Vincent Thibeault made it to second place at last year's Nationals, and is looking to improve on that this weekend. He needs to rattle off two straight wins to do it. His weapon of choice: Esper Control. Standing in his way is Marcel Zafra with the villain of the format, Caw-Blade.
Thibeault mulliganed, and they were off. Zafra led with island and Spell Pierced Inquisition of Kozilek. He played a Squadron Hawk and fetched up three more, a full grip. Thibeault played Seachrome Coast, which prompted a double-take from Zafra. Thibeault laughed. "Why are you making a face?"
Zafra started to build his Hawk army while Thibeault dug with Preordains. With three Hawks on the board, Thibeault went for Black Sun's Zenith for 1. Zafra played Mana Leak, and Thibeault Leaked back to force it through. Zafra played out his last Hawk and a [autocardSword of Feast and ]Famine[/autocard]. Thibeault was unconcerned. He Despised, stealing Sun Titan and seeing a second Sword and a Day of Judgment. He followed up with Oblivion Ring on the Hawk.
Zafra made no play. Thibeault stuck Liliana Vess and forced a discard of Day of Judgment. Zafra freed his Hawk at end of turn with Into the Roil. He untapped, cast a second Sword, suited up his Hawk and bashed in. Thibeault discarded Solemn Simulacrum. Zafra untapped his lands and brought Elspeth Tirel to the table, and with her three soldier tokens.
Thibeault replayed his Oblivion Ring on Elspeth and actived Liliana's Vampiric Tutor ability. He played his last card in hand, a land. Zafra moved to put the game away with Gideon Jura, than untapped his lands with an attack. Tectonic Edge took out a land, and the card Thibeault had tutored for was not enough.
Zafra 1 - Thibeault 0
Thibeault led off With Preordain, binning both. He passed on two lands and allowed Zafra's Squadron Hawk. He Preordained again, this time keeping both. Zafra hit for one and made another Hawk. Thibeault surveyed his options on his fourth turn, eventually putting one of the Hawks in an Oblivion ring. He played a Creeping Tar Pit and passed.
Zafra played a Celestial Colonnade, hit for one, and cast another Hawk. In the face of one untapped mana, Thibeault went for Liliana Vess, and it resolved. He forced a discard of Phantasmal Image from Zafra. Zafra Preordained and played an Oblivion Ring of his own on the Planeswalker.
Six mana for Thibeault could only mean one thing: Grave Titan. That gave Zafra pause. He hit for two in the air and summoned Emeria Angel, but had no sixth land to get a free bird. Thibeault untapped and played Inquisition of Kozilek to see what was up: Deprive, Spell Pierce, Mana Leak, Azure Mage and Squadron Hawk. He got rid of the Deprive, then hit with his Titan. No blocks from Zafra. Thibeault offed a Colonnade with Tectonic Edge.
Zafra plucked Inkmoth Nexus and played it, getting a bird. His hope was to somehow outrace the Titan in the air. He swung for five, leaving Thibeault at nine, then played Azure Mage. Thibeault decided now was a good time to crush Zafra's dreams: Black Sun's Zenith for one. Zafra could only raise his eyebrows in appreciation. Zafra's Nexus chumped the Titan and he fell to ten. He drew Scalding Tarn for a pair of birds, but it was hardly enough. Without an answer to the Grave Titan, the game was Thibeault's.
Zafra 1 - Thibeault 1
Marcel led with Colonnade for the deciding game. He had no Hawk for turn two, and they played draw-go. Thibeault broke the silence on turn four, tapping two for Azure Mage. Zafra played Mana Leak, Thibeault countered back with a Leak of his own, but Zafra had the Spell Pierce to finish it.
Zafra quickly untapped and threw down Elspeth Tirel, making three soldiers. Thibeault had the Oblivion Ring to prevent further Shenanigans. Zafra hit for three, then took out two of Thibeault's lands with Tectonic Edge, leaving him without black mana. He then played another Tectonic Edge and went to use it, realising his mistake immediately: Thibeault now only had three lands in play.
Thibeault untapped and played Jace Beleren, giving them both a card. He found no land. Zafra knocked Jace down to two loyalty and passed with five mana open. Thibeault drew and cast Preordain, keeping both. They both drew off Jace, and Thiebeault played a fourth land. Zafra showed him the fourth Tectonic Edge, and stacked the activations to leave him with just two land in play. His creatures dropped Jace to one loyalty.
Thibeault played swamp, Despite, seeing four land and binning Zafra's Jace Beleren. He cashed in his Jace for a card, and passed the turn. Zafra played his fifth land and hit for three. Thibeault continued to play lands and take three on the chops. Finally he Preordained and kept one, then played Black Sun's Zenith for one. Zafra couldn't throw down the Deprive fast enough.
With Thibeault tapped out, Zafra slammed down Sun Titan. The Titan picked up Jace and gave Zafra a card. He hit for three. Thibeault played his sixth land with a grimace. He Oblivion Ringed the Titan, but had nothing further. Zafra drew for his turn, then with Jace, and finally with Preordain, digging up an Oblivion Ring of his own. He played it with enough left to pay for Mana Leak, and Thibeault's face fell. He drew his next card, then extended the hand.
Marcel Zafra defeats Vincent Thibeault 2-1