by Randy Buehler
It was starting to feel like crunch time for all the players playing Round 11 feature matches. With just four rounds to go, the number of players with a chance to make the Top 8 is dwindling, but the players still in contention can smell the tension in the air.
Brian Selden is one of those players. So is Raffaele Lo Moro. Interestingly, the former World Champion and the Italian member of the most recent Worlds Top 8 both drafted red. The word on the street before the tournament was that red is the weakest color and some players were bold enough to proclaim that they would never draft it, even if they opened Volcanic Winds. However, Selden kept the Volcanic Winds that he opened and then proceeded to bust a Two-Headed Dragon in pack #2. His record so far today with his green/red deck was 2-0-1. Lo Moro put up a 3-0 with his own red/white deck. This appears to be yet another draft Pro Tour where the best strategy is to draft whatever no one else wants. Sure, the good blue/white deck is the best deck you can possibly draft, but with everyone trying to draft it, no one's deck is crazy-good. It's a whole lot easier to draft a rock-solid red/green deck that can beat up on weak blue/white.
Lo Moro went on the offensive early in game 1 with a Kris mage and a Devout Witness. Selden blocked the Devout Witness with his own Blaster Mage, but Cho-Manno gave a Blessing to the Witness and it survived combat and never left the board for the entire game. Selden's turn 5 Silverglade Elemental looked like it might control the board, but Lo Moro had a Muzzle ready and turned it into just a Wall of Tree. Battle Rampart joined Selden's defense and Lo Moro was forced to commit 5 creatures to the board in an effort to bust through. Raffaele knew he was in trouble when Brian tapped 6 mana. Volcanic Winds killed 4 creatures and left Lo Moro with nothing more than one 2/2 pro-red Devout Witness and one card in his hand. The only problem for Brian was that he had no creatures to attack with. Brian's hand included land, 2 enchantments, and an artifact.
Selden played a Kyren Sniper shortly thereafter while Lo Moro played a Steadfast Guard and a second Devout Witness. Selden then adopted an excellent plan that required him to look 4 turns ahead and predict what the game would probably look like. He first threw out a Gerrard's regalia to force Lo Moro to throw a card through his Witness to destroy it. Then when Lo Moro attacked with everyone, Selden killed off one Devout Witness with a Flaming Sword (on his Battle Rampart). Next he untapped, summoned Snorting Gahr, put Lure on it and attacked (killing a Steadfast Guard that was obligated to block). Basically, he timed everything so that he could play out all his artifacts and enchantments to good effect even though Lo Moro had a (pro-red) Devout Witness on the table. Selden played so many threats that Lo Moro didn't have enough time or cards in hand to deal with all of them. Lo Moro brought out a 3/4 Cho-Arrim Bruiser, but Selden cast Ogre taskmaster, gave it Haste with his wall, and cast a Spidersilk Armor so the Ogre could beat up Cho-Arrim (Lo Moro didn't have any untapped mana). It helped that Brian drew 2 creatures over the course of his offensive flurry, but one beefy creature was all he really needed to win the game. Lo Moro took so much damage that he was forced to start chump blocking almost immediately. Despite drawing all of 12 land, Selden won because he played all his spells to maximum effect. Oh yeah, and that 4 for 1 with Volcanic Winds didn't hurt either.
Game 2 was a routine mana-screw game. Lo Moro chose to play and kept a 2-land draw, but he didn't draw land #3 until turn 6, by which time he'd had to discard once and he was staring down Blaster mage with Tiger Claws on it and Wild Jhovall. He Thunderclapped the 3/3 Mage, but Selden then dropped Mr. Two-Head and gave it haste with Battle Rampart. Lo Moro scooped. After the match Raphael commented that he knew his deck was vulnerable to green because he had no real ways to deal with fat creatures. Thus he felt he probably would have lost anyway.
Selden - 2
Lo Moro - 0