Posted in NEWS on April 13, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

It's hard for a player like World No. 2 Reid Duke to improve on past performances. With the new Grand Prix cap set at your five top performances, it can become difficult to improve on past high finishes when you're as ridiculous as Reid Duke.

I know, I know, first world problems and all that.

But Duke has certainly managed to put up a performance to top most of his other GP finishes this year. Most. A win here would certainly give him a boost, both in the Player of the Year standings and in a push to be the top ranked player in the world. His devotion to black cards this weekend had served him well, and his double Grey Merchant deck was certainly packed with power.

Standing in his way is Frank Skarren who is secretly one of the best limited players in the world. Skarren has one of the best lifetime win percentages across limited formats on the Pro Tour, and is pretty well-respected among the Pro community. He was pretty happy with his blue-green deck during build, lamenting only a few missing cards.

Duke had faced off against aggressive decks throughout the Top 8, but Skarrens was a little less wall-to-wall aggressive and could play a passable midrange game.

And, as a bonus, these two incredible players just happen to be among the nicest guys you'll ever meet. Sportsmanship all around and all that.

"Good luck, Frank."

"Good luck, Reid."

The Games

For the first time in the Top 8, Duke faced someone who could parry his blows with more than another 2/1. Skarren was even able to remove Courser of Kruphix right off the bat, following up with a Nessian Courser and Horizon Chimera. In doing so, he actually pulled fairly far ahead. Leafcrown Dryad on the Chimera only pushed Duke closer to the brink.

For his park, Duke wasn't doing nothing, but his something was far less impressive. Fanatic of Mogis and Disciple of Phenax were fine cards, but they certainly weren't stopping a 5/4 flier any time soon.

Reid Duke has been pretty much unstoppable in this Top 8. Could anyone slow the world's second-ranked player?

Nor were they stopping the 5/5 flier Centaur Courser became when Nimbus Naiad jumped it to the air.

Duke looked at the two fliers, confirmed he had fallen all the way to two life, and, for the first time in the Top 8, conceded a game.

Not wanting to wait around nearly as much a second time, Duke got aggressive right off the bat, curving Nyxborn Eidolon into Mogis's Marauder. He lacked green mana, but with Skarren managing just a Vaporkin and Satyr Wayfinder, Duke didn't really need his second color just yet.

What he did need was a fifth land to play his Keepsake Gorgon. Instead, he found an Opaline Unicorn. It delayed his Gorgon for a turn, but did at least promise to bring it out, much like Annie, tomorrow.

However, the Gorgon was delayed another turn when Duke was forced to Lash the Whip at a Staunch-Hearted Warrior mid-combat to ensure an Aspect of Hydra didn't pump it to nigh unassailable hights.

All the while Vaporkin was plugging away, two damage at a time. When it was joined by a Nimbus Naiad-enhanced Centaur Courser, Duke was very suddenly on the verge of death.

Frank Skarren might have raised an eyebrow or two at his deck and his opening hands, but it all seemed to work out for the limited master.

Fade into Antiquity looked to provide some reprieve, exiling the offending Naiad, but there was still the matter of the Vaporkin. The tiny flying elemental picked up some help from a Leafcrown Dryad, sending Duke to one. With removal in hand, Duke could likely handle it.

Except Skarren had a secret weapon. A follow up that could let him squeeze that last point of damage out of Duke.

Noble Quarry.

Unable to remove both the flier and the Quarry with a hand full of expensive removal, Skarren found his way across the finish line just before Duke would have taken over.

"I was able to find a way to get in those last points of damage before his more powerful cards took over," Skarren said. "It took a little bit of luck."

That may be overstating it a bit, as Skarren clearly demonstrated his prowess in the format all weekend, but it didn't matter either way. With an extended hand, Duke acknowledged what the cheering crowd had already realized.

Frank Skarren was the champion of Grand Prix Philadelphia.

Frank Skarren 2 – Reid Duke 0