Sigurd Eskeland and Bob Maher were in 4th and 2nd place respectively when they sat down for their round 14 feature match. Each won a Pro Tour this year and each can win the Player of the Year crown by making the Top 8 and then doing well on Sunday. Eskeland also has a chance to be the first person ever to win back to back Pro Tours.
Norwegian national team member Eskeland is running yet another Rising Waters deck. This time around he and his Mogg Squad teammates have built a more aggressive version of the deck than the one Eskeland used to win Pro Tour New York. Their design includes Troublesome Spirits, Rishadan Airships, and Stronghold Zeppelins in the main deck. Maher decided to play a black/green deck with lots of fatties (like Blastoderm and Thrashing Wumpus) along with a healthy election of black creature removal spells (nicknamed "terrors" after the original Alpha card).
Eskeland led with a Waterfront Bouncer and then played Eye of Ramos and Dazed away Maher's Chimeric Idol. When Eskeland then tapped out for Troublesome Spirit, Maher was able to get Blastoderm. The 'Derm is too big for blue decks to block and the fact that it's untargetable means bounce effects don't help either. Eskeland played an Airship and the race was on. Maher answered with Silt Crawler, and a Vendetta that removed Eskeland's Airship. Eskeland played out Stronghold Zeppelin, but Maher had Blastoderm #2. Eskeland blocked one Blastoderm with his Bouncer, having it bounce itself so it could chump block on the following turn. This would have been just enough chump blocking to win Eskeland the race, but Maher played Seal of Doom and cleared a path for his Blastoderms to win the race by 2 life points.
Eskeland played turn 2 Distorting Lens in the second game. This artifact allows him to change the color of any creature. Since all Maher's terror-effects destroy "non-black" creatures, the Lens effectively counters them (by turning creatures black). Maher also had trouble finding land #3 and then land #4 so Eskeland's turn 3 Rishadan Airship went all the way. Maher tried throwing two terrors at it on the same turn, but Eskeland Thwarted that plan.
Eskeland had another Distorting Lens in game 3, but this game was all race. Eskeland had the early lead thanks to an Airship and a timely Daze that prevented Blastoderm from making an appearance. When Maher played turn 5 Saproling Burst, Eskeland had three land in play and one untapped so he could use Waterfront Bouncer if Maher decided to attack with Chimeric Idol. Eskeland took quite a while deciding whether or not to cast the Thwart that was in his hand. He decided not to stop the Burst and instead to try to survive the onslaught by playing a Troublesome Spirit. Maher made 2 4/4 creatures and Eskeland took 8 damage. When Maher then tried to cast Thrashing Wumpus, it was clearly time for Eskeland to use his Thwart. Eskeland untapped, bounced one Saproling, attacked with Airship, and left Troublesome Spirit back to block the other token. When Maher attacked with his 3/3 anyway, Eskeland probably knew he was in trouble. Maher wanted to deal 3 damage to the Spirit so he could then kill it with the Thrashing Wumpus still in his hand. Eskeland took the 3 damage, but he couldn't stop this second Wumpus and it promptly killed both his Bouncer and his Airship. That was enough and Maher won on the next turn by attacking and Wumping for the last two damage and the win.
Maher 2 (now 12-2)
Eskeland 1 (now 10-3-1)