Semifinal - Jamie Hannah vs. Daniel Royde

Posted in Event Coverage on August 21, 2011

By David Sutcliffe

The Semi-Final brought together two unbeaten records – two immovable objects going head-to-head. Daniel Royde's standard record with his stomping Eldrazi Green deck is 8-0-1, while the young student Jamie Hannah has piloted his Caw-Blade deck to a 6-0-3 record, picking up three draws along the way. Both players had also sailed through their respective Quarter-Final matches 3-0, but something had to give. The GP London Champion looked calm and relaxed, handing around his oversized Elton John sunglasses at the start of the round, but if Jamie Hannah was phased at all by the occasion he didn't show it.

"I haven't seen any Eldrazi Green around for ages", remarked Hannah, as the players chatted while shuffling up, "I haven't really ever played against it. Have you been playtesting this matchup much?"

"Caw-Blade? Yeah – it's the point of the deck!" smiled Royde, "although your list is a little weird."

Game One

Emeria Angel

With the pre-game show out of the way, the dice was rolled and we were underway, although things went immediately wrong for Jamie Hannah – losing the dice roll and having to mulligan. Daniel Royde began to ramp up his green mana with an Overgrown Battlement, which Hannah immediately spent four life to Dismember. Royde replaced the Battlement with a Joraga Treespeaker, but his Elf was dealt with just as brutally by a second Dismember.

Garruk Wildspeaker was the next play from Royde, but the Planeswalker was denied by a Mana Leak, with Hannah continuing to disrupt Royde's mana – destroying an Eldrazi Temple with Tectonic Edge. Four turns played, and neither player had anything in play other than land, Hannah having managed to fend off Royde's advances so far.

It was time for Hannah to press the advantage, and he summoned an Emeria Angel to the battlefield, and pulling up a Bird token when he played an Arid Mesa, and a second Bird as the Mesa searched up a Plains. Across the table, things seemed to have stalled for the Eldrazi deck, with Royde missing a pair two land drops, although he managed to deploy an Overgrown Battlement.

Having stalled Royde's early game ramping, Hannah needed to end the game before the Eldrazi deck could get to it's big guns the hard way. Equipping one of his Birds with a Sword of Feast and Famine the young student went onto the offensive, cutting Royde down to 13 life as his Angels and Birds swooped into the red zone (presumably with one of the birds desperately clutching a sword on its beak. Or something. It's probably best not to try and think of the logistics of things like equipping birds with swords). A second Tectonic Edge cut Royde back to four mana, and Hannah passed the turn.

Garruk Wildspeaker was countered by Mana Leak, the Overgrown Battlement was thrown back to hand by Into the Roil, and Daniel Royde was left sampling the unfamiliar taste of defeat.

Jamie Hannah 1 – 0 Daniel Royde

Game Two

Joraga Treespeaker

That had been an exemplar lesson in how to beat Royde's green deck – cut of it's mana, and then after you've done that... cut off it's mana some more. Royde never had five mana available at any point in the game, and Hannah had wasted little time in closing things out once the opening was there. Was that a fluke, or did it signal that Hannah had the right ingredients to end Royde's run to the title? The laughter and chat was gone as the two players sideboarded for the return leg, with Daniel Royde lost in concentration as he planned his comeback.

Royde's comeback began with a Green Sun's Zenith to find a Joraga Treespeaker, although as soon as he dared to level his Elf up to produce mana, Hannah returned it to hand with Into the Roil, before following up with a Mirran Crusader. Royde returned his Joraga Treespeaker to play and began to level it up, then added a Fauna Shaman alongside the Treespeaker. This was more dangerous than the first game – Royde's creatures were sticking around, and even with Protection from Green the Mirran Crusader was nothing like the clock that the Emeria Angel had been in the first game.

Accelerating the clock a little, Hannah put down a Squadron Hawk and a Phantasmal Image that copied the Mirran Crusader. That was fine, but he hadn't been able to disrupt anything that Royde wanted to do in this second game, and was tapped out again... this was moving into the sort of territory where the Eldrazi deck could begin to seize control with it's sheer power. In truth, Royde seemed stunned by the sheer range of options available to him – with Fauna Shaman and seven mana available he could do a lot, but after taking a brief dip in the tank the GP Champ emerged and played a Green Sun's Zenith, searching out a Primeval Titan and two Eldrazi Temples.

Things were heading rapidly downhill for Jamie Hannah, and by his body language it was clear that Hannah knew it – he sent his pair of unblockable Mirran Crusaders across the table, reducing Royde to 8 life, and smashed one of Royde's Temples with a Tectonic Edge, but had to pass the turn and hope things didn't go too badly wrong too quickly - his pair of Double Striking Crusaders would end the game next turn so long as Royde couldn't find a colorless blocker!

The Primeval Titan struck back, searching out the last two Eldrazi Temples. That was a start but it was really a sideshow to the main event. Needing to find a colorless blocker, Daniel Royde pitched a creature to his Fauna Shaman and summoned forth an Artisan of Kozilek! The Artisan would serve as a blocker but was countered by Mana Leak.

Royde was tapped out, with no colorless blockers. But he wasn't done. The Artisan being countered meant that the GP Champ could play his Summoning Trap for free. In fact, he could play BOTH of his Summoning Traps for free! It was a critical moment as Royde flipped through the top fourteen cards of his deck, looking for one of his immense Eldrazi.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

The first trap delivered only an Overgrown Battlement, but the second Trap hit paydirt, and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre entered play.

Things were getting tight. Hannah attacked with his Mirran Crusaders – one fell under the hooves/claws/tentacles/fangs of Ulamog but the other got through, reducing Royde to a flimsy fourth life. Tapped out, Hannah summoned down a pair of Squadron Hawks and braced for the worst.

It was Royde who had the options, and Royde on the brink of victory or defeat – the GP Champ went back to the tank for a long while, working out what he could afford to attack with. After a long period of indecision, the answer was that he could only send over the Primeval Titan. That knocked Hannah down to 6 life, and near death himself, and crucially Royde now had his Mystifying Maze in play, which could ensure Hannah's remaining Mirran Crusader was nullified. Royde passed the turn back to his opponent.

Holding back the Mirran Crusader on defense, Hannah sent his Squadron Hawks across the table, reducing Royde to 2 lie, but that was his last act. Daniel Royde searched up Emrakul, the Aeons's Torn at the end of the CawBlade player's turn, and Hannah was crushed.

Jamie Hannah 1 – 1 Daniel Royde

Game Three

"When you only saw the Battlement of the Summoning Trap, I thought I had you", Hannah offered, as the two players shuffled up.

"Yeah, the second Trap was really important", Royde replied, "although to be honest if I'd looked at the top fourteen cards of my deck and not found something good then I'd have been pretty upset!"

A double mulligan for Daniel Royde was a terrible start for the GP Champ in the third game – the Eldrazi deck relies on having acceleration AND cards to accelerate to, but with only five cards in hand the chances of having both those things we a lot more slim. A Joraga Treespeaker suggested that Royde had at least one of these things, and the Elf survived being levelled up while Hannah deployed his lethal Mirran Crusader.

Green Sun's Zenith

A Green Sun's Zenith searched up a second Joraga Treespeaker and Royde continued to ramp up his mana. Hannah sent his Crusader across the table, Scryed into his future with Preordain, but then passed the turn – content to hold countermagic for whatever Royde could serve up. Given Royde's mulligan to five cards, his deck had exploded and now had eight mana available on his fourth turn – just as importantly he also had a Mystifying Maze and was now well-prepared for the threat of Hannah's Mirran Crusader. For his part, Hannah had a full grip of seven cards but with the Mystifying Maze confusing his Crusader, he needed pressure. That meant it was time to summon his flying Monkeys. Sorry, I meant his Squadron Hawks, and the first of the deadly birds entered the battlefield.

On Hannah next attack, Royde allowed the Crusader past his Maze and took 5 damage, dropping to 11 life. That clearly signalled the Eldrazi player's next play – a Summoning Trap with three mana untapped. Hannah aimed a Spell Pierce at the Summoning Trap and that caused Royde to pause and think. Hannah now had two lands untapped – Mana Leak money, in effect – and Royde could pay for the Spell Pierce by tapping a Tectonic Edge, or he could let the Summoning Trap get countered, Edge Hannah's remaining blue land, and play a card from his hand with impunity. Choosing to force Hannah to play his cards, Royde paid the 2 for the Spell Pierce, but Hannah followed up with a second Spell Pierce, countering the Summoning Trap.

That was Hannah tapped out, and it was a question of what Royde could bring to the battlefield now that the way was clear. The answer was 'something pretty great': Karn Liberated. The great Golem Planeswalker exiled Hannah's Mirran Crusader. Hannah moved into beatdown mode as best he could, but his Celestial Colonnade was destroyed by Tectonic Edge and a pair of Squadron Hawks could only dent Karn's loyalty, dropping him to 1 counter. Hannah had to race the Planeswalker's loyalty and he played an Emeria Angel, summoning a Bird token by leaving himself tapped out yet again.

Royde's turn, and the GP Champ began by ripping a Mana Leak from Hannah's hand with Karn then playing the final card in his hand – Green Sun's Zenith, searching out a Stingerfling Spider to destroy Hannah's Emeria Angel.

"Spider's pretty cool!" Hannah exclaimed, reaching over to read the unexpected sideboard entry to Royde's deck.

Karn Liberated

Royde was out of cards, but his defences now seemed pretty solid and he could rely on Karn Liberated gradually battling up his Loyalty. Hannah needed pressure, and he emptied his own hand – Jace Beleren and a pair of Squadron Hawks, before sending his flock of birds against Karn, knocking the Golem back to 4 loyalty.

Both players were all out of cards in hand – everything was in play. Hannah had Jace and four 1/1 Birds, while Royde had Karn, the Stingerfling Spider, and a pair of Joraga Treespeakers. From a double-mulligan the GP Champ had fought his way back to parity, and was perhaps even slightly ahead!

Royde sent his Joraga Treespeakers across the table, evicting Jace Beleren with their attack, and then summoned down a Primeval Titan, finding the Eye of Ugin and a Tectonic Edge. That had been a powerful turn, and Hannah couldn't match it – his flock of Hawks could only keep Karn steady on Loyalty, and he had nothing to match the power of the Primeval Titan. The force was with Royde now, and Hannah took another turn, drew a card, looked at his life total, looked at the board, and picked up his permanents.

Jamie Hannah 1 – 2 Daniel Royde

Game Four

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The secret to beating Royde's deck was clear. Mana. Don't let him have any. Even from a starting hand of five cards, Royde had been able to power back and dominate the game thanks to a pair of Joraga Treespeakers that Hannah had never been able to kill. A game away from leaving the tournament could Jamie Hannah repeat the first game, or was he doomed to be just another sacrifice to the Eldrazi gods?

It was Hannah's turn to mulligan in what could prove to be the final game, while Royde seemed to have landed in mana heaven, and by the third turn he had a Joraga Treespeaker and THREE Overgrown Battlements in play! This would surely only go one way...

Turn four: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Jamie Hannah 1 – 3 Daniel Royde

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