Sajgalik, while the Hawk equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine held the fort. Gideon Jura was next, and eight loyalty meant Royde's team would have to attack the planeswalker.
"Is it good?" asked Sajgalik, as Royde drew.
"It's pretty good."
"Just let me process this."
"Pretty sure I have a good topdeck of my own" said Sajgalik, finding Gideon Jura, who promptly went to eight loyalty. Beast Within was the next topdeck for Royde, taking out Gideon Jura. Sajgalik nibbled through the air, before Royde came up with Karn Liberated. A 3/3 bit the dust before Terastodon attacked for Royde, alongside his own Beast. Inkmoth Nexus activated for Sajgalik, who reduced the Terastodon to a 'mere' 8/8.
Tectonic Edge took out Mystifying Maze, meaning Sajgalik could get Karn Liberated down to two loyalty with a Squadron Hawk attack. Karn went back up to six, Sajgalik discarding Spell Pierce. The good spells continued to come for Royde, who found Primeval Titan, fetching Eye of Ugin and Tectonic Edge.
Eduardo Sajgalik 0 - 2 Daniel Royde
Sajgalik opened on Squadron Hawk, Royde on Overgrown Battlement.
Sajgalik had hurled everything at Royde, but he still needed to somehow find three straight wins against a man who had not lost in Constructed all weekend.
"I'm pretty sure this is a new one" Sajgalik said, as he cast Phantasmal Image, copying the Overgorwn Battlement. Royde laid Tectonic Edge, and used his four mana to cast Garruk Wildspeaker. Two Forests untapped, leading to Joraga Treespeaker. Squadron Hawk returned Garruk to three loyalty, and Sajgalik used the extra mana from his Phantasmal Image (Overgrown Battlement) to cast Gideon Jura.
The planeswalker promptly destroyed Royde's Overgrown Battlement. As I said, Sajgalik was really thinking creatively, trying to keep himself in the match.
Primeval Titan arrived for Royde, fetching Eldrazi Temple and Khalni Garden. Planeswalkers were on both sides of the table, Gideon at two loyalty for Sajgalik, Garruk at three for Royde. Sajgalik cast Emeria Angel, with Royde sending his Primeval Titan to attack Gideon. The triggered Titan fetched him Eldrazi Temple and Tectonic Edge, once again threatening to stunt Sajgalik's mana. When Sajgalik asked Royde to order blockers (reply: Emeria Angel first, Bird token second), Sajgalik was ready with Dismember, making the Primeval Titan a 1/1, dying to the Emeria Angel.
Royde cast Green Sun's Zenith for five, getting Stingerfling Spider, killing the Emeria Angel. Sajgalik turned Gideon into a 6/6 and attacked Garruk, finally dealing with the planeswalker, who seemed to have been in play forever. Tectonic Edge from Sajgalik took out Royde's own landkiller, leaving Gideon as the only planeswalker left.
That didn't last long, as Royde had a backup Garruk Wildspeaker ready to go, making a 3/3 Beast. A freshly-drawn Tectonic Edge from Royde destroyed Inkmoth Nexus, taking Sajgalik back down to three mana.
Gideon attacked as a 6/6, so Royde's Beast got in the way. Down came Squadron Hawk, and Sajgalik passed.
Incredibly, life total were still at 16 - 19 in Royde's favor, with almost no impact on the scoreboard, as planeswalkers dominated the gameplay. Royde went for Terastodon, but Sajgalik had Deprive ready.
Gideon went up to four loyalty, forcing Royde to attack. The board now stood at two Squadron Hawk, Gideon Jura and the Phantasmal Image / Overgrown Battlement for Sajgalik, opposite Stingerfling Spider and Garruk Wildspeaker for Royde.
Royde laid Eye of Ugin. Now that was going to shake things up a bit.
Sajgalik drew Oblivion Ring, and used it to remove Garruk Wildspeaker from play. At end of turn, Royde fetched Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.
And then things got messy. Royde had spent an eternity through many of his turns, and received both cautions and a Warning for Slow Play. Now a second Warning occurred, and that would be mean a Game Loss. Royde appealed to the Head Judge, but it was upheld. In truth, this might easily have happened earlier in the match.
Eduardo Sajgalik 1 - 2 Daniel Royde
Could Royde recover from being so close to the finish line? He opened with Khalni Garden, followed by Joraga Treespeaker. Sajgalik cast Preordain, meaning no Squadron Hawk for possibly the first turn two of the entire top 8. The Treespeaker levelled up, Royde using the mana to cast Green Sun's Zenith for one, fetching a second Joraga Treespeaker.
He continued to level them upwards while Sajgalik simply laid land.
Tectonic Edge took out Glacial Fortress, with Royde levelling his first Treespeaker to level 3, heading towards 5, where all his Elves would generate two mana. Eldrazi Temple arrived, and finally Sajgalik had a play, a turn five Squadron Hawk, fetching one more to bring his hand back up to seven. The Tectonic Edge fun continued as Royde looked to pressurize Sajgalik's mana. Beast Within would have taken out Sajgalik's last blue source of mana, but he had Flashfreeze among his full grip of seven cards.
Royde added up his mana, got to nine, and cast Artisan of Kozilek. As a 10/9, that's quite big. Phantasmal Image - that's quite big too, when it's pretending to be an Artisan of Kozilek. Sajgalik fetched up his final Squadron Hawk, waiting to join the three on board. In came the Royde Artisan, Annihilator forcing Sajgalik to ditch two of his Hawks (with land still tight, he felt that was his only option.) Primeval Titan joined the fray, with Khalni Garden and Tectonic Edge the chosen lands.
Sajgalik cast Gideon Jura, immediately destroying the tapped Artisan of Kozilek. Primeval Titan attacked Gideon, searching up Eldrazi Temple and Tectonic Edge. Gideon headed for the graveyard, before Sajgalik triggered another round of Tectonic Edge-ness, destroying Royde's Mystifying Maze. Sajgalik's Artisan of Kozilek attacked, and Royde took the full ten damage, falling to seven.
In Royde's upkeep, Into the Roil with kicker attempted to return Joraga Treespeaker to his hand. That changed the math, and Royde used his Tectonic Edge, assuming it was end of turn, rather than his upkeep, which it actually was. Primeval Titan attacked Sajgalik to thirteen, two Eldrazi Temples hitting play for Royde. He returned Joraga Treespeaker to play, and began the job of levelling them up.
Artisan of Kozilek attacked. Royde had to sacrifice another two permanents to Annihilate, chump-blocking with his Treespeaker.
Sajgalik got himself back up to four mana. He cast his fourth and final Squadron Hawk, with two mana open. Royde cast Karn Liberated, which Sajgalik countered with Spell Pierce. Extraordinarily, Royde couldn't pay for it. He just didn't have enough.
In came the Artisan again from Sajgalik, more chump-blocking from Royde, who was now at just six life. As we closed in on the three hour mark in the final, we were close to a deciding game. Royde cast Primeval Titan, but Sajgalik had Flashfreeze. That was it, and we were going all the way.
Eduardo Sajgalik 2 - 2 Daniel Royde
"Winning's pretty sweet I hear" replied Sajgalik. "I can't believe I went all the way with 'your' Artisan of Kozilek."
Phantasmal Image was a bit tasty, that's for sure.
Double Joraga Treespeaker started the decider for Royde, with Eldrazi Temple ready to pull the trigger on Eldrazi naughtiness later in the game. Both Treespeakers went to level up, with Sajgalik responding with Dismember at the cost of four life. Primeval Titan met Flashfreeze, but Royde had Summoning Trap...
Seven cards: Anything good? Overgrown Battlement.
Day of Judgment wiped the board, Royde was down to two cards, and Sajgalik still had five. The Squadron Hawk plan began again. Royde cast Garruk Wildspeaker, who made a 3/3 Beast. Squadron Hawk took his loyalty to one before Sajgalik cast his second Hawk. Royde cast Green Sun's Zenith for six, which found Primeval Titan. Down came two Tectonic Edges. At end of turn, the 3/3 Beast token died to Into the Roil with kicker, netting Sajgalik another card. Garruk died to the two Squadron Hawks, Sajgalik casting Emeria Angel, getting a Bird from landfall, and completing the turn with Azure Mage.
Primeval Titan attacked once more, with Sajgalik at thirteen. Royde fetched two Eldrazi Temple. He had two cards in hand. Sajgalik took six and fell to seven life. Another Primeval Titan joined the battlefield, with Royde this time searching for Eye of Ugin and Mystifying Maze. The end was surely nigh.
"You're at 20, right?" asked Sajgalik. "That's quite a lot."
Azure Mage drew him a card. Oblivion Ring (which he already had in
hand) took out one Primeval Titan. Eight damage came in, sending Royde to twelve. Royde laid a Forest, with just one card left in hand. He attacked with Primeval Titan yet again, finding Tectonic Edge and Khalni Garden. Sajgalik fell to just one life, and was back right on the verge of extinction as he had been hours earlier.
"How much mana can you make next turn? It's like seventeen? Not much, not much..."
Sajgalik looked at his four cards in hand. Landfall brought him a token. Down came Squadron Hawk. He passed.
Royde reached fifteen mana, and cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
He began his extra turn. Emrakul attacked, Annihilator 6 seeing Sajgalik sacrifice Oblivion Ring, Azure Mage, and a bunch of creatures. Primeval Titan returned to play from the Oblivion Ring's clutches. Terastodon came down, destroying all three Celestial Colonnades.
Sajgalik untapped with three 3/3s, and three mana. He dropped a fourth mana. Day of Judgment?
Eduardo Sajgalik 2 - 3 Daniel Royde
Congratulations to Daniel Royde, Great Britain National Champion 2011!