Darien Elderfield’s run was one of the major stories of the tournament, with his Ad Nauseam/Phyrexian Unlife/Angel’s Grace combo deck storming through Day 1 undefeated and confounding opponents all along.
The deck aims to cast either Phyrexian Unlife or Angel’s Grace to guarantee it won’t lose the game before following with Ad Nauseam, which allows the pilot to draw their deck and then win with Lightning Storm with protection from Pact of Negation.
As complex as Elderfield’s deck was, on the other side of the table sat one of Magic’s most basic concepts: casting small mana Elves and turning them sideways. And while it may not look like much, there’s a lot of hidden power in those forests. With cards like Chord of Calling and Ezuri, Renegade Leader to dump all that mana into, Malone could end games in the blink of an eye.
Malone admitted to feeling like an underdog heading into the match, and a first-turn suspended Lotus Bloom from Elderfield was enough to put the green player immediate on the back foot.
A Phyrexian Unlife followed for Elderfield, and the combo player looked prime to go off, especially after he used two Pact of Negation to counter first a Chord of Calling and then an Elvish Archdruid to buy more time.
But with his defenses down, Malone used the opportunity to resolve the trump card he’d been holding all along: Reclamation Sage. It destroyed the Phyrexian Unlife and Elderfield’s chances at the same time.
Malone (right) stares down his combo opponent’s board, planning out how to best prevent Elderfield from assembling the pieces he needed.
Malone 1, Elderfield 0
Malone’s deck aimed to be as streamlined as possible in the first game and as interactive as possible after sideboarding, something that was made clear when he played a Burrenton Forge-Tender on the second turn, putting a buffer between himself and death by Lightning Storm.
Malone was ready for it. He attempted to destroy the Unlife with Reclamation Sage, and in response Elderfield attempted to return it to his hand with Repeal, confident he could handle the Burrenton Forge-Tender if only he were able to draw his entire deck.
Still — hanging on at 4 life — the combo player had a plan. He cast Spoils of the Vault and named Angel’s Grace. It was a desperate play, but as Elderfield put it, if the named card wasn’t in the top four he wasn’t going to win anyway.
Four cards later, the players had their answer. Angel’s Grace didn’t turn up, Elderfield’s life dropped to 0 and he extended his hand to the Elves player.
Malone 2, Elderfield 0