With both players at 11-1 this round 13 feature might just be the last win needed for either player to be able to draw into the prestigious Top 8. For Jon Stern, with four previous Grand Prix Top 8 it would be his first one in limited. For Yuuya Watanabe it would be his umpteenth. Even though there was a a lot at stake, the discussion was rather relaxed before the match when the players debated their chances to draw into top 8 with a win.
"I don't think so, since there are nine people with x and 1-records, but I haven't done the math," Jon Stern was quick to point out.
Yuuya shrugged his shoulders, hoping to win regardless.
When it came to their decks it seemed like Jon Stern had abandoned his affinity for Green in the final draft of the Swiss. Ending up with a Black/White deck with multiple Scholar of Athreos and the pre-release familiar Dawnbringer Charioteers. Watanabe's deck was Green/White with solid creatures like Golden Hind, Oakheart Dryads and highlights like Skyspear Cavalry and Anthousa, Setessan Hero.
In the first game Watanabe mulliganed before settling for a hand of five lands and a Satyr Grovedancer. His first three draw steps unfortunately turned out to be a Landcestral Recall, and he could only watch as Stern took the first game with Tormented Hero, Cast into Darkness for his Grovedancer, Lagonna-Band Elder and Scholar of Athreos. Watanabe showed his hand of all lands and packed up his cards.
Between games Jon Stern read from his note book to recall what tricks he had passed in the draft that might be in Watanabe's deck. Trying to narrow down what the Japanese had in his deck other than lands and the Satyr Grovedancer.
With 45 minutes still on the clock, the match hopefully had more game play to offer than just basic basic lands from the Japanese superstar.
And it did, as Watanabe was able to overwhelm Stern's Black and White army of small creatures with various Green beasts from an assortment of both the Pheres-Band clan and Nessians. The final ten points of damage dealt in style from Skyspear Cavalry bestowed with Nyxborn Wolf.
The third game was certainly an example of how the two archetypes matched up against each other. As Sterns deck had a faster curve, but Watanabe would be favored to win with his larger creatures if the game went longer.
Stonewise Fortifier opened up the game for the Canadian, who increased the pressure with Scholar of Athreos, a key card in the Black/White archetype. Dawnbringer Charioteer earned a big sigh from Watanabe who's plays on the first four turns were the following:
Stern hesitated for attacking into the four open mana for a while, fearing a Divine Verdict, before choosing to enchant his Stonewise Fortifier with Nyxborn Shieldmate, not to put all his eggs in one basket.
"I saw both a Divine Verdict and an Excoriate in the draft, so I wanted to play around either," he explained after the match.
Watanabe, who's slow opened failed to deliver any early drops cast his first (and last?) spell of the game in Anthousa, Setessan Hero. But a hero alone can hardly win games.
Boon of Erebos on Stonewise Fortifier took out the hero and Watanabe could only cast a Setessen Griffin, that died to Asphyxiate. The Japanese veteran drew for his seventh turn, played his seventh land and stared for a while at the Fated Retribution in his hand, that would have saved him if he had one more life. As it was he was already down to one life, so casting it on his own turn would leave him dead to the Nyxborn Shieldmate, and waiting until Stern's turn would leave him dead to the Scholar of Athreos.
"1 more life," Watanabe said, shook his opponents hand and showed him the Retribution in his hand.
"I figured," Stern responded, since Watanabe took his time before conceding, and because Stern actually saw the Fated Retribution in the draft.
Stern moves on to 12-1, hopefully in good shape to make his first limited Grand Prix top 8. And Watanabe, who has already two limited Grand Prix titles in his belt needs to win a few more matches to make another one.