By Mark Wraith
Michael was the original Grand Prix circuit hero. He picked up a massive six top eight finishes in the early years, although he hasn't shown up so much recently he is still a well-known and respected opponent.
Ben Ronaldson is the reigning English National Champion. He hasn't had too much opportunity to show off his skill at the Pro Tour level yet, but he is a member of the powerful Team European Alliance.
Michael goes first in game one and gets a good fast start throwing out an Agent of Shauku and a Sift Crawler, while Ben has a Drake Hatchling by turn three.Damage is swapped for a couple of turns bringing Ben to eleven, Ben playing only an Oraxid. At this point it's looking pretty good for Michael but Ben has a few tricks to show him when the Treetop Bracered Sift Crawler attacks into the untapped Hatchling on turn six. Ben can cast two Mageta's Boons, and pump his Hatchling, to kill the Crawler and leave himself with a sizeable threat.
The game swings again as Ben lays a Shield Dancer and Michael makes a Saproling Burst, and a Highway Robber. The rober trades with a Soul Charmer. Michael makes three 'Hill Giant' sized creatures.When he attacks Ben is forced to consider carefully because of possible tricks involving the Agent of Shauku. The Agent gets through and one token is blocked by each of Drake Hatchling, Oraxid, and Shield Dancer. Michael pumps up the token enough to kill the drake, but after damage is on the stack Ben shows a Ramosian Rally to keep it alive ! This also means that the oraxid survives and the Dancer's ability deals with the third.
From here it's all Ben as he plays a Story Circle, and then draws a Mercenary informer to take care of Michael's recently summoned Pit Raptor. This game took a long time leaving them with only twenty or so minutes for the remaining two games.
Game two starts slowly with Michael laying out a Spidersilk Armour whilst Ben plays a Wanderig Eye revealing a decent enough hand for Michael with good creatures but no Mountain to go with his Seal of Fire, and Ben has a Story Circle and a creature or two.
Ben lays out his Story Circle, choosing black, and Michael lays out a Cateran Brute and a Thresher Beast. The beast only has chance to attack once before it's progress is halted by Ben's growing army of topdecked monsters - over the next three turns he draws and casts Shield Dancer, Drake Hatchling, and Pious Warrior.
The momentum swings as after a few uneventful turns Michael can enchant a Horned Troll with Treetop Bracers. Ben can't block as the Brute has recruited an Agent of Shauku again. Ben draws no real way of dealing with the flying troll, and is soon forced to scoop.
There are only four minutes left for the third game which soon ends in an agreed draw.
Match result - Draw