Semifinals: Alex Borteh vs. Andrea Santin

Posted in Event Coverage

By Sean McKeown

Alex Borteh vs. Andrea Santin

After a win by a hair versus Jan Tomcani, Alex Borteh is choking down the shakes he started to pick up when his match was in trouble, which comes easily enough with his knowledge of his next opponent's deck. Andrea Santin is playing a fairly similar deck, but with fewer creatures overall and a worse selection for the first game, which after his near-loss against Tomcani must be a refreshing change. Andrea started off the match by checking over his deck, finding it to be 59 cards while shuffling, and after that problem was fixed the two players discuss their playtesting then nights before.

Andrea had done a little bit of playtesting of this match, enough to know that Alex has an edge that is definitely prominent in the first game, when he still has cards like Glacial Wall in there, though it should be small enough after sideboarding that the match overall could go either way over five games. However, both were too busy trying out their Top 8 match to really worry about the Top 4, especially considering that they couldn't know for sure who their opponent would be.

After some shuffling, which was a bit unfamiliar with their decks stripped of sleeves, table judge Sheldon Menery replaced a faded Ice Age Glacial Wall in the main deck with a Sixth Edition copy from Andrea's sideboard, an interesting facet of playing without sleeves. Andrea would be playing first and kept his opening hand, and Alex did so as well. Andrea started with an island, as did Alex, and Andrea played a second island and Rootwater Thief. Alex played a second island and Merfolk Looter, and passed the turn to Andrea, who then attacked with the Thief and pulled a card from Alex's deck, refreshing his memory of its contents from playtesting. Andrea purged an Opposition and allowed Alex to go, and he Looted for a new card, discarding a Thwart. Without a third land yet, Alex floated two mana and played Gush, dropping the Lord of Atlantis. The spell entered the Red Zone as Andrea tried to figure out what to do with it, and he let it resolve, to which Alex played his island for the turn and a Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Andrea attacked for two, and then used the Thief again, taking a second Opposition from Alex's deck.

Andrea played Rishadan Port, and used it to tap Alex's island before drawing, so Alex played a second island and a second Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Alex attacked with the Lord and its two friends, dropping Andrea to fourteen life in one attack. Andrea's Thief continued relentlessly, since with islandwalk the Thief had nothing to block anyway, and Andrea played a Glacial Wall to block the Lord rather than Thief Alex. Rishadan Port tapped one of Alex's lands again, and he played a third, then attacked with the three islandwalkers, and played a third Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, which was rather incredible at the moment. Andrea had to let that one in, as well, and after attacking with the Thief and looking through Alex's deck yet again he conceded the first game as a lost cause.

Alex Borteh 1 - Andrea Santin 0

Alex sideboarded for this match, taking out the four Static Orbs and two Darting Merfolk for two Prodigal Sorcerers, a Rushing River, a Misdirection, and two Teferi's Responses. Presumably Andrea had removed his Glacial Walls in this matchup, and Andrea chose to play first for the second game. Alex wished his opponent good luck, and Andrea told him quite frankly "Thank you, I will need it." Andrea kept his second-game hand, and Alex had to consider his one-land draw, and both players played an island, though Alex had Merfolk of the Pearl Trident to go with it. Andrea played a second island and Waterfront Bouncer, while Alex played a second island, then attacked with the Pearl Trident and played a Waterfront Bouncer of his own.

Andrea played a third island and passed the turn, and Alex played a third island and attacked again with the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Andrea didn't block, and Alex played nothing else, seeing Andrea play Repulse on the Waterfront Bouncer at end of turn. Alex used his Waterfront Bouncer, discarding Rushing River, to return the opposing Bouncer to his opponent's hand, then countered the Repulse. Andrea played a fourth island and Opposition, and Alex considered his options, then allowed the spell to resolve. Alex drew a Prodigal Sorcerer and then cast his Lord of Atlantis, which Andrea allowed to resolve, then attacked with the Merfolk of the Pearl, dropping Andrea to sixteen. Andrea played Waterfront Bouncer, which resolved, and then a Merfolk Looter, which saw Alex put a Blue mana in his mana pool, then Thwart the Looter by returning his islands to his hand. The Thwart resolved, and the Merfolk did not, while the Bouncers eliminated each other once again.

Andrea attacked for four damage, then played an island and passed the turn. Andrea played the Bouncer again, and it resolved, only to be bounced once again. Andrea played Repulse on the Bouncer, and Alex untapped, attacking Andrea to eight life. Alex played the Bouncer again, and Andrea thought about his options, and eventually allowed it in despite accidentally revealing that he had a Thwart in hand. Andrea played a Waterfront Bouncer and Static Orb on his next turn, and Alex untapped the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident and an island, then attacked with the Merfolk to reduce Andrea to six life. Alex took some time weighing his options, and decided to play another Merfolk of the Pearl Trident rather than use the Bouncer at this point. Andrea tapped his Static Orb at end of turn, gaining a full untap step, and Andrea then played another Merfolk Looter, commenting on how much 'fun' this match was turning out to be. Andrea passed the turn, and Alex untapped an island and Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, and Alex entered combat, attacking with the Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Andrea decided to use the Bouncer on Lord of Atlantis, discarding Thwart, and thereby taking only two damage, going to four life. Andrea tapped his Static Orb at end of turn, and Alex considered using the Bouncer but decided against it.

Andrea Santin

Andrea played an island on his turn, Alex untapped his Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, and his Waterfront Bouncer was tapped via Opposition. Alex went to his main phase, floated a blue mana, then Gushed, replayed an island and attempted a Lord of Atlantis. The Lord was Thwarted with the alternate cost, and Misdirection was pointed at the Thwart at the expense of a Vodalian Merchant, only to be Foiled itself in turn. Alex had his Waterfront Bouncer bounced, and attacked with the pair of Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, attacking Andrea down to two life. Andrea untapped passively and played nothing, and Alex untapped an island and Merfolk of the Pearl, and the island is tapped, at the cost of Andrea going down to one life from the Merfolk. Alex then played an island and a third Merfolk, Andrea tapped it at end of turn, then untapped and passed the turn, his lock in place but still soft so long as he does not draw the third creature needed to get it really going, with the fourth creature or Rishadan Ports allowing whatever remained untapped already to be locked down as well in due time.

Alex knew this and began to spend his turn by untapping two islands instead, tempting his opponent to walk into Teferi's Response, but confident that he could win the counter war, Andrea bit. Alex played a second untapped island and attempted Waterfront Bouncer, but three Thwarts flew across the table, and the Bouncer went into the bin. Because Alex untapped a land and did not put Andrea under lethal pressure, Andrea got a full untap, though after pitching a Thwart that is not that big of a deal, merely regaining what the paid-for Thwart had cost. Still no third creature on Andrea's side, so he passed the turn, and Alex threatened the kill and forced the taps by untapping two Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Alex played an island and it was Ported by Andrea at end of turn, and Andrea had no play once again.

Alex untapped two lands on his next turn, going to threaten the Response now that he actually had one in his hand. Andrea had to tap the lands, though, floated mana or not, because allowing his opponent to get to two mana during his main phase would allow him to play a creature, and therefore force a response from his side of the board. Andrea had the Foil for Teferi's Response, discarding two islands, and because Alex tapped the second land to Response before forcing Andrea to tap it, he got to tap his Static Orb and earn a full untap phase. Not that he drew a creature or anything, so it didn't do him much good other than to free up Rishadan Port again. Alex got his Merfolk tapped during upkeep, and he played an island and a fourth Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, which at one life might just kill his opponent if left unanswered. It resolved, and Andrea Gushed for a solution on his turn, presumably off the top of his library since he did not do it in response to the Merfolk to search for a potential counterspell. This didn't draw him a creature, however, since after replaying a land he had nothing to do.

With three Merfolk of the Pearl Trident untapped, he threatened the kill, and Andrea tapped two of them via Opposition, then had the Repulse when Alex attacked with the lone 1/1 Merfolk. Alex had another island to immediately press the Pearl Trident kill, and Alex asked the same question: Do you have an answer, or do you die? Andrea didn't have a counter, and on his next turn didn't play a creature, so Alex untapped the Merfolk of the Pearl Tridents, attacked with all three after Andrea allowed him to enter combat unopposed, and his two creatures blocked two of the Merfolk, and Waterfront Bouncer dealt with the third via his bounce ability to buy the extra turns needed to find the real answer. With Andrea having no creatures in play and a tapped Static Orb, Alex's last Merfolk of the Pearl Trident came down once again.

Andrea finally found his third creature, a Stinging Barrier, but Alex had no fear, untapping his second remaining Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, playing a second untapped island, and attacking with the two 1/1 creatures. Andrea asked, "Do you have counterspell backup for this attack?"

In the red zone, Alex asked: "Do I need one?"

Alex Borteh 2 - Andrea Santin 0

Borteh sideboarded differently for the third game, replacing a lone Opposition with his second Misdirection, gearing in for the long game as the second one took forever. Andrea played first and good luck wishes are offered from both sides, keeping the game friendly despite the stakes involved. Andrea thought a while before he kept his initial seven, and Alex is offered his second one-land, drawing-first hand in a row, and just like last time he has the guts to keep the hand. Andrea played an island, and Alex an island and yet another first-turn Merfolk of the Pearl Trident. Andrea played a second island and a Waterfront Bouncer, while Alex attacked with the Merfolk without having drawn his second land. Andrea attacked back, liking his position as he played a Rishadan Port to hold down Alex's lone island. Alex attacked back and discarded, while Andrea attacked and played Merfolk Looter. Alex finally had a second island, and he played it before attacking with the Merfolk, but he didn't have a second 'Jackal Pup' as they had now taken to calling it. Andrea floated two mana, returned two of his four islands to his hand, playing a fresh one after Gush resolved, and played Opposition.

Sure, Alex had two mana available, and yes Andrea had seen Teferi's Response, but as he said... "Like a man. Tap an Island." Alex didn't have any Response, but he did play a third island and Waterfront Bouncer. Andrea let it in and then played Static Orb, putting the lock up again, though unlike last game he is in a much better position, and at an awful lot more life. Bouncers have fun with each other for several turns, with Alex using Gush to evade the lockdown at least in part, since the lock is still soft. Andrea bought himself a full untap, the played Rootwater Thief and Waterfront Bouncer, turning the lock hard, unless Alex is able to resolve a Response to get out of it. Alex and Andrea dance a bit more, and Andrea finally gets the opposing Waterfront Bouncer off of the table, and Andrea's fourth creature will enable him to begin attacking for the very slow kill.

Six turns after the Rootwater Thief turned the lock hard, Andrea played a Stinging Barrier, more or less sealing the deal, and as if that wasn't enough, the Stinging Barrier he drew and played on the next turn earned Alex Borteh's concession of the game.

Alex Borteh 2 - Andrea Santin 0

Game 4 of the match was destined to be interesting, as it would be the first game in which Alex Borteh got to play first. Alex keeps his hand, and unlike the last two games it is not in the least bit sketchy. Andrea's hand is five lands, a Thwart and Counterspell, and drawing first he has to mulligan that hand, since it effectively does nothing. After the mulligan he has a one-land hand and a hope and a prayer, and Alex started the game off with an island, as did Andrea. Alex had a second island and Merfolk Looter, and on his second turn Andrea Santin said "go." Alex used Merfolk Looter to dig for a better hand, discarding Opposition, then playing Vodalian Merchant, discarding a second Merfolk Looter. Andrea discarded again, losing a fairly useless (at this point) Static Orb, and Alex untapped and played Opposition, then Looted, discarding Teferi's Response, if the irony can be respected from Andrea's side of the table. Alex's untapped Merchant is spent holding Andrea down, and continues this game for several turns as the Looter digs for more Merfolk to play to the table and the Merchant held Andrea down.

Alex Borteh

Andrea Santin asks if Alex Borteh would possibly be interested in a money split, and Alex politely declined the split, then allowed Andrea to proceed to his discard step, costing him an excess Opposition. Andrea finally drew a second island, and Alex Looted again losing the third Opposition, playing a fifth island, but continuing to hold Andrea down. Andrea played a Rishadan Port and cast Merfolk Looter, but Alex cruelly Counterspelled the opponent's Merfolk. Alex continued to use Merfolk Looter in hopes of drawing additional creatures, but they are hiding deep in the deck, and Vodalian Merchant begins to attack now that Alex has a hand full of countermagic. Andrea played a third island and a Merfolk Looter, which is again targeted by Counterspell, but Andrea floated two blue mana and pitched Thwart, resolving the Looter, then played Rootwater Thief.

Finally controlling some creatures, Andrea seemed to be making up for his early losses, but Alex Looted again and discarded an excess island, then Alex played his one sideboarded Rushing River, with kicker, which is Foiled, discarding an island and Repulse, only to have said Foil Counterspelled by Alex. Vodalian Merchant attacked and Alex continued to hold down his opponent now that the only permanent he controlled was Rishadan Port. Alex then played Waterfront Bouncer, squeaking in a bit more damage, and holding down the two lands. Andrea played his second island again, and passed the turn, only to have Alex Loot away an island, then float two blue mana and Gush, replay an island, and start off with a Vodalian Merchant, discarding an island, and finishing the 1-2 punch with a Prodigal Sorcerer. Andrea played Foil only to have Alex Misdirect it, and Alex had the luxury of attacking for two points of damage while holding down his lands with Opposition.

With no serious hope of recovery against Opposition, Prodigal Sorcerer, and Waterfront Bouncer, Andrea Santin very gracefully accepted his defeat and offered Alex Borteh his concession.

Final Result: Alex Borteh 3 - Andrea Santin 1; Alex Borteh advances to the World Championship Finals against Tom Van de Logt.

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