At the beginning of day two, the top table in Great Britain Nationals was host to a suitably even match – Mark Aylett and Lee Purslow were the only two undefeated players in the room, with Aylett racking up a straight 7-0 record, while Purslow had conspired to draw one of his Standard rounds. Evenly matched on records, the two players had even more in common – for both players this was their first time attending the National championships, and both were in understandably good spirits about how things were going.
"Oh you're too pro for me – playmat, sleeves, dice, deckbox", joked Mark Aylett, as the two players took their seats.
"Loving the no sleeves", Lee Purlslow replied, pointing at Aylett's back-to-basics deck, "hard to shuffle?"
"Haha, I don't care – there's nothing good in it to damage!"
"That's what I like to hear", grinned Purslow.
Gideon's Lawkeeper and a Griffin Rider made for a potentially aggressive start from Lee Purslow. and the Griffin Rider became a real problem when it was joined by a Griffin Sentinel. Aylett turned to a Coral Merfolk to hold back the Lawkeeper, and then an Æther Adept returned the Griffin Rider to hand, although it soon returned.
It seemed as though Mark Aylett had attempted to recreate his U/B control deck that went 3-0 yesterday and he was playing a lot of the same cards – a Divination drew him deeper into his deck, and an Æther Adept continued to pin Purslow's offence back. Yesterday all this bounce and removal had served to get Aylett to his deadly Planeswalker, Sorin Markhov – did he have a similar game-ender today?
If he did, it seemed Aylett needed to find it soon, as Purslow was threatening to overwhelm the board, deploying an Armored Warhose and some Timeley Reinforcements, although a Doom Blade struck down his Serra Angel as soon as she appeared, and then a Consume Spirit destroyed the troublesome Gideon's Lawkeeper. Despite Aylett's spot removal, Purslow's army continued to grow.
The game was something of a stalemate - both players had plenty in play, but everything was rooted to the ground – it was all Æther Adepts and 1/1 Soldier tokens – and neither could really attack. It was Aylett that blinked first, sending his men across the table. Purslow blocked and the creatures traded, clearing the board a little, and that signalled time for Aylett to reveal his rare – a Bloodlord of Vaasgoth that arrived as a 6/6 flyer.
Purslow didn't blink – an immediate Pacifism dealt with the Bloodlord, and then he deployed a secondSerra Angel.
"Nice deck!" exclaimed Aylett
The writing was on the wall – Mark Aylett drew a card, looked at the Serra Angel across the table, and conceded the game.
Mark Aylett 0 – 1 Lee Purslow
The second game began more positively for Mark Aylett, with the only pressure from Lee Purslow coming from a lonely Benalish Veteran, while Aylett made himself busy filtering through the silt of his deck with a Merfolk Looter, deploying a Warped Ghoul to begin the beatdown. The fifth turn brought a Serra Angel down from Purslow's hand, and then a second Angel joined in on the next turn.
Two Serra Angels made for a fearsome force, but Mark Aylett had seen worse and was still able to attack – an Æther Adept bought a turn, and then a second Æther Adept bought another turn and the two players traded blows until eventually Aylett's Merfolk Looter finding a Doom Blade and offering a permanent solution to one of the Angels.
From a position that must have seemed like a win, sat behind his pair of Angels, Lee Purslow was now staring down a horrible death, with no less than five creatures across the table, and his last remaining Serra Angel back in hand. Sure, Aylett's creatures were all 2/2 guys – Æther Adepts and Phantasmal Bears – but between them it added up to a lethal attack. Aylett had only have one thing to say as he passed the turn:
"Please don't Wrath!"
A Day of Judgment seemed Lee Purslow's only answer to this. He didn't have it – going down with his head held high by firing out a couple of Pacifisms before scooping up his cards.
Mark Aylett 1 – 1 Lee Purslow
"Serra Angel, Serra Angel... how am I supposed to beat that?" asked Aylett, despite having just proven he knew exactly how to beat it.
"Looter was key there", replied Purslow, hitting the nail squarely on the head – the humble Merfolk Looter has been winning games of Magic for many, many years.
"I don't want to lose with this deck", Aylett continued, as they prepared for a deciding game "this deck's pretty sweet. Your deck's sweet too though, you have like infinite Pacifisms and Serra Angels!"
Lee Purslow grinned, but as the final game began in a familiar fashion he let out a cry:
"Ah! The bane!" - the Merfolk Looter had returned.
Despite the Looter, Mark Aylett had problems – he missed his third land drop, and then had to dig deep to find a third land on the fourth turn. This was a great opportunity for Purslow, but once again it seemed as though his white deck was struggling to make headway – his beatdown came in the form of a pair of Griffin Sentinels, which were hardly going to end things quickly. Having found his third land, Aylett and played the inevitable Æther Adept to buy yet more time.
And time was needed, because the fifth turn brought yet another missed land drop, and it seemed like Aylett was falling further and further behind despite his best looting action – being forced to discard his hot red splash of Incinerates in search of Swamps and Islands. Aylett was being outgunned, even moreso once Purslow had summoned his Serra Angel to the table.
After giving Aylett a turn to find his Doom Blade, Purslow decided he wanted to win the game quickly and handed his Angel a Spirit Mantle. Not only was the Angel now a 5/5, but it now had Protection from Creatures, and immunity from an Æther Adept's unsummon! The race was now on – could Purslow get his Serra Angel across the table four times before Aylett's Merfolk Looter could dredge up a Doom Blade?
Untap, loot for Doom Blade, make Coral Merfolk. Aylett passed the turn.
BASH! And then Purslow added even more pressure by adding his second Serra Angel, shortening Aylett's life by a potentially crucial turn..
Untap, loot for Doom Blade, Consume Spirit you for 2, play a Phantasmal Bear. Aylett passed the turn again.
BASH! BASH! the pair of Serra Angels swooped down on Mark Aylett, but those two critical life points gained from the Consume Spirit handed Aylett a lifeline, and he dropped to just 1 life and would get another turn.
It was going to the wire. On 1 life, Aylett had 7 damage of creatures on the board with Purslow on 14 life. In no way did that seem like a position Aylett could win from, but the confident body language streaming out of Mark Aylett made Purslow pause. Aylett didn't look like a man about to lose. What cards could Aylett possibly have that would allow his to steal a win? Not wanting to take any chances he dropped a Pacifism onto Aylett's Æther Adept and passed the turn.
Aylett drew his card, Looted a second card, returned one of the two Serra Angels to Purslow's hand with yet another Æther Adept, and attacked as hard as he could... then conceded defeat in a hard-fought match.
Mark Aylett 1 – 2 Lee Purslow
"I was worried about the Bloodlord", Lee told me after the match, "I wasn't sure if it had LIfelink or not, and it if did then I had to keep the Pacifism in hand for it. But when a judge confirmed it didn't have lifelink I felt I was safe playing my Pacifism out, just to be on the safe side"
"I was just digging for my point removal – Æther Adept, Unsummon, Doom Blade", Mark added, "I needed to find two of them, but only got the Æther Adept".
It was an epic duel, and Lee Purslow deservedly advanced as the last undefeated player in Great Britain Nationals 2011!