Posted in GRAND PRIX BALTIMORE 2015 - WELCOME on December 15, 2014

By Peter Rawlings

Harry Bradford started the tournament on a high note after opening a stacked Sealed pool, replete with a Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Siege Rhino—a high note which immediately sunk low after he lost his very first match of the day. It's been all up since then, however, as Bradford has lost only one match since, going 3-0 in his final draft pod with a synergistic Sultai deck carrying him into the Top 8.

Tim Wu had managed to salvage what he thought was a mediocre Sealed pool with one of the standout cards of the tournament—Flying Crane Technique—on his way to an 8-1 Day 1 finish. After slicing through his first draft pod on the back of Mardu Ankle Shanker, he was able to double-draw into the Top 8 giving him some time to rest and prepare himself for what he hoped would be three more matches of Khans of Tarkir Limited.

Game 1

Wu kept his opening hand, while Bradford was forced to take a mulligan. He settled for a six-card hand with some early plays in Smoke Teller and Glacial Stalker.

After a pair of early morphs traded off, Bradford played a face-down Kheru Spellsnatcher, in the hopes of stealing one of Wu's spells at some point down the road. For his part Wu looked to go wide, casting in quick succession a Leaping Master, Horde Ambusher, Alabaster Kirin and a morph.

What the casting cost on Become Immense?" asked Wu.

Bradford drew and cast a Hooting Mandrils and when he went to attack with the 4/4 Ape, Wu, sitting at 10 life, asked for a judge. "What's the casting cost on Become Immense?" Wu asked, fearful that the delve spell could quickly end the game if he chose not to block. After deliberating a minute he winced and let the Mandrils through. While Bradford had the mana available, he lacked the spell itself, and Wu fell to 6.

Wu landed a Ponyback Brigade, and though Bradford was able to deal with the creature itself he still faced a threatening attack of three Goblins, a Leaping Master and Horde Ambusher once a Crippling Chill had frozen Wu's Kirin. Bradford's two morphs ate two tokens and Wu prepared for the attack back with a War-Name Aspirant and Summit Prowler. But his two-creature defense was not enough as a Singing Bell Strike from Bradford tapped down the Yeti, allowing his three creatures to bust through for lethal.

Bradford 1 – Wu 0

As the two players sideboarded they chatted about their Day 1 decks with Wu explaining how Flying Crane Technique had managed to steal him wins where he might otherwise have lost, allowing his mediocre creature base to leap over the top of his opponents' defenses and finish them off. "But that was yesterday, and when you get to this point people are better at playing around it," Wu said. Bradford chuckled and agreed and they were off to Game 2.

Game 2

Both players kept and an early trade of Ainok Bond-Kin for Jeskai Elder allowed Wu to get out ahead with a raiding Mardu Hordechief, while Bradford used Singing Bell Strike to delay the impact of Wu's follow-up Abzan Battle Priest.

Wu continued to grow his army of small red and white beaters, adding a War-Name Aspirant and Horde Ambusher to the board. Unfortunately for Wu, his creatures' diminutive size meant a lone morph with five available mana from Bradford was enough to keep him from attacking.

In Game 2, Bradford found himself trying to work around the taunts of Wu's Jeering Instigator.

After paying to release his Battle Priest from the Singing Bell Strike's grip, Wu cast and immediately unmorphed a Jeering Instigator to take Bradford's treasonous Glacial Stalker and dropped Bradford to 4. Wu followed up with an Alabaster Kirin which threatened to fly over Bradford's ground defenses for the last few points of damage.

Bradford calmly flipped over his morph, a Woolly Loxodon, on Wu's end step and after moving to his turn promptly cracked in with his three creatures, the Loxodon, Glacial Stalker and a ferocious Heir of the Wilds. Bradford passed the turn. With six mana open and nothing back to block Wu suspected something was up. The question was what. After once again paying to untap his Battle Priest his whole team came across. If Bradford was bluffing and had nothing he would take lethal damage, but his attack had been no bluff, and he tapped five mana to cast Blinding Spray, rendering Wu's entire swam of small creatures toothless and taking no damage. Tapped out, at 11 life, and facing 13 damage from Bradford's attacks, Wu offered his hand.

Bradford 2 – Wu 0