Canadian Jay Elarar had plenty of time to prepare for tonight's match. The young player qualified for the Masters on the strength of DCI points obtained at PT Chicago, where he posted a Top 8 finish with Blue Skies. Elarar had a total of 19 Pro Tour points when invitations for Pro Tour Barcelona went out. Just one point short, he was unable to play in the main event. Otherwise, he has had a great weekend, currently up to $6,500 in winnings and playing for a chance to win $10,000 and advance into the Top 4. Elarar chose to play a modified Red-Green deck, with main deck Kavu Chameleon and Scorching Lava as the most notable differences.
Mike Turian was in fact qualified for PT Barcelona, but things did not work out well for him this morning. He dropped out of the tournament at a 1-4 record, his only win being against a bye. Turian is out to advance into the top 4 of the Masters, using his very original "Go-Mar" U-B-W variant.
Both players agree that Elarar has a moderately significant advantage in this match up. His aggressive deck can often overrun even Go-Mar versions tuned to beat creatures. In Turian's case, his deck is very much tuned against control, with four main deck Lobotomies - a card that is below average in this match up.
The match was preceded by a short argument over the infamous "Red Zone" play mat. Mark Rosewater and other Pro Tour staff required the players to keep their deck and sideboard in slots specifically indicated on the mat. Unfortunately, that meant one of them would have to draw from the left, which might slightly throw off that player's concentration (as could any distraction).
In a Solomon-like ruling, Mark Rosewater decreed that a player who lost the die roll would have the option to choose which side of the table to keep his deck on. Elarar won the die roll, opting to play first, and leaving the Red Zone playmat exactly where Turian wanted it.
Elarar kept a mediocre opening hand. It featured a pair of lands, but no two-drops. Without a proper top-deck, his first play would be a Raging Kavu. Turian could not keep his hand at all. His six-card hand was better - it featured a pair of Familiars, Fact or Fiction and some lands - a promising start.
Elarar did not draw that two-drop. Surprisingly, it was Turian who played the first creature - a Nightscape Familiar. Elarar chose to destroy it with Ghitu Fire while Turian was still tapped out.
Turian gambled on drawing a third land soon, but things did not work out as intended for the CMU player. He missed several land drops, watching helplessly as Elarar summoned Raging Kavu followed by Thornscape Familiar and finally Kavu Chameleon. Unable to catch up, Turian conceded the game, quite ready to ditch those four main deck Lobotomies and bring in some better defensive cards.
Elarar described his sideboard strategy as "going to the dome." He took out all of his Flametongue Kavus and Thornscape Battlemages to make room for Overabundance and more burn. Turian left Collective Restraint in the sideboard. He explained that in playtesting it seemed a Restraint is a good sideboard card when he goes second, but not when he goes first - since going first provides a much greater chance to keep control of the game with Familiars, third turn Exclude mana available, etc. Instead, Turian ditched Lobotomy and Probe to make room for Rout and Voice of All.
Mana Gods frowned on Turian again in the second game. He declined a one-land hand, then kept a hand with five mana and Dromar's Charm. Elarar kept his hand confidently, and summoned a turn two Thornscape Familiar.
Once Turian had three mana up, Elarar declined to cast a Raging Kavu despite giving up time advantage, preferring to wait until the end of Turian's turn to summon it. With Elarar having cast nothing, Turian tapped out at the end of turn to use Dromar's Charm -2/-2 ability on the Familiar, to which Elarar responded by summoning a Raging Kavu.
Turian put up a bit of a fight over the next several turns, but he was clearly struggling. He used up a pair of Dromar's Charm and an Exclude to counter creatures, taking damage from Raging Kavu and soon from another Thornscape Familiar as well in the process. Turian kept drawing more land. He was simultaneously mana flooded and mana screwed - with a handful of land, he had no access to the second white mana to cast Voice of All in his hand. Truthfully, the Voice would not have made a difference. Elarar was holding more threats, including Scorching Lava and Urza's Rage. Turian waited for Elarar to put lethal damage on the stack, then offered his concession with a handshake.
Notably, both players proved to be extremely thorough shufflers (with so much money on the line, it is hard to blame them). Each would extensively shuffle their deck, then proceed to do the same to their opponent's deck. Spectators and judges noted that the actual match took about one quarter as long as shuffling done to prepare for it. Extensive shuffling did not save Turian from a poor mana draw, allowing Elarar to play the winner of the Mowshowitz/Bell match tomorrow night.
Final Result: Elarar 2 - Turian 0