While my coverage co-conspirator was watching Jonathan Randle's picks during the draft, he couldn't help but keep a weather eye on the other players in the top draft pod, and he gave me a hot tip for my feature match choice in the next round.
"Matthew Johnson", he told me, "has almost certainly got the best deck in the top pod. He's got a crazy red deck with the bloodthirst black, with all the good red cards. He should easily 3-0 the pod."
Sold. A draft that's good enough for Rich is good enough for me.
Unfortunately for Matthew the luck of the draw was not with him in the same way the luck of the draft had been, and in the first game he had to mulligan twice before finding a hand he could keep. For his opponent, the excitable Mark Aylett, that was a good sign:
"I'm winning", Aylett cried, before doing his best to mount an offensive with a Reassembling Skeletonand Devouring Swarm, following that with an Island and Aven Fleetwing, before playing a Divination to pull even further ahead on cards in hand.
While Aylett was enjoying the fruits of his massive card advantage it was left to Matthew Johnson to mount the best defense he could from his limited resources. A Child of Night, was his first offered before a pair of Chandra's Outrage incinerated Aylett's Devouring Swarm, and the Warped Ghoul that replaced it. But with has back to the ropes already, Johnson's draw had given him little option but to reveal his trump card as soon as possible – a Flameblast Dragon.
The Dragon was easily the biggest thing on the table, but it wasn't on the table for long. An Unsummon sent the scaly threat back to Johnson's hand, and when it returned Aylett was waiting with a Consume Spirit.
Johnson was reduced to trading with Aylett's allies tit-for-tat, but the sheer weight of numbers was dragging down his lifetotal. A second Child of Night gained a Dark Favor, and the lifelink did much to repair Johnson's damaged health but he remained on the back foot, vainly holding off Aylett's Coral Merfolk and Aether Adept with Vampire Outcasts and a Tormented Soul.
It was a struggle for survival but Johnson remained outgunned and it seemed inevitable that something would finally arrive that couldn't be solved. That threat finally arrived in the form of a Phantasmal Dragon, and Johnson was put out of his misery.
Mark Aylett 1 - 0 Matthew Johnson
Starting with a full grip of seven cards seemed to give Matthew Johnson a better chance in the second game, and the Chandra's Phoenix he revealed on the third turn clearly outclassed Aylett's Reassembling Skeleton. Aylett aimed a Distress at his opponent, stripping away a Shock to leave Johnson with a Goblin Chieftain and Goblin Grenade in hand.
"Why did I attack before I played Distress!" cried Aylett, looking at his tapped Reassembling Skeleton when Johnson played the hasty Goblin Chieftain, but the reason for having left the Chieftain there soon became evidence – Aylett played his 5/5 Phantasmal Dragon, which would have been fodder to the Shock. The Dragon stood firm in the way of Johnson's red men and the assault was stopped, at least for a turn.
Indeed, it was only a single turn, as it turned out – an Act of Treason sent the Phantasmal Dragon to the graveyard and let Johnson's pair of 2/2 creatures in for another attack, dropping Aylett to 10. But that turn had been enough, and Aylett revealed his own trump rare – Sorin Markhov, the vampiric Planeswalker. Markov immediately made his mark on the battlefield, draining the Goblin Chieftain dry, before following up by devouring the Chandra's Phoenix on the next turn.
The game had turned on that play. From a beatdown position, Matthew Johnson watched his army get eaten up by Aylett's Planeswalker ally. His one 'out' to dying a slow and painful death at the hands of Sorin Markhov was to risk a quick and brutal one, and Johnson played his Flameblast Dragon. The question was: would Mark Aylett notice that he could take control of Johnson's next turn with Sorin Markhov's ultimate ability, and win the game?
Yes, he would.
Taking control of Johnson's next turn Aylett made the unusual play of directing the Flameblast Dragonto attack himself, but that was purely to allow him to play the Flameblast's ability to deal lethal damage back to its rightful owner. Crispy.
With his trump card trumped, it was game over for Matthew Johnson.
Mark Aylett 2 - 0 Matthew Johnson
And that's the last time I let Richard 'jinx' Hagon tell me who has the best deck.