Posted in GRAND PRIX DENVER 2015 - WELCOME on January 5, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

"Interpret the Signs—is that the six-mana sorcery, scry-three thing that draws cards?" Matt Sperling asked as he looked over Andrew Brown's Blue-Black Control decklist. The two settled into the Finals table and readied for the crowning match.

Brown answered yes, and the two hashed out the exact wording. Sperling said, "Oh yeah, I know it. Gabriel Nassif is always trying to play it in our testing. He'll be real happy."

The two continued shuffling. Sperling was just itching for a Grand Prix win. He had nary a loss on his record yet, cruising into the Top 8 with 41 points—then handily won his Quarter- and Semi-finals opponents.

"Hope it goes better than last time." Brown said as he presented his deck. These two met in the Swiss rounds, and it didn't go too well for Brown. But Brown had stuff on the line too. His roommate Edward Hwang was Grand Prix Orlando champ, and Brown didn't want him to be the only one in the house with a trophy.

Brown told me before the match that Sperling's deck is more prepared than Mackl's version which he met and dismantled in the semi-finals. "I need Bile Blight or Thoughtseize in my opening hand, and he has four Thoughtseize. It's not the best." As he continued to look over the list he said, "Oh, but his sideboard's not as good as Mackl's was. [Sperling] has like no additional threats to bring in. Maybe this could be good."

The two presented the decks and began the match.

The Games

Just as Brown wasn't hoping, Matt Sperling opened with a Thoughtseize. Brown had Bile Blight, Thoughtseize, Dig Through Time, and lands to show, and Sperling took the Dig Through Time, betting that his awareness of the black cards would be enough to play around them.

Matt Sperling

Sperling got up early with a Rakshasa Deathdealer. Having an low-cost permanent to deal damage was crucial for the Abzan Aggro deck to start taking down the control-y beast. Sperling got Brown all the way down to 11, but he had a problem—he couldn't draw land. It was turn eight before he hit his fourth. Cards like Heir of the Wilds and Anafenza, the Foremost allowed Sperling to keep pressure on, but he was going to need something soon, and by soon, I mean, like, yesterday.

After both those previous creatures were taken out by Silence the Believers, that "something" was a Siege Rhino. But it was too little, too late. Brown's card-drawing machine had gotten up and running, and he was yet to miss a land drop himself. He cast Interpret the Signs (drawing three), did some digging in time, and had a gripful of choices to attack Sperling, or, to stop him from attacking.

The last gasp for Sperling was hoping Brown didn't have an answer for Fleecemane Lion plus creature-removal back-up. Brown's Pearl Lake Ancient mid-attack step and a Negate quashed Sperling's last hope quite well.

Andrew Brown 1 – 0 Matt Sperling

In the second game, Brown tried to stabilize early with an Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and a Perilous Vault. The Ashiok brought an Heir of the Wilds into play, and the Deathtouch ability muddled Sperling's attack plan. He had a Rakshasa Deathdealer and a Fleecemane Lion, but had to pause and think before sending them both in.

This defense grid from Brown was not as solid this time, and he sunk much lower in life than he did in the first game. He was able to clean up the first wave of creatures with a Perilous Vault—despite the Lion being hexproof and indestructible—but Sperling still had some gas in the tank.

Andrew Brown

He tried to get something going before the Blue-Black monster completely crushed his spirit. Sperling wanted this to be his time to take home the Grand Prix trophy.

But it wasn't to be. Once Brown was able to resolve a Jace's Ingenuity and draw everything he needed, there was little Sperling could muster. Brown cleared the way for his Pearl Lake Ancient with a Thoughtseize (going to 5 life), then cast an insurance-policy Perilous Vault as the cherry on top.

Andrew Brown 2 – 0 Matt Sperling

Andrew Brown has cruised through the Top 8, and is the champion of Grand Prix Denver!