Quarterfinal Feature Match: Ben Rubin vs. Tuomo Nieminen

Posted in Event Coverage

By Rui Oliveira

Ben Rubin

Under a major thunderstorm and with Rubin needing to resleeve since he was using transparent sleeves all eight players sat down for another exciting round of the Barcelona Masters. With Ben slightly scared by the thunder noisily cracking above the venue they shook and got the game underway after a very, very extensive shuffling period.

If Ben wins this match he not only goes over the $100,000 mark but he will also leap frog Kyle Rose to reach the second place in the all-time money order right behind the untouchable Jon Finkel.

Game 1

Tuomo took one mulligan played a second turn Galina's Knight while Ben opened with an Elfhame Sanctuary. With a frown that closely matched the one on his trademark Superman shirt Rubin thought for a long time before casting an Harrow. He sacrificed his second Forest to get a Plains and an Island.

On Rubin's next turn he tried to cast a Collective Restraint hoping to catch Nieminen with no counters. After a long deliberation Tuomo spent his only counter, an Absorb, to stop the Propaganda lookalike. The game pace was naturally very slow with Rubin trying to outguess Nieminen and the nervous Finnish holding a handful of cards.

The Finn added a second creature to the table, this time a Meddling Mage naming Spite/Malice. At the end of his turn, Rubin played a Fact or Fiction that Tuomo split in the following piles:

Pile one: Island, Swamp, Star Compass
Pile two: Mountain, Absorb

After an extremely long moment to adjust his game plan, Ben took the bigger pile. On his turn he played a four card Allied Strategies that Tuomo again had to let through since his only counter was an Exclude. With his hand now completely full Rubin had to find a way to stop the two incoming creatures or he would die in three turns. He started with a Collective Restraint that Tuomo couldn't stop and seemed so surprised that it took him a full minute to finish his turn merely playing another land.

With the dinamic duo now stopped the Finn could only pass the turn and was again faced with a Fact or Fiction. This time the pool of five cards was a lot harder to split but after a very long meditation and much head shaking he made the following piles:

Pile one: Global Ruin
Pile two: Two Reviving Vapors, two Star Compass

Rubin took the bigger pile, perhaps thinking Tuomo was trying to bluff that he couldn't stop the Ruin while holding a viable counter. All Tuomo had were two Excludes. The American played a Star Compass and discarded an Island during his end step. On Tuomo's end he cast a Reviving Vapors taking a Fact or Fiction over Fertile Ground and Harrow going up to fourteen in the process. A second Reviving Vapors netted him another two life points from a Fertile Ground over a Fact or Fiction and Harrow.

He continued his card-drawing adventures with his third Fact or Fiction that gave Nieminen five headaches to solve. He stood frozen like a statue for several minutes before generating the following piles.

Pile one: Collective Restraint, Obliterate, Questing Phelddagrif.
Pile two: Absorb, Global Ruin

If Tuomo took a long time to build the piles Rubin took even more to pick which pile to keep. With the lulling sound of the heavy rain outside, it looked like we were in for a very, very long night. Finally the American took the Absorb and the Global Ruin. Resuming his main phase Rubin merely played a Fertile Ground and passed the turn.

Nieminen finally blinked when he played a Repulse on his now idle Galina's Knight to try to make up for the card drawing advantage Rubin now clearly had. Rubin played a Phelddagrif that the Finnish tried to Exclude but an Absorb made sure the rainbow monster could now rule the table. He then used a Global Ruin to push Tuomo back to three mana and stop any Rout ideas he might have thus giving his creature all the room it could need to maneuver.

Sure enough the hippo strolled down to the Red Zone on Rubin's next turn signaling the begining of the end for the silent Nieminen. Despite the sure bashing of the big monsters the turns still dragged on for endless periods with no players literally blinking. Ben apparently got tired of the slow pace and started pumping his damage machine putting the Finnish in an apparent three turn clock.

Nieminen played a desperate Fact or Fiction that Rubin split extremely fast daring Tuomo to take the Plains he clearly needed to cast the saving Rout.

Pile one: Absorb, Island, Dromar's Charm, Lobotomy
Pile two: Plains

Again the players lapsed into deep thought keeping a pace that couldn't outrun a limping glacier. Tuomo didn't take the bait and decided to keep the four-card pile. This led to a marathon end step when we was forced to discard down to seven cards losing a Dromar, the Banisher, Rout and Absorb.

The colorful monster came in for what looked like the last time but Tuomo wanted to drag things a little longer and played a Dromar's Charm to gain five life. Rubin then played an Allied Strategies for four cards and discarded down to seven. On his next turn his single creature again went in for the kill and this time Tuomo had no answer.

Ben 1-0 Tuomo

Game 2

Cyril: "Ben, do have multiple copies of that shirt or do you always use the same?"
Ben: "No comment."

During their long shuffling period they took the time to discuss all the guessing games they had to face during the first game. After one of the longest randomization process known to mankind they kept their hands and started the second game.

Ben: "If I wasn't so tired I would be pumped up."

Tuomo again played an early Galina's Knight but Rubin bounced right back with a Collective Restraint. This time Tuomo was ready for it with a Dromar's Charm. On his next turn he played a Elfhame Sanctuary that he used to fetch a second Forest. He used his five mana to play the uncounterable Kavu Chameleon. While Tuomo couldn't counter that he played a Repulse to dig for more answers and to give his Knight an extra attack.

On his turn he Lobotomized Rubin and was faced with the following options:

Spite/Malice, Kavu Chameleon, Rout, Questing Phelddagrif and Obliterate.

If the pace was slow so far this Lobotomy had so many ramifications that you could hear Tuomo's brain cells going into overdrive. Rubin and his close friend, Superman, stared at him from accross the table. Tuomo finally settled for the Questing Phelddagrif reducing Ben's paths to victory.

The Chameleon came back into play during the following turn and Tuomo played a Meddling Mage naming, Spite/Malice, and keeping the Kavu back since Rubin couldn't win the damage race. Still Rubin seemed to have a back plan when he sent his Kavu into the Red Zone and Tuomo was happy to race along. On his next turn the Kavu held back and Tuomo took the time to play a Fact or Fiction that threw Rubin into another thought spiral that ended with a Gainsay to counter.

This lead to another string of "draw, think for a couple of minutes, go" Magic until Tuomo unleashed another deadly Lobotomy with Gainsay back up. Rubin used his own Gainsay that Nieminen countered with a Gainsay only to see it stopped by a third Gainsay. At the end of Tuomo's turn Ben Harrowed for a Mountain and a Swamp. On his turn he used the Sanctuary to fetch out an extra Forest and prepared to take advantage of his opportunity.

His Kavu raced into the Red Zone crashing into a kamikaze Gallina's Knight before a Rout cleaned the table. The Finnish played another Meddling Mage naming Spite/Malice once again. On the following turn Rubin only had a Fertile Ground to play.

Tuomo Nieminen

With Rubin unwilling to react, remember he was still holding the Obliterate, the Meddling Mage paid several visits to the Red Zone dropping Rubin down to four before he reacted. He blew up the world with Obliterate but Tuomo was ready for it with a Repulse on his Meddling Mage and a Recoil on his own Salt Marsh, discarding a Benalish Herald.

Ben used his two remaining mana and a Forest he dropped after the apocalyptic Obliterate to Harrow out a Forest and an Island. When they both reached two mana the Finnish replayed his ever present Meddling Mage that Rubin allowed to resolve before conceding.

Ben 1-1 Tuomo.

Game 3

After the end of the second game the whole audience departed from the Feature Match leaving only the silent players, the judge and yours truly. Again the shuffling period took a very long time with both players probably taking the time to rest between the highly mental taxing games. After a large period of jokes about the length of the games from the four people still waiting for the final result the third game finally got underway. With the round dragging along the galant Cyril Grillon took over from the judge to allow him to get some rest and keeping a fresher eye on the long match.

Rubin opened with a second turn Star Compass while Tuomo played a Galina's Knight. Again we had a classic case of Ben building up a mana base while Tuomo tried to milk as much damage from his Knight as possible. At the end of Tuomo's fourth turn Ben played a Fact or Fiction, that after some deep deliberation the Finnish countered with a Gainsay.

On his next turn Ben tried to cast a Allied Strategies for three and Tuomo had no objections. With the Knight still paying regular visits to the Red Zone Tuomo went for the proverbial jugular with a Lobotomy. The hand he got to see had the following cards:

Two Spite/Malice. Absorb, Restock, Star Compass and Gainsay.

After a false start, Nieminen finally took the Spite/Malice and taking a long time to find only three copies. Rubin now had the chance to take advantage of his tapped out opponent. the American could only muster a Fertile Ground. He played a second one a turn later followed by another Star Compass.

With Rubin at ten, Tuomo felt confident enough to play a Benalish Herald only to have it Absorbed. He then tapped out to play a Meddling Mage locking the Restock in Ben's hand. the American took advantage of that to play a Questing Phelddagrif. Since Nieminen only had a Recoil in his hand he couldn't get rid of the potentially protected hippo right away and was forced to stop using his attack phase.

Ben tried to refill his hand with a Allied Strategies for four which drew a head shake from Tuomo before countering it with a Dromar's Charm. With four mana still available and two cards in hand Rubin again dived head first into reworking his game plan. He finally decided to invest his Gainsay to counter the Charm. Tuomo was now faced with the decision of Recoiling a land or not.

He Recoiled a Fertile Ground enchanted land throwing Ben into a spiral of deep thought that ended with a discarded Plains. This whole stack action netted Rubin two new cards that could make the difference in such a tight match and with both players holding a small number of cards.

The next time Ben blinked, he sent his hippo deep into the Red Zone bringing Nieminen down to sixteen. The Finnish returned the favor by attacking with his two creatures bringing Rubin down to nine. Ben's current four Green mana sources didn't seem enough to win the race so he tried to cast an Harrow that the Finnish grundgly allowed to resolve.

The American now had six Green sources enabling him to pump the hippo up to 10/10 on the final swing. It was Tuomo's turn to come up with something to change the flow of the damage race. Rubin attacked and pumped the hippo up to 8/8 offering Tuomo four tokens and giving him to chance to win on his next attack phase.

After more than two hours we had finally reached crunch time. Tuomo sent everything except one token. This possible chump blocker would force Ben to give his creature flying thus netting Tuomo an extra card that could spell the difference. With the tension mounting around the Red Zone Ben took what would probably be his last draw phase and sent the hippo into the Red Zone.

Tuomo drew another land and could only bluff an answer. Ben calmly tapped the four Green mana ending the marathon round. It was a very long day and there was a lot of money on the line so despite the slow and desperately long game we have to give our congratulations to both players for a very tactically demanding game played at the possible pace given all the math and the wide array of options involved. Lets just hope they manage to get some rest before tomorrow's ordeal.

Ben: "I'm sorry it took so long."

Final Result: Ben 2-1 Tuomo

Ben Rubin will now face Finkel's Go-Mar in the semifinals.

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