Brad Nelson has been best known as "FFfreak" on Magic Online, but as of late has been putting up a number of impressive results in the world of paper Magic. He squeaked into the quarterfinals after a player was given a match loss in the final round of Swiss to another player in contention, catching him completely off guard when the Top Eight was announced.
Saito, alone at 43 points and one of the few pros left in the tournament, was anything but surprised. His UB Merfolk deck had been taking down opponents all weekend and he went into the round of eight as the first seed.
Saito slapped himself to begin game one, his way to focus himself, and we were off. Nelson led with Mox Diamond, Scrubland and a Dark Confidant, all on turn one. Saito allowed them to resolve, then followed up with an Æther Vial on his turn.
Confidant continued to show kindness, revealing a Horizon Canopy to keep Nelson at 20. The Canopy came down just before the Tarmogoyf crashed in for one. Saito had a Cursecatcher off of Æther Vial at the end of Nelson's turn.
Meanwhile, Confidant was still providing the goods. Nelson revealed a Thoughseize and immediately cast it, revealing Reejerey, Daze, Mutavault and Underground Sea. Nelson chose to take the Lord, and attacked with a now 3/4 Tarmogoyf. He also used the Maze of Ith he played pre-combat to untap his Tarmogoyf after it had dealt its damage. Sensei's Divining Top finished off the turn.
With Top working now, Confidant was especially kind, revealing a Mox Diamond this time around. Nelson continued his frontal assault with another Tarmogoyf, but Saito, slapping himself to stay focused, had the Force of Will.
The Tarmogoyf already on the battlefield, now powered by an instant as well, was a 4/5. The Adept, Cursecatcher and animated Mutavault all blocked the monster. Adept and Cursecatcher both died, and after combat Nelson used Wasteland to destroy the Mutavault.
Back on Saito's turn, he played more draw go, though his Lord took a trip to the Maze of Ith.
A Vindicate destroyed the Lord of Atlantis, but Saito had another Lord of Atlantis through his Vial, causing Nelson to use Maze of Ith to protect his attacking Confidant. This allowed Lord of Atlantis to attack and drop Nelson to 10, which became 9 when his upkeep revealed a Sensei's Divining Top.
Nelson had yet another Vindicate for Lord of Atlantis and another Wasteland for Saito's freshly played Mutavault, as well as a Tarmogoyf the following turn. An attack from Dark Confidant knocked an empty-handed Saito to eight, and then to seven after he used a Flooded Strand to find an Island.
Brad Nelson – 1 Tomoharu Saito – 0
A Silvergill Adept revealed a Coralhelm Commander Saito couldn't play with his current Island/Wasteland board, which made the Commander the perfect Force of Will fodder to counter Nelson's attempted Hymn to Tourach.
Nelson's Top, however, delivered a Wasteland to take out Saito's own Wasteland, which was tapped at the time. A second Wasteland took out Saito's drawn Mutavault, but the two continued to refuse to break the Standstill while the Adept took Nelson all the way down to 5 two points at a time.
Tarmogoyf on the battlefield as a 5/6, it seemed, was the answer. Saito checked the graveyard and, thanks to the Æther Vial and Standstill, the Tarmogoyf was big enough to draw out a Force of Will. The follow-up Dark Confidant, however, resolved.
Undeterred, Saito again attacked with Silvergill Adept, except this time it met Nelson's Swords to Plowshares. The Mefolk player then played a Cursecatcher, Wasteland and a Standstill, hoping to freeze or negate the card advantage gained by Dark Confidant.
The Cursecatcher ended up trading with the Dark Confidant as Nelson allowed Saito to get stuck under his own Standstill. Only the Wasteland a turn earlier had been played to negate Nelson's copy. Saito used his to blow up Nelson's Wasteland, then had a Mutavault to threaten Nelson's precious 5 life.
Another fetch land activation took Nelson to four, and when Sensei's Divining Top didn't reveal anything helpful, the players moved on to the third and decisive game.
Brad Nelson – 1 Tomoharu Saito – 1
While Saito kept, Nelson was forced to mulligan on the play, though he did have a turn one Sensei's Divining Top once more. Saito simply made a turn two Silvergill Adept which, for the time being, could actually tangle with a 1/2 Tarmogoyf.
Nelson topped on his upkeep then revealed Saito's hand with a Thoughtseize. The spell revealed two Force of Will, Cursecatcher, another Vial and a Lord of Atlantis that Nelson sent to the graveyard. He then re-played the Tarmogoyf as his last card in hand, but was thwarted by Force of Will pitching Force of Will.
Attacks took Nelson to seven, and Saito had another land and the second Æther Vial, leaving the Cursecatcher as the only card in his hand. Nelson, looking for a blocker, played Dark Confidant. With five power on the opposing side, it was unlikely to have time to reveal anything.
And it did, in fact, trade with a Silvergill Adept. Meanwhile Nelson fell to four. An upkeep Diabolic Edict kept him at two life, but with no cards in hand he would need a series of topdecks to take down the cagey pro.
Brad Nelson – 1 Tomoharu Saito – 2