by Randy Buehler
Ryan Fuller and Nicolai Herzog were both 8-2-2 when they sat down to play each other. A 2-0 finish by either player would put him into the top 8, but 1-0-1 would eliminate them. Herzog seemed delighted with his position since his real goal for this pro Tour was just to earn the pro Tour points he needed to make the "Gravy Train" and qualify for the next few pro Tours. He'll get them and then some.
The deck match-up was the defining matchup of the tournament -- Fuller drafted a decent, but unspectacular u/w deck while Herzog drafted an amazing green/red deck with 2 battle Squadrons, Power Matrix, 3 invigorates, Kyren Negotiations, Lure, and a lot of solid creatures. Herzog had problems drawing green mana in game 1. He sat with only 4 land and only one Forest for 10 turns while Fuller tried to set up his defense. Fuller, however, had the opposite problem -- he had all the mana he wanted but all he could do with it was bounce darting merfolk and make Blockade Runner unblockable. Fuller did come up with a trap Runner and a Noble Purpose. Fuller blocked Blaster Mage with the Runner with Counterspell backup, but Herzog had two Invigorates. 6 life later Ryan's Trap Runner was dead and Nicolai was on the offensive. Forest #2 then finally showed up and Nicolai added a Snorting Gahr top his attack. Next up was a Lure on the Gahr, then a 7/7 Battle Squadron and it was all over but the chump-blocking.
After game 1, the following conversation took place:
Ryan: if it ends in a tie we'll flip a coin, OK? Nicolai: That's not legal Ryan: There's no judge here [at this point Ryan looked directly at me] Nicolai: that's still not legal Ryan: Do you want to flip a coin now? Nicolai: [shakes his head no] Ryan: How about if someone is obviously ahead in game 3 the other guy concedes? [Nicolai ignored him and kept shuffling]
With only 23:44 left in the round, Ryan started playing a lot faster. Herzog threw Lure on his turn 3 Rushwood Herbalist and then Invigorated it to kill a Devout Witness and an Alabaster Wall. Fuller answered with a Saprazzan Outrigger that slowed Nicolai down a bit, but when Ryan also played a Stinging barrier, Nicolai served with the Lured Herbalist, invigorated again, and wiped out the wall plus a fresh volunteers. The Herbalist finally died, but it did its job. Ryan even had to redraw the Outrigger. Ryan replayed his Outrigger, but Nicolai followed up with a Ballista Squad and a War Cadence. Noble Purpose slowed the bleeding, but Herzog blew up it and a Muzzle with tranquility. Match win to Herzog, who would go on to play for top 8 in the final round.
But the story doesn't end there. After the match I showed my transcript of the conversation after game 2 to Head Judge Dan Gray. He and Jeff Donais talked to Ryan to get his version of the events and then they ejected him (without prizes) from the tournament for collusion.
Herzog - 2
Fuller - 0 (ejected after the match)