Matt Sperling, the ChannelFireball personality and Pro Tour Magic 2015 Top 8 competitor, made it to the Top 8 unscathed. He was the last undefeated player, and was able to draw his way into a spot in the here. He was playing the Pro-preferred Abzan Aggro. It's ability to go just under the midrange had worked well all weekend, but now that would be tested.
Lukas Parson was on a Red-Green list that often gets in just as quickly as Abzan Aggro can. Though Sperling has more disruption, he would likely be on the back foot. That is, if Parson could get footing of his own first. This would be fighting turns earlier than the now-standard Standard games are fought.
He took a Fanatic of Xenagos, then a Rabblemaster with his follow-up, going down to 16 life. With some pain-land (Caves of Koilos) and fetch-land (Windswpt Heath) damage, Sperling took himself down pretty far, but this would hopefully get him situated on the board early.
He went down even more, bestowing a Herald of Torment on an Anafenza, the Foremost. But that was only one damage a turn, and he was hitting like a champ. Parson tried to muster a Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker to trade off and start to threated, but the assault kept coming. Parson wasn't able to get off the ground after those hand-stripping sorceries.
Matt Sperling 1 – 0 Lukas Parson
Parson got off to a much better start in the second game—no Thoughtseizes this time. His string of plays went: Heir of the Wilds, Fanatic of Xenegos (tribute was not paid), and Ashcloud Phoenix. And just like that, Sperling was down to 9 with no permanents on that battlefield yet. So that's what happens when you let Red-Green in with no early disruption.
Sperling tried to come back, but all Parson had to say after some combat trickery was, "Uh, I have a Stormbreath Dragon?"
"Ok, that'll do it," Sperling said. And just like that we were on to game three.
Matt Sperling 1 – 1 Lukas Parson
Sperling was better able to get some game going for himself this time and had a Fleecemane Lion and an Anafenza, the Foremost. This at least kept Parson honest. After his start, the board was more clogged as more creatures came and left the battlefield.
These are the places where Ashcloud Phoenix shines. The flyer from Parson allowed him to attack over the Lions and Rhinos. He unmorphed the 4/1 and took some more life from Sperling. The life totals were just about even, and Parson was feeling like he could pull it out.
Parson's leg was shaking slightly. He was hoping the Crater's Claws in his hands could be just enough. In what would probably be the last turn either way, Sperling attacked, and Parson had to decide whether to chump with his Goblin Rabblemaster, or let it go and sink to three. He had exact damage on the swing back if the Rabblemaster lived—thanks to the Claws. So he sunk to three.
But never doubt the power of the Siege Rhino. Sperling flashed another copy of the card from his hand and drained Parson's last bit of life.
Matt Sperling 2 – 1 Lukas Parson
Matt Sperling's undefeated streak continues into the Semi-finals!