This match features Robert Berni's Black Devotion deck against Daniel Ward's Bant Control deck. The match-up should be familiar for both players - Ward surely had to beat many Mono Black decks to get to the top 8, and even though this is Berni's first time playing against Bant Control, the difference between White-Blue, Esper, and Bant are very small, especially where this matchup is concerned (Sylvan Caryatid and Kiora, the Crashing Wave are the only green cards in Ward's deck).
Game one, in general, should be good for the control deck; the black deck has six removal spells that have almost no targets and few meaningful threats, letting the Bant deck just go over the top eventually. After board, things get a lot closer since Ward has access to four Duress and two Erebos, God of the Dead, replacing the cards that were previously very bad with all-stars, whereas Bant changes very little in terms of power level. The Games
The match started slowly, with both players having no action in the first turns. On turn two, Ward played an untapped dual land, taking 2 and representing Syncopate. Now, Berni had a choice, he could call the bluff (or choose to get the Syncopate out of the way), or he could wait a turn. He chose to wait a turn, in the likelihood that Ward does not have another untapped land. He did just take two to play his land after all, which he would not have done if he had a basic land to play instead, so there is a decent chance he will not be able to cast Syncopate for two on the following turn. Ward played another untapped dual land on turn three, and Berni decided he's had enough waiting and cast a Nightveil Specter, which sure enough drew out the Syncopate.
Ward missed his third land drop, but declined to cycle Azorius Charm to keep his mana up and represent a counterspell, which ended up backfiring once Berni went for Underworld Connections regardless. The first Connection got an immediate response in Detention Sphere, but the second one stayed in play and began to push Berni ahead. Another Detention Sphere followed, but so did a third Underworld Connections, which is great for Berni because it's the most important card in this
first game. Ward played Jace, Architect of Thought, but Ward had to use its plus ability because Berni had a Mutavault, so it ended up breaking even in an exchange of cards when Berni took it down with Hero's Downfall. That was fine for Ward, though, since he had an upgrade in Elspeth, Sun's Champion, and now one Hero's Downfall was out of the way. Thoughtseize grabbed a Sphinx's Revelation, but as long as Elspeth was in play, Ward doesn't really need anything else to win the game, and it did't look like it's going away anytime soon since Berni was out of Downfalls. Berni then played a Bile Blight, killing the Elspeth tokens (since they are all named "Soldier") and attacked Elspeth with Mutavault. On the next turn, he tried the same thing, but his Bile Blight got Dissolved; he then played another one and finally managed to kill the planeswalker with Mutavault attacks only, a feat we rarely see since it makes three blockers a turn. So much for Bile Blight being a "dead removal spell", I suppose.
"Wow, triple Bile Bright!", exclaimed Ward.
"Yeah, but you had to draw the Dissolve to stop one," Berni responded.Ward drew another Elspeth, which threatened to pull the game away, but Berni had the fourth Underworld Connections, and managed to draw into double Gray Merchant of Asphodel before the Elspeth could ultimate and kill him.
Both players kept their opening hands for Game 2 and Ward started with a turn two Sylvan Caryatid, a card that most Bant decks don't play because of the negative interaction with Supreme Verdict but that is nonetheless very powerful and combos very well with planeswalkers by allowing you to both play them a turn earlier and to protect them with a blocker. Duress stripped out a Revelation, leaving an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, a Last Breath, and a Revoke Existence, and with the coast clear, Berni knew he could go for a Lifebane Zombie.
Desecration Demon came into play next for Berni, which presented a problem for Ward, but he managed to draw Supreme Verdict to deal with both of Berni's Creatures. Unfortunately for him, it also killed his Sylvan Caryatid, which put him even further away from casting the Elspeth in his hand. Stuck on four lands and facing a Pack Rat, Ward had the choice to play a Sphinx's Revelation for one to try to find a fifth land, but declined to do that, instead hoping that he will draw a land next turn to be able to play Revelation for two.
Berni made a Pack Rat token at the end of the turn, tapping out and giving Ward an opportunity to Last Breath one of his Rats before they can grow to 3/3. Ward chose not to, and decided to Last Breath them during the attack phase instead, giving Berni the opportunity to grow one of his Rats before the Last Breath resolves, but Berni decided to just let it die. In the end, the army of Pack Rats and Mutavaults is too much to handle and Berni Berni advanced to the Semifinals.
Robert Berni defeats Daniel Ward 2-0 and advances to the Semifinals!