For No. 23 Player Eric Froehlich, another Grand Prix Top 8 was a welcome sight. After narrowly missing the Top 8 of Grand Prix Cincinnati with a very similar version of the Black/red Devotion deck he brought with him today, the Las Vegas resident and Platinum pro made up for two weekends ago with an incredible run through the last two days, finishing Day One as one of five undefeated players and locking up his spot in the Top 8 with a draw in the fourteenth round.
His opponent, Phoenix Arizona local Gary Wong, was also rocking a newer iteration of an old archetype. His Blue Devotion deck splashed white, a decision that has become increasingly popular due to the inclusion of Temple of Enlightenment and the ability to play Detention Sphere, a card that has made the match-up against Pack Rat decks far better than previous.
It was a match-up Froehlich was not thrilled to start his Top 8 with, but the Vegas resident and ChannelFireball team member puts up incredible and consistent numbers at each event. If there is anyone that can overcome a rough match-up in this Top 8, it is him.
The first game looked fine for Wong in the first two turns, who had three flying creatures on the first turn that could set up a potentially devastating early Bident of Thassa if Wong had it. However, what Wong did not have was a third land or even a second blue source, his Godless Shrine proving to be a burden.
This gave Froehlich more than enough time to sculpt an otherwise unexciting hand with Underworld Connections, and the No. 23 Ranked Player buried Wong in the first game while he struggled to cast anything.
The second game was a reversal of mana troubles. While Froehlich's start was the powerful one-two punch of Thoughtseize into Pack Rat, a third land never materialized, and Wong had ample time to create an army to lock up the game with before Froehlich could get started.
The third game started with both players going to six cards thanks to mulligans. "At least we're both taking mulligans this game," Wong said. "It's funny that out of six opening hands, we've only had one good one between us," Froehlich added.
Froehlich's first-turn Duress (discarding Bident of Thassa) into a second-turn Pack Rat seemed like a good start, but a Detention Sphere off the top in the following turns from Wong undid the damage from Froehlich's powerful early start. From there, Froehlich was stymied, and unable to draw out of the situation, his early lead immediately halted by the time Sphere off the top. Wong did not let up, following up with a series of powerful plays, and Froehlich succumbed to Wong's quickly growing board.
Gary Wong defeats Eric Froehlich 2-1 and advances to the Semifinals!