Round 11. Three losses. Three more rounds to go. These players are still in the race for a Top 8 slot, but both were teetering on the edge between success and disappointment. Florian Pils especially was looking to repeat his Top 8 appearance from last year, but would he stumble three rounds before the finish line?
Pils led with Inquisition of Kozilek and saw Lightning Bolt, two Goblin Guide, Searing Blaze and Grim Lavamancer all waiting to light up his life. One of the Goblin Guides hit the dirt and Pils definitely had given himself a solid information advantage.
Stahl had little other choice than to just follow his game plan. Goblin Guide followed Grim Lavamancer, then Furnace Scamp. Stahl attacked for four, taking Pils to 14. Goblin Guide revealed Black Sun's Zenith and Stahl threw his Scamp at Pils' life total, taking him to 11. Pils used his Zenith to clear the board, and Stahl hit him with Lightning Bolt – down to 8.
Stahl played Shrine of Burning Rage, but Pils' Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas easily outshone the artifact, both in style and in function. For example, Pils had no proper answer to Stahl's Shrine, so he transformed it into a 5/5 creature with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and then played Consume the Meek. Shrine of Burning Rage and Stahl's Grim Lavamancer died, and Stahl even forgot to use the Lavamancer's ability off his untapped lands.
From then on, Gerry Stahl did not get any more damage in. Tezzeret provided Pils with Tumble Magnets, Ratchet Bomb and more Everflowing Chalices. Even the Incinerate that Stahl threw at Pils life total was countered. When Pils activated Tezzeret's Ultimate abillity to deal lethal damage after a couple of attacks with Blinkmoth Nexus and Creeping Tar Pit, Stahl scooped up his cards.
Gerry Stahl 0 – 1 Florian Pils
Stahl kicked off in true style this time, doing just what the deck does: Playing Goblin Guide on turn one. Even though he had Inquisition of Kozilek, Pils crucially was on the play and had no way to turn the early beats away yet. The Inquisition revealed Staggershock, Shrine of Burning Rage and Incinerate, so Pils removed the Shrine. But Stahl quickly drew into a second one.
Goblin Guide took Pils to 13 until he found Doomblade to kill it. Two Duress removed the two remaining cards in Stahl's hand, Staggershock and Lightning Bolt, and all he now had was a Shrine of Burning Rage ticking away.
Pils had stabilized, but with just four lands in play was far off from actually winning. Stahl would throw every burn spell at Pils, while charging now two Shrines of Burning Rage. Lighning Bolt brought Pils to 10, giving Stahl 8 counters combined on his two Shrines. Pils played Ratchet Bomb. "Will this do it?" Pils asked himself, as Stahl sacrificed one Shrine for six damage.
Down to 4 life, every burn spell from Stahl would now potentially be lethal, with Shrine of Burning Rage promising to seal the deal either way – over time or with a spell.
Then Stahl tapped three mana and went to play a spell, but he caught himself at the last minute – it was a Manic Vandal! Pils would just have sacrificed his Ratchet Bomb in response to the spell and Stahl would have had to kill his own Shrine. After not playing the Vandal, Stahl simply killed Pils with the Shrine of Burning Rage.
Gerry Stahl 1 – 1 Florian Pils
Stahl was on the draw, but also on the offensive. Goblin Guide, Goblin Guide, Grim Lavamancer – Pils stopped one Goblin Guide with Mana Leak and had Inquisition of Kozilek, but the early momentum favored Stahl. Pils used the Inquisition to get rid of the bloodthirst Berserker, leaving two Dismember and a Manic Vandal in Stahl's hand.
Black Sun's Zenith killed Lavamancer and Goblin Guide, while Pils went to 10 from the Lavamancer's last gift. Stahl wasn't happy with the way the match was going. "This was not the plan, but I need pressure", he said, as he played Manic Vandal without a target in sight.
Pils had a rather better play himself: Everflowing Chalice and, once again, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Stahl decided not to attack the Planeswalker, taking Pils to 8 with the Vandal. Pils' answer was Batterskull, but Stahl quickly Dismembered the token. Ember Hauler from Stahl was met by Mana Leak – with just 7 minutes left on the round clock, both players looked to finish this game quickly. To buy himself more time, Pils used Tezzeret's Ultimate ability for a 12-point life swing, bringing himself to 12 and Stahl to 8.
Stahl now had to consider if to kill Tezzeret or press on against Pils. But he realized that with an active planeswalker, Pils would both have a source of card advantage and a win condition. He could do nothing about Pils' returning Batterskull, though, and a second Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas simply added insult to the injury. Stahl had Dismember to kill the Batterskull token again, paying half his life for Phyrexian mana (going to 4). After that, he had nothing left, looked at his next card, shook his head, extended the hand and buried his Top 8 amibitions.
Gerry Stahl 1 – 2 Florian Pils