Posted in GRAND PRIX BALTIMORE 2015 - WELCOME on December 14, 2014

By Peter Rawlings

After 10 rounds of Khans of Tarkir Limited, two players had climbed to the top of the heap and stood alone as the sole remaining undefeated players at Grand Prix Baltimore: No. 5 Reid Duke and David Foster. They sat down across from each other with the knowledge that only one would escape with an unblemished record and a clear view of the Top 8.

The Decks

Duke had centered his draft around both the Sultai wedge's graveyard mechanics and a powerful rare in Trail of Mystery. He had strong morphs to grind out advantage from the Trail in the form of Hooded Hydra and multiple Abomination of Gudul, as well as a variety of delve creatures such as Necropolis Fiend and Hooting Mandrils that he would try to get into play ahead of schedule by extracting value from his graveyard.

Sporting a colorful five-color build, Foster seemed to have drafted every tri-land and rare that had come his way. His deck featured three copies of Sandsteppe Citadel and a Nomad Outpost, along with a variety of other dual lands to help him cast his wide array of multicolored bombs. His greatest hits included Flying Crane Technique, Crackling Doom, and High Sentinels of Arashin, along with a sideboard Villainous Wealth that he planned to bring in for slower match-ups.

The Games

After a long think, Duke decided he had to send his first seven back, and ended up starting the game down a card. Foster kept a hand featuring the full spectrum his deck had to offer, with Abzan Guide, Bellowing Saddlebrute, Crackling Doom and Flying Crane Technique to go along with three lands.

Foster applied early pressure, attacking with a face-down Abzan Guide and Bellowing Saddlebrute, while Duke had only a Trail of Mystery in play. After casting a morph to fetch an Island on his turn five, Duke passed back. When Foster attacked with his now face-up Abzan Guide and Saddlebrute, Duke unmorphed to reveal a Monastery Flock and block the Guide, falling to 7 life while Foster climbed to hearty 29.

Flying Crane Technique took Foster's creatures to the air and Duke's life total to the ground.

A Kin-Tree Invocation on Duke's turn was able to capitalize on the Flock's high toughness, giving Duke an undercosted 5/5 that would be able to old off Foster's army. Would be able to hold it off, that is, so long as Foster's creatures stayed grounded. But a Flying Crane Technique on Foster's turn sent them to the skies, and gave them double strike for good measure.

"I'm at 7?" Duke asked, seemingly unfazed. But after surveying the board for a minute he scooped us his cards and they were off to Game 2.

Foster 1 – Duke 0

Duke was on the play for the second game and kept a hand of Dragon's Eye Savants, Abomination of Gudul, Kheru Bloodsucker, Necropolis Fiend and Bitter Revelation, along with a Blossoming Sands and an Island. He would need to draw lands—and black sources in particular—to keep pace with his opponent. Foster kept seven cards, as well, and off they went.

Both players led off with early morphs, and Duke chipped in for damage with two-face down creatures, while Foster's unblockable Mystic of the Hidden Way returned the favor. By turn six, Duke had still failed to find a black source to cast any of the four black cards in his hand, and instead landed a face-up Sagu Archer to hold off Foster's Bellowing Saddlebrute.

After missing black mana for most of Game 2, Duke scrambled to mount a defense against Foster's multicolored threats.

After finally drawing a swamp, Duke started things off by flashing the Sultai Charm in his hand to Foster, allowing him to flip up his Dragon's Eye Savants and take a peek at his opponent's hand before deciding how to sequence his plays. Whatever Duke ultimately decided on, he would have a tough time dealing with all the threats Foster had in store, as he revealed Sultai Charm, Crackling Doom, Flying Crane Technique, Sultai Flayer and Snowhorn Rider to the Savants. Duke cast a Kheru Bloodsucker and Archers' Parapet on his turn, leaving up his only source of blue mana to bluff to his opponent that his lone morph (in actuality, an Abomination of Gudul) could be the Monastery Flock he'd played in Game 1.

After casting, and then unmorphing, a Snowhorn Rider, Foster went for the throat. In a repeat of Game 1 he played Flying Crane Technique, forcing Duke to chump block with his unmorphed Abomination and his Sagu Archer to stay alive. The life drain from Duke's Kheru Bloodsucker kept him at 6 and dropped Foster to 14.

Duke cast a last-ditch Bitter Revelation, falling to 4, and used his last two mana to cast a discounted Hooting Mandrils, knowing the removal spells in Foster's hand could end the match. Sure enough, Sultai Charm dismissed the Bloodsucker and Crackling Doom took care of the Mandrils dropping Duke to two blockers and 2 life against Foster's Snowhorn Rider, Sultai Flayer and Bellowing Saddlebrute. Duke extended his hand.

Foster 2 – Duke 0

After the match Foster discussed his draft, and how he had ended up with such a potent array of multicolored rares. His draft started off with a Pack 1, Pick 1 Flying Crane Technique, and after that he prioritized the tri-lands very highly. His general draft strategy for Khans of Tarkir isn't necessarily to play all five colors, but rather to keep the flexibility to move into what's open, "which usually involves taking a lot of tri-lands," he said. "Then, if I'm not seeing a lot of tri-lands, I'll know somebody else is going five-color and I should stay out."

Against Duke, he decided to swap his main-deck Smoke Teller for his sideboard Villainous Wealth. "In Game 1, Reid looked like he was playing a slow morph deck, and I thought a big, game-ending spell would be more valuable than a 2/2."

Overall, Foster was very pleased with how his draft had gone and excited to stand triumphant as the sole remaining undefeated player, he said. "But mostly, I'm really psyched about all those tri-lands."