And then there were two.
William Aitken and his Merfolk had been swimming past every undefeated opponent he faced. Packed with "lord" creatures such as Merfolk Reejerey and Lord of Atlantis, and backed up by Æther Vial and counterspells, the ability of blue's tribe to attack well had rewarded Aitken all weekend.
Across from him sat Andrew Calderon, the pilot of the other remaining undefeated deck: Scapeshift. While the exact builds can vary, Calderon's method used removal and counterspells to sculpt the course of the game before reshaping the battlefield for victory.
The right to remain undefeated with just two rounds left wasn't just positioning for a Top 8 run: Ensuring no more than two losses could come also meant the winner of the match qualified for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, thanks to the oversized nature of Grand Prix Richmond.
To the victor go the spoils.
In the first game, Aitken hit a slow start after Calderon countered Æther Vial and a pair of lords that followed. While a solitary Lord of Atlantis kept attacking him Calderon had time to set up and meter his removal accordingly, including using Snapcaster Mage for a well-timed Lightning Bolt on Mutavault to keep Aitken light on mana and creatures. Despite using Remand and Electrolyze multiple times, none of the cards seen had been Scapeshift.
Calderon's removal and counterspells kept his opponent off his plan.
It took Peer Through the Depths to get the job done.
"Alright. Show me the Mountains," Aitken said.
Calderon counted out four from his library, then played the fifth from his hand. The balance of the 20 damage needed had already come from a Sakura-Tribe Elder attacking for several turns. Both players chatted as they shuffled for the next game.
"That Æther Vial I drew late was really awkward. I just didn't have it early enough to matter," Aitken said.
"I was really happy I countered that the first time," Calderon admitted, referring to his first play of the game.
Pressure wasn't available for Aitken in the second game either. Though he led off with an Æther Vial, Calderon had an immediate Ancient Grudge to answer it. Thassa, God of the Sea helped smooth Aitken draw steps, but he spent turn after turn not casting Merfolk. Calderon played Obstinate Baloth, which nudged Aitken to play out Lord of Atlantis and Master of Waves. Volcanic Fallout cleared away most of the battlefield, and Calderon's Snapcaster Mage was ready to flash it back for Aitken's second Master of Waves.
Aitken's Merfolk floundered against Calderon's Obstinate Baloth.
When Calderon went for Scapeshift on the next turn Aitken used Spell Pierce and Swan Song to stop it, but it left Calderon with 6 power of offense for Aitken's 4 life. Sacrificing both his Mutavaults saved Aitken a turn, but ensuring Obstinate Baloth died required a second Swan Song to stop Calderon's Cryptic Command.
Two birds hung in the air as Aitken untapped with just 2 life.
"Let's scry!" Aitken said as he looked at his card before placing it on the bottom of his library. He draw his turn's with a flourish, then grimaced. "Augh... man."
His handed extended to Calderon.
"You didn't get a lot of combat steps," Calderon said. Aitken just shook his head.
"Obstinate Baloth. I like that. Scapeshift's tough for me. It might have been a mistake keeping that hand," Aitken said.
"Yeah, it seemed really slow."
"Three Swan Songs just seemed strong..." Aitken started
"...but with all the Birds I could just burn you out from there. I was pretty set to go with that slow start." Calderon finished.
With his 13-0 record to his name there's one question many of us wanted the answer to: Why Scapeshift?
"The deck I was planning on before the new banned list was a Domain deck. I did well with it in other tournaments, but when they banned Deathrite Shaman I tried it without it and it didn't work. The deck I played most after that was Scapeshift. I'm very comfortable with it."
Did you prepare a lot for Richmond?
"I almost didn't make it but it worked out at the last minute. Thanks to Magic Online I've played against almost every deck. I know what people are going to try and do. I know what I'm doing with my deck. You have your bad much ups and I guess I'm lucky I didn't face any of my worst match ups: Hexproof Auras is really bad for me."
What next? Will you try to play out the next two rounds?
"I remember when LSV went undefeated at an old Extended tournament so I'd like to see if I can at least match it. I'm running very well; no point in messing with success. Of course, if I lose the next round I'll draw in. That's just being realistic."