Marc Lalague (U/R) vs. Derek Woloshyn (R/G)
Woloshyn curved out nicely in the first game, stringing a Bronze Sable, Nessian Courser, and Pheres-Band Tromper together on three consecutive turns. On the other side of the table, Lalague had strung together an equally impressive defense, adding Omenspeaker, Fanatic of Mogis, and Sealock Monster to keep Woloshyn's creatures at bay. Lalague tried in vain to kill the Tromper once Woloshyn enchanted it with Fearsome Temper, trading his Fall of the Hammer for a Titan's Strength from Woloshyn's hand. Still, Lalague's very large creatures were enough to deter Woloshyn from making an attack. Rather than use the Temper to force through some damage, Woloshyn opted to continue to build his board, adding the potentially dangerous Anthousa, Setessan Hero, to his side.
This game of constantly rising stakes continued for a few turns, with each player adding yet another impressive body to their respective squads. The first truly game-changing moment came soon after Lalague played a Horizon Scholar. With his array of creatures protection his life total, he decided it was time to finally attack, sending the Scholar over to deal the first attack damage of the game. In retaliation, Woloshyn added a Purphoros's Emissary to his already 6/6 Tromper, though he decided not to attack.
Lalague continued his aerial assault, dropping Woloshyn to 2 over the next few turns. With one turn to go, Woloshyn finally pulled the trigger. Lalague was still sitting pretty at 20 life, so it looked like he would manage to escape alive. After denying Lalague the ability to block with his two largest creatures, Woloshyn was able to sneak through almost enough damage to get the job done. Unfortunately, he could only drop Lalague to 3, and it took all of his mana to do so. Understanding that he was out of luck, Woloshyn conceded.
"That was a really good game, man," he said to Lalague after the game. "That board got so complicated that I don't know if either of us knew what the right attack was for a while there."
Lalague laughed, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that not attacking was definitely the right call."
The second game started much faster for Woloshyn, turning Hero of Leina Tower and a Titan's Strength into a five-point swing on the second turn of the game. Lalague was able to stem the bleeding with Stymied Hopes and Dissolve, stopping consecutive casts from Woloshyn, but it wasn't until he played Sealock Monster that he was truly able to feel a bit safe about his position. Woloshyn had cut his life total in half, but his offense was stopped cold by the 5/5 Octopus. It was stopped even colder when Lalague added a Pillar of War to his side.
At least it was stopped cold until the Sealock Monster had a little change of heart. After dispatching of the Pillar with a Destructive Revelry, Woloshyn tapped out to cast Portent of Betrayal on Lalague's lone Sealock Monster. Combined with a Bronze Sable and Nylea's Emissary, the Monster represented lethal damage. Lalague had a Voyage's End to send the Emissary back to Woloshyn's hand, dropping to 3 in the process. Keeping his Monster in play allowed him the freedom to cast a Horizon Scholar on his turn, finding a source of offense to try and end things before Woloshyn found a way to deal those final points of damage. Woloshyn was scrambling, unable to kill the Sphinx as it ground him down. The final toll came when Lalague aimed a Retraction Helix to push the lone blocker out of the way, allowing his monstrous Sealock Monster to deal the final blow.
"Great games," Woloshyn said, shaking Lalague's hand. "The better player won."
"Don't sell yourself short," Lalague said. "You had to play really well to get this point, so you're obviously a good player, too. Those were very good games."
"That match just qualified me for three Pro Tours," Lalague continued ecstatically. "I get into Atlanta. I get Silver, so there's another. And now I'm Silver for next year."
Miguel Rodriguez (B/U/G) vs. Hugo Daniel Araiza (R/G)
Rodriguez had a fair amount of control against Araiza's deck as the turns climbed. Araiza was unable to mount much of an early offense, giving Rodriguez plenty of time to string together an impressive array of enchantments on his Triton Fortune Hunter, netting a trio of cards to go along with a sizeable 5/6 creature. Still, Araiza managed to deal with it thanks to his own string of heroic triggers. The combined efforts of Labyrinth Champion, Savage Surge, and Rise to the Challenge enabled enough triggers and power to make sure that the Fortunet Hunter bit the dust.
Undeterred, Rodriguez took control of the board once more, this time using Kraken of the Straits to get large and keep Araiza's team under lock and key. To make matters worse, an Artisan of Forms became a second Kraken, making one gigantic, lethal attack, dropping Araiza from twelve to well below zero.
In the second game, Araiza was in complete control of the game from the fourth turn on. Once Rodriguez tried to cast an Ordeal of Thassa on his Triton Fortune Hunter, a Lightning Strike from Araiza put him leagues ahead. This combined with back-to-back massive creatures, including a Nessian Wilds Ravager. It came down on an empty board for Rodriguez, so it didn't get to fight anything, but that hardly mattered. Rodriguez was unable to protect the Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, that he was trying to get going, and his own life soon followed in a very quick Game 2.
The final game was played on two fronts. The more obvious road was taken by Araiza, sending his troops across the ground at Rodriguez, who decided on the sneakier route. Artisan of Forms, back from his first-game performance, combined with Aqueous Form and Ordeal of Nylea, went for the rapidly increasing unblockable damage. To add to that, his Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, hit the table when Araiza was less well-equipped to deal with it, and it began to take care of the top of Araiza's deck.
Araiza managed a fairly big swing when he cast a Nylea's Disciple for a whopping 7 life, turning things in his favor. His ensuing attack dropped Rodriguez to 7, prompting him to halt his own attacks. This gave Araiza the opportunity he needed to try and end things, using Portent of Betrayal to steal the very large Artisan of Forms on the opposite side of the table. Thanks to a clutch Horizon Chimera, Rodriguez was able to survive the attack at a paltry one life. The Labyrinth Champion that Araiza played later seemed like it might finish the job.
It was a terrifying race. At 1 life, Rodriguez needed to find a way to kill Araiza before he could trigger the Champion. He began by cashing in most of Ashiok's counters for an Archetype of Endurance. This gave him a better template for his Artisan of Forms, which smashed Rodriguez down from 17 to 8. All Rodriguez needed was one more turn of safety, one slight reprieve, and he'd be able to steal a game that looked all but put away. Not one to slowroll his friend, Araiza shook his head and revealed the curtain call: Rise to the Challenge. An appropriate way to trigger the Labyrinth Champion to do the final points of damage in this incredibly exciting final game. It took longer than all of the other Quarterfinal matches to finish, but Hugo Daniel Araiza managed to eke out a close victory to advance to the Semifinals.