Samuel Black is currently ranked fourteenth in the world in the Pro Player Power Rankings. Black has a staggering nine Grand Prix Top 8s to his name and two Pro Tour Top 8s on top of that. Black is one of the most well-respected players in the world and it's no surprise to see him in another Top 8.
His opponent, Neal Oliver, is no slouch either. Oliver won Grand Prix Las Vegas, the largest Magic event of all time. Then, in his very next event, Oliver made it to the finals at Grand Prix San Jose. More recently, Oliver won a WMCQ qualifier to earn a spot on the United States National Team for the World Magic Cup.
While waiting for the match to start. Oliver and Black exchanged stories about their experiences in the swiss rounds of the tournament.
Both players emptied their hands quickly and soon the board was a mess while Oliver was cracking through with Jeskai Windscout.
That all changed in the blink of an eye when Black broke the stalemate with a backbreaking Incremental Growth, though. He started charging into the red zone and Oliver, ahead many cards, quickly found himself chump blocking just to survive.
Oliver picked up a nice tempo swing when his Icefeather Aven bounced Black's Abzan Guide when Black went for Awaken the Bear, but Black's next attack featured a lethal Become Immense and they were on to a second game.
Sam Black 1 - 0 Neal Oliver
Black smiled, "I imagine that was a good draw from your deck. Secret Plans into some good morphs."
Oliver was unphased, "well, I imagine that was a good draw from your deck too."
"I kept a risky one."
Oliver laughed, "I probably would've kept it too."
Oliver deployed an army of morphs, one after the next, while Black used his time to repeatedly activate outlast and advance his position with highland game.
They traded cards aggressively, with Oliver getting further and further ahead thanks to his early Secret Plans.
Oliver looked to be well ahead in the race thanks to two copies of Mystic of the Hidden Way. Black tried to come up with a plan that could save him, but the pressure came too fast and he soon found himself dead to the pair of mystics and Thousand Winds.
Black 1 - 1 Oliver
The board was flooded with morphs on either side and Black continued attacking and got Oliver down to a low life total before Oliver was able to stabilize with Thousand Winds, bouncing three creatures back to Black's hand. Black redeployed some morphs and things looked great for Oliver when Abomination of Gudul unmorphed the following turn to give him eight points of flying power.
Black tried to get back into the race with a big life swing from Abzan Guide, but Oliver had a flurry of spells on the following turn and Black couldn't empty his hand fast enough to keep up.
"If I could cast all of these, I think I could win... You got it." Black extended his hand.
Thousand winds and Abomination of Gudul were enough to take the game home for Neal Oliver.
Oliver 2 - 1 Black