If you were keeping score from last round, William Craddock had called his deck a 7 out of 10—despondently. When he sat down next to the trophy this round, he looked at me and said, “I’ve downgraded this to a 4 out of 10 after playing with it.” The Oklahoma native had discovered that even though his deck was only missing two-drops, they were quite key to his Black-Red Vampire deck.
His opponent, Los Alamos, New Mexico, native Allen Wu, had also come to a realization. Beating a World Champion is fun. The Wu had just defeated third-ranked Seth Manfield in the semifinals with his blue-black, delirium-fueled, flier-laden goodness.
The deck matchup looked to favor Wu. Without two-drops Craddock wasn’t aggressive enough to beat Wu in the early game, before all the shields went up. So he’d have to lean on his Uncaged Fury and Magmatic Chasm to eke out the wins. But Craddock could certainly do that; he’d been doing it all throughout the Top 8.
The two had dueling two-drops, both of which were antithetical to their overall deck’s goals in the match. Craddock cast Sanguinary Mage, a 1/3, when he was clearly the aggressor. And Wu cast Furtive Homunculus, an evasive 2/1, when his deck was aiming to get delirium and control the game. C’est la vie.
But in this specific game, for Craddock, being able to hold off Wu’s aggression was a boon. With Sin Prodder on the field, he was getting incremental advantage with each turn that passed. He already got 4 life off Wu without having to attack.
Eventually Craddock committed to the combat step after casting Markov Dreadknight. But Wu was ready with Compelling Deterrence. When the Knight came back down, delirium was all set up for Wu, and his Kindly Stranger became a Demon-Possessed Witch. And again the Dreadknight switched zones.
Wu continued to control the board, especially with his new 4/4, and was taking Craddock down in tiny bits. But Craddock had been getting huge chunks out of Wu with the Sin Prodder. Three different four-drops had hit the bin off the little Devil. Though no creatures of Craddock’s provided any combat damage, over half of Wu’s life was already gone. It was 11-8 in Craddock’s favor.
After a huge, board-clearing attack from Craddock, the battlefield was suddenly empty. It was a lone Sin Prodder against a few piddling creatures from Wu. His Harvest Hand transformed into a Scrounged Scythe to make things a little less paltry. But flash exists, and Wu became the aggressor thanks to Stormrider Spirit.
Just like that, the back-and-forth was through and Wu cruised to victory in the first game.
After shuffling up for the next game, Wu asked “You on the play?”
“Yeah.” A simple response.
“It seems like the choice for your deck.” Wu said. The two chuckled. It was a slight moment of levity between the players as they battled with gusto for a large sum of money.
The two combatants hit away at each other until the scores were 12-10 for Craddock. Both were having trouble getting a true edge on the board.
That is, until Craddock made a move.
He emptied his hand to one card, and filled his side with as many creatures as he could muster. On his next turn, into six untapped lands from a blue-black deck, Craddock cast his last card, a Magmatic Chasm, with lethal on the board.
“All in, boys,” Craddock says as he pushed his creatures sideways, hoping for the best.
Wu thought for a while, but it was all for naught. He thought naught. The games were even at one a piece.
In the third and final game, the decks’ starts were opposite from Game 1. Each player’s first spells were actually fitting to the matchup. Craddock had Insolate Neonate into a Bloodmad Vampire, and Wu cast Erdwal Illuminator and a Kindly Stranger. There we go, that feels more comfortable. Aggro is aggro-y; control is control-y.
But then Wu threw us for a loop again, as he turned a corner very early in the match. He used Dead Weight to kill the 4/1 Vampire, then had Pore Over the Pages to complete the delirium quadfecta. That Kindly Stranger became not so kindly, and Craddock was struggling to have any board presence at all.
Again the blue-black deck was looking uncharacteristically aggressive, and Craddock couldn’t keep up.
The Oklahoman sunk quickly to 8 life, then 1.
But even that life total was not long for this world. After the attack step, Wu cast and sacrificed Explosive Apparatus to take the final life point. This match was over.
Allen Wu is the Grand Prix Albuquerque Champion!