When both No. 4 Shahar Shenhar and three-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher Josh Ravitz sat down at the feature match table, they danced a fun little dance of "Do you remember what I'm playing?" The two playfully jockeyed about who was playing what, and when they each had revealed to the other what was being played.
"You should know what I'm playing. And you could probably guess anyway," Shenhar said.
New York native, Ravitz was coy in his response. He might not have remembered, or he just preferred that Shenhar didn't know that he remembered. It's tough to tell with Ravitz. His face is placid, and his beard and glasses aided in hiding his emotions.
Shahar Shenhar started the game off with an Island and a Cloudfin Raptor.
"So you're Blue-White Control?" Josh Ravitz quipped. However, maybe Shenhar was playing control because his next two turns involved playing a Mutavault and attacking with a 0/1 Raptor. Ravitz complimented Shenhar's style by attacking with an zero-powered dude. He did not smile alongside his joke.
Ravitz's first play was a Supreme Verdict on turn four, wiping away a few turns of Shenhar's efforts. Ravitz was playing actual control, rather than "no-aggressive-play" control. The next few turns was a battle over Bident of Thassa. Shenhar snuck one into play when Ravitz was tapped out, and though Ravitz cleared it, Shenhar followed-up with a second. If the Legendary Enchantment Artifact was able to stay online, the steady flow of cards would allow Mono-Blue Devotion to out-gas the Esper Control deck. But Ravitz was able to remove the second with a second Detention Sphere. So although Shenhar had a couple creatures on the board, the constant card advantage engine was gone.
Shenhar admits that the first game for Mono-Blue is horrible against Esper Control. Trying to attack that deck with slow beats was a losing proposition. However, Shenhar seemed to be doing well here. He had Judge's Familiar, Nightveil Specter and two Mutavault. The land had been hitting Ravitz basically every turn, knocking his total lower and lower.
The big play came when Shenhar tried to cast a creature, leaving up Master of Waves mana. He was testing the water. If Ravitz countered the first creature, Shenhar would know there was no Supreme Verdict in his opponent's hand. The coast would be clear to tap out for the Master of Waves.
Ravitz played a Dissolve. Shenhar confidently cast the Master of Waves and gained five elemental tokens. Even if Ravitz had a removal spell, because the score were 20-6 in Shenhar's favor, an attack next turn would still be fatal.
Ravitz untapped and calmly laid another Supreme Verdict. He was able to Sphinx's Revelation to stay alive the next turn, then stabilize with an Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Had he played Shenhar with that Dissolve? Nope. Ravitz merely drew the mass removal spell off the top, much to the chagrin of Shenhar. Although his face never revealed that was the case.
After the big stabilization, it was elementary. Though Ravitz was at 4, Shenhar knew there was nothing he could do. He was ready for the second game.
Josh Ravitz 1 – 0 Shahar Shenhar
Shenhar kept a hand with no immediate gas but with a Mutavault, Thassa, God of the Sea, Dispel, and a Bident of Thassa. These are good cards in the match-up, and so Shenhar promptly kept the hand, laying Thassa on turn three.
Ravitz had Detention Sphere ready for the God. His stoic demeanor was hard to read. He was barely audible when he cast Pithing Needle, naming Mutavault, although he was likely cheering loudly on the inside. Stopping the land was a big part of eking out the advantage in the game.
However, he might have cast his Needle a turn early. Shenhar tapped out for Jace, Memory Adept, a much swingier bomb that was just as susceptible to the Pithing Needle. Yet Ravitz's face remained calm. It was likely because he had the Heroes Downfall in his hand. But a Dispel later from Shenhar, then a Gainsay to counter Ravitz's Nightveil Specter blocker, and Shenhar was in the driver's seat. He had a 1/2 Cloudfin Raptor, Nightveil Specter, Bident of Thassa and his Jace had seven counters on it – an ultimate amount of loyalty.
Even though Ravitz swept the creatures off the board with a Supreme Verdict, Shenhar was still able to apply milling pressure. The Jace started taking ten cards from Ravitz's library and tossing them into the graveyard. Ravitz had 28 cards left in his library when he cast an Elspeth, Sun's Champion. This game was now a battle of the Planeswalkers.
It would take three Jace activations to finish off Ravitz, but if Ravitz made three more tokens with Elspeth, he could kill the Jace before that happened. Shenhar sat for a while and sighed, staring at the sad-looking Gainsay in his hand. He was deciding if he should ultimate his Jace. If he removed seven counters and had both players draw twenty cards, he would have more than enough good cards, like Cyclonic Rift, to hold off Ravitz for the turns required to draw himself out of the game.
But Shenhar feared giving Ravitz twenty good cards, especially Thoughtseize. So instead, he milled his opponent for ten more and went through the graveyard, picking out the Sphinx's Revelation and generally counting cards. He wasn't sure if it was the right play, but it was still a good one.
"Surprise, surprise," Ravitz said as he added three more tokens to the field. Jace ticked down to four counters. Sensing Jace, Memory Adept's impending doom, Shenhar killed it himself by playing a Jace, Architect of Thought on his next turn and drew a couple cards. The score was 21-16. Although the 16 life probably didn't matter, it was more the nine cards Ravitz's library.
After the Jace died, Shenhar drew more dead cards. And as the Elspeth army increased in numbers, Shenhar drew deader and deader, and then he died.
Ravitz had won the match and advanced to 6-0, but you wouldn't have known it if you looked at his face.