Brian Braun-Duin is playing this season with a very particular goal in mind, and he talked in-depth about his journey to a hopeful Grand Prix Master title at the open of Grand Prix Atlanta. Already having cashed an incredible five of seven Grand Prix this season, he drove the eight miles to Georgia in hopes of making up ground in the race in which he began the weekend tied for third place.
He was making good on that thus far, entering Round 12 with just one loss. Across the table sat friend Michael Majors, making a strong run himself. With both players angling for a run at the Top 8, the final match of the day's first draft would be huge in setting up one of them for that possibility.
The match was quickly revealed to be the Blue-Black Devoid mirror, as Majors led with Fathom Feeder, while Braun-Duin got things started with Benthic Infiltrator. Aware of the value that Fathom Feeder represented in the late game, declined to attack and offer the trade to Braun-Duin. That meant it was the Infiltrator that Ingested first, while Braun-Duin denied Majors the opportunity to do so thanks to a Complete Disregard.
A flashed-in Ulamog's Nullifier didn't counter a spell, but it did allow Majors to get back in the game by taking out one of Braun-Duin's creatures in combat. A Mire's Malice wore down Majors' hand, but despite the pressure he did get even on board thanks to a Kalastra Nightwatch to hold the ground.
So Braun-Duin took to the air with Guardian of Tazeem, though Majors maintained control of the skies thanks to Scour From Existence. That allowed his Nullifier to knock Braun-Duin all the way down to 4 life, and demand that he find an immediate answer to stave off defeat.
Luckily for Braun-Duin, he had been setting up for exactly that. He tapped out to cast Gruesome Slaughter, and the slaughter was plenty gruesome as Braun-Duin's team took out all three of Majors' creatures. That was more than enough to clear the way, and he took the game in the next attack.
Brian Braun-Duin has been on quite the hot streak recently, cashing in five of his last seven Grand Prix. With a win in Round 12, he would be well on his way to doing so again.
As they sideboarded for the second game, both players settled in for a long one, as the mixture of defensive spells and removal spells in blue and black typically led to. The game didn't disappoint, and both players traded early creatures before trying to get ahead on cards. It was Braun-Duin who led first, awakening Coastal Discovery to create a creature and draw cards. Majors was happy to answer back with his own, though he fell to 7 life on the attack.
That set Majors back on the defense, and Braun-Duin tried to break those defenses on the next turn, tapping out for an awakened Mire's Malice. If it resolved, it threatened to turn his land into an 8/8 in a reasonable impression of The Abyss. With the game on the line, Majors had the best possible answer in Spell Shrivel to turn it into a wasted turn. With the pressure momentarily off, Majors began to add to his own board with Eldrazi Skyspawner, which along with an Ulamog's Nullifier had the potential to end the game in a hurry.
With his attempt at a game-ending play having failed, Braun-Duin was forced to set up for the future, casting a much-needed Benthic Infiltrator that he needed to turn on the Processor Assault and Mind Raker in his hand.
The Infiltrator got in for two damage before Majors found a conditional answer in Hagra Sharpshooter. While that stopped any future threat from the Infiltrator, it wasn't soon enough to stop the Mind Raker from forcing the final card from Majors' hand, a Sheer Drop that could have ended the game in its own right. With the powerful spell gone, the Noyan Dar that Majors had cast the previous turn suddenly looked less impressive, though Braun-Duin chose to not take any chances and burn the Processor Assault on it.
That left the board in an odd stalemate. Both players had the ground clogged up, but Majors still had the advantage in the air, which he used to even life totals at 6 apiece. Without much time to find an answer, Braun-Duin again needed help from his deck. And again it rewarded him, this time with a 9/5 Vile Aggregate. Doing the tricky combat math, Majors realized he could no longer attack, and was forced to pass the turn with his team back on defense and hope that Braun-Duin couldn't end it.
But nothing escaped the hopeful Grand Prix Master's attention, and Braun-Duin turned his entire team sideways, if a little sheepishly.
“I'm going to feel silly if I messed this up,” Braun-Duin lamented as he attacked.
He needn't worry. Once Majors finished his blocks the Aggregate was able to trample over for more than enough damage, sending Braun-Duin to the victory.