This has been an excellent couple of weeks for Adrian Sullivan. After falling just short of making the Top 8 at the StarCityGames Invitational this past weekend, Sullivan shot out to a perfect 9-0 record on Day 1 here in Chicago. Things were dicey to open the day, as Sullivan lost two of the first rounds he played today before eventually rallying to make it into the Top 8. Standing in the way of Sullivan's shot at redemption is Steve Wise of Omaha, NE. Wise has a Grand Prix Top 16 on his resume in the past, and he was the last undefeated player here at Grand Prix Chicago.
Both Sullivan and Wise are running the WU Control deck that has supplanted Esper Control as the dominant control deck in Standard. It is a pure control deck, relying on blue counterspells to keep things from hitting the board and white to clear away the permanents that have. Between Supreme Verdict, Detention Sphere, and a slew of other potential removal spells, WU Control is able to buy enough time for cards like Sphinx's Revelation to find the Planeswalker threats: Jace, Architect of Thought, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. For those long mirror matches, such as this one, Elixir of Immortality works especially hard, giving the deck that is able to activate it inevitability in this grinding matchup.
The players have opted for a few key distinctions. Wise opted for Font of Fortuntes where Sullivan chose Divination. Sullivan's list seems especially good in this mirror match, with Planar Cleansing in the maindeck for dealing with those pesky Planeswalkers and a more varied suite of cards to deal with opposing threats.
The first game of this match was significantly quicker than expected, as Wise jumped out to an early advantage with Jace, Architect of Thought. While he was using his powerful Planeswalker to draw cards, Sullivan was trying to make up ground with Divination, which slowly put him behind. Wise's advantage spiraled out of control when Jace revealed Ætherling and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Wise's weapon of choice was the Planeswalker of legend, and Elspeth and her troops made short work of Sullivan in a fairly uneventful first game.
Almost as if to make up for the relative disappointment of the first game, the second game showcased the true awesomeness of a WU mirror match. Sullivan spent the early turns of the game under assault by Mutavault and a Fiendslayer Paladin from Wise's sideboard. Matters appeared worse when Wise was also the first to resolve and activate Jace, Architect of Thought. This kept his hand full of permission, which he used to prevent Sullivan from drawing cards with Sphinx's Revelation. The Jace also provided Wise with an Elspeth. The game appeared set up to end just as the last one had, with Wise protected behind a wall of planeswalking allies.
And then the game turned with an innocuous flip of a card. Sullivan resolved a Jace, Memory Adept, and used him to mill the top card of Wise's deck, knocking out the one Elixir of Immortality he had at his disposal. From this point on, still relatively early into the game, Sullivan committed to using every resource at his disposal to stay alive long enough to deck Wise. Wise began to attack Jace with Mutavaults and Fiendslayer Paladin, but Sullivan had Mutavaults of his own to block. While Sullivan was trying his best to defend, Wise was continuing to draw the best cards in his deck, cashing in Jace, Architect of Thought, for a pair of Sphinx's Revelations that Sullivan was more than happy for him to have. Sullivan kept his own hand filled with Opportunity, managing to stay one step ahead of Wise's offense.
Wise was perilously close to finishing the game out, winning the game 41-6 thanks to his repeated attacks with Mutavaults and the Paladin. When he made the move to close things out with an Archangel of Thune and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Sullivan made his move. Wise went for the kill with a Sphinx's Revelation that would have lethally pumped his team, but Sullivan won the counter war that eventually tapped Wise out. This let Sullivan, down to 3, to untap and cast Planar Cleansing, completely resetting the board.
With the board clear, Sullivan managed to start gaining the lead with a Jace, Architect of Thought. Jace's card advantage allowed Sullivan to drain Wise's hand before refilling his deck with his own Elixir of Immortality. Wise was effectively finished. He tried to find something to finish things off, but his Sphinx's Revelation only hastened his demise. With only four cards in his deck, none of which were actually capable of winning the game, Wise conceded.
For the last game, Wise was forced to mulligan a mana-light hand. Still, he landed a first-turn Elixir of Immortality, clearly not going to lose for the same reason as in the previous game. He also held an excellent way to reverse his mulligan, with two copies of Font of Fortunes and a Sphinx's Revelation in his opening hand. This game played out in true control-mirror fashion, with players playing lands and slinging Sphinx's Revelations back and forth until they had built up a reasonable advantage. Wise was the first on the board, using Elspeth, Sun's Champion, to begin making an army. After taking one hit from her Soldiers, Sullivan used Quicken to cast an end-of-turn Planar Cleansing. A small counter war ensued, and Sullivan came out the victor. Soon thereafter, he resolved his own Planeswalker: Jace, Architect of Thought.
Jace gave Sullivan the choice of his finisher, and he selected a single Ætherling over the Elspeth and Verdict he was offered alongside it. A few turns later, he found a reasonable spot to cast the Ætherling, and the game ended more or less on the spot. Wise tried to cast his own Ætherling a couple turns later to at least race, but a Syncopate countered it, handing Sullivan a ticket to the Semifinals.
Adrian Sullivan defeated Steve Wise 2-1