One of Europe's top players, Martin Juza entered the Semifinals of Grand Prix-Portland having already taken down superstar Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa of Brazil in the Quarterfinals. His opponent, Josh Layne, had a slimmer resume than Juza but his quiet and professional demeanor hinted at a skill set stronger than his resume would led one to believe.
A War Priest of Thune hit the battlefield for Josh Layne on the second turn, though it didn't have any enchantments to blow up. Before he could attack with the 2/2, however, Martin shut him down with a Scroll Thief. The following turn Alluring Siren hit for Juza, potentially threatening to clear the way for his 1/3 card drawing engine. Layne fired back with an Assault Griffin, but the 3/2 was matched by Azure Drake from his opponent.
Josh took his turn and was required to attack with his Assault Griffin by his opponent's Alluring Siren. When Martin blocked the 3/2 flyer with his 2/4 flyer, Layne saved his creature with Giant Growth. He cast Cloud Crusader, but Juza had a second Azure Drake to make attacking difficult yet again for Josh. The second 2/4 finally got the job done against the Assault Griffin with help from the Siren, but Josh was ready to start deploying his big guns, casting Yavimaya Wurm post-combat.
The 6/4 Wurm was the least of Juza's worries, however, as his opponent cast a pre-combat Ajani Goldmane and promptly gave each of his creatures +1/+1. A Rotting Legion gave Juza a fatty, but with his opponent's team super sized and given vigilance it wasn't looking very good for the Czech pro. He used Sign in Blood on himself to dig for more options and came up with Cloud Elemental. The 2/3 wasn't much help against the Ajani, but Martin was technically still in things.
Awakener Druid for Josh changed that abruptly giving him a gigantic surprise attacker as it animated one of his Forests, then Ajani pumped his team a second time and sent a horde of attackers to the red zone. When the combat step ended, Juza had an Azure Drake and Scroll Thief while Josh had a 4/5 Cloud Crusader, a 4/4 War Priest of Thune, a 5/6 Forest, and a 2/2 Awakener Druid (not to mention an Ajani Goldmane with two loyalty counters!). Did Martin have anything he could draw in his deck to get him out of the sticky situation?
Doom Blade was a start, taking out the Cloud Crusader and allowing him to attack Ajani to death with Azure Drake. He also cast Maritime Guard and Child of Night, but was still facing down the War Priest and Forest. The Priest died to a double-block, but Josh reloaded with Cudgel Troll and passed the turn with Martin on just 4 life. Juza drew for the turn, finding a land on top of his library, and considered his options. He cast Call to Mind to get back Doom Blade, then used the removal spell on Cudgel Troll.
Josh continued pressing in, earning a chump block on his Forest from Maritime Guard before casting Wild Griffin and then two Llanowar Elves. Martin used Æther Adept to bounce his opponent's Forest, his Azure Drake holding the fort against his opponent's Griffin. When he cast Foresee a turn later, it looked like the European player had stabilized!
Armored Cancrix and Augury Owl further developed Martin's side of the battlefield and the game began turning to his favor as he freed up enough space to swing with his 2/4 Drake. When he cast a Conundrum Sphinx while Layne drew land after land, it seemed over! A few attacks later, and it was with Martin's Conundrum Sphinx allowing him to overwhelm his opponent despite Layne's far more aggressive start; Josh's deck just couldn't hold on until the end to seal the deal and Juza had managed an amazing comeback!
Martin Juza 1, Josh Layne 0
The second game started poorly for Josh who had to take a mulligan, but he was able to aggressively pressure Martin very quickly. He opened on Llanowar Elves before casting an Awakener Druid to animate his lone Forest. Juza cast an Alluring Siren and Child of Night, but had little going for him beyond the fact Layne was a touch mana screwed, sitting on two lands and his Elf. The Alluring Siren attempted to run Awakener Druid into Child of Night but Josh had Giant Growth to protect it, keeping his 4/5 Forest alive.
To replace his Child of Night Juza cast Azure Drake and combined with Alluring Siren he was able to take out the Awakener Druid and simultaneously deal with his opponent's Forest, though he took 4 in the process. Cloud Elemental joined Martin's team, but he lost his Azure Drake to Plummet and his Alluring Siren to a block on Llanowar Elves. The good news was he had a full grip after casting Foresee while his opponent was stuck on three mana. Of course, that was bad news for said opponent, and Josh worked to come up with a way out of the game that had seen him short on mana.
Armored Cancrix for Martin followed by Sign in Blood gave him more cards and more pressure while Josh's deck continued to fail in finding him additional lands to use in casting the spells in his hand. A Diabolic Tutor for Martin almost assuredly spelled Josh's end, but he pressed on, hoping to draw a miracle.
It wasn't to be, however, as a Midnight Banshee pushed Martin's lead too far and he managed to knock out his second player in the Top 8.
Martin Juza 2, Josh Layne 0