As the Quarterfinals sat down to play out the final rounds of Grand Prix-Portland, two were locals to the Pacific Northwest. Jonathon Loucks, a writer for ChannelFireball.com, was better known for his Constructed deckbuilding skills than his Limited skills while Josh Layne hailed from British Columbia, Canada. It was not the first meeting between the two, who recapped a round one PTQ in Seattle during Time Spiral Two-Headed Giant season.
"My computer won't run Starcraft 2, otherwise I probably wouldn't be here right now. So instead I've been drafting Magic 2011 to pass the time," Jon confessed.
"All I've done recently is play Starcraft 2," Josh said.
"Are you trying to run the psychology on me by using blue sleeves?" Loucks asked.
"I had limited options and I decided to go with the blue sleeves because blue is the best color in Magic."
"I think it's a tell."
Jon won the die roll and liked his opening seven; Layne sent his back, but kept a six card hand after some thought. Neither player came out of the gates quickly, with the first spell of the game being a turn three Mind Rot by Jon, forcing Josh to discard two lands. Josh continued to have no action, giving Loucks time to cast a Sorcerer's Strongbox.
"I never thought I'd be flipping coins in the Top 8 of a GP," Jon said.
"Little did you know," replied his opponent.
The Canadian finally started casting spells when he dropped an Assault Griffin followed by Spined Wurm, but when Jon won the coin flip on Sorcerer's Strongbox he had plenty of action. The Spined Wurm met a quick end via Doom Blade, and Jon's Water Servant and Rotting Legion put some pressure on Layne. Josh's only real threat was the Assault Griffin, which was quickly outclassed by Jon's bigger creatures.
Layne had a glimmer of hope when he cast Sylvan Ranger and Garruk's Companion, but the Ajani Goldmane that would help him turn the game around got Negated, and when Jon added a Juggernaut to the board, Layne conceded.
Jon Loucks 1, Josh Layne 0
"You even had an on-color dual!" Layne said, referring to Loucks's turn-two Drowned Catacomb, "how lucky!"
"What can I say. I'm blessed. You had an on-color planewalker!"
"That's what happened to me in the first draft. I was green-white, then I opened Ajani. Then I opened Baneslayer Angel."
"I heard you had a Baneslayer in the second draft too."
"No, just the one."
"You know how these stories grow."
"Yeah, but all the other good things you ever hear about me are true."
Josh liked his opening hand. "Seems fine!" he said.
But it was Jon's turn to mulligan this time. "That hand was not for me," but he did keep his six card hand. Unlike the first game, Layne had a quick start when he cast Llanowar Elves on both turns one and two.
"Maelstrom Pulse!" Jon joked.
Loucks was stuck on two Swamps and did not play lands or cast spells, giving Josh time to develop his board. Josh cast Cudgel Troll and Assault Griffin, and when Jon finally drew a third land to Quag Sickness the Cudgel Troll, he was unable to stop the bleeding. Jon tried a desperation Scroll Thief to help block, but when it was Excommunicated, Jon knew he was not drawing a third land or a way to prevent himself from losing.
Jon Loucks 1, Josh Layne 1
Jon did not like his seven card hand, and thought a while before keeping his six card hand. He had a turn-three Cloud Elemental, but Josh's War Priest of Thune and Cloud Crusader made it difficult for Jon to race. Josh added a White Knight to the board, and Jon did nothing but play lands and pass the turn.
Josh Layne wins 2-1 and advances to the Semifinals!