It was a lively feature match area in Round 13, with a pair of matches going on that came complete with their own commentary.
Grand Prix Columbus champ Jacob Maynard faced off against ChannelFireball pro David Ochoa in the coverage match while Jared Boettcher and Clyde Martin squared off next to them. All four were in Top 8 contention but if they were nervous it didn't show, and they spent a few minutes before the round began swapping stories.
"So David, how did you do last weekend at Montreal?"
"I went into Day 2 at 8-1, and then I went 1-2 went a solid deck and 3-0 with a steaming pile that did happen to do some sweet things," replied Ochoa, who finished 10th at the Limited event last weekend.
Of course, all the banter soon faded as the players settled in for the match. Well, Maynard and Ochoa did anyway. Martin and Boettcher, who took the match 2-0, kept up their running commentary throughout the games, to the amusement of everyone in the feature match area.
The top tables have been a sea of Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion, but the matchup between Ochoa and Maynard presented something different.
Ochoa is still on black Devotion but is splashing red for a list that Eric Froehlich designed for the tournament. The two cut the once-staple Pack Rat and added Rakdos's Return to the maindeck, which along with sideboard cards Slaughter Games and Sire of Insanity vastly improve the control matchup.
Maynard, on the other hand, went about as rogue as you can in Standard. Piloting Naya Auras, he takes advantage of tough-to-remove threats Witchstalker and Gladecover Scout to pick up the draft bomb enchantment Unflinching Courage and a host of other enchantments to try and ignore everything that isn't their opponent's life total.
Ochoa happened to have both. And that's bad news when you're relying on a single 1/1 to pick up some buffs and go the distance.
The glades couldn't cover the scout from Devour Flesh, and Thoughtseize a turn later took out Ajani, Caller of the Pride. That was enough to clear the way for Ochoa's Desecration Demon to take big chunks out of Maynard's life total despite the Voice of Resurgence that picked up an Unflinching Courage.
As soon as the game ended, the banter resumed, with Maynard remarking that he was 3-0 against black Devotion this weekend.
"Not looking good for me then..." Ochoa replied.
"But you won Game 1!"
A sheepish grin and a shrug from Ochoa.
"Yeah, I guess I did," as the table laughed.
Ochoa looks over his hand as he tries to figure out the best way to handle Maynard's Hexproof threats. Even after winning Game 1, Ochoa wasn't feeling good about his chances.
Much like Game 1, Game 2 hinged on a single play. It began on turn two when Ochoa tried to use a Devour Flesh on Maynard during his attack phase but a Selesnya Charm made a knight to fall on the sword instead, setting up a defining turn three.
During one of Ochoa's feature matches on Saturday, he was able to blow out his Esper opponent with Bile Blight when the control player animated two Mutavaults after one went unscathed the turn before.
Ochoa said then he always touches the stove twice, and that turned out to be the difference in Sunday's game. Rather than cast a second Devour Flesh in his main phase while Maynard was tapped out, Ochoa saved it again until the attack step, hoping that Maynard would add another enchantment onto the Gladecover Scout before forcing him to sacrifice it.
Despite the mistake, which Ochoa scolded himself on in between games, it looked like he would get away with it after Maynard mulliganed to five cards in Game 3 and Ochoa cast Thoughtseize for three straight turns before landing an Underworld Connections and a Desecration Demon.
Of course, the one card Thoughtseize can't answer is the one on top of the deck, and that's exactly what happened. Maynard found the lands he needed on top of his deck, followed by the Gladecover Scout and enchantments that he needed to grow it.
Still, it wasn't a race he was going to win. That is, until Ajani came off the top to give the Scout flying and double strike to end the game in one huge attack.
The win put Maynard two victories away from the Top 8, and after the match he was confident the deck could take down the tournament.
"It's something a lot of decks just can't interact with," he said. "It hits the format from a different angle. I've always played Affinity because I liked to play aggressive and kind of ignore what the opponent is doing, and this deck does that.
"Two more wins to get there."