This Semi Final is a prime case of the old versus the new. The old is represented by Josh Wagener, the 2003 US National Champion who went on to lift the Team title at Worlds that year alongside Justin Gary and Gabe Walls. The new comes courtesy of Brad Nelson, already qualified for the Magic Online Championship Series at the end of this year, and here in his second Grand Prix Top 8.
Blightning opened the match for Wagener, with Nelson discarding Everflowing Chalice and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Spreading Seas turned Savage Lands into an Island, but Mountain followed for Wagener. Bloodbraid Elf Cascaded into... nothing, since Terminate had nothing sensible to aim at. Nelson put up the shields with double Wall of Omens, effectively negating the earlier Blightning. Wagener regained that edge with a second Blightning, seeing Nelson discard Mind Spring and Oblivion Ring. How did Nelson negate that second Blightning? With a Mind Spring for two.
Alright then. How about Blightning number three and four, cast back to back in a powerhouse turn that had the large crowd gasping. Nelson was left with just one card in hand. He cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and went into Brainstorm mode. For six mana, Wagener cast Broodmate Dragon. Jace bounced one half, and Nelson added Baneslayer Angel to the board. Back came Wagener, with Bloodbraid Elf Cascading into Sprouting Thrinax. Nelson now stood at seven life. Jace left a card on top of Wagener's library, before Nelson laid another Wall of Omens, powered in with the Baneslayer, and took himself back up to twelve.
In came the Broodmate Dragon, and Nelson had the answer yet again with Path to Exile. How he was still in the game after an amazing quad Blightning was anybody's guess. Startling Magic. Part of the answer of course was the quad Wall of Omens he had seen, and now that fourth bonus card had produced Gideon Jura, with eight loyalty insisting that Wagener attack. He added Siege-Gang Commander in what was becoming an incredible game.
In came the Baneslayer, setting Nelson to twenty two, and Wagener to just five. Moments later, it was over. Four Blightning. Didn't get it done. What a great game.
Wagener 0 1 Nelson.
The first play of game two came from Nelson, making a Raging Ravine into an Island with Spreading Seas. Everflowing Chalice built his mana, and out came Gideon Jura, going straight to eight loyalty. Bloodbraid Elf led to Pithing Needle on Gideon, and in came the Elf, dropping Gideon to five loyalty. Oblivion Ring for Nelson sent the Pithing Needle packing, and Gideon went back to seven loyalty. Out came another Bloodbraid Elf, this time Cascading into Goblin Ruinblaster, which Wagener lacked the mana to kick. Gideon's loyalty now sat at just two. The next forced attack from Wagener dealt Gideon the final blow, and he cast a backup Pithing Needle, set to Celestial Colonnade, with Brad activating it in response to allow some measure of defence.
Oblivion Ring once again sent Pithing Needle away. Blightning only took one card and dealt no damage, with Nelson 'discarding' his Negate. A second Blightning left Nelson with nothing, and Wagener just one card in hand. Who would topdeck Magic favor? Both could recover quickly, and we saw that straight away, as Nelson found Mind Spring on top, and turned that into six fresh cards. When Wagener attacked, Nelson was at a perilous four life, facing down Bloodbraid Elf, Goblin Ruinblaster, and a freshly-played Sprouting Thrinax.
Everflowing Chalice for three was his first play, followed by Gideon Jura, forcing all of Wagener's men to attack the Planeswalker. Path to Exile sent the Sprouting Thrinax packing, and Gideon fell to three loyalty. Wagener completed the turn with Putrid Leech. Nelson was hanging in there, just. Day of Judgment made things look a lot better, and he activated Celestial Colonnade and commenced the beats. When Wagener passed, the tide really seemed to be turning. Spreading Seas drew Nelson a card. He sent two Celestial Colonnades, with Wagener using Terminate to take just four. He was still down to ten, though, and Gideon was up to seven loyalty. Celestial Colonnade became live, Gideon Jura became live, and Wagener used his last card, a Terminate to stay alive for one more turn.
That was all it was, though, as Brad Nelson took the game and the match, ready to advance to the Final.
Josh Wagener 0 2 Brad Nelson.