By Peter Rawlings

Alex Bertoncini came into the semifinals fresh off a three-game victory in the Affinity mirror match. His opponent, Andrew Boswell, had scarce time to catch his breath before the match started. His Jund deck had managed to take down Marc Tobiasch's Blue Moon control deck in three games, including an epic Game 2 that took a full hour to complete.

"You're deck's interesting. Better against Affinity," Bertoncini said, as the two players reviewed one another's deck lists. Among the hate in Boswell's sideboard were two copes of Shatterstorm, two Ancient Grudges, and three Fulminator Mages to potentially deal with the Affinity's decks pesky manlands.

"It's such a bad match-up, that I just figured I would have no chance unless I had all these," Boswell said. Time would tell whether the high-impact sideboard cards would be able to carry Boswell through to the Finals.

The Games

As the lower seed, Bertoncini was on the draw and he managed only a Darksteel Citadel and Vault Skirge for his first turn--hardly the most explosive start his deck was capable of mustering. Boswell's first play was a second-turn Dark Confidant.

Bertoncini then summoned an Arcbound Ravager to accompany his flying lifelinker. The Ravager was not long for this world, however, as Boswell's third turn saw him cast both a Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt, with the counter from the Ravager hopping over to the Vault Skirge.

The Affinity player continued to develop his board, adding a Memnite and a Cranial Plating, which threatened to turn any one of his small artifact creatures into downright terrifying threats. On his turn Boswell crashed in with his Dark Confidant and a 4/5 Tarmogoyf, dropping Bertoncini to 15 life.

On his turn, Bertoncini equipped the Plating to his Vault Skirge, taking a seven point chunk out of Boswell and gaining a healthy amount of life for himself. Stuck with nothing but three lands in hand, Boswell died the following turn when Bertoncini cast a Steel Overseer, giving him the additional artifact he needed to ensure his Cranial Plating would grant the Vault Skirge the added power to mete out the last eight points of damage.

Bertoncini 1 – Boswell 0

Alex Bertoncini

As the players went to their sideboards, Boswell produced a salad and pair of tinfoil-wrapped breadsticks, offering one to Bertoncini, as the players were no doubt growing tired after a long weekend of battling.

"Ah, but which breadstick is the poisoned one?" Bertoncini joked. Since Boswell was already eating, Bertoncini deduced that his breadstick must be the tainted one, but chowed down anyway.

Boswell started the second game by playing an untapped Blood Crypt, shocking himself in anticipation of incinerating one of Bertoncini's many 0- and 1-casting cost creatures. However, Bertoncini did not comply, playing a mere Springleaf Drum. "You must think you're pretty clever with that move," Boswell kidded.

On his second turn Bertoncini laid a Blinkmoth Nexus and cast an Ornithopter and Arcbound Ravager. He then used the Ornithopter to cast a drastically cheapened Thoughtcast, with Boswell bolting the Ravager in response. Bertoncini wasn't done yet; after drawing two cards, a Mox Opal appeared, giving him the colored mana he needed to cast a Thoughtseize and strip an Abrupt Decay from Boswell's hand.

Down a kill spell, Boswell drew another--a Maelstrom Pulse--and passed with a handful of removal, including the sorcery-speed Pulse, Lightning Bolt, Ancient Grudge and Fulminator Mage. The first half of Grudge took its vengeance on an animated Blinkmoth Nexus and a Bolt turned an Ornithopter to ash.

A Tarmogoyf and Fulminator Mage soon followed for Boswell, with the Fulminator quickly sacrificed to eliminate the Inkmoth Nexus that had begun slowly dealing him poison damage. Boswell rumbled in with his Tarmogoyf, and dropped Bertoncini to 8, while he sat at a comfortable 18. When the Affinity player began chump blocking with Signal Pest, it was clear the end was near; a Grim Lavamancer for Boswell soon sealed the deal.

Bertoncini 1 – Boswell 1

"It's a shame that the linear and explosive decks get worse after sideboarding," Bertoncini said with a grin.

"Yeah, you usually win Game 1, then are a dog Game 2, but you have a chance again when you're on the play in Game 3," said Boswell, as he dug into his salad.

"Good luck," said Bertoncini.

"It's like I'd be dead without it," Boswell said. "The food I mean. Though I guess I'd be dead without luck too."

Bertoncini kept his opener while Boswell went down to six cards and spent a long time mulling whether to keep a hand of four lands, Liliana of the Veil and Shatterstorm. For the hand to operate he would need to dodge potential Spell Pierces and Thoughtseizes from his opponent. He reached for his deck as though to shuffle and drop down to five cards, but changed his mind at the last second, and kept. They were off.

Bertoncini made an Ornithopter and followed it up, yet again, with an Arcbound Ravager on turn two. Boswell drew a redundant Liliana of the Veil, and sank even deeper in his seat when his next draw step revealed yet another copy of the Innistrad Planeswalker.

On the third turn, Boswell's first Liliana came down to eliminate an Ornithopter, while Bertoncini swung in with his Ravager and Vault Skirge. Stuck on two lands, however, Bertoncini could only follow the attack up with a Cranial Plating and pass the turn back.

Boswell had the opening he needed and quickly slapped down a Stomping Ground—happily taking two damage to bring it into play untapped—and cast his Shatterstorm, setting Bertoncini back to just a Darksteel Citadel and Inkmoth Nexus in play.

Andrew Boswell

The next turn Bertoncini managed only a Welding Jar, and set to work trying to poison Boswell out. The Jund player's Inquisition of Kozilek discarded Bertoncini's Blood Moon, and left two Thoughtseizes—no longer any threat to his Shatterstorm, and Boswell followed it up with a Fulminator Mage for the Nexus.

A Mox Opal enabled Bertoncini to Thoughtseize away one of Boswells' two redundant Lilianas. On Boswell's turn the third copy entered the battlefield and sent both players hellbent. His Treetop Village and Fulminator Mage knocked Bertoncini to 13. Another Shatterstorm seemed to put Boswell on the brink of the Finals and when a very hungry-looking Scavenging Ooze appeared the following turn it pushed Boswell right over the edge.

Andrew Boswell defeats Alex Bertoncini 2-1