If you would have told me that someone who'd never played a sanctioned match of Legacy before would be in the finals of the Legacy Championships, it's safe to say I would've been skeptical. Then again, no one told me that, so I was saved a fair amount of unnecessary skepticism. Jared Kohler, who last played competitively in the late 90s has resurfaced in a pretty miraculous way. He chose to pilot Merfolk, at least in part because of its ease of play. And that easy playing has netted him a spot facing Reed Hartman, whose tweaked NO-RUG deck has been serving him well all day. His super-secret tech of Scavenging Ooze had given him the leg up in a lot of match-ups. Playing like a better Tarmogoyf. The green beater isn't optimal against Merfolk, but it was far from dead.
Hartman won the dice roll and led off with a Tropical Island, then Dazed away Kohler's Æther Vial. The Illinois native spent his next turn Brainstorming, while Kohler answered with a Mutavault and Silvergill Adept, revealing a Merrow Reejerey. One good Daze deserves another, as Hartman's Sylvan Library sadly hit the bin, and Kohler just picked up an Island. Adept made the scores 20-15 in Kohler's favor.
Hartman built up his board over a few turns with two impressive-looking Tarmogoyf, truthfully they're rarely unimpressive-looking. And Hartman was able to adjust the totals to 6-10 before Kohler could cast the Sower of Temptation to take half Hartman's team.
It looked the Kohler had stabilized, but an end-of-turn Lightning Bolt on the Tempter forced the Reejerey to block on the next attack as Kohler sunk to 1. He cast another Sower in answer to Hartman's third Goyf, but he scooped up his cards when he saw Hartman's Jace.
Reed Hartman 1 – 0 Jared Kohler
It's been a long day for both players, and the most they could muster was a short discussion of how effective energy drinks could be.
They shuffled up for the next game.
Kohler, like some sort of magician, was able to mise yet another first-turn Æther Vial. I feel like I've been watching him do this for hours. Knowing how late it was and his own mental fatigue, he kept dice on the top of his library to help remember the triggers.
"The hard one's not the first counter; it's the second," Hartman helpfully reminded his opponent. A Mutavault and Silvergill Adept soon followed. Hartman then cast a big red bolt to take out the Adept as the Vial cheated in a Cursecatcher.
Another Bolt took out another Lord, but Kohler was still able to take Hartman to 10 with his next swing and cast a third lord in Coralhelm Commander; Hartman had only a 2/3 Tarmogoyf to his name. The green meanie could do nothing when the Commander suddenly gained wings along with two levels, but a Red Elemental Blast could. Hartman then cast a Vendilion Clique on his opponent's upkeep, so Kohler Vialed out another Coralhelm in response.
Kohler attacked with both Cursecatchers, a Mishra's Factory and one of his Mutavaults. Hartman traded the Factory with the flyer and took two from the 1/1s to make the score 20-6. To respond, Hartman used Green Sun's Zenith to search out Scavenging Ooze, then cast a Noble Hierarch to pass back with good blockers.
"Good blockers" is a relative term, I suppose. Because once the Commander leveled up completely, it was easily able to sail past the "good blockers" and into Hartman's face. After an end-of-turn fetchland activation, Hartman went to 1. However, now he had a life-gaining mechanism in the Ooze. Oh, and a beating mechanism. It attacked in for 6 the next turn and the scores became 4-14.
Kohler thought. "You at 4?" He attacked in with the 4/4 Flying Merfolk. Hartman, whose land was tapped, tried to use Noble Hierarch to remove another creature from the graveyard to stay at 1 life, but Kohler responded by Vialing in the final lord to make the Commander big enough seal Hartman's deal.
Reed Hartman 1 – 1 Jared Kohler
They both kept though Kohler didn't even have an Æther Vial. I was beginning to think such an idea was impossible. He used Mental Misstep on Hartman's first-turn Noble Hierarch then played a Cursecatcher. It attacked in a few times to make the game 16-18.
Just a Brainstorm and a pass from Hartman, though he tried in vain to Lightning Bolt Kohler's freshly minted Lord of Atlantis, thanks to Mental Misstep. So Hartman thought to try again. The second Bolt met a Force of Will and though he Brainstormed in response, he didn't find the answer. And the most complicated stack to ever involve two 1/1s attacking into an empty board ended with the totals becoming 15-11.
Hartman spent his next turn searching out a Dryad Arbor with Green Sun's Zenith and using a Red Elemental Blast to kill the pesky Lord. He spent Kohler's next turn scoffing at another timely Atlantis ruler, while a Submerge put his Arbor on the top of his library.
After Scavenging Ooze came down following the replayed Arbor, Kohler made his Cursecatchers 3/3 with a Coralhelm Commander and sunk Hartman to 3 (then back to 4 with the Ooze). Kohler was doing pretty darn well for being stuck on two land this whole time. But that seemed to change when another life-gainer came down for Hartman: Umezawa's Jitte. The broken equipment quickly gained to counters and brought the Merfolk slinger down to 12.
Kohler attacked with everything, and with the whole "Islandwalk" thing, Dryad Arbor could only block the Lord of Atlantis. Hartman gained a total of 5 life in combat – removing both Jitte counters and making Ooze a 4/4 – then stayed alive at 1. This was a questionable move, as using the counters to take out the Lord, then blocking one of the Cursecatchers could have taken out a few extra blockers, while keeping the life totals the same.
The board was bleak. The Championship was on the line and Reed Hartman would have to find the answer this turn or succomb to the fishy ones. 2-7 on the next attack from the Scavenger, and a Fire half of Fire//Ice killed the Islandwalk-granter. This was really close. Hartman had more shenanigans on Kohler's turn. In response to levelling Coralhelm into a 4/4, both counters came off the Jitte to kill the Cursecatchers, but it wasn't enough.
Jared Kohler, unknown to the format until today, is your new Legacy Champion of 2011!
Jared Kohler 2 –1 Reed Hartman