Quarterfinals: Walking the Path

Posted in Event Coverage on November 22, 2009

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

Manuel Bucher (Bant) vs. Terry Soh (Naya)

Manuel Bucher and Terry Soh have played at Worlds before, but a win here would be a huge resume-builder for either of them.Manuel Bucher and Terry Soh have both been around for quite some time, but neither has really grabbed too much of the spotlight for themselves. Soh has won the Magic Invitational and created a card bearing his likeness (Rakdos Augermage), but besides that he has seemingly slipped under the radar of many people’s notice. While their names are recognizable, most people don’t know how truly impressive the resumes of these two players are. A win here at Worlds would erase this patina of ignorance and bring either of these players to the forefront of people’s minds.

In addition, Bucher, who started Worlds with only 17 pro points, has tossed around the idea of traveling less for the Pro Tour than he did this year. He started the year off with a globetrotting string of Grand Prix appearances, but he didn’t find much success. If he wins Worlds, he can level all the way up to Level 7. The appearance payments for that level might just entice him to change his mind and continue to travel the world playing Magic.

Soh’s got a great backstory of his own. He came into this Worlds qualified, but unable to playtest due to exams at school. Fortunately for him, he had—as has seemed to be the theme at this year’s World Championship—some brotherly help. Terry’s brother Joe, a member of the Malaysian National Team, did all of the preparing and testing that Terry would end up needing for his impressive run onto the Sunday stage. Just like the Ruels, and like Brad Nelson and his brother Corey Baumeister, Terry and Joe prove that having an equally talented sibling can go a long way towards high-level success.

As Bucher and Soh shuffled up before the match, they discussed the previous night’s testing.

“So did you test much,” Soh asked as he piled out his deck.

Tentatively, Bucher responded, “Yeah, we did some testing. I think it’s in your favor.”

“Heh, did Oli and Antoine [Ruel] do the testing for you?”

Bucher smiled and nodded. It must be nice to have two Hall of Fame friends to help prepare you for your day!

Game 1

Soh began things with a first turn Noble Hierarch, which Bucher matched on his turn. Soh used his to ramp into a second-turn Woolly Thoctar, which smashed the next turn for 6. Bucher didn’t have an outlet for his Hierarch’s mana, and was content to just play a second copy of the mana producer. This gave him access to a third-turn Baneslayer Angel.

When Soh tapped Noble Hierarch on the following turn to cast Path to Exile, Bucher responded, “Targeting?” His voice oozed sarcasm. Both the players got a good laugh at that, and Bucher began searching his deck for a land. A second Hierarch came down, and Soh’s Thoctar swung in for 7. Bucher drew his card and promptly conceded.

Soh killed Bucher on turn four, within five minutes of play. The first game went by so fast that he turned to me to make sure I had gotten all the action.

“Heh, I wasn’t sure if I should go for it, or if I should wait for you!”

Soh 1, Bucher 0

As the players reached for their sideboards, Soh looked at Bucher and smiled.

“Now begins the guessing game.”

Apparently Soh had done some testing the previous night and hadn’t quite figured out how Bucher was planning to sideboard for this match-up.

Game 2

Does Manuel Bucher have hair? No one knows.Bucher started the second game with a Birds of Paradise, giving him the same access to early mana he had in the last game. Sadly, he never got to use it, as Soh aimed a Lightning Bolt at it and fricasseed the bird. Bucher had a Noble Hierarch to replace it, which Soh twinned on the following turn.

Bucher added a triplet to the table before using his original Noble Hierarch to cast Honor of the Pure. Soh dropped a Bloodbraid Elf on his turn, cascading into a Lotus Cobra. The attack dropped Bucher to 15. Bucher untapped and added an Emeria Angel to his side, but he sadly didn’t have any lands to trigger its ability. He was stuck on two lands with two Noble Hierarchs. Soh kept pressing the stumbling Bucher, adding a second Bloodbraid Elf to his team, this time cascading into a second Hierarch of his own. He opted to attack with a single Bloodbraid Elf to attack past the Emeria Angel, just in case Bucher got squirrelly and decided to block. Instead of taking it, the first Hierarch bit the dust.

Bucher still couldn’t find a land for his Angel, and he was forced to just cast a Birds of Paradise and pass the turn. Soh turned the heat up more on the following turn with a Ranger of Eos to fetch the remaining Hierarchs in his deck. His attacking Bloodbraid Elf took a Path to Exile, and Bucher stayed at a comfortably high life total.

A third turn with the Angel on the battlefield and dodging Soh’s removal, and a third turn without land. Bucher was not running too hot right now, but he was able to keep his head above water. A second Emeria Angel provided him a way to get back into the game were he to draw a land (especially a fetch land), but he was forced to take a hit down to 3. He knew that by now, Soh didn’t have a Lightning Bolt, and the Ajani Goldmane in his hand would provide him the life cushion he needed were he to actually draw a land. Soh removed one of the Angels with an Oblivion Ring after attacking and passed the turn to Bucher.

All Bucher had for his turn was a Knight of the Reliquary, which would finally get the Angel going on the following turn. Soh attacked in and forced Bucher to sacrifice his Birds of Paradise. After combat, Soh had a couple of daggers. The first, Baneslayer Angel, wasn’t really that big a deal since Bucher was going to be able to hold it off if he drew a land or die if he didn’t. The second was a Path to Exile, which took out the last Emeria Angel. All Bucher could do on his turn was play an Arid Mesa and drop an Ajani Goldmane into play. The following attack from Soh got him to concede.

Soh 2, Bucher 0

Bucher’s last game was marred land troubles. Had he drawn a third land at any point during those turns, he would have been able to get the Angel (or Angels, depending on the timing) going, which would have swung the game decidedly in his favor. Instead, he stared down at a goose-egg in his win column and could no doubt feel the cold, clammy surface of the wall against his back. Despite seeming a little sad about the outcome of the last game, Bucher’s emotions were well in check as he shuffled up for the following game.

The players discussed their previous opening draws before starting the third game.

“My first hand was pretty insane,” Bucher admitted. “I had two Baneslayers as back up.”

“Yeah, if you’d won the die roll, I would have been crushed,” Soh admitted.

Game 3

Soh far, Soh good.Bucher was on the play for this third game, and he quickly kept his opening draw. He started the game with a Seaside Citadel, which was a step back in speed from the previous two games. By the time he cast an Honor of the Pure on his second turn, Soh had already made his first creature: a Noble Hierarch. Bucher didn’t fall behind. He cast a Knight of the Reliquary, the first of his big threats. With two Misty Rainforests already in the graveyard, the Knights were out of Lightning Bolt range. Soh had a Bloodbraid Elf into a Lotus Cobra, but the massive Knights held off any attack.

When a second Knight and a third fetch land hit the table for Bucher, it seemed as though he’d finally found a start strong enough to ride. He chose to keep his team home, preferring to hold down the fort and thin out his deck. In addition, the Knights would provide a solid lightning rod for any Path to Exiles that might be tempted to off his real game-winners, the two flavors of Angel in his deck. Soh did manage to find a massive monster of his own in Uril the Miststalker, but it was still a tiny man compared to the increasingly larger Knights of Bucher. As of the end of Soh’s turn, they sat high at 9/9.

Bucher didn’t have a fifth land for his turn, but he was able to tap out and then sacrifice a land to his Knights to get a fifth mana to play the first of his angels: Baneslayer Angel. It survived to attack Soh for 6 on the following turn, shooting Bucher up to 23. A second Baneslayer soon followed, and Soh couldn’t find an answer for them. When an Ajani Goldmane came down on the following team, Soh picked his cards up with a, “Yeah, that’s game.”

Soh 2, Bucher 1

Game 4

The fourth game started at a snail’s pace compared to the previous ones. Soh had no play on the first three turns, and Bucher didn’t get on the board until the second turn. Even still, his double Noble Hierarch on turn two was sure to make up for lost time. The first attacked in on the third turn, and Bucher added an Honor of the Pure to pump his currently nonexistent white creatures.

Soh finally made a creature on the fourth turn, and his Bloodbraid Elf rumbled in with Colossal Might. Bucher had a massive advantage in play and used it to make his first Baneslayer Angel of the game. Soh just made a Jungle Shrine and passed the turn. The Angel knocked him to 9. The following turn, thanks to Ajani Goldmane, it killed him. Soh tried to stop it with a Path to Exile, but Bucher had the Brave the Elements to keep it safe.

Just like that, Manuel Bucher had evened the score up and pushed himself off the wall.

Soh 2, Bucher 2

Game 5

Bucher has evened things up, but can he pull this one out?Bucher mulliganed away a hand containing nothing but lands and Baneslayer Angels into one that contained his first-turn Noble Hierarch. Soh had already committed a Hierarch to the table on his first turn, and now added a Lotus Cobra to his team. His one-land hand shaped up nicely when he drew and played an Arid Mesa, providing him with the third mana necessary to cast the Woolly Thoctar in his hand. Bucher had a third-turn monster of his own, but his Emeria Angel was put into an Oblivion Ring by Soh. The resulting attack dropped Bucher to 10 and into the tank.

He had another Emeria Angel and a couple of fetch lands in his hand, but instead of playing them in that order and making a few defensive birds, he chose to pop the Misty Rainforest he was holding and go for the big, bad Baneslayer.

Unfortunately for him, Soh’s hand was chock-full of removal. A Path to Exile removed the Baneslayer and cleared the path for Soh to drop him to two. Bucher played a Kabira Crossroads to go back up to 4 life before dropping a second Baneslayer. When Soh tried to Oblivion Ring the Angel on the following turn for the win, Bucher had the Brave the Elements that would have kept it alive ... if it weren’t for the fourth removal spell, a second Path to Exile that Soh held to finish it off in response.

Terry Soh defeats Mauel Bucher 3–2 and advances to the Semifinals!

Manuel Bucher - Bant

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Terry Soh - Naya

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