Here's a quick look at three of the quarterfinal matches.
In the first, the Affinity mirror between Nathan Jones and Alex Bertoncini was every inch the knock-down, drag-out streetfight it was expected to be.
Alex Beroncini and Nathan Jones
Jones took the first game when his Cranial Plating on Ornithopter went unanswered by Bertoncini. To his credit, Bertoncini put up a bold defense, buying time while building himself a 5/5 Ravager. However, he was only spinning straw into straw, as Jones continued to grow his board with a pair of Signal Pests and a Ravager of his own. Soon his advantage was overwhelming.
Jones 1 - Bertoncini 0
Game 2 was a battle of the sideboard cards as the two spent Ancient Grudges on each other's Mox Opals, trying to lock the other out of colored mana, but Bertoncini came up with a second Opal, turning on his hand and quickly evening the score.
Jones 1 - Bertoncini 1
Things continued to roll Bertoncini's way as he was able to assemble Cranial Plating and Vault Skirge and Jones was unable to disrupt him. Draining six a turn makes for a short game, and soon Jones was extending the hand.
Alex Bertoncini defeats Nathan Jones 2-1
Pierre Dagen vs Robin Dolar
Pierre Dagen and Robin Dolar
Across the way was another mirror match, this one featuring Dagen and Dolar throwing down with perhaps the breakout deck of the tournament: White/Green/Black Rock. It promised to be a drawn-out affair, as the deck is packed with removal, disruption and works to build small edges that lead to victory.
Game 1 began with a flurry of hand disruption spells on both sides, but Dagen had a small advantage thanks to Darkblast. Any future Dark Confidants wouldn't survive to help Dolar. They traded removal and threats and when the dust settled it was Dolar attacking with a lone Treetop Village. However he couldn't finish Dagen off before the Frenchman drew two mighty trumps: First Garruk Wildspeaker, and then Liliana of the Veil. His steady stream of 3/3's soon led to victory.
Dagen 1 - Dolar 0
Game 2 hinged on Dolar's Fulminator Mage. He played it on turn three but held off sacrificing it for a couple turns, despite Dagen showing only Treetop Village, Godless Shrine and Tectonic Edge. Dagen played out Lingering Souls, then a second Tectonic Edge and a Tarmogoyf. Dolar had one of his own.
Now it was time to strike. Maelstrom Pulse took care of the spirit squad and the Fulminator Mage blew up the Godless Shrine. Dolar's hand was all action. Dagen got through with a Tarmogoyf attack and played a second one, but Dolar wiped the board with Abrupt Decay and Dismember. Dagen took his turn but was stuck with just a single green for colored mana. A second Fulminator Mage sealed the deal.
Dagen 1 - Dolar 1
Their deciding game looked odd from the outside. It started out naturally enough. Dagen answered one of Dolar's creatures with Liliana, getting an early advantage. He had Abrupt Decay for Dolar's Dark Confidant, but passed the turn without activating Liliana. One confused onlooker said in an all-too-loud stage whisper that he thought Dagen had forgotten, but Melissa DeTora was on hand to dismiss that as nonsense. It wasn't until I spoke with Dagen after the match that the reasons were made clear to me: Not only did he have to consider the risk of Dolar having Obstinate Baloth, but also Lingering Souls. Dagen couldn't risk such an unfavorable trade of resources.
Dolar put pressure on with a Liliana of his own, forcing them both to discard. Dagen tried to return the favor for game two with a Fulminator Mage of his own seeing that Dolar had stayed on just three mana, but Dolar had land in reserve. Soon they had both used Abrupt Decay to clear out the twin Lilianas, and attempt to get a threat to stick, but both had more removal.
Soon it was down to the top of their decks, and Dagen's had decided to make up for the land shortage in the last game with an embarrassment of riches. He was down to nine before he found Lingering Souls to trade off for Fulminator Mage and half of Dolar's Lingering Souls. Dolar simply flashed back and played Dark Confidant. That met Maelstrom Pulse, but Tarmogoyf was waiting in the wings. Dagen suffered the indignity of yet another land draw, and scooped.
Robin Dolar defeats Pierre Dagen 2-1
Andrew Boswell vs Marc Tobiasch
Andrew Boswell and Marc Tobiasch
The last, and only non-mirror Quarterfinal saw Boswell's Jund in a standoff against Tobiasch's Blue Moon.
Game 1 seemed to start in Boswell's favor. His hand disruption stripped three of Tobiasch's spells and then he resolved a Tarmogoyf. The bad news was that Tobiasch had drawn Academy Ruins to get back his lost Vedalken Shackles. He bought time to build his manabase with Repeal on Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt on Dark Confidant.
Down came Batterskull for Tobiasch, but Boswell wasn't about to go quietly. He killed off the equipped germ, then resolved Chandra, Pyromaster. She kept him in action for a couple turns, but without a way to get around Vedalken Shackles it was a lost cause.
Tobiasch 1 - Boswell 0
Game 2 started as a textbook Jund backbreaker. Thoughtseize stole Vedalken Shackles, then Tarmogoyf hit play right on time as a 4/5. Sword of Light and Shadow had to wait to get equipped, because Boswell was too busy dropping Thrun, the Last Troll. Tobiasch bought a turn with Cryptic Command after Boswell went to equip, then dropped Batterskull. Boswell was ready with Chandra to make the germ unable to block. Tobiasch was down to just two life.
This match went on for another forty minutes.
I can barely make sense of it. My memory of it has completely hazed over. All I know is that Tobiasch absolutely refused to lose. He foiled attacks with Cryptic Command. He flashed in Snapcaster Mage, blocked, and Repealed it to do it all over again the next turn. He got back Vedalken Shackles and used Boswell's own creatures against him. Boswell decided Thrun needed a Batterskull of his own, and now his life total was climbing north of sixty.
And still Tobiasch fought on. Another Batterskull gave him a little more life to play with, but not enough that he could engineer a situation where he bounced Batterskull and countered it on the way down. Without being able to do that, Boswell was simply unkillable. Tobiasch feinted and dodged, but Boswell was a patient adversary. Soon Tobiasch was out of moves, and they went on to a deciding game.
Tobiasch 1 - Boswell 1
Tobiasch played out the essential turn-one Relic of Progenitus. Boswell played a land and passed, and on his next turn went for Thoughtseize without playing a second land. Tobiasch played a hopeful Remand, but Boswell soon crushed that dream with a second black land. There would be no Blood Moon for Tobiasch, and he was left with Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, Spell Snare and Lightning Bolt. Not so much as a third land.
He missed on his draw step and passed. Boswell played Raging Ravine. Tobiasch drew and was forced to sacrifice the Relic for another chance at land. He hit, but Boswell knocked him back down with Fulminator Mage. He drew a replacement, but now Boswell was resolving Thrun, the Last Troll. Tobiasch had answers to spare for subsequent threats, but Thrun would not be denied. Before long, Boswell was on to the semifinals.
Boswell 2 - Tobiasch 1