Gateway Finals: Rolled-Up Aces vs. AlphaBetaUnlimited.com

Posted in Event Coverage

By Josh Bennett

(Shawn Keller, Thomas Keller, Dan Clegg) vs. (Ryan Fuller, Noah Boeken, Chris Benafel)

Rolled-Up Aces are apparently in the business of turning tragedy into plain-old drama. After the rectification of a clerical error cost them their place in the Tokyo Masters, they clawed their way to the finals of the Gateway, their skill defying the cold, hard rankings. Unfortunately their draft did not go as well as they'd hoped, as evidenced by some comments overheard during deck construction:

"Don't play the (Scarred) Puma!" - Dan Clegg
"Man, I NEED that Puma!" - Thomas Keller

While Team AlphaBetaUnlimited.com haven't demonstrated their abilities as a group, their individual accomplishments are incredible. All three have a Grand Prix to their name, Fuller finally joining his teammates last weekend at Prague. Today, one more win would mean their chance to step into the spotlight. Their decks stand in sharp contrast to their opponent's. Playing three colors gave them access to powerful spells, but left them pondering wonky mana bases.

"(looking at his color distribution) This is gonna be ugly." - Ryan Fuller
"Not really . . ." - Chris Benafel
"No, what I'm gonna do to him." - Ryan Fuller

Chris Benafel squared off against Dan Clegg. Both had solid B/R decks, but Clegg had a pair of Islands and a Chromatic Sphere to power up a pair of Nightscape Battlemages. They were out of the gates and into turn five before their teammates had shuffled. Clegg gambled and kept a hand with one Swamp and one Island. He Clouded Benafel for one and had Mourning for his Hooded Kavu, but still hadn't found his third land. Benafel played a Firescreamer and started sending for five.

Next door, in the U/W mirror, Shawn Keller Disrupted Noah Boeken's end-of-turn Worldly Counsel. He had already set up his board with Sunscape Familiar and Samite Archer. Boeken made a Riptide Crab, but Keller answered with Silver Drake. Boeken used Death Bomb to remove the threat.

Last on the table were Ryan Fuller and Thomas Keller. The two matched bear against bear, taking hits and eventually trading. Fuller summoned another and expanded his mana base with Fertile Ground. Keller had to pay three for his next 2/2. Fuller made a Kavu Runner and attacked with both.

Meanwhile, Clegg scooped his cards in disgust, having found his land too late. Boeken Probed with kicker, and had Dromar's Charm ready for Keller's Sunscape Master. Unfortunately, he'd let Keller's Archer eat away at his life total, and Keller had a Lashknife Barrier that turned his Spinal Embrace into a glorified Dark Banishing. With that problem out of the way, Keller was free to play a kicked Vodalian Serpent.

Fuller's Pincer Spider kept Thomas from racing him. When it swung on the next turn, joined by the Runner and Llanowar Knight, Keller had to think hard. He had tapped out for Stone Kavu and stood at 10.

Clegg evened the score to a game apiece when Benafel's two-Mountain hand blossomed into a four-Mountain-only debacle. He even had a pair of red creatures out, but they fell to Reckless Spite.

As Clegg and Benafel shuffled for game three, Thomas decided to block the Knight with his Kavu and take six. Fuller showed him Breath of Darigaaz, taking the first game of their match.

At this point Boeken had conceded in the face of Shawn's Serpent. As the two laid lands, the B/R mirror match was flying by. Benafel's first three creatures were answered with removal. Clegg drew Nightscape Familiar on turn five, which let him gate in a Lava Zombie. Benafel thought for a while before letting it go. His hand held Tribal Flames and Magma Burst.

Back in the critter slugfest, Thomas had mulliganed . Fuller had a slow draw, though, and couldn't capitalize. He used combat tricks early to protect a Crimson Acolyte, but ended up losing it in combat later on. Thomas' Serpentine Kavu had free reign. Fuller tried to race in the air with Glimmering Angels, but one fell to Tribal Flames. Finally, Fuller found his Fertile Ground. This let him Breath for four, removing the monster. Thomas topdecked Kavu Climber to keep the pressure up.

Clegg and Benafel realized that their match would probably decide who got into the Masters and began meticulously calculating each play. Benafel had a Cinder Shade keeping the Lava Zombie at bay. His reticence with his removal was rewarded when Clegg played Tsabo Tavoc. Benafel unloaded his hand, using Defiling Tears to kill the Familiar, then untapped and kicked a Magma Burst at Tsabo and the Zombie. A Tribal Flames finished the legend.

Boeken and Shawn were mired in game two. Shawn looked to take the cake after he traded Pollen Remedy for Boeken's Ruham Djinn and began an aerial assault with Silver Drake. Boeken was again forced to squander his Embrace to stop it. The Serpent came down again, and Boeken had to start throwing creatures in front of it.

Fuller's Angel was a slow clock. He'd already traded Llanowar Knight and Thornscape Familiar for Thomas' Climber, and he had no other creatures. When Thomas made a Stone Kavu it looked like he'd even the match. Fuller passed the turn and took a hit for seven. He untapped and drew Armadillo Cloak. Two turns later, the match was his.

This was good news for Boeken. It meant that he and Shawn could take time out from their match to watch the end of the Clegg/Benafel showdown. If Benafel won, they wouldn't have to play their match out.

The board in that match had stabilized. Benafel had a Hooded Kavu, enchanted by Clegg with Mourning, a Cinder Shade and a Vicious Kavu. Across from this army stood a lone Phyrexian Bloodstock. Clegg blew up Benafel's only Mountain with a Nightscape Battlemage. Benafel had another, but Clegg was ready with Plague Spores, moving the Mourning onto the Cinder Shade.

Benafel with sent the Shade and Kavu. Clegg agonized over his decision, eventually choosing to fall to four. He had five power worth of creatures and Benafel was at five. Benafel played Ravenous Rats. Clegg counterattacked with the Bloodstock and Benafel thought for ten full minutes before choosing to take it. Clegg had no other play.

Benafel attacked with the Rats and Vicious Kavu. The Battlemage traded with the Kavu and Clegg fell to three. Benafel had another Swamp, which would let his Shade block the Bloodstock. Three turns passed without action.

Benafel drew another Swamp. This gave him enough fuel to bust through the Bloodstock. Clegg drew another Nightscape Battlemage, but even after blowing up a land it couldn't stop the Shade. He drew two straight land. The Shade finished him off.

Final Result: Team AlphaBetaUnlimited.com advance to the Tokyo Masters, guaranteeing them $3,000.

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