It's been just over a year since Frank Skarren won Grand Prix Charlotte. The winner of the former largest Grand Prix – Limited or Constructed – hasn't found the same level of success since. Staying afloat with just one loss was essential if Skarren wanted to repeat his Charlotte success. Notching "Winner of the Largest Canadian Grand Prix" in his belt would put him right back on the map, and into Portland for Pro Tour Magic 2015.
Frank Skarren has been looking to repeat his Grand Prix Charlotte success for a year.
Lucas Siow has been on the cusp of a Grand Prix victory twice: Once at Grand Prix San Jose, alongside teammates Jamie Naylor and Maksym Gryn, and also at Grand Prix Columbus – both in 2012. 2013 was a cooler year for the Canadian Magic staple, the opportunity heat up for 2014 would require staying out of the two loss bracket, vital for his chances to make Day 2. One of their own winning the largest Canadian Grand Prix ever would be a huge victory for the "hometown" heroes of the north.
Lucas Siow was looking for his breakthrough, and the largest Canadian Grand Prix would suit fine.
Siow chose to draw, tipping to Skarren the plan may be for a later game. If Skarren thought of it he didn't hold back.
Skarren's quick Swordwise Centaur and Oreskos Sun Guide knocked Siow down to 11 as the Canadian refused to trade Burnished Hart – waiting to pop it for some lands. As Skarren pressed his advantage to run out more creatures, Siow sprung his Control-game trap: Anger of the Gods.
Wild Celebrants, bestowed with Nyxborn Triton, began to eat into Skarren's life total in 7 damage chunks. Forces to cast both of his Karametra's Favors on Siow's creature Skarren went digging, but Nullify was waiting. Siow added Pharagax Giant to the mix and it looked all but over for Skarren at 7 life.
Skarren needed to draw cards. Sometimes you don't have a choice where to place your cantrip auras.
For a control deck, Siow's looked the part. But there was a lot of Skarren's deck still unknown to the Canadain.
The second game started with the same Swordwise Centaur and Omenspeaker showdown, but Skarren was a step slower than before. Spark Jolt let Siow trade Omenspeaker for Swordwise, and Skarren twisted his head when Siow played Akroan Conscriptor.
Siow didn't flinch when Skarren replied with Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Skarren's planeswalker was among the best cards in the Limited format, but Siow always had an answer ready.
Vapor Kin and Lighting Strike struck down the planeswalker after it made three token creatures, and Conscriptor traded away with Nylea's Disciple. Siow had Anger of the Gods in hand again, but went for Arbiter of the Ideal instead. Sea God's Revenge was there for Skarren, and this time it was good enough.
"Pretty sweet control deck you go there," Skarren offered.
"Elspeth is nice," Siow pointed.
"I just make some 1/1s," Skarren shrugged.
The third game screamed with Skarren flying out the gates: Swordwise Centaur, Chronicler of Heroes, and Nylea's Emissary putting Siow down to 8 by turn five. Arbiter of the Ideal looked solid but Elspeth's -3 loyalty ability cleared the way for Skarren. Siow's upkeep Spark Jolt let him remove Elspeth and try to find a better draw for his turn, but all he could do was extend his hand to Skarren.
"I boarded Dreamfinder Griffin in the end because I knew it was going to be a grind," Skarren said, "though it's not that good with Anger of the Gods. I kept a seven that let me curve out so I decided to see what could happen"
"I didn't see that much of your deck so I didn't know how good Spark Jolt could be," Siow admitted. "My seven was a little awkward."
Frank Skarren defeats Lucas Siow, 2-1
So how has Frank Skarren spent time since his victory in Charrlote? "I took a short break – two to three months around November-December," Skarren said. "I've been going to a couple GPs – got a few Top 32, Top 64 – but no Top 8s. I still work with Team TCGPlayer on Pro Tours. Even if I'm not qualified I help them out where I can."
Does Skarren like his deck today? "In a way it's a bunch of efficient creatures, plus Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sea God's Revenge." Skarren put it succinctly: "My Plan A is curve out. My plan B is to play a strong six mana card. It was really frustrating that I lost Round 3 from mulligans. To win out from here I have to get a little bit lucky."