Nicolai Herzog is a former European Champion and the current Norwegian Champion. His opponent, Ladislav Zupancic, is the current Croatian Champion. Before the match, Nicolai felt he would struggle as the draft hadn't gone to plan. He asked Ladislav whether he felt confidant. "Always," the Croatian replied.
Nicolai had drafted a red/blue deck with a lot of powerful but expensive rares: Ashen Firebeast, Cephalid Retainer and the emperor himself, Aboshan. His opponent, Ladislav, had the more traditional blue/white deck with Syncopates, big fliers like Aven Windreader and a couple of Angelic Walls to hold off Nicolai's early beats.
Zupancic won the dice roll and opted to make Herzog go first.
The game started slowly with both players not making any plays until Herzog cast a main-phase Words of Wisdom on turn four to find his fourth land. He found a fourth land and was able to Syncopate the Aven Cloudchaser Zupancic summoned in his turn. With his opponent tapped out Herzog was able to brutally take advantage by summoning a Dreamwinder and then giving it haste and +3/0 with Reckless Charge. Zupancic tried to hold it off with a Windreader but Herzog was able to effectively time walk him with a Dematerialize and get in four more damage before the creatures traded. Herzog tried to continue offense with an Aven Smokeweaver only to have two Angelic Walls thrown up in front of him. It seemed like the blue/white deck was on the verge of establishing control.
Then Herzog summoned a Chainflinger. This beast is a nightmare for blue/white to deal with especially as Herzog had already knocked the Croat down to just nine life. Zupancic made a Think Tank to try and improve his card quality but was held further on the back foot as Herzog added a Cephalid Retainer to the assault. Zupancic was forced to use a Syncopate to prevent Herzog from flashing back the Reckless Charge and storming in immediately with the Retainer. A Scrivener on Zupancic's side brought back the Syncopate but he didn't have enough mana to prevent a second Chainflinger entering the fray. Herzog only had one mountain in play and so couldn't take full advantage. With his defences looking fragile, Zupancic Concentrated for an answer and found a Chamber of Manipulation to hold Herzog at bay. Again this left him tapped out and again Herzog was able to take full advantage by finally drawing his second mountain and summoning an absolute monster, Ashen Firebeast!Nicolai Herzog
When Herzog removed the Chamber by Dematerializing the Island it enchanted Zupancic was left in deep trouble. He was facing down a 6/6 earthquake generating monster and to make matters worse Herzog was about to hit Threshold with two Chainflingers in play. Sure enough Herzog summoned a Frenetic Ogre and the next turn was able to discard an Ember Beast in order to hit Threshold. The Chainflingers soon smashed the Croat to a bloody pulp.
Zupancic again made Herzog go first but was able to start offense early with an Escape Artist on turn two. Having a turn two play turned out to useful as it meant he didn't have to discard when Herzog cast Words of Wisdom in Zupancic's end step. Herzog summoned an Ember Beast but wasn't able to follow it up with anything. Even if he could Zupancic had a Pilgrim of Justice to hold it at bay. He was able to stop Zupancic's Looter with a Syncopate but couldn't stop the Windreader that followed it. Instead Herzog used his Dematerialize as a two turn Time Walk by returning the Windreader once and then flashing back the Dematerialize to bounce it again.
Again Herzog brought the big bad Ashen Firebeast onto the field of play but, although it was able to quake away the annoying Escape Artist, it didn't seem quite as threatening with a Pilgrim on the ground to block it. With the Windreader smashing away at the Norwegian's life total it seemed like Zupancic was in control.
Herzog then managed to find a creature that was't red as he dropped a Phantom Whelp and used Reckless Charge to try and smash it through. By flashing back the Reckless Charge on the Ember Beast Herzog assembled a menacing attack that forced Zupancic to sacrifice an Aven Flock in order to restrict the damage to five. As Zupancic had already taken five damage earlier by stepping in the way of a Blazing Salvo he couldn't afford to take too much more. Although the Croat was coming through the air with the Windreader he didn't add any more defence allowing Herzog to get three more damage through off the Ember Beast. Herzog kept up the pressure with a Whipkeeper and the returning Phantom Whelp. Zupancic Syncopated the Whelp and then got the Syncopate back with a Scrivener.
Then Zupancic seemed to take leave of his senses. At the end of turn, when Herzog attempted to burn away the Windreader with a Flame Burst, the Croat thought about it and then sacrificed the Pilgrim to save his flier. Nicolai was amazed by the play - "Did you just do that?" Without the Pilgrim Zupancic had no defence when the big bad Firebeast quaked away the weenies to clear the road for it and its little brother, the Ember Beast, to come in for the kill. In the Croatian's defence, without the Windreader, the game seemed lost in any case.
Final Result: Nicolai Herzog beats Ladislav Zupancic 2-0 and advances to the semi-finals.