by Randy Buehler
Bob Maher sat down to play best friend Andrew Nishioka with what Maher described as the worst deck in the entire tournament. He had already won two $5 side bets with various others over whose deck was worse. "I think I'm 2-4 right now," explained Maher, "I just want to somehow squeeze one match win out somehow so I can play tomorrow with a straight face." Maher didn't have a straight face when he gave Nishioka 5 life for a turn 2 Skyshroud Cutter. Nishioka did mulligan and then failed to play a land on turn. Maher tried to punish him by playing a turn 4 Cutter ... and giving Nishioka 5 more life since Maher hadn't drawn a fourth land!
Things looked bad for Maher when Nishioka came up with the Plains he needed to cast Ramosian Captain. The first striker held off both Cutters and a Pygmy Razorback. Maher played out Voice of Truth and Silverglade Elemental. Nishioka dealt with a Treetop Bracered Cutter thanks to Flameshot (and land #4) so Maher was forced to just attack into the first striking Captain and hope to swarm for enough damage. When Maher drew Treetop Bracer #2, Nish was in trouble. Defender en-Vec bought him one turn, but he didn't draw any answers and Maher won game 1.
Nish went to his sideboard for Silkenfist Fighter and Maher elected to bring in Off Balance. Nishioka also added a land to his deck, but he was forced to mulligan yet again. His new hand had 5 lands and a Minotaur -- that's a keeper. Maher played two Cutters on his first turn, pushing Nishioka up to 30 life. Maher's side of the board looked pretty good with two 2/2's and a turn 3 Silt Crawler in play, but Zerapa Minotaur ended his fun for a while. Nishioka followed up with Oracle's Attendants and managed to stabilize the board at ... 22 life. Maher played Giant Caterpillar and then immediately sacrifice it just to get a 1/1 flier that could whittle away at Nishioka's life total by attacking through the air. Maher used Off Balance to bust through for 5 more damage and then tapped four mana for Skyshroud Cutter #3.
Nishioka played a Glider -- between that and Oracle's Attendant's even the 1/1 Butterfly token was shut down. That's when Maher top-decked Sustenance. With 7 land in play this gave Maher lots of options. He immediately attacked with everyone and Nishioka spent 10 minutes trying to find some way to block without losing his entire army. He finally settled on a block that gave Maher the opportunity to knock him to 1 and re-stabilize the board if Maher didn't have any further tricks. However, Maher had an Invigorate and that allowed him to do exactly the 14 damage he needed to win the game and the match.
Maher 2 (now 3-1)
Nishioka 0 (now 2-2)