Here was the blink-and-you'll-miss-it-Affinity mirror match. Meanwhile in the other Semifinals match, there were two Pod decks. So the Top 4 matchups could be thought of as the primary race to see which deck would be a better representative in general-election face-off of Affinity vs. Pod. Though the two Affinity player's decks are extremely similar, Vipin Chackonal's has a few more non-artifact spells in extra Thoughtcast and Galvanic Blast. This meant the deck could go a little longer, but was less explosive than Michael Sigrist's deck.
Keep in mind we're really splitting hairs here. The decks are only a few cards apart.
The two shuffled up for the first game, and I prepared for a blisteringly fast match.
Michael Sigrist went first, and, subverting all expectation, started very slowly. He just laid a land and passed the turn. What? Is this even Affinity? Luckily Chackonal satiated my need for speed by going Darksteel Citadel, Mox Opal, Signal Pest, Springleaf Drum, Memnite, and Cranial Plating in the first two turns. Phew.
Sigrist cast a Steel Overseer and accepted the trade Chackonal offered him when a plated-up Memnite marched into the red zone. Though the Overseer was often the key to the match, the Cranial Plating required Sigrist to save all the damage he could and hope to attrition out Chackonal. However, it didn't look like Chackonal was planning on slowing up.
The life totals were still near 20 apiece, but the board state was changing in flurries. When Sigrist resolved his own Cranial Plating he began to even out the board. Granted, Chackonal's newly equipped Ravager was a 7/1 rather than a 3/1, but still, to the untrained eye it looked even.
Sigrist's hand was all-but empty when a Thoughtcast gave him another Steel Overseer and a second Cranial Plating. Combined with his second Arcbound Ravager, the counting game had begun. Chackonal, an accountant, was the first player to physically count out potential damage he was calculating in his brain. He pointed his finger over and over towards the table as if he was using an invisible Morse code machine.
He eventually cast Arcbound Ravager #2 pre-combat and swung in. Sigrist was at 11. He made all the blocks he could. But then the shenanigans started.
Even more "flurrious" than the flurries before, artifacts flew around the battlefield and graveyard. Thanks to Arcbound Ravager, counters moved freely to wherever they would deal the most damage. Eventually, an unblocked, flying artifact was at 11 power. And that was that. It turned out here, the place where counters would deal the most damage was in Sigrist's piehole.Vipin Chackonal 1 – 0 Michael Sigrist
Sigrist had a more Affinity-like first turn this game, with a Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, and a Signal Pest. Not overly explosive, but at least I could tell it was Affinity. Chackonal answered in kind. However, unlike Sigrist, Chackonal added and equipped a Cranial Plating. This was a very big difference and meant Memnite swung for 8 (Plating giving bonus for Ornithopter, Signal Pest, Memnite, Mox Opal and Darksteel Citadel).
Sigrist was back on the defensive. He cast an Arcbound Ravager and passed, trying to maintain the life totals at 12-20. Chackonal gladly continue his offensive assault, moving the Plating to the 0/2 flyer. Sigrist had a Galvanic Blast in hand but no source of red mana, and considered whether he should chump block with his own Ornithopter. He declined and sunk to 4 life. Odd isn't it, that a free 0/2 can deal so much damage? Such is the wonders of synergy.
Sigrist had some heavy hitters in his hand: Master of Etherium, Steel Overseer and a second Ravager, but Chackonal wasn't giving him much time to cast them. Glimmervoid came down, allowing Sigrist to keep open the precious red to cast a Galvanic Blast. He still couldn't attack, but two Signal Pest, two Arcbound Ravagers, an Ornithopter and a Blast in hand made for a decent defense.
But just like last time, it still wasn't enough. Sigrist could only block so much. And just the like dreaded Affinity deck during Mirrodin Standard, with enough sacrificing, any unblocked artifact attacker can turn into a giant. And coincidentally enough, that giant always seems to be exactly the size of the opponent's remaining life total.
Sigrist lost his remaining life and extended his hand to Vipin Chackonal.Vipin Chackonal—first time Top 8er and birthday boy—is heading to the finals, 2-0 over Michael Sigrist.
This match was covered on video as well. If you missed the live action, the video will be up on the Star City Games YouTube channel a week after the Grand Prix.