Luis Scott-Vargas (Melira Pod) vs. Michael Sigrist (Affinity)
This is a return to the Top 8 for both these players. Michael Sigrist finished in the Top 8 Pro Tour Boston on Team Work With Josh. Though often in team competitions, only the Top 4 gets the spotlight, that doesn't take anything away from a Pro Tour Top 8 as far as I'm concerned. And as for Luis Scott-Vargas, I think he's made a Top 8 or two. I tried to think of a time as his Hall of Fame ring glittered in the sun.
This is the match-up of the Top 8. Pod and Affinity are the most-represented decks in the Top 8. This match could be a harbinger of the finals.
Sigrist felt great about the deck line-up. He was as confident as one can be going up against someone named Luis Scott-Vargas.
"That it?" Scott-Vargas stone faced. This was going to be tough for LSV.
Next turn Sigrist added a Signal Pest and beat to 17-20. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Luis was down to 11. Though Kitchen Finks brought him back up to 13, he was still under pressure. Then Blinkmoth Nexus and Master of Etherium joined the party. Signal Pest gladly boosted them and the Etched Champion during the next attack step. LSV sunk to 5.
He made a slight raspberry with his mouth when he drew his card for the turn. That might have well have been his concession.
Apparently, on the West Coast, "Thpth" is actually shorthand for "I declare my scoop phase."
Michael Sigrist 1 – 0 Luis Scott-Vargas
LSV went first this game, and cast Overgrown Tomb and Birds of Paradise. This was as good a start as you can hope for. This allows for acceleration into the bigger spells and creatures that can impact the board.
But although Sigrist was a half-turn behind, he went Blinkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Ornithopter, Vault Skirge, Dismember the Birds. Then went Springleaf Drum and Arcbound Ravager. Taking the totals to 16-15 in LSV's favor. If you just walked in on the game, not only would you have thought Sigrist had went first, you probably would have thought Scott-Vargas showed up late. Despite being behind, the Hall-of-Famer remained jovial.
"Has that Ravager been played before?" Scott-Vargas said as he looked at the well-loved wear around the edges of the Darksteel standout.
Scott-Vargas's second-turn accelerator, Noble Hierarch, stuck, and he used it to cast a Birthing Pod. Then in selflessly sacrificed itself to make a Kataki, War's Wage. This was usually very difficult to overcome, but the well-love Ravager made sure all extraneous artifacts were converted into +1/+1 counters.
Sigrist kept the Arcbound Ravager, Vault Skirge, Blinkmoth Nexus, and an Island. Before attackers he laid down a Darksteel Citadel and cast a Master of Etherium. This drew a wince from Luis. The Ravager had become a 4/4, and Luis, ever-conscious of his life total chump-blocked with his Kataki.
"I couldn't afford my own Kataki," Luis said as he shipped the white creature to the bin. The life totals became 10-17. That Vault Skirge was starting to pay for itself in life.
Scott-Vargas had an empty board save three lands and a Birthing Pod, and his opponent was down to just one card (probably because basically his entire hand had been on the battlefield since the first turn).
Orzhov Pontiff came down, then gave himself to the Birthing Pod, and Scott-Vargas birthed a Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Scott-Vargas was actually dead on board with all the artifact creatures, so his odd-looking play was made in the hopes that Sigrist would forget his Vault Skirge was actually a 2/2 thanks to Master of Etherium. If he could get the Affinity player to give up one of his creatures to the Arcbound Ravager for free, he might survive.
Sigrist didn't bite. Luis ended his turn, then a few moments later extended his hand.Michael Sigrist has defeated Luis Scott-Vargas 2-0 to advance to the Semifinals!
Vipin Chackonal was extremely excited to make it here in the Top 8. Not only is this his biggest finish thus far, but today is his birthday!
"This is the best birthday present ever!" He was quite elated. But not so fast, Chackonal. I wouldn't be too happy to have to face down Jamie Parke. Maybe that name doesn't mean much to some of the younger of you, but Parke has put up Top 8s across three decades now.
His Tempo Twin deck can be a beast to handle, because it can always threaten to win at a moment's notice. Though less-suited to beat Affinity, Tempo Twin was made to delay the game just enough to eke out the win.Game One
Memnite, Springleaf Drum, Signal Pest, and Inkmoth Nexus hit the field for Vipin Chackonal on the first turn. Luis Scott-Vargas heard the slaps of cardboard onto the table from the other side of the Top 8 tables and said, "I don't know exactly what's in play, but it probably includes a Mox Opal, maybe two."
That was a heck of a turn one. But Jamie Parke was able to Lightning Bolt the Signal Pest to stop any real beats for at least the next turn. Chackonal followed with a Bolt-proof Etched Champion and brought the beats soon enough. Parke was behind on board, and also had to mulligan, so he was playing catch-up on two fronts.
Parke was down to 9 life by the time he took his fourth turn. Electrolyze took out all the non-Etched Champion creatures to maintain his life total as best he could. It was low, but at least it would stay the same. The fist part of Tempo Twin was working—it was delaying. Now the tough part—winning before you lose.
There was a rules question that gave Jamie an extra life. Chackonal meant to attack with his Blinkmoth Nexus but had accidentally passed into the declare attackers phase. Chackonal was a jittery and excited at his first time under the lights. And this time, this mistake didn't matter.
Whether Parke was at 6 life or 7, Parked couldn't find an answer in time to stop the unkillable Champion.Vipin Chackonal 1 – 0 Jamie Parke
His second turn was worse than the first. Another Ornithopter and Cranial Plating allowed him to attack for six. It was 13-24 in Chackonal's favor on turn two. It looked like Chackonal was on his way to a quick 2-0 just like the Michael Sigrist made against Luis Scott-Vargas. But Parke had other plans.
He had the combo waiting in his hand, and all he had to do was live until turn four. If he did, he could cast Deceiver Exarch and enchant it with Splinter Twin to make the all-but-infinite combo of thousands upon thousands of attackers.
Chackonal tried to beat as fast as he could, but killing on turn three, on the draw, is quite the difficult task to complete. He couldn't do it. Though Parke was brought deep into single digits, on the end of Chackonal's third turn, Parke flashed out a Exarch, then calmly untapped and resolved his Splinter Twin for the win.Vipin Chackonal 1 – 1 Jamie Parke
"You're on the play. That's bad for me." Those sound like famous last words out of Jamie Parke. In the first two turns, Chackonal had made two Ornithopter, two Springleaf Drums, a Vault Skirge, and a Blinkmoth Nexus. Though lots of cards were on the battlefield, there weren't really any damage-dealers.
Parke thought he was just fine. He was sitting on Anger of the Gods, and so he would just wait for the right moment to crush. But then his own dreams got crushed. On the third turn the big things came down. Both Torpor Orb and Thoughtseize resolved. Parke slumped visibly in his chair when the Thoughtseize resolved.
Two Exarch, Snapcaster Mage, two land, Anger of the Gods and Flame Slash. Parke dutifully notated what his opponent saw in addition to Chackonal marking it. This diligence would hopefully pay off later. But as for now, all of Parke's creatures were basically worthless and the Anger of the Gods was in his graveyard.
Parke was a little shaken, and was getting a little itchy. He cast the Snapcaster the following turn and tried to target his Serum Visions in the graveyard, but Chackonal informed him that Torpor Orb stopped that. Parke passed the turn.
Chackonal had a stranglehold on the game, but his clock was very, very slow. Parke's life total went to 17, then 16, then 13. Parke, trying to stem the inexorable bleed, cast Deceiver Exarch as a Horned Turtle. It was a sad day for the New Yorker. Soon the Etched Champions came down and the Blinkmoth Nexus animated. Affinity started taking bigger chunks of Parke's life than he could handle.
On the last possible turn, Parke drew an Ancient Grudge and perked up in his seat. He could knocked out Torpor Orb, and if he drew either Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker or Splinter Twin, he could still win. And even in the worst-case scenario, he could kill both the Blinkmoth Nexus when the animated and have a shot. But those plans were not meant to be.
Before animating either of the lands, Chackonal cast a Spellskite. This would divert Parke's Ancient Grudge either time he tried to cast it. So both potential plans were basically for naught. Parke looked around the board and realized there was nothing he could do.
He extended his hand to Chackonal.Vipin Chackonal, the birthday boy, advances to the semifinals over Jamie Parke 2-1!
These matches were covered on video as well. If you missed the live action, videos will be up on the Star City Games YouTube channel a week after the Grand Prix.