Round 14 Feature Match: Chris Benafel vs. Franck Canu

Posted in Event Coverage

By Randy Buehler

How many people can AlphaBetaUnlimited.com possibly put into the Top 8? Ryan Fuller and Phil Freneau had already clinched Top 8 berths before Round 14 even started. Chris Benafel and Lucas Hager were each playing for it in the last round. The ABU red/green deck has an absurdly good 31-5 record on Day 2. 31-5! Basically, those guys broke this format.

Surprisingly, this is only the second time Chris Benafel has made Day 2 of a Pro Tour. He broke out with a 2nd place finish at PT LA 2000, but all his many successes since then have been at either US Nationals or assorted Grand Prixs. Franck Canu, like Benafel, finished second at his Nationals last year (French Nationals). He's also known for winning the first Masters Gateway, in New York last fall.

Benafel seemed nervous about this matchup - Canu is running a black/blue/white control deck nicknamed "Go-mar" which matches up pretty well against Benafel's red/green beatdown deck. Benafel was feeling a lot better, though, when he won the right to go first and Canu had to mulligan twice. That advantage disappeared rapidly when he failed to draw his third land until his fifth turn. By then Canu was playing Fact or Fiction and recovering nicely form his mulligans. Williams split it (Swamp, Plains, Rout) or (Opt, Fact or Fiction). Canu took the card drawers, declining the Wrath. Benafel just kept attacking with his Mongoose, hoping it plus some burn could go the distance. When Benafel pointed a Ghitu Fire for 1 at Canu's head just to knock him down to 8 Canu was intimidated enough to use "gain 5 life" mode of Crosis's Charm, putting himself at 13 before he tapped out for Dromar. Chris begged his deck to deliver up some land - his hand included a pair of Thornscape Familiars along with second Rage and a second Fire. Benafel's deck eventually cooperated and a Fire for 3 while Canu was tapped out left the Frenchman at 3 while Benafel had the uncounterable Urza's Rage in his hand. A second Dromar's Charm gave Canu 5 more life and that was all he needed to be able to win with Dromar.

While sideboarding for game 2, Benafel asked his teammate Ryan Fuller is he (Benafel) could borrow Ryan's hat. Fuller and his hat had just finished off the first ever 14-0 Pro Tour and Chris needed all the help he could get. Benafel came out fast with Thornscape Familiar and Raging Kavu on the attack while Canu was still just playing comes into play tapped land. Canu killed the Rager with Dromar's Charm, but Benafel just reloaded with a second familiar and a Blurred Mongoose. A pair of Urza's Rages denied Canu even the opportunity to try to stabilize the board and they were on to game 3.

Benafel was on 30 points coming into this round with pretty good tiebreakers so he actually probably only needed a draw to make Top 8. Canu had 29 points and definitely needed a win so there was quite a bit of tension in the final game with Canu encouraging Benafel to play quickly, but Benafel had no real incentive to do so. Benafel took his time sideboarding, shuffling, and mulliganing, but the multiple judges that were present felt his pace was reasonable. Canu wasn't helped by the eight minutes they spent at the beginning of the match negotiating a prize split.

Canu unveiled some nice sideboard technology when he played turn 3 Riptide Crab. At 1/3, it blocks and kills 8 of Benafel's creatures, trades with 4 others, and bounces with the Battlemages too. Benafel's Raging Kavu just sat and watched while the crab (which doesn't tap to attack) zipped in for a point a turn. Canu played Fact or Fiction and it was a doozy: (Opt, Spite/Malice) or (Galina's Knight, Repulse, Absorb). Canu took the pile of three. The bad news for Canu was that all he really wanted was land. He wound up discarding a spare Fact or Fiction on his next turn while he sat there with just 4 lands in play. Benafel was able to get a Skizzek (with kicker) into play when Canu tapped half his lands for Galina's Knight and then time expired. Chris had actually played quite quickly once the game started. Benafel also claimed that he knew he was probably going to lose this game and he would concede it to Canu if he (Benafel) knew a draw would eliminate him from the Top 8. However, Benafel wasn't sure so he wasn't going to concede. The players spent a long time staring at each other hoping the other guy would concede. They agreed before the match that the winner would give the loser 20% of his prize money for the tournament and Benafel seemed very tempted to concede, but in the end Benafel preferred to roll the dice with his tiebreakers.

Final Result: Benafel 1 - Canu 1

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