Craig Stevenson is the editor of StarCityGames.com, and confessed earlier in the day that he 'wakes up with a big smile on his face every afternoon', living the dream of reading Magic articles all day every day, and being paid for it. The cheeky Northern chappy has quite the Magic pedigree himself too. He isn't a stranger to either the Pro Tour where he top 32'd Pro Tour Houston with Red Deck wins, or Grand Prix having made top four with a mono black deck dubbed 'Pirates' in 2002 in Manchester.
In stark contrast to the aggressive decks of those two events, Craig is trying something a little more controlling build, leaving it to Calum to play the burn spells and powerful one drop beaters.
'I'm the real Stephenson!' proclaimed Calum loudly as he sat down.
'I knew this was going to go badly', he declared as the lid broke off his deck box upon unsheathing his powerful Zoo deck. It would be the last time he would need to get it out this tournament.
Calum won the roll, and elected to play first.
His opening seven wasn't good enough, and 'Tonnes of Fun' was forced to mulligan. For Craig it was a quick look and a keep.
The game begun with Calum playing an untapped Stomping Grounds for a turn one Lava Spike. A net one point life swing was deemed good enough by Calum. For Craig the first play was Selesnya Guildmage, who came into play with a big target on his head.
Calum didn't hesitate to take a shot with Seal of Fire, but didn't have enough bullets to take down the second that came from Craig, and when the Guildmage got a weapon of it's own, in the form of Umezawa's Jitte, suddenly Craig seemed miles ahead.
Isamaru was just a speed bump for the Jitte with counters, and soon Calums life was plummeting, and Craig was busy making extra monsters in addition to beating in. With seven lands and little in the way of resistance, Calum scooped it up in record speed.
Craig wins Game 1.
Calum had remarked upon seeing Craig's list that it looked as if there were about 10 cards to come in, while only 2 to come out. Craig had clearly prepared for the tournament with the aggro matchups in mind, and with a small frown began thumbing through looking for the perfect configuration for the post sideboard games that would make up the vast majority of the match.
Calum led with a Kird Ape for game 2, and had a Temple Garden for turn two to play another Ape and an Isamaru. He was all about getting his beat on at the earliest opportunity, but was rocked by the arrival of Paladin En Vec on turn three from Craig, which would be quite the blocker.
Of course, given Calum's start, he would be able to attack around the Paladin for a fair bit. He did just that on the following turn, and a Char was enough for the quickest win ever. It had taken significantly longer to sideboard.
The match went to 1-1. In the control mirror for third place, they were still on 20 each in Game 1.Calum Stephenson
Craig was all about the elves - playing a Wood Elves to find Overgrown Tomb, which came into play tapped. Calum wasn't worried about mana development, just swinging for lots. He attacked with his Ape, then played a Watchwolf.
For Craig's turn, he had a Glare of Subdual. This did a great job at keeping Watchwolf from attacking, but couldn't stop Kird Ape from continuing to beat a path to Craig's door. The life totals were on 14 each, simply due to pain from Calum's own duals. Calum did the best he could about this, with a Flames of the Blood Hand, to take Craig to 10. An Umezawa's Jitte from Craig got hit by a Tin Street Hooligan before it could do a whole lot, and a Seal of Fire came down for Calum.
Craig did his first bit of attacking for the game, getting in for a whole two, before playing a Wrath of God in the face of a busy board from Calum. Craig played a Llanowar Elf afterwards, only to have it get sealed away, and then Calum got in a single swing with a Giant Solifuge. Craig was on just five, and needed to stabilise.
He did just that with a Paladin En Vec.
'Got the Hierarch, to save your bacon with the elephant?'
'Got the flame?'
'Almost definitely' declared a confident Calum, feeling confident.
At the end of turn, Calum tried a Char, only to have 3 points of it sent back at him by Shining Shoal. It was all for naught though, as a Flames of the Blood Hand did exactly enough to finish Craig off.
Calum wins game 3, taking a 2-1 lead.
In the third place playoff, news came that Game 1 had just finished.
Calum had to mulligan in Game 4, but on the draw he was pretty happy with his six.
The first play of the game was pretty slow coming, being a Wood Elves from Craig on turn three, to fix his mana entirely. Calum used a Lightning Helix to the head at the end of turn, aimed straight at Craig's head.
He didn't hold on to that 'over 20 life' advantage for long though - playing an untapped dual on his own turn.
Craig played a Llanowar Elves and a Paldin En Vec, to which Calum again played a Helix to the dome. He seemed to think he could race perfectly well going straight to the head, and judging by the life totals (22-14) it looked that he might be correct.
Calum's first creature was a Savanna Lions, who was joined by a Seal of Fire. His clock was somehow faster than the Paladin En Vec that swung back.
Calum made the questionable play of attacking with his Savannah Lions into many untapped lands including Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree. The lions rather predictably traded with a Saproling, and Craig continued to rumble on with filling his board.
A Watchwolf and a Glare of Subdual were Craig's plays, allowing more attacks to take Calum down to 18. Calum just passed back. Craig had a Jitte and a swing, taking Calum to 13, and effectively gaining him 4 life, at which point the burn to the head looked a little pointless.
An end of turn Char traded with 2 Jitte Counters, then Tin Street Hooligan traded with Umezawa's Jitte. The life totals were 11 to 14 in Craig's favour, and Craig was swinging for five each turn. It all looked locked up for Stevenson. The one with a V. And a website to edit about Magic: the Gathering.
Indeed, when a Shining Shoal redirected some of Calum's own burn back at him, sealing up game 4.
It would come down to game 5 to decide who would be the national champion.
For this climactic decider, neight player had a turn one monster, but Calum did have a Tin Street Hooligan (without targets) to begin the beats.
A Lightning Helix cleared a Watchwolf out of the way so that the Hooligan could go about its business, and was followed up by a Savannah Lions. Craig was on a mad scramble to make blockers, playing a Selesnya Guildmage and a Llanowar Elf.
Calum was going right for the throat, and replied to Craig's Wood Elves with a Giant Solifuge, to swing and take Craig to just 7. 7 became 11 with the arrival of Loxodon Hierarch - the biggest stabilising factor in this matchup, passed. The following turn he had Selesnya Guildmage and Wood Elves. Stevenson was fighting back.
Calum had a Lightning Helix, and elected to send it straight at Craig's face. He then played a Giant Solifuge and ran in. Craig was at eight, and had a few tough decisions to make. He traded his two smaller men for all of Calums, and took 2 trample.
On his own turn, Craig cracked back with his pachyderm, and played a Llanowar Elves and a Paladin En Vec to join it. All Calum had was a Tin-Street Hooligan. The game was looking very tight. On just six, it wouldn't take a lot of burn to finish Craig off, but equally, Craig didn't need to beat very hard to take the game away.
Craig had his one Chord of Calling to fetch Loxodon Hierarch number two, and suddenly the game looked a whole lot less tight. On 10 with two elephants, Craig was looking pretty good. A Lightning Helix at the end of turn made the life totals 7 to 9 in Calum's favour.
Calum played a Gian Solifuge, who was forced to stay back on defence, taking down an Elephant, but unfortunately for Tonnes of Fun, another one came along immediately to replace him.
Calum looked at the board.
'So… I'm on three.'
'Temple Garden untapped?'
Calum extended his hand.
Craig Stevenson is the final English National Champion!