SEMIFINALS: NATHAN HOLIDAY VS. GARY WONG

Posted in NEWS on April 6, 2014

By PAULO VITOR DAMO DA ROSA

This semifinal match was between two very similar decks: Mono-Blue Devotion with Nathan Holiday, and Blue Devotion splashing White with Gary Wong. Though the creatures are all identical, Wong had access to four Detention Spheres, whereas Holiday had no convenient answer for an opposing Thassa, God of the Sea. In return, the Mono-Blue deck has access to Cyclonic Rift which is the ultimate trump in the matchup if it could get to seven mana. The white version was slightly clunkier as well, with lands that come into play tapped or that deal you damage, and that was a problem as Holiday was on the play.

Holiday fired off the game with a Cloudfin Raptor, which was matched by Judge's Familiar by Wong.

"Mine's not as good", says Wong, disappointed. This proved to be accurate as a turn two Frostburn Weird and subsequent Nightveil Specter made the Cloudfin Raptor a 2/3. The Specter was hit by Detention Sphere, but Holiday had a much stronger board presence and added more with a second Cloudfin Raptor and a Thassa, already an active 5/5 with devotion and evolved his original Raptor to a 3/4.

Gary Wong's Detention Spheres added unique utility to the Blue Devotion archetype.

Wong had another Detention Sphere but was forced to target the Raptors since 3/4 is already bigger than anything else in his deck, leaving Thassa alive. Now Holiday only needed a card that costs double blue to be able to activate it again, and he found it in the form of another Frostburn Weird. After some deliberation, Holiday attacked with both his guys and made Thassa unblockable, denying Wong the opportunity to block with the second Judge's Familiar he had in play. Instead, Wong blocked the Frostburn Weird, going down to 7 life and facing unblockable lethal damage the next turn unless he can find a third Detention Sphere or his one Rapid Hybridization.

He didn't, and they moved onto game two.

After sideboarding, Wong had two Domestications and a number of counterspells which he could board in, though the three Gainsays were almost surely going to be in his deck. If he had Revoke Existence he would also probably board it in but he opted for Glare of Heresy as his "Detention Sphere Remover" of choice; He would have to rely solely on his own Spheres to deal with Thassa, no doubt expecting the ability to kill Elspeth, Sun's Champion to be more important than the eventual mirror match.

Holiday brought in the same number of Counterspells, a second Domestication and a Cyclonic Rift.

Holiday had the first play with Cloudfin Raptor. Wong had a turn two Tidebinder Mage, and Holiday followed with Frostburn Weird. Some players like to take out Frostburn Weird in the mirror match, since it gets hit by Tidebinder Mage, but Holiday didn't think this was a big deal here. "I don't like Frostburn much, but on the draw it's ok." He said. "On the play it's really bad because I can go turn two Frostburn Weird and he can follow it up with turn two Tidebinder Mage, tapping it; I take them all out on the play and keep some Judge's Familiars, since at least it can let you resolve Thassa and Nightveil Specter through a Gainsay. Basically they are both bad but you have to keep some cards in."

Thassa came out for Wong, and Holiday couldn't match it because was missing a third land. Wong didn't find a fourth land of his own despite putting a card on the bottom with Thassa's scry, so he missed a play too. A Tidebinder Mage from Holiday was met with Gainsay from Wong, who finally drew his fourth land to be able to play the Master of Waves he was holding. Holiday missed again, and cast Cyclonic Rift on the Master to buy himself a turn. The Master was replayed, but Holiday finally drew his third land which lets him cast Nightveil Specter, evolving his Cloudfin Raptor to a 2/3 and gaining a breath of fresh air since he could now block most of the Elemental tokens.

Wong was unfazed and played a second Master of Waves, which pumped all his tokens and let them trade with the 2/3 blockers that Holiday was counting on. That, coupled with an active Thassa, meant Holiday couldn't do anything even if he drew a fourth land to play his own Master of Waves.

They went to game three.

"I had the two most important cards in the matchup and he didn't", said Wong when prompted by a spectator, no doubt referring to Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves.

Holiday is on the play now, and, after some deliberation, kept his hand. Wong chose to mulligan and was the one to lead with Cloudfin Raptor this time, though he had no two-drop to follow it up. He did have Gainsay for Holiday's Nightveil Specter. Holiday drew another Specter, but choose to wait for turn five to play it, since he can then back it up with Gainsay - which proved to be the smart movie since Wong had a second Gainsay of his own. After a counter war, the Specter resolved but Wong had two Tidebinder Mages to evolve his Cloudfin Raptor, creating a standoff. He played a Temple of Enlightenment and, after thinking about it, chose to put the card on the bottom.

"I can't risk you getting this card," said Wong, referring to the fact that Holiday could have a removal spell for his blocker and then would get to steal whatever was kept on top with an attack from Nightveil Specter.

Holiday did have the Rapid Hybridization to kill the Cloudfin Raptor, and he got to attack and steal a Nightveil Specter from Wong.

"That's even better than the card I put on the bottom!" lamented Wong.

Nathan Holiday's Nightveil Specters proved invaluable throughout the third game.

It seemed like Wong was falling behind quickly, but he found an active Thassa, God of the Sea to turn the game into a race rather than one about card advantage, making Holiday's Specters much worse since they only hit for two each. Holiday attacked with both of his Specters and hit a Hallowed Fountain and an Island, which didn't offer any immediate help but meant he could cast a Detention Sphere if he hit that the following turn.

Holiday played a seventh land and, after the scry from Thassa resolved, overloaded Cyclonic Rift and denied Wong the opportunity to draw into a counterspell. The Rift reset all of Wong's board, including the Frog creature token from Rapid Hybridization, and all he could muster as a follow-up was a Cloudfin Raptor and a Tidebinder Mage. This let Holiday attack with both Specters once again, this time revealing a Detention Sphere that he could now cast. With a Gainsay in Holiday's hand still, things were looking very good for him. He cast the Detention Sphere to get rid of the soon-to-be 2/3 Cloudfin Raptor.

Wong attempted a Nightveil Specter of his own, which was met with the Gainsay from Holiday. Holiday followed it up with a Thassa and, after some calculations, Wong extended the hand.

Nathan Holiday defeated Gary Wong, 2-1.