Semifinals: Illuminati vs. Les Plus Class

Posted in Event Coverage

By Josh Bennett

Les Plus Class

Les Plus Class were the team no-one was betting on this weekend. They were paired with Illuminati in the final round of the swiss yesterday, and Illuminati intentionally drew with them to keep more "dangerous" teams out of the Top 4. Now they would fight that match to see who would make it to the finals. For Les Plus Class, it's an opportunity to show Illuminati the error of underestimating them.

Nicholas Olivieri has attended thirteen Pro Tours, and Gabriel Nassif came second at last week's Grand Prix - London. On the other side of the table sit Alex Shvartsman who has competed at multiple Masters Series events, as well as Pro Tour Champion Zvi Mowshowitz and their "Hired Gun" Justin Gary, who's been to his share of majors, made Top 8 at Pro Tour - Rome 1999, and even won the US National Championship. It'll be interesting to see if this match shakes down the way The Illuminati envisioned it.

Gabriel Nassif worked the aerial beatdown against Zvi Mowshowitz. He had Dream Thrush and Tower Drake sailing over a Quirion Explorer's head. However, this meant he couldn't frustrate Mowshowitz's only forest. Zvi used Lay of the Land to fetch mountain, and dropped the bomb: Powerstone Minefield. Nassif calmly untapped, and busted Aura Blast. Mowshowitz's grin vanished.

Nicholas Olivieri mulliganed in his first game against Alex Shvartsman, and then kept a one land hand. When he missed his second drop, Shvartsman advertised the fact to his team, drawing cheers. Shvartsman played three successive creatures and beat down. He even had Dromar's Charm to stop a particularly dangerous Razorfin Hunter.

Amiel Tenenbaum had an early Crimson Acolyte making life very difficult for Justin Gary. His Kavu Scout and Lava Zombie couldn't get by. Still, Gary radiated confidence. With many power cards in his deck, he could afford to play the waiting game. After a few turns of nothing on either side, Tenenbaum let out a relieved "Finally, something!", and brought out Aurora Griffin. He started to swing unopposed.

In the middle, Mowshowitz asked his opponent what was going on.

"Oh, just a savage topdeck." replied Nassif.

Mowshowitz laughed. "Savage Topdecking? I just topdecked savagely.". Consume Strength took down the Tower Drake and Quicksilver Dagger on Kavu Glider threatened to refill his hand after Nassif's combo of Cavern Harpy and Ravenous Rats worked to empty it. Nassif was not to be outdone, and took down the Glider with Exotic Curse. His remaining fliers smashed for two turns, taking the game.

Shvartsman's offense seemed overwhelming, but he had only four lands to work with. Olivieri brought out Slingshot Goblin to take care of Tower Drake, then untapped, Singed Standard Bearer and threw down Questing Phelddagrif. Shvartsman did a double-take, saying "That's a pretty good turn for you." He found his fifth land and made an Ordered Migration. His attack put Olivieri at one. Olivieri held on with an Armadillo Cloak on his Hippo, swinging and pumping to get himself to a less dangerous nine life. Shvartsman counterattacked, giving Olivieri one more turn, but now his Dismantling Blow was online, so the game was his.

In Mowshowitz's second game his mana was complicated by Nassif's Reef Shaman that kept him away from Green. A Tidal Visionary made way for a Cavern Harpy, and Mowshowitz's Meddling Mage was Prohibited. The Champion's head bent forward in concentration, as he tried to keep this game from running like the first.

Amiel Tenenbaum continued his aerial assault, and then found his bomb: Nemata, Grove Guardian. He smiled when Gary didn't have an immediate banish, and started making tokens. Gary had a Duskwalker and hoped to race, but by then Tenenbaum had four tokens ready to attack and the ability to make three more. The tokens ran in with the Griffin. Two went unblocked. Tenenbaum made three more and sacrificed all but the unblocked ones. Gary tried to Scorching Lava the Griffin, but Tenenbaum remembered his Acolyte, taking the first game.

Mowshowitz's defenses solidified, and Nassif was having trouble breaking through. Two Kavu Gliders with ample blue and white mana forced Nassif's Cavern Harpy and Living Airship to stay home. He tried to break through with Galina's Knight, but Mowshowitz had a surprise Fleetfoot Panther which tackled the Merfolk.

Olivieri's fortunes continued to slide. His two-forest hand failed to develop, and Shvartsman played out four fliers. He shook his opponent's hand, apologizing for his bad luck. "It's not the way I wanted to win," said Shvartsman, "but at this level, I'll take it."

Tenenbaum went for the quick win in the second game, enchanting a Thunderscape Apprentice with Squee's Embrace. It only hit once before Gary found a Terminate. Gary then tried to show him how it should be done, playing Kavu Scout and putting Sinister Strength on it with a huge grin. Tenenbaum returned the favor with Manacles of Decay.

Mowshowitz had no shortage of monsters. He made an all out assault. Nassif had Confound for his Consume Strength, but still lost two creatures and fell to eight. A third game loomed on the horizon.

Meanwhile Gary's bombast had evaporated. As Tenenbaum played monster after monster, gating his Pygmy Kavu to keep his hand full, Gary was uncharacteristically quiet, knowing that the game was slipping away from him. It didn't help that he had a surplus of land. Unable to answer an Aurora Griffin backed by Crimson Acolyte again, the teams were tied at one match apiece.

Nassif's situation worsened when Mowshowitz started to play Sparkcaster to do two damage a turn. Nassif also failed to notice that he could stop the Sparkcaster beats by turning it black with his Visionary, forcing Mowshowitz to gate another creature. It hardly mattered with Mowshowitz's surplus of creatures, but as we all know, every little bit helps.

All eyes were on Nassif and Mowshowitz as they shuffled for the final game. Nassif had turn one Visionary, and Mowshowitz threw up his hands in frustration. If Nassif remembered its ability, it would spell trouble for his many gaters.

Nassif's beatdown was sluggish, just a Ravenous Rat beside his Visionary. Mowshowitz tapped out on his fourth turn, saying "Shields up!" and throwing down a Jungle Barrier. With Nassif having missed his fourth land drop, things were looking good for the Tokyo Champion. Mowshowitz was downright chatty. He played Sparkcaster, and was disappointed that he couldn't fool Nassif into forgetting his Visionary this time around.

Nassif found a fourth land and played Living Airship. Mowshowitz's rejoinder was a kicked Lancer, beatdown supreme. That had Nassif thinking hard. So hard, in fact, that he forgot to attack with his Living Airship. As Mowshowitz untapped, he sighed and hung his head.

Mowshowitz sent the Lancer. Suddenly, Nassif's clever ruse became apparent. He pushed all his creatures in front of the Lancer and used Restrain to prevent its killing anything. Mowshowitz had Gerrard's Command for the save, narrowly averting disaster.

Nassif made a Phyrexian Bloodstock, a perfect answer for the Lancer, but he chose to take four more damage in hopes of finding a Cavern Harpy to wreck Mowshowitz's house. He untapped and failed to find one, putting him deep in thought. He was terrified of what Mowshowitz might be holding, and racked his mind for a plan.

The Illuminati

He eventually chose to swing with Bloodstock and Airship. The Barrier blocked, and he tried to finish it off with Exotic Curse. Mowshowitz tried to rescue with Fleetfoot Panther, but the Visionary was ready, making sure the Barrier fell. He added a Dream Thrush to his team and passed it back. You could see in his eyes that the hope of winning was making him very nervous.

With the Visionary tapped, Mowshowitz used Fleetfoot Panther to gate the Lancer, and this in turn finally got the Sparkcaster into play. Nassif played Worldly Counsel, desperate for the Harpy that would destroy Mowshowitz. He didn't find it. However, his way was still excellent. He smashed for three and dropped Galina's Knight.
Mowshowitz kicked the Lancer, and passed. Nassif swung again, and Mowshowitz was at eight.

Mowshowitz returned fire with the Lancer. Nassif blocked with his Knight. Unfortunately for him, he waited until after first strike damage was on the stack to try and change the Lancer red with his Visionary. Mowshowitz responded with the Fleetfoot Panther, gating the Lancer and making sure the damage stayed white. The Knight went to the graveyard. The Lancer came down kicked.

Nassif attacked with Airship and Bloodstock. Mowshowitz was all to happy to take two and trade his Lancer, saying "Well, that could have been worse.". Nassif tapped five and played Urborg Uprising. "And it is." was all Mowshowitz had to say. Nassif put out the Knight.

Mowshowitz needed a big pull, and his deck yielded Kavu Glider. With his two Fertile Grounds and many plains it was enough to hold off the Airship. He passed the turn back to Nassif, who played his Bloodstock. As it stood, Nassif could turn the Panther red and swing with Airship, Dream Thrush and Galina's Knight, forcing through at least three points of damage and threatening to win on the following turn. Fearing a combat trick from Mowshowitz, he did nothing.

Nassif's situation worsened when Mowshowitz drew and played Samite Pilgrim. He had Aura Blast for one of Mowshowitz's Fertile Grounds, which with his Dream Thrush would keep Mowshowitz from casting the backbreaking Planar Despair. He cantripped into Tower Drake, and held back. Mowshowitz had no further defense, but still Nassif refused to risk his creatures in combat.

Nassif brightened when he found that Arctic Merfolk was waiting at the top of his deck. He cast it with kicker, returning the Bloodstock and taking down the Fleetfoot Panther. This drew a puzzled look from Mowshowitz, as Nassif could have made the Glider white with his Visionary and attacked for five unopposed. However, now he was willing to swing with his Tower Drake and Airship, pushing through two more damage.

Mowshowitz drew a second Glider, so it was back to square one for Nassif. Had he destroyed the first a turn earlier, he would have been able to attack for the win. They played the waiting game for several turns. Mowshowitz drew the Planar Despair, but couldn't cast it thanks to the Thrush. Next turn he found Darigaaz Caldera. He laughed as he played the Caldera to get his second black mana, pumped his Glider to four toughness and cast the Despair at strength three because his swamp was a forest.

The crowd went wild. You could hear Justin Gary from across the hall. All of a sudden, Mowshowitz was back in the game.

The boards were cleared and Mowshowitz passed it back. Nassif brought out his Bloodstock. Next turn he found a Nightscape Battlemage and bounced the Glider, knocking Mowshowitz to one. Mowshowitz drew his next card and frowned. "A guy can dream, can't he?" asked Mowshowitz of the crowd, "Dreaming on the stack?". He played his Glider.

Zvi Mowshowitz vs. Gabriel Nassif

Nassif sent both his creatures, and Mowshowitz dropped the charade. Consume Strength leapt out of his hand and took down both of Nassif's creatures. Nassif's hand was lands and a Reef Shaman. He played the Shaman and took two from the Glider. Then two more. Then two more. At six life, he drew Death Bomb.

And passed the turn.

Incredibly, he refused to kill Mowshowitz outright. He took two more and drew Dralnu's Pet, putting it into play. Still he wouldn't play the game winning spell in his hand. Mowshowitz hit him to two and played Savage Gorilla. Only then did he tap four and show Mowshowitz the door. With victory stolen away from him, Mowshowitz put out his hand, saying resignedly "Do you know how much cooler it is if you don't have that?"

Nassif's teammates ran up to celebrate. And to berate him for holding back on the Death Bomb. Nassif replied that he was worried that Mowshowitz would have a way to remove the Bomb's target, stopping the life loss effect. He wanted to wait as long as he could to have a ready attacker as a backup plan.

And so it was that the team that was built to win, Illuminati, was taken down by the very team they helped into the semifinals. For Les Plus Class, it was an affirmation.

Final Result: Les Plus Class defeats Illuminati 2-1

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