Semifinal – Hugo Araiza vs. Marcelino Freeman

Posted in Event Coverage on February 15, 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.

Both Hugo Araiza and Marcelino Freeman, despite being on opposite ends of the table, cobbled together some interesting decks due to the results of the draft. While Araiza's green-red deck had some powerful mid-game cards and some unlikely spells (Boulderfall, anyone?), Freeman's red-white deck had some aggressive early plays as well as a touch of green to cast Polis Crusher and Xenagos, the Reveler. Oh, and that's not including the fact that Freeman also has on-color threats like Ember Swallower.

The Games

Priest of Iroas began its beats for Araiza on the first turn, with Arena Athlete from Freeman not being a very effective blocker. Araiza however had nothing but Mountains, while Freeman had both of his colors, along with a third-turn Burnished Hart. Araiza found Forests eventually however, both his plays while sputtering on colors left him behind to Freeman's Borderland Minotaur and other creatures.

And when Araiza finally had access to lots of green, plays like Setessan Starbreaker were not going to get him back in the game. Savage Surge during a block from Araiza was met with Battlewise Valor from Freeman, maintaining his lead. Araiza struggled to get back into the game, with Nylea's Disciple padding the damage he had been taking, getting back up to 13 life.

Portent of Betrayal on Nylea's Disciple kept the pressure up, and a Titan's Strength on one of Freeman's unblocked creatures left Araiza at 1, but with more creatures than Freeman at the end of his turn. And with that, Araiza was hanging on by a thread.

Marcelino Freeman

Which, after a slurry of trick-packed turns and some blocks, led to a sick play you don't normally see in Booster Draft: Boulderfall while Satyr Firedancer was in play. Dome you, kill your creatures. Yes, that happened.

With Freeman's diminishing board now squandered, he succumbed to Araiza's follow-ups to that big turn.

Freeman opened the second game with Oreskos Sun Guide into Burnished Hart, while Araiza matched second and third turn plays with Satyr Hedonist and Agent of Horizons. However, Freeman threatened to go way over the top on Araiza when his fourth land was the Mountain needed for him to cast Anax and Cymede. Araiza had an answer, but it wasn't a pretty one, as Time to Feed let him trade his Agent of Horizons for the powerful legendary.

Freeman had no follow-up on the next turn, passing with four mana open. When Araiza sent in his Hedonist, it was blocked by the Burnished Hart, which netted Freeman a Forest and a Mountain. Staunch-Hearted Warrior came down next and he passed back to Freeman, who unloaded with a monstrous threat: Ember Swallower. The Oreskos Sun Guide traded with the Staunch-Hearted Warrior when it attacked in, and Freeman passed back. Araiza only had Nylea's Presence, digging a card deeper, as well as Anvilwrought Raptor. He passed back, bracing for impact from the Swallower.

However, when no blocks came from Araiza, Freeman elected not to make his creature monstrous. He instead added Arena Athlete to his board and passed back to Araiza, who promptly played a land and passed back with all seven lands untapped. Smelling something big looming, Freeman attacked with just his Ember Swallower before playing another Arena Athlete. Araiza again had another land and passed back.

Hugo Araiza

Fall of the Hammer on the Raptor forced a Savage Surge from Araiza, but nonetheless allowed him to use his Arena Athlete to keep the Hedonist from blocking the Swallower. The 4/5 creature dropped Araiza to 9, and Polis Crusher got a chuckle out of Araiza, who picked up and read the card.

One draw step later, and with a smile, Araiza picked up his cards for a third game.

The Priest of Iroas came down on the first turn for Araiza, allowed him to beat for 1. However, it was not quite matched with Voyaging Satyr. Freeman, however, could not black the Satyr fast enough with his second-turn Arena Athlete when it attacked in with the Priest of Iroas. Agent of Horizons replaced it, and that was promptly blocked by Freeman's third-turn Oreskos Sun Guide.

However, the creatures quickly changed in sizes when Araiza's Labyrinth Champion was out-matched by Ember Swallower. The 4/5 attacked in on the next turn and was joined by Borderland Minotaur, but Araiza quickly won the biggest creature contest with Nessian Wilds Ravager, which quickly became a 12/12 when Araiza gestured at the Ember Swallower, hoping for a fight. Tributes could not be paid fast enough.

While Leonin Snarecaster let him get around the 12/12 for a turn, dropping Araiza even lower with attacks after a chump-block from the Priest of Iroas, he did not have a permanent answer to the massive hydra. The Labyrinth Champion picked up Epiphany Storm, allowing Araiza to dig as well. The Snarecaster was offered up as fodder when it attacked in on the next turn, and quickly it became clear that Freeman would only win if he could out-race the hydra before he ran out of creatures to block with. He attacked in, then dropped Polis Crusher and Everflame Eidolon onto the table before passing back. Forced to hold the hydra back, he passed with both it and the Labyrinth Champion untapped.

Xenagos, the Reveler made things even worse for Araiza, as Freeman was quickly pulling ahead to a point where not even a 12/12 could end things. Lightning Strike disposed of the planeswalker, but Freeman was not done, drawing and casting Wingsteed Rider to give him an evasive way to end the game. After thinking about it for a while, Araiza passed back, and the Wingsteed Rider sent Araiza to 6. Meanwhile, Araiza continued to filter through his deck with his Labyrinth Champion courtesy of Epiphany Storm.

When Araiza activated at the end of this turn though, Freeman responded by making his Ember Swallower monstrous. It left Araiza tied down on lands, but it did not stop him from finding Time to Feed for the monstrous creature, bringing Araiza back up to 9. Freeman thought about it for a while, and ultimately decided to send in his team: Polis Crusher, Borderland Minotaur, Everflame Eidolon, the 2/2 satyr token, and the Wingsteed Rider. Araiza fell to 2 after chump blocking with his Labyrinth Champion and 'haumph'ing the attacking Polis Crusher with the Ravager.

When Araiza found nothing waiting on top, he extended the hand to Freeman, who would go on to the finals as the last remaining player from Mexico.

Araiza 1 – Freeman 2

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