Round 11 saw two players both with 10-1 records, but Jasper Johnson-Epstein had actually won his first match of the draft, where Jon Stern had lost his to Alexander Hayne.
Coming into the event Canadian Jon Stern has 32 Pro Points, being virtually locked for Gold by showing up at Pro Tour Magic 2015 this summer. With Platinum status right around the corner he is on the hunt for more points. But has to make top 16 to earn any, since he already has Pro Point finishes from five Grand Prix. Johnson-Epstein might not be as well known as his opponent with four Grand Prix top 8's, but according to fellow Madison-resident Sam Black, he has numerous PTQ top 8:s and is looking for his first Grand Prix one this weekend.
The match-up turned out to be between two Green drafter. But where Jon Stern had White to complement his, Johnson-Epstein was on Green/Blue, featuring two copies of Hero of Leina Tower, plenty of other heroic creatures and cheap spells to trigger them like Stratus Walk, Fate Foretold and Aspect of Hydra.
"The deck is really good, but if it had something like one more Stratus Walk it would be insane," Johnson-Epstein, explained.
Game one turned out to be a battle of rivaling Heroes. As Stern kept an awkward 6-card hand, and wasn't able to cast anything until a turn four Hero of Iroas. Johnson-Epstein however, had a Hero of Leina Tower on the very first turn, that was soon joined by a Setessan Oathsworn.
If he had been told Jon Stern's deck was mainly Green he might not have believed it, as the spells Stern cast were Hero of Iroas, an Ordeal of Heliod and a Crypsis to block and kill the Settesan Oathsworn. Johnson-Epstein hope against the giant Hero of Iroas was to grow his Hero of Leina Tower with an Aspect of Hydra, hoping to double block along with a freshly cast Ravenous Leucrocota.
Right on time though, Sterns deck delivered a crucial Forest and he was able to take out both blockers with a Reap What is Sown, growing his Hero of Iroas even bigger, which was enough for Johnson-Epstein to concede a turn later.
Between games both players brought in a copy of Hunt the Hunted, Johnson-Epstein also opting to switch his Ravenous Leucrocota for a Staunch-Hearted Warrior, which could be nice with the green mirror breaker. Jon Stern also brought in Nylea's Presence and the Hour of Need that he originally sidelined.
After the mandatory jokes about not being sure who was going to play first, Johnson-Epstein was off to an optimal start in the second game. He curved nicely with Sedge Scorpion, Satyr Grovedancer and Setessan Oathsworn, before enchanting it with both Fate Foretold and Stratus Walk.
On Jon Stern's side of the table a Oreskos Sun Guide was joined by a Font of Fertility allowing a turn 4 Nessian Demolok, but as soon as it hit the table Johnson-Epstein showed an Aspect of Hydra in his hand, which would grow his Setessan Oathsworn big enough to attack for lethal in the air on his turn.
The deciding game would once again be decided by the Heroes. As Jon Stern had probably the best draw his deck could deliver, with Font of Tranquility into Hero of Iroas, enchanting it once again with Ordeal of Heliod, following up with Chronicler of Heroes, Supply-Line Cranes and Nessian Asp.
The only surprise of the game was that Johnson-Epstein managed to stay in it for as long as he did, much thanks to his War-Wing Siren, enchanted by Fate Foretold, a Golden Hind with a Nimbus Naiad on it and a Noble Quarry with Stratus Walk. The auras however, aren't really set up for playing defense, and Johnson-Epstein scooped up the remainder of his team when Stern, never out of action, cast Nemesis of Mortals and Golden Hind on his next turn.
"Yeah, that's good enough," Johnson-Epstein joked, indicating that the game was a close one, when he was never really in it. The players packed up their decks, exchanged advice for the final round of the draft and calculated their chances to make top 8. Jon Stern would probably need another two wins and a draw, and Johnson-Epstein would have to win his next three to have a shot at his Grand Prix top 8 debut.