Semifinal – (13) Tom Martell vs. Eric Pei

Posted in Event Coverage on January 19, 2014

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

No. 13 Ranked Player and Pro Tour Gatecrash Champion Tom Martell has added his fifth Grand Prix Top 8 appearance to his Magic record with this weekend's finish here in Sacramento. His opponent, Eric Pei from San Francisco, has also put up an impressive finish this weekend, earning him his first Grand Prix Top 8.

The Decks

Martell's black-white deck has multiple modes of attacking its opponent. From its aggressive early heroic creatures to its card advantage and Scholar of Athreos, Martell has the ability to win at any point of the game, giving his deck a lot of flexibility.

Pei's blue-white heroic deck is capable of both as well. While his early game features solid heroic creatures, his late game is capable of locking down most attacks until a timely Sea God's Revenge can clear the path to victory.

The Games

Pei was first onto the board with Battlewise Hoplite, which was met with Martell's own heoric creature, the devastatingly powerful Phalanx Leader. Pei had Chosen by Heliod for his Hoplite, and it attacked in for 3. The Leader was sent in for 1 from Martell and was joined by Lagonna-Band Elder post-combat. Pei, however, had back-to-back Coastline Chimeras to hold down the fort as well. It was joined by a third one on the next turn. "That's a lot of Coastlines," Martell remarked.

Eric Pei

Martell had Scholar of Athreos and Traveling Philosopher to join his ground force, and while the Chimeras did a great job of blocking, they weren't a very substantial clock, especially when Martell had access to the Scholar's drain effect. Sip of Hemlock from Martell took out Pei's freshly cast Setessan Griffin, and on the next turn, Martell grew his army. Favored Hoplite came down, and then a bestowed Observant Alseid came down onto the Phalanx Leader, growing all five of his creatures.

That being said, he still couldn't make a beneficial attack through Pei's one untapped Coastline Chimera and his smaller non-flying creatures. Pei thought long and hard before his next play. "Heliod's Emissary on who?" Martell asked when Pei went to tap seven mana.

"That's a good question," Pei said, opting to bestow the creature onto his Battlewise Hoplite. The 7/9 attacked in, tapping down the 4/3 Lagonna-Band Elder. Martell froze, debating whether to sacrifice his Phalanx Leader to a triple block in order to take out the enchanted Battlewise Hoplite while Pei was tapped out. He went for it, losing the Traveling Philosopher and his Leader in the skirmish.

The game settled down after that big attack, with neither player able to make any reasonable attacks. Martell found a Heliod's Emissary of his own, which entered the battlefield as a creature on its own, allowing Martell to pass with three open and two cards in hand.

Pei untapped and unleashed a brutal haymaker in this stalemate: Sea God's Revenge. It targeted Heliod's Emissary, Scholar of Athreos, and Lagonna-Band Elder. Martell elected not to drain with his Scholar, as he picked up the three creatures to put them into his hand. "Am I seeing Dauntless Onslaught or am I seeing Battlewise Valor?" Pei wondered out loud. Unbeknownst to him, he was facing either or.

Pei sent in his team, aside from one Coastline Chimera, opting to tap the Favored Hoplite with Heliod's Emissary. The Observant Alseid jumped in front of the Emissary, and Battlewise Valor ensured the Emissary would die while Martell's Alseid would live. When Martell sent in his Hoplite and Alseid, Pei used his Chimera's effect and blocked both creatures. The attackers failed to do any real damage, and Martell followed with Lagonna-Band Elder, gaining 3, and Scholar of Athreos before passing back. Pei sent in his Sable, which Martell promptly blocked with the Alseid to trade. Pei followed with his own Phalanx Leader before passing back with six open.

Martell had Scourgemark for his Favored Hoplite, but still had no good attacks, especially in the face of three untapped Chimeras. However, with Scholar of Athreos giving Martell a cushioned life total, and Gods Willing gave him a plan. Heliod's Emissary was bestowed onto the Favored Hoplite. On the next turn, Dauntless Onslaught and Gods Willing ensured that the the Favored Hoplite could get through Pei's creatures on the next turn for a lethal attack.

No. 13 Ranked Player Tom Martell

Pei came out of the gates of the second game with a speedy start in Battlewise Hoplite and Calvary Pegasus. Martell had a solid retort though with Wingsteed Rider, giving him a way to hold back the Pegasus at the very least. The Hoplite was sent in, and was joined by Pei's own copy of the 2/2 flying creature on the next turn.

Martell then played an Island, an unexpected occurrence given his black-white deck in the first game. He passed with four open, and then used those lands to Griptide Pei's Wingsteed Rider when it attacked in on the next turn. While Pei had a follow-up Coastline Chimera, Martell saw the coast was clear and opted to bestow Observant Alseid on his Wingsteed Rider, attacking in for 5 while Pei was tapped out.

Scourgemark grew his Wingsteed Rider even more on the next turn, and an attack in dropped Pei to 8. Pei passed after playing his sixth land, and was taken back a bit when Martell only cast a Traveling Philosopher on his next turn and passed without any attacks. Martell found Read the Bones on the next turn, which in turn found him Scholar of Athreos. He sent in his large Wingsteed Rider on the next turn, forcing Pei to chump-block with his Pegasus. On the next turn, Pei went for a block with his two Chimeras and Wingsteed Rider, giving his 2/2 flying creature Battlewise Valor. Martell, however, had the Gods Willing, saving his creature and leaving Pei without his own Wingsteed Rider.

With the Wingsteed Rider picking away Pei's flying creatures one by one, and with the Scholar of Athreos slowly draining Pei's life away, the game was locked up by multiple angles. When no miracles were awaiting Pei in the next few turns, he offered the handshake.

Martell 2 – Pei 0

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