by Mark Wraith
Both of these teams were already in a position where they needed to win every match, even a draw would probably have eliminated them from contention for the top four, although they could still win some money. There is plenty of good-natured bantering before them matches began.
The pairings were -
Justin Gary (W/B) versus Noah Boeken (W/U)
Dave Williams (UBw) versus Chris Benafel (BG)
Bob Maher (RW) versus Ryan Fuller (RG)
The Justin Gary versus Noah Boeken match got off to a very slow start. The first spell that was cast by either player was a Chilling Apparition for Justin on turn four. This start belied the pace which the game took in the next few turns. Noah made a Stormwatch Eagle, a Rishadan Footpad, and a Cho-Arrim Legate, and started to trade damage with Justin's Fen Stalker enchanted by Mageta's Boon. Unusually, the Fen Stalkers special ability - it is unblockable if you control no untapped lands - proved to be Justin's undoing. He decided to cast another creature, tapping out, and attacked with the Stalker, but Noah had an Excise. This devastated Justin's board position, and when Noah cast a Wandering Eye, he found that Justin had nothing but lands in his hand, while Boeken has plenty of threats. When Noah's Lightbringer removed Justin's only remaining blocker, it was time to move on to the second game.
A strange race arose in game two, with Justin having a Glittering Lion, a Deepwood Ghoul, and a Crossbow Infantry, while Noah had a Rishadan Airship, a Ramosian Lieutenant, a Lightbringer and a Diving Griffin. The Griffin and the Deepwood Ghoul traded blows, but when Noah played a Jolting Merfolk, he could use it to tap the Crossbow Infantry, thus enabling him to serve with the Airship as well. Justin Gary was obviously upset when Noah added a second Jolting Merfolk on the next turn, tapped all of Justin's creatures, and attacked for the game.
Noah Boeken 2 - 0 Justin Gary
Dave Williams and Chris Benafel got off to an even slower start. Both of these players noticed that they have marked land and for some reason it took twenty-two minutes to get some new land.
The early game saw creatures trading, but these early-game plays soon faded into insignificance, as Chris played a Blastoderm and a Vintara Elephant. On the other hand, Dave had a Deepwood Legate which he played for free, and was gaining card advantage with a Heightened Awareness. Dave tried to use a Death Charmer with his Deepwood Legate to kill the Vintara Elephant, but a Maggot Therapy killed the Death Charmer, and a Tiger Claws made the elephant just big enough to destroy the Legate. While the Blastoderm faded away, Dave brought out a Troubled Healer, and a Giant Caterpillar, but by now he was down to only five life. Chris Benafel was obviously overjoyed when Dave tapped all of his mana to cast Soul Strings - returning his two largest creatures - an unusual reaction perhaps, but the reason was displayed on the next turn when Chris was able to take advantage of the fact that Dave had no untapped land to cast Rhystic Syphon for the first game.
Game two was not nearly so interesting as the first, with Chris badly short on mana and Dave casting both a Deepwood Legate and a Nakaya Shade. Between them these two brought Chris down to eight life before he found even a third land. Even with three land, Chris could not cast a blocker, instead using a Maggot Therapy to deal with the Legate. The Nakaya Shade brought him down to four, and not drawing an answer on the next turn, Chris was forced to concede.
Game three was all about a comeback from Dave Williams. He was in all sorts of trouble in the first few turns, as his Swamp got Despoiled, and Chris played a Vintara Elephant, and a Silverglade Elemental. Dave was trying to hold them off with a Seal of Removal and a Troubled Healer, until he could get to eight land and summon his Avatar of Woe. He drew a Darting Merfolk which was almost his only way of surviving for long enough, and he managed to cast it while he was on six life, with a Troubled Healer, while Chris had a Vintara Elephant, a Thresher Beast, a Silverglade Elemental, and a Belbe's Percher. Chris' next attack forced Dave to sacrifice down to three land, because he didn't want to put himself in a position where a Rhystic Syphon would kill him. Chris replaced his Vintara Elephant with another one from his hand, but he suffered a reversal of fortunes when his immediate Rhystic Syphon got Dazed. Chris thought for a long time about this play, but eventually decided to take the risk. With an Avatar of Woe and a Troubled Healer in play, Dave could deal with two of Chris' creatures every turn, and without a single answer to this card in his deck, Chris was rapidly reduced to only land in play. It didn't take long after that for the Avatar of Woe to finish it.
Dave Williams 2 - 1 Chris Benafel
The match therefore came down to the Ryan Fuller - Bob Maher match. Ryan had to mulligan in the first game, never a good thing, but with a hand like Bob had, it was disastrous. Bob played a second turn Pygmy Razorback, and a fourth turn Zarapa the Minotaur. Ryan was already down to twelve by the time he cast a Silkenfist Order, but this barely slowed Bob. The Minotaur was immediately enchanted by a Treetop Bracers, making it unblockable, and when the Order blocked the Razorback, it was enhanced by a Wild Might. This brought Ryan down to six, and unfortunately for him, Bob had yet another Wild Might and a Lunge. 1-0, Maher.
Bob's draw in game two could accurately be described as defensive - perhaps a little too much so. In fact the only spells he cast were two Flowstone Walls and a Vine Trellis. Bob's hand consisted only of creature enhancers and land, not too useful against the Flowstone Thopter which Ryan was flying over with. As Bob did nothing on any of his subsequent turns, the Thopter won the second game.
Bob was forced to mulligan in the final game - and the deciding game of the whole match - and his opening draw did not contain a forest. He did manage to draw one right away, though, and uses it to cast a Vine Trellis, which then summoned a Scoria Cat on turn four. Ryan isn't too worried about this though, as he has the Lawbringer, which can remove Red creatures from the game. An argument developed on the next turn, when Ryan blocked the Cat with his Lawbringer, and then didn't tap it clearly before putting it in the graveyard. Bob argues that Ryan did not use his creatures special ability, but a judge rules that what Ryan did is an accepted shortcut - although he did receive a warning for misrepresentation. With nothing on the table, it was Ryan who had the better cards in hand, casting a Lithophage and a Lightning Hounds. The Lithophage was fantastic against Bob's deck, as he had no way of removing it. With only a Treetop Bracered Arc Mage, and a Pygmy Razorback, the fact that Ryan had to sacrifice land was of little import, as Bob was forced to chump-block, he drew nothing on the next turn, and died to the Lithophage.
Ryan Fuller 2 - 1 Bob Maher
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