“What was your journey here this weekend?” Vancouver's Jake Thiessen asked his opponent as the two were shuffling up.
“Played Sealed and Draft...” William Craddock responded jokingly.
The two chuckled but then started discussing in earnest the tournament so far. Thiessen had no drafts in the format coming into today. He rattled of 6-0 like it was no big thing to get himself here, even though he started X-2 as early as Round 6. Not surprisingly, he hadn't drafted Red-Green Werewolves until he was in the Top 8.
Craddock is from Midwest City, Oklahoma. He said his deck was “7 out of 10,” despondently. He was playing Black-Red Vampires. By the despondent tone in his voice it was sounding like his seven was generous. There was a conspicuous absence of two-drop creatures in his aggressive deck. “They just didn't come,” he sighed.
Both players have a bevy of removal spells and pump spells, so the match-up will likely be back and forth. Though Black-Red is usually faster than Red-Green, without the two-drops, Craddock aimed for a more mid-game strategy, so he'd likely have to find avenues of attack to exploit later on. Once Thiessen's wolves took over the board, their size can become intimidating.
The two drew their cards for the turn and they were off.
“Oh ok, the race is on.” He didn't know that it would be a red-on-red beatdown. He shifted in his chair and settled in for the fight.
The two added creatures to the board in the early game. Mostly red ones, with some black from Craddock for fun. After multiple trades, Craddock was getting the better of the battlefield. He had vampires and a Sinister Concoction just waiting to boil over. Thiessen started playing from behind.
The Canadian's Ember-Eyes weren't quite getting there, and without the ability to stick any good creatures on the board with all that removal being tossed around, it was getting difficult.
Craddock, despite the relatively small sizes of his creatures, including multiple Neonates and Zombie tokens from Gisa's Bidding, was overwhelming the board.
Just when Thiessen was hoping to rally, Craddock busted out a mid-combat Grotesque Mutation into Uncaged Fury. Yeah. +4/+2 double-strike and lifelink was enough to make Thiessen shake his head and pack in the cards for Game 2.
In the second game, Thiessen was the first to get aggressive with an Ulrich's Kindred. It went relatively uncontested for a few turns as creatures were made and blown up around it.
After two turns of taking hits on the chin, Craddock said. “Yup, 14.” Then added “That's a big beefy,” when Thiessen cast Cult of the Waxing Moon.
Craddock's draw, though powerful, was unhelpful. He had Malevolent Whispers, Tormenting Voice, a Fiery Temper, and the Uncaged Fury. But he had only one creature to actually get in there. And that died very quickly. Such is Red vs. Red.
As Thiessen spilled creatures to the board one by one, Craddock drew a few too many lands and not enough creatures to save himself. He scooped up the cards and went to the third game.
“Flood city?” Thiessen commiserated.
“Yeah. It happens.”
Going into the last game, both players started six-card hands, so it was evenly matched, at least on the surface.
Like in the previous games, it was defined by an early creature that just skirted the removal that hit the other monsters around it. This game it was Thiessen's Gloomwidow. Backed by removal and pump, Gloomwidow became a 5/5 and took the majority of Craddock's life away all by itself. Craddock sunk all the way to four life.
But again, just like in the first game, Uncaged Fury swooped in and stuck out of nowhere to take the last points away from Thiessen. He had been ahead all game but the swinging power of a werewolf paw should not be underestimated.
After a down-and-dirty, removal-filled three games, William Craddock defeated Jake Thiessen 2-1. Craddock is moving on to the finals!