These two are players you might not know, but really, you probably should. Both Ross Merriam and Dan Jordan are younger on the circuit than many, but are both monsters.
Hailing from Albany, Dan Jordan is enjoying his fourth Grand Prix Top 8, and has many close calls at Pro Tours. When he's around, he's in the running. He has three Pro Tour Top 16s. His Red-White deck was all about getting in the damage, and getting it in fast. It's full of tricks—including pumps spells and removal—to get the job done.
Though Ross Merriam has only recently made his presence known on the Grand Prix gauntlet, with a Top 8 at Grand Prix Cleveland, he's been an all-star in Star City Games tournaments with three SCG Invitational Top 8s to his name. His Black-Green deck wasn't as aggressive as Jordan's but was trying hard. His deck uses some traditionally weaker cards, but in conjunction could get the job done.
Dan Jordan started out with an Akroan Jailer and no play on the second turn—not the fastest start for a Red-White deck. Jordan had a bunch of tricks in his hands, but declined to play a second creature, instead trying to contain Ross Merriam's start with the chicanery.
Ross Merriam showed Jordan what aggression should be, with Thornbow Archer, Despoiler of Souls, Yeva's Forcemage, Shaman of the Pack, and Rhox Maulers—from turns one all the way to five. Now, that's an aggressive start. Merriam went all out as he watched Jordan stumbled around three land. Jordan used some burn spells and pump spells to kill a couple of the creatures, but the score was very quickly 19-9 in Merriam's favor.
“Take four, go to five,” Merriam said methodically, while Jordan's board dripped away from underneath him. Jordan was still stuck on three land, and they were all tapped out.
But Jordan wasn't about to give up. Though he sunk to 1 life, he got an Akroan Sergeant renowned, and on what Merriam thought was his winning attack, Jordan used Enshrouding Mist to untap and eat a guy—he had said that was his favorite common from this weekend.
Jordan's efforts were valiant, but they were not enough. Though the board was all-but locked down, it was the combination of a lowly Thornbow Archer and Jordan not controlling an elf that drained the last life away.
Ross Merriam 1 – 0 Dan Jordan
“Man, I was feeling pretty good; I mean considering that you were at 19.” Jordan laughed as the two sideboarded for the next game.
In the second meeting, Jordan actually had a curve, and it was working out well for him, as curves tend to do. Topan Freeblade, Iroas's Champion and Ampryn Tactician on turns two, three, and four took Merriam to 8 life in short order. This is what Jordan had been trying for last game.
Merriam tried to stabilize the board with a Managorger Hydra—usually a good road block. But though it was imposing, and grew impossibly fast, Titan's Strength and a Mighty Leap from Jordan stole the last points from an air-defense-lacking Ross Merriam.
Dan Jordan had tied up the match.
Ross Merriam 1 – 1 Dan Jordan
These decks were not messing around. Both games, even a slight stumble from an opponent had caused almost an immediate concession. The third game asked who would stumble first.
Unlike either game before, the last one started out even for both players. They both had early drops, and neither got an overwhelming life lead.
But on the fifth turn, the tides were turning.
Merriam cast a Managorger Hydra, after Jordan had missed his fourth land drop. Again. Jordan was shaking his head. He was trying to be OK with it, but he was watching a finals appearance slip away from him. The corners of his mouth turned down, and his movements were more somber.
Merriam on the other hand was a methodical machine. He clearly announced each action, and each movement and tick was crisp. He was casting his creatures, and artifacts with authority and snapping them into action. But it was still only 15-7 for Merriam. And after Jordan drew two successive lands, the game could shift once again. If it could, Jordan would see to it that it would.
Merriam suited up his Llanowar Empath with a Veteran's Sidearm, and aided an Alchemist's Vial and a War Horn, he was going to sneak in that damage come hell or high water. But Jordan had flurries of tricks and removal. Each time Merriam thought he'd gotten the last one, there was one more sandbagged for just the right time.
Merriam tried to not jump out of his seat when a second Celestial Flare hit his last creature. Though he attacked knowingly into the open mana, he because he thought the Flare wasn't good at all in his opponent's deck, he didn't see a second copy coming.
Creature after creature hit the bin, and the scores became 4-3, still in Merriam's favor, but barely—and he had no creatures left. Merriam staved off death when he dropped a big Outland Colossus, but it couldn't attack without exposing Merriam's face.
Someone needed to draw something.
The two top-decked, and then it was Merriam who hit what he was looking for. He put a Rogue's Passage into play hastily—almost pre-tapped. He showed his Colossus the route past Jordan's defenses, and swiped the last points away.
The match-up was swingy to say the least, but Merriam stuck out just slightly longer than Jordan could.
Ross Merriam takes the match 2-1.