Round eleven has come around, here at Great British Nationals 2011, and that signals a return from six rounds of draft to that long-absent format of Standard. William Dunn and Seb Parker had last picked up their standard decks in anger over 24 hours ago, but they had each managed to negotiate their way through the draft and were still alive close to the head of the field. Parker had managed 3-1 with his Standard deck yesterday, while William Dunn's homebrew creation had stunned many by sweeping the rounds 4-0. If either player could repeat that feat today it would seal them a place in the Top 8.
Lotus Cobra and Birds of Paradise accelerated Dunn into Garruk, Primal Hunter on his third turn. Parker had a Mana Leak ready for that, but sacrificing a Misty Rainforest to find an Island meant Dunn could meet the Mana Leak with a Spell Pierce of his own and Garruk entered play, immediately summoning a Beast token to his side. All Parker could manage in his defense was a Squadron Hawk, and then his attempt at a Day of Judgement was countered by Dunn's Mana Leak on the next turn.
"Green/Blue Counterspell Aggro", mused Parker, "Sweet"
Sweet indeed, and Parker was now facing down a trio of angry 3/3 Beast tokens, and watyching his life total rapidly disappear. The next attack would be lethal, and Parker needed an answer – the best he could manage was to Summon Gideon Jura, but at the end of Parker's turn his Planeswalker was destroyed by Beast Within! That at least gave Parker another blocker, which kept him alive a critical extra turn on 1 life, but all Dunn had to do was wait, and he sucked up cards with Garruk's second ability, stocking up on countermagic.
He didn't need it – Parker drew a card, and immediately scooped up his permanents, having been fighting a losing battle ever since Dunn had been able to force Garruk, Primal Hunter into play on the third turn.
William Dunn 1 – 0 Sebastian Parker
"You deck's good! So did you just eat four Caw Blade decks earlier?" asked Parker, obviously feeling like he was in a pretty rough matchup against Dunn's well-constructed homebrew.
"No I didn't meet it actually – I beat some UB control, Pyromancers Ascension and a Tezzeret deck" replied Dunn, "I really like having a deck people don't know, though – it gives them plenty of chances to misplay"
"I played a PTQ last year with a rogue deck", Parker agreed, "and people just didn't have an idea how to play against it".
The second game began in a familiar style, with William Dunn rapidly accelerating his mana with a pair of Birds of Paradise and Lotus Cobra, but this time Sebastian Parker was not going to wait to see what all that mana unleashed, and swept them all away with a Day of Judgement. Turning to Plan B, Dunn dropped a Skinshifter, which Parker replied to with the classic Jace Beleren, although Jace only managed to stick around for a turn before the Skinshifter's 4/4 Rhino form pulverised him.
It was all buying time for Parker, though, and Jace was replaced immediately by Gideon Jura, the white Planeswalker beheading the tapped Skinshifter to prevent befalling the same fate as Jace had done.
It seemed as though the worst had passed – Dunn could only bring down a Tumble Magnet that would pin Gideon Jura back, should he decide to become a 6/6 creature, and he had only two cards in hand. Across the table Parker had virtually a full grip, plenty of lands, and his hefty Planeswalker ally by his side. It was clear who held the advantage, and now it was surely just down to Parker to close the game out.
Squadron Hawk. Squadron Hawk, Squadron Hawk. Gideon Jura wore down the Tumble Magnet, the Hawks screeched overhead, and William Dunn picked up his cards.
William Dunn 1 – 1 Sebastian Parker
"Just saw land there I think – you seemed to get flooded", Seb Parker offered in consolation.
"Yeah, I just saw Birds and land", Dunn agreed.
The deciding game, then, but things didn't start too well for Seb Parker and he had to mulligan away his seven cards, and then his six, before settling on five cards he wanted to play with. Jumping on the possibility that his opponent was going to struggle for lands, Dunn played Birds of Paradise and then used a Beast Within to smash Parker's land. The Beast Within handed Parker a 3/3 Beast and gave the Caw Blade player little option but to move to a beatdown mode, adding a Squadron Hawk while Dunn played out a Lotus Cobra and Skinshifter. The danger was what Dunn would do now that he had his mana sorted out...
"He didn't windmill-slam Garruk at least," offered Parker, waiting for Dunn to make his play "which is something at least".
Windmill slam, no, but Garruk, Primal Hunter entered the battlefield anyway.
"Massive slow-roll!" grinned Parker, realising he was fighting uphill against the deadly green Planeswalker.
The threat from Garruk's beast token put Parker back on the defensive, and he took 7 damage as Dunn's monsters crashed over the board – his flock of Squadron Hawks were flimsy protection from the green horde.
"Why does it have to be +1, why can't it be -1?" Parker joked, pointing at Garruk as another 3/3 beast token spawned in front of him, "gee, thanks Wizards!"
A Hero of Bladehold offered better defense – her toughness meant she could survive an encounter with Garruk's beasts, although the 4/4 Rhino form of the Skinshifter remained a problem. The bigger problem was the Sword of Feast and Famine that William Dunn played next...
"Wow, slow-rolled again..." smiled Parker, taking 6 more damage as the Skinshifter picked up the Sword and hacked him in half. 6 life remaining, and the Skinshifter would do 6.
A 6/6 Skinshifter was also good for Garruk, Primal Hunter, and Dunn cashed in on his Planeswalker to draw six new cards!
From his brand new hand, William Dunn threw down Thrun, the Last Troll, while all Parker could do was summon down the last pair of Squadron Hawks from his hand and adopt the crash position... Dunn swung his Skinshifter with the Sword of Feast and Famine and Parker blocked with a lone Squadron Hawk. Transforming the Skinshifter into a 4/4 Rhino with Trample got the job done, and Parker offered his hand.
William Dunn 2 – 1 Sebastian Parker
"My only hope there was that you'd somehow forget the Skinshifter got Trample," Parker explained as the two collected their cards, "then I could attack you with everything, fog a turn with Gideon Jura, and attack again. As soon as you know you can Trample, I'm done"
William Dunn's homebrew U/G Counter-Garruk deck picks up exactly where he left off yesterday, and his Standard record improves to 5-0! Could l he homebrew his way to the title?