Posted in NEWS on May 24, 2014

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

Swedish pro Denniz Rachid has amassed 21 Pro Points going into this weekend, but at this stage, his chances of hitting Platinum are low. While he still has a couple of Grand Prix slots that could add points to his overall total, he will need a Top 8 or better at Pro Tour Magic 2015 if he wants any shot of hitting Platinum once more.

His opponent, Jon Stern of Canada, is also trying to make a run for Platinum. His 31 Pro Points aren't bad, but he will need a solid Pro Tour finish in Portland at the end of the season to stand a chance at that. However, a solid Grand Prix finish will put him in a better spot for hitting that coveted status.

The Games

Despite going first, Stern was second on board with a Reverent Hunter, following up Rachid's Spirit of the Labyrinth. Rachid had another three-power creature with Lagonna-Band Elder, as the Spirit and Hunter traded.

However, the game quickly turned into Stern's control with a fourth-turn Courser of Kruphix, netting him an Island off the top. Ray of Dissolution took care of the Courser, but put Rachid behind a card. The Elder cracked in not once but twice, and was joined by Leonin Iconoclast after the second attack. Stern, however, had an end-of-turn Fleetfeather Cockatrice, which was joined by Chorus of the Tides after an attack. Pin to the Earth made made sure the Chorus was not a threat, allowing Rachid to keep attacks going.

The Iconoclast was particularly troublesome, and a bestowed Nyxborn Triton allowed Rachid to dispose Stern of the enchantment creatures that soon followed. With Stern at 6 and his opponent at 18, racing was hardly an option.

Jon Stern

At least, that's what it seemed. An attack dropped Rachid to 15, and an upkeep Suddent Storm left Rachid's attackers locked down. Rachid deployed two creatures, hoping to take Stern out before the Cockatrice did its job. Quarry Colossus from Rachid ended that hope Stern had grasped onto, and Stern was off to the second game.

Font of Fertility gave Stern a faster start in the second game, ramping him into a Font of Fortune to draw two cards. Snake of the Golden Grove came down on the fourth turn, while Rachid struggled to find any early action at all. Nessian Asp joined Stern, while Rachid finally got on the board with creatures significantly smaller than Stern's. Rachid had Evangel of Heliod to clog the board with some chump-blockers, but Fleetfeather Cockatrice and a bestowed Nylea's Emissary made quick work of Rachid, and the match proceeded to a third game.

Before the third game got underway, the two were moved under the camera as a back-up match. "Good thing they moved us," Stern said. "I thought of a card I'd like to bring in." Stern took out a Divination for a card that matches up a little better against his opponent's Spirit of the Labyrinth...

...which ended up playing a factor, as the enchantment creature hit play on the second turn from Rachid. It earned a Pin to the Earth from Stern, and each player had different three-power flying creatures on the fourth turn: Rachid with Cloaked Siren and Stern with Chorus of the Rides. The two creatures traded, with Rachid deploying Leonin Iconoclast and Loyal Pegasus on the next turn. The Swedish pro used Launch the Fleet on the next turn, giving him three attacking tokens and dropping Stern to 15.

Denniz Rachid

Stern, however, was far from dead, and Arbiter of the Ideal threatened to bury Rachid if left unchecked. The first inspired trigger only netted him a land, and with Stern at 10, he was forced to hold the Arbiter back, having flooded for far too long and with Rachid's board fairly intimidating. Rachid bestowed Hopeful Eidolon on one of his soldier tokens, and after the Arbiter ate the Pegasus, Stern dropped to 6. Another attack dropped Stern to 4, Rachid's board dwindling.

Stern, sitting with 11 lands in play, one in hand, and one on the bottom, was drowning in mana flood. Font of Fortunes gave him a chance to find action, but with Spirit of the Labyrinth suppressing how good that effect could be, Stern's options were limited. When Stern had nothing to Rachid's all-out attack on the next turn, Rachid went for Gods Willing on one of his attacking creatures that had Pin to the Earth stuck on it. Stern responded with Countermand.

"What does that do?" asked Rachid.

"It's crap," Stern replied. "Mill four!"Among the milled cards was Heliod, God of the Sun. The top of Rachid's deck quickly stopped cooperating after the big turn.

Stern fell to 2 on the attack, and Rachid's attacks left him with no way to punch through. Courser of Kruphix off the Font was a shaky blocker for Stern, as Rachid had Leonin Iconoclast, but a Nessian Demolok gave him a way to halt both of Rachid's soldier tokens. Stern, needing action, attacked with his Arbiter, gambling on whether Rachid had a way to target the Iconoclast. Rachid found a Pin to the Earth of his own, which he used on his Iconoclast to take out the Courser. However, Rachid still had no way to finish off Stern.

And with that, Stern began to climb back into the game. Arbiter netted Stern nothing on its first untap due to Font of Fertility resting on top, but that quickly changed. On the next turn, a Reverent Hunter. After that, Fleetfeather Cockatrice. And in a matter of turns, Stern's board became insurmountable in the skies. Rachid quickly found himself one attack away in the air to losing a match he had led. With no way to stop Stern's flying creatures, Rachid offered the handshake.

Rachid 1 – Stern 2