Here in the hallowed halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center, which I say in all seriousness, a great event is taking place. Gen Con, the best four days in gaming have drawn thousands of people together to share their love of gaming. One of the marquee events this year, at least as far as readers of this piece are concerned, is U.S. Nationals. The best players in the United States have come to vie for the chance to represent 'Murrica at Worlds on their home turf, in San Francisco, later this year.
The first round started with a bang, giving us a great matchup between Ari Lax, who has been around the block a fair number of times, with some recent Top 8s at GP Nashville in 2010 and Atlanta earlier this year. His opponent is David Sharfman, who has just cruised this year, winning GP Paris and PT Nagoya earlier this year.
Sharfman started things off with a mulligan, his deck showing him a weak opening hand. Lax started off with an Island, something which was probably going to be a popular first-turn play over the course of the day. Sharfman gave me pause for a moment when he played a Verdant Catacombs, fetching a forest to play a Birds of Paradise. The next few turns were spent building mana, both players avoiding any more commintments to the board. When Sharfman broke the stalemate at the end of Lax's turn for a Deceiver Exarch, the pieces all came together in my head. Lax had a Mana Leak, but it put opened the window. The Birthing Pod that followed from Sharfman immediately upgraded the Birds to a Spellskite, to protect him from a Twin combo from Lax. Considering Lax hadn't played a non-land permanent, and the Mountain he had in play, it seemed a good bet that he was playing the UR version of the Splinter Twin combo deck.
"Value," he exclaimed!
Lax made a Deceiver Exarch on the end of Sharfman's turn, but didn't really have anything to do with it over the next couple of turns. He Ponder ed and Preordain ed to dig for a way to get himself ahead, but other than that did nothing. Sharfman, meanwhile, kept Podding. Oracle turned into Phyrexian Metamorph, and he played a Sylvok Replica as well. Between the Replica and his Spellskite, he looked to be in complete control. An Acidic Slime on the next turn ate Lax's Shrine of Piercing Vision before getting upgraded into a Frost Titan. This massive, and rapidly upgrading army, was facing down a lone Deceiver Exarch. Even it went away as Lax was forced to chump block the rampaging Titan on the following turn. When Sharfman used his Pod to make his Replica into an Entomber Exarch, which prompted Lax to concede rather than reveal his hand.
Ari Lax 0 – David Sharfman 1
Lax started the second game digging through his deck with a couple of Preordains, which is quickly becoming a hallmark of his games. Intermixed with those, he resolved a free Gitaxian Probe, revealing a Solemn Simulacrum, Frost Titan, Memoricide, and Nature's Claim. When Sharfman tried for the Memoricide, a Mana Leak stopped it cold. Lax made a Shrine of Piercing Vision, leaving one mana up and giving Sharfman a temporary reprieve. He made a Solemn Simulacrum and used a Nature's Claim to end the Shrine, which Lax simply replaced. Sharfman punished Lax's weak draw on the following turn with a Frost Titan, which sealed the match after a couple of attacks.
Ari Lax 0 – David Sharfman 2