Grand Prix Chicago marks the first GP Top 8 for both Tyler Blum of Calgary and Steve Rubin of Pittsburg. Both players have had their past successes. Blum was a 2005 Canadian National Team member and Rubin a two-time Pro Tour Qualifier, both looking to win their first ever Grand Prix Top 8 match.
The players took their seats packing two different versions of the format staple, Black Devotion. Blum with straight Black, while Rubin opted for the variant splashing green for Abrupt Decay and multiple sideboard cards. The Decays are capable of removing the incredibly powerful Underworld Connections that can take over this mirror match. While this might give a slight edge to Rubin, the edge was only a small one at best.
After both players kept, Blum started out his first two turns Thoughtseizing an Underworld Connections and a Bile Blight putting Rubin in an early hole. A few turns later, with a Desecration Demon and Mutavault on board, Blum attacked Rubin down to 8 before resolving a Pack Rat. Blum's Desecration Demon hit the bin thanks to a removal spell, but with no more cards in hand and no creatures in play, Rubin had his back against the wall. A Desecration Demon of his own a few turns later finally gave him a way to at least try and play defense.
While Blum's Rats were in the process of taking over the game, Rubin managed to rip a Pack Rat of his own with two Mutavaults in play and enough mana to activate both of them. The players went back and forth making Pack Rats for multiple turns, neither really gaining an advantage until Blum was able to draw into Hero's Downfall, clearing the skies for his Demon. Each sacrificial Rat that the Demon ate gave Blum a greater advantage, and he was eventually able to finish the game before Rubin could Gray Merchant him out.
Game 2 saw a flurry of Thoughtseize and Duress to start it off. Two Pack Rats, a Thoughtseize, a Bile Blight, and a Desecration Demon hit their respective bins leaving both players depleted. With players low on cards, Rubin ripped a Pack Rat and was able to make two Rats over the next two, beating Blum down to 9. Blum made an effort to defend himself with a Nightveil Specter but the army of Pack Rats was too much and with a scoop of the cards the match was headed to game 3.
Both players kept seven cards for the deciding game of the match. On the draw, Rubin was able to connect with an early Thoughtseize taking one of Blum's two Pack Rats leaving a Pack Rat and four lands in hand for the Canadian. On Blum's turn, he cast his last Pack Rat, but it was met with a Bile Blight when it entered the Red Zone the following turn. Blum slipped an Underworld Connections onto the board and passed to Rubin who had an important Abrupt Decay waiting for the powerful enchantment. Fortunately, Blum was able to resolve another Connections within the next few turns and began taking over the game. He followed his Connections up by sticking Erebos, God of the Dead, which Rubin matched. Unfortunately for Rubin, Blum added a Nightveil Specter, devoting himself fully to the God and crashing in, dropping Rubin to 8. Rubin couldn't get back into the game after such a swing, falling to the angry deity in two more attacks.
Tyler Blum defeated Steve Rubin 2-1