"This would have been a monster Grand Prix back in the day." Ben Friedman said to his opponent, Jadine Klomparens. While 1,235 players certainly wasn't tiny by any stretch, compared to the blockbuster events that have taken off across the world it felt atypical to be as cozy as it was.
Both were also part of the rising crew of newcomers, finding success at Premier-level play in recent events. For Friendman, he's chained several Pro Tour qualifications from successes at said Pro Tours as well as at Grand Prix. His first Grand Prix Top 8 was at Orlando in 2012, and Friedman flirted with success along the circuit ever since with his most recent Top 8 appearance at the massive Modern melee of Grand Prix Richmand earlier this year. Gregarious and sometimes flamboyant, with cowboy hats and cutoff shirts among his wide range of attire, Friedman was rarely without a smile on his face.
Conversely, Klomparens was a quiet contender. She had her breakout performance as the finalist of Grand Prix Chicago earlier this year, after missing two back-to-back win-and-in rounds at Grand Prix Cincinatti the weekend prior. Finding her way to the top tables ever since, Klomparens was well on her way to far more success down the road.
She where is she headed, and how did she get here? "I missed qualifying for [Pro Tour Fate Reforged] by one win in Hawaii. I'm looking to qualify again," Klomparens said. "I play Magic Online a lot. That's where the majority of my play is, mostly Standard. I played a ton of Standard in prep for those Grand Prix. I was waking up at 6 AM every day before Cincinatti."
Preparation is important for players looking to level up. Klomparens always came prepared. "I played a lot of this Sealed format online in the last couple weeks," she said. "I wasn't doing very well, but this pool is really good. It's one of the decks I know how to build."
For many, traveling to events across the country – or world – is an experience shared with fellow friends along the way. Klomparens mixes things up. "It depends where I'm going," she explained. "I live in Michigan some of the year and I have a bunch of friends that play Magic there. Right now I'm travelling out of Connecticut and my boyfriend didn't come with me, so I'm pretty much travelling alone. I have a few college friends from Penn State that I see every now and then, especially in this region."
Friedman's deck was a solid Mardu approach, featuring two copies of Mardu Roughrider with Ainok Bond-Kin and Abzan Falconer to help go over the top. However, thanks to having just three nonbasic lands in his entire pool, Friedman had to leave some of the greatest hits in Khans of Tarkir Limited in his sideboard: Sagu Mauler, Flyign Crane Technique, and Icy Blast. Without access to lands to fix mana, drawing the right mix of basic lands was a risk Friedman couldn't extend by adding even more colors.
Klomarpens had the reverse situation, playing a four-color deck using eight of her nine nonbasic sources of mana. With removal like Abzan Charm, Suspension Field, and the backbreaking Duneblast to hold control of the board, fliers like Sultai Scavenger and Swarm of Bloodflies promised ways to closed games out in short order.
"I will like it!" A second turn Ainok Bond-Kin for Friedman faced down multiple enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands for Klomparens. A raid-trigger War-Name Aspirant followed as Klomparens finally laid down a blocker in Temur Charger.
Klomparens' Alpine Grizzly didn't block on Friedman's follow up attack next turn. "They still have first strike so I'm not going to block," she explained, having a little fun with her mistake.
Despite beind behind slightly on creatures, every land Klomparens played gained her life – all five – which mitigated some of Friedman's aggression. Bellowing Saddlebrute came down after her Grizzly attacked, finally giving her a worthy backstop. Friedman's pace of play slowed a moment. Arrow Storm, after attacking with Watcher of the Roost, was his solution to clear up Klomparens' battlefield.
Alpine Grizzly attacked into War-Name Aspirant and Ainok Bond-Kin, and Friedman began to list the options: Dragonscale Boon, Become Immense, and more. Deciding there had to be tricks waiting with her untapped mana, Friedman passed on the block and Klomparens let it go to cast a post-combat Sultai Scavenger.
Friedman's pace of playing creatures had slowed for another reason as well: He was stuck without black mana to complete his Mardu options in hand. Abzan Charm exiled the Ainok Bond-Kin and Klomparens piled in. When Watcher of the Root blocked Alpine Grizzly, Feat of Resistance stepped in to save it.
"The answer was that I had every trick. Every one," Klomparens said.
"I was suspicious," Friedman admitted as he nodded, still missing a Swamp.
The Aspirant and a fresh Highspire Mantis traded off with Klomparens' creatures, though her follow up Longshot Squad was a bit bigger than Mardu Hordechief for Friedman. Jeskai Windscout was an evasive path for Klomparens to follow, until Arc Lightning stymied the damage. By then, Friedman had fallen to just 4 life.
After trading and chump blocking another attack on the ground, Friedman drew and snapped his fingers.
"Next time," he said, whiffing on finding a source of black mana in time.
"We're not going to miss black mana this game," Friedman said as he started the second game with Swamp and Disowned Ancestor, outlasting it twice in the turns that followed. Like in the first game, Klomarens' lands entered the battlefield tapped but gained her life. Her first play was Archer's Parapet on turn three.
"It's going to be one of those games," Friedman said. They settled in for a longer battle: Friedman looking to go wide with a morphed Ponyback Brigade and more outlast with his Ancestor, and Klomparens "throwing away all that life (she) gained" with a Bellowing Saddlebrute without an attack.
When Friedman played Mardu Roughrider it was clear things might move faster then either had predicted. Suspension Field answered the Roughrider, they each took turns casting Swarm of Bloodflies to face off in the air. Rite of the Serpent was Friedman's way to go over the top of Klomparen's Swarm but she calmly turned Monastery Flock up as her morph to block.
The game was a cat and mouse of back-and-forth answers. After Klomparens had a successful attack with her Sultai Scavenger, the life totals were 17 to 20 in her favor.
Friedman, after unmorphing Ponyback Brigade on the last turn, attacked all-in. Kill Shot killed his Disowned Ancestor, and he used Throttle on her Scavenger to tick his Swarm up to a 5/5 – killing the Flock – then 7/7. A post-combat Sultai Scavenger of his own put Friedman in the driver's seat.
Treasure Cruise was where Klomparens turned next, but she fell to 7 on the uncontested attack back.
"I heard you say Duneblast in the last match, so go." Friedman passed on developing his board further, keeping a Mantis Rider and second Disowned Ancestor in reserve until his called shot was indeed cast on the following turn. Klomparen's Alabaster Kirin and Sultai Scavenger piled in and forced Friedman to trade his Mantis away. Despite Jeering Instigator stealing a creature for Friedman's last combat, Feat of Resistance was all Klomparens needed to put the game away from there.
Jadine Klomparens defeated Ben Friedman, 2-0.