As two players with a long history in the game, Dave Shiels and Gerard Fabiano were well acquainted with one another. The banter started immediately. "We call the second place one 'three-dimensional plaques'," Shiels said, calling back to the older awards for Grand Prix finalist awards.
"Yeah, when I went to the finals at Charlotte," Fabiano said, looking back to his Top 8 about a year earlier, "I saw the silver one and said 'I want it!' I didn't know it was second place."
Laughter was on both sides, and mirth continued throughout the match.
Akroan Crusader with Chosen of Heliod was a typical quick start from Fabiano. "I know you got something. I fall for it all the time," Fabiano said as he attacked. Akroan Skyguard with Acolyte's Reward took out the tough token-making Crusader for Shiels.
"Okay, that wasn't so tough. I'm not even sure if I messed that turn up," Fabiano said as he passed back.
Coastline Chimera looked to be a solid blocker, but Fabiano's first Celestial Archon appeared. Shiels's Chorus of the Tides joined the aerial party, all the while he kept Gods Willing at the ready. Each player continued to play creatures into the stalemate until Fabiano moved in with Coordinated Assault and Chosen of Heliod, using Elite Skirmisher to clear the way.
But Shiels's Gods Willing was waiting and kept a protection from white, and now 4/4, Akroan Skyguard at the ready. After checking potential blockers, Fabiano was left with one card in hand and passed back without attacking.
Bestowing Hopeful Eidolon on Akroan Skyguard let Shiels begin his own attack rising o 18 life and putting Fabiano on the defense. Divine Verdict was Fabiano's answer. Afterwards, the battlefield continued two crowd with ever more creatures and tokens.
This was the first time in the Top 8 Fabiano's furious beat down was slowed to a crawl.
Fabiano attacked with his fliers, and used Battlewise Valor to win combat when Shiels blocked with his. Now Fabiano had the advantage with Cavalry Pegasus as even his Archetype of Aggression was a Human. With an all-in attack Shiels showed his hand full of basic lands.
"Want me to tell you something you did wrong?" Fabiano asked Shiels as they shuffled up between games.
"Well," Fabiano started before pausing and reconsidering, "actually you didn't make a mistake."
"There were a lot of judgment calls," Shiels offered. The two jumped into debating the nuance of how certain attacks or blocks earlier could have shifted the stalemated game, but they ultimately agreed the Ordeal of Heliod and lost life didn't really matter.
The second game flipped the usual early game state for Fabiano in this Top 8: Shiels came out quickly, putting the veteran down to 10 with Heliod's Emissary on defense. Shiels's Battlewise Hoplite created a rules conundrum as Mortal's Ardor was responded to by Fabiano's Fall of the Hammer, to which Shiels played Gods Willing.
It took a few minutes to confirm that protection from red would do what Shiels wanted it to do: Stop damage from Heliod's Emissary cutting down Battlewise Hoplite. Shiels built Battlewise Hoplite up to 5/5 with Ordeal of Heliod on the next turn, and Shiels used Oreskos Sun Guide to force Fabiano into using Divine Verdict. Playing it carefully left Shiels free to even the match up.
The third game returned to Fabiano's speedy delivery, using Akroan Crusader and Fall of the Hammer to knock Shiels's Deepwater Hypnotist away. Shiels fell to 15 and failed to find a third land as Fabiano played his first Celestial Archon. The second Archon that came down from Fabiano after attacking made Shiels's sixth turn Island for three mana seem even smaller.
Fabiano's twin Celestial Archons were tough in most positions. Two lands left Shields with hardly any options at all.
Gerard Fabiano defeats Dave Shiels, 2-1.