Posted in NEWS on April 13, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

These two are beginning to make a habit of this.

This is not the first time these two have played. This isn't even the first time they've played this weekend. Mark Evaldi convincingly bested No. 2 Reid Duke early in the day on his way to being the last undefeated player in the tournament, and then Duke got his revenge in the later rounds to stay live for the Top 8.

Even then the games had been high stakes, top-of-the-roster kind of stuff. They were the last two remaining undefeated players the first time they clashed. The second time Duke needed a win to even have a chance to make the Top 8. Now, they were playing for a chance at the GP Philadelphia trophy.

Duke was playing another primarily black deck with a pair of Grey Merchants and a bevy of removal. He was utilizing a number of powerful green cards as his secondary. Nessian Asp highlighted his defensive—and, when the game went long enough, offensive—weapons.

Evaldi, meanwhile, was leaning on the aggression Iroas bestowed upon his red and white followers. A low curve, some removal, pumps and burn, and Evaldi hoped to end games well before Duke's more powerful cards could start to matter.

In other words, if he didn't win quick, he wasn't likely to win at all. But if Duke stumbled, even a bit, Evaldi was there to punish him.

It was a measure of revenge, a touch of tiebreaker, and a whole measure of Top 8 pressure.

The Games

Blink and you might have missed the first 8 points of damage Duke took in the chin. I know I did. Minotaur Skullcleaver hit for four to start, then another four with a Fearsome Temper. Duke was able to reduce the temper, but still was under the gun.

Until Nessian Asp showed up to save the day, that is. Because it does that.

Evaldi nodded knowingly, grimacing slightly as he was forced to deal with a major roadblock and no way to break through. He was forced to sacrifice a Deathbellow Raiders to the 4/5, passing the turn with no play and no answer at the ready.

And when he "answered" with a Bronze Sable, it looked very much like Duke was firmly in command of the game, still at the 12 life he fell to in his first few turns. The Asp went monstrous and began to do a pretty good Abyss impression while Duke's other removal—Sip of Hemlock and Lash the Whip—ensured nothing could stand in the 8/9's way.

A second Gray Merchant pretty much sealed the deal.

Mark Evaldi is 1-1 vs. Reid Duke this weekend. Could he steal a third on his way to the finals?

"Double Gray Merchant every draft?" Evaldi said, smiling as his well-sealed fate.

He would know.

For the second, Evaldi found himself down a card and missing land drops immediately. His Deathbellow Raiders did get in for four damage, but without any help or a third land, Duke easily started pulling away.

Does this man look like he has the second Grey Merchant? Because he does.

First, Courser of Kruphix started gaining life and attacking back. Then, Disciple of Phenax gave way to Nessian Asp and Grey Merchant.

All of those things were far more impressive than the Bronze Sable Evaldi could muster. Duke went through the paces and Evaldi made a show of playing it out, but the game was never really in doubt. Methodically, turn by turn, Duke dismantled what little defense Evaldi could muster and moved on to yet another Grand Prix finals.

Reid Duke 2 – Mark Evaldi 0