by Alex Shvartsman
By reading feature matches, you might get an impression that every Grand Prix is filled with Pro Tour champions, Internet writers and other persons of various degrees of notoriety. In fact, these folks comprise no more than 10-20% of the competitors. Most of the people at an average Grand Prix, are PTQ level players and a number of casual players. Of course, out of these rise many of the future Pro Tour stars. Kai Budde and Brian Kibler are just a pair of top-notch players who achieved their first successes on the Grand Prix circuit.
This feature match sees a couple of guys you probably do not know yet in contention for the Top 8. The winner might be able to draw into the Top 8, while the loser could still qualify for Barcelona by winning the next round.
Andrew Diaz-Matos is a poster boy for the Neutral Ground gaming club in New York. Diaz-Matos is a lawyer with a full time job, who never plays constructed - but he loves limited. Although he never had a high tournament finish in the past (his best being top 4 in a PTQ) and he hasn't played any Magic since Grand Prix: Dallas (where he failed to make day 2), Diaz-Matos has learned enough from competing against other Neutral Ground regulars to play at this level, and to deserve to be here.
Brian Hegstad has had some tournament success in the past. He placed 11th at Grand Prix: Dallas, qualifying for an upcoming PTLA. Originally from Boston, Brian has traveled to New Orleans to try and break into the Top 8. Brian had three byes based on his DCI rating. Andrew had no byes at all. Each managed to go 7-0 on day one, an impressive feat in itself. They played each other earlier in the day, at the previous draft table, where Andrew won the match.
This time around Andrew Diaz-Matos is playing a U/B/R deck with some juicy spells like Spinal Embrace, Void and Agonizing Demise. Hegstad is playing a very aggressive green-white deck with a number of pro: black creatures and a ton of tappers.
In the first game Brian opened with Thornscape Apprentice and just kept on playing them. Several turns into the game, he had three Thornscape Apprentices and a Benalish Trapper on the table, holding off Andrew's Shivan Zombie, Kavu Aggressor and Rainbow Crow.
Brian was not happy to see Andrew lay his fifth land and cast Void for 1 - taking out all three Apprentices. A Demise followed, and there were no more tappers to slow down the assault. Brian overdrew on land and the first game ended in about five minutes.
Brian was off to a better start in the second game. He cast a second turn Llanowar Knight. Andrew traded his Sky Weaver for it in combat, commenting that he is quite happy to get rid of a pro: black creature. This probably means he wasn't ecstatic to see Brian cast Quirion Sentinel and another Llanowar Knight on turn 3. Brian cast Armadillo Cloak on his Knight, but Andrew was ready with Lightning Dart, and then a Cursed Flesh for the Sentinel. Brian summoned a Might Weaver and it raced against Andrew's Tower Drake for a little while. Andrew summoned a few more guys and used Scorching Lava to remove a tapper Brian drew. He got control of the board and Brian failed to draw the cards he needed to stabilize the game.
Final Result: Andrew Diaz-Matos 2 - Brian Hegstad 0