This was a rematch of the first match of the day, and you really can’t ask for a better rematch than this. Four hall of famers, a combined 90 Grand Prix Top 8s, and all the high-level Magic you could possibly ask for, all in one draft pod.
It was Stark’s team who won the first match between these two teams, but the Peach Garden Oath has proven itself one of the best team drafting groups in the world. They won Grand Prix Portland a year ago and have been the favorite to win every team Grand Prix they enter.
Team drafting is a different beast than a regular draft. For one, the pods are six players large rather than eight, and because you know your team is going to have to play against the people to your left and right the incentive to hate draft — taking away a good card you won’t play solely so your opponents won’t have it — adds an interesting wrinkle to the format.
So too does opening a planeswalker in Magic Origins. Whenever a double-faced card is opened, it is revealed to the entire table. The knowledge of your opponent taking one can inform your own decisions and completely alter the course of a draft.
That was exactly what happened when Scott-Vargas opened Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh in the opening pack and selected it. Armed with that knowledge, his his opponents had incentive to avoid playing red cards so they wouldn’t fight with Scott-Vargas over them. That led to the hall of famer getting his pick of the litter, and he wrapped up the first pack with a great start on an aggressive red deck.
If one planeswalker rattled the rails, the second one took the draft off them. Stark revealed Kytheon, Hero of Akros to the table, and suddenly the decisions Turtenwald, Jensen and Reid had to make became much more difficult. In the end, all six players ended up with solid decks, but there was no doubt that the higher power level rested on the side of the team colloquially named “Peach Ben Oath.”
When the teams first played, it was Peach Garden Oath that came out strong and took two of the first three games. This time around, Stark, Scott-Vargas and Froehlich returned the favor.
Stark started strong out of the gate, following up a Turn 2 Runed Servitor with Watercourser and then using Bone to Ash to do its best Cryptic Command impression and counter Turtenwald’s next creature. That allowed him a window to resolve Knightly Valor and begin attacking. Turtenwald fought back with a Vastwood Gorger to trade with the knighted elemental, but he was ready with Auramancer to raise up another creature.
That creature turned out to be Kytheon, which joined soon after and attacked alone so it wouldn’t transform into Gideon, Battle-Forged and lose the Valor. As a 4/4 it was big enough to beat any of Turtenwald’s creatures, at least until Returned Centaur picked up the Sword of the Animist.
Turtenwald was forced back on defense, but it was a strong one at that, and now Stark’s biggest creature couldn’t attack profitably, and his small ones were more and more vulnerable to a sweeper like Eyeblight Massacre or Languish every turn.
Aware of the danger of being patient, Stark sent all his creatures into the red zone, losing two in the process but knocking Turtenwald to 4 life. It was a window for him to crawl back into the game, but when his deck failed to provide an answer the pair was off to Game 2.
Down the table, Scott-Vargas and Froehlich also took the first game, and the hall of famers found themselves just two game wins short of the Grand Prix Detroit finals.
But it wouldn’t come easy. Duke fell under pressure from Froehlich’s army of elves and Sigil of Valor, but fought back himself by withering down the elvish army and playing his trump card in Kytheon’s Irregulars. Tapping down Froehlich’s most relevant threats, Duke took the game and sent the pair into the decider. Likewise, Jensen hid behind a pair of Returned Centaurs long enough to find Conclave Naturalists to remove Scott-Vargas’s desperation Call of the Full Moon. With Mage-Ring Bully now forced to attack into its own demise, they too moved to the third game.
Again Sigil of Valor made an appearance for Froehlich, but Reid wasn’t interested in fighting on the ground. After turning his Stalwart Aven renowned, he followed up with Patron of the Valiant to grow it even larger.
With that, the race was on, and not just at one end of the table. Scott-Vargas lived the dream of casting Chandra on the third turn and transforming her into Chandra, Roaring Flame the very next turn. A Subterranean Scout made Mage-Ring Bully unblockable thanks to its having just two power, but when it attacked a Titan’s Strength made it far more powerful than that. Combined with Chandra’s ability to ping Jensen directly, that was enough to seal the match.
As Turtenwald defeated Stark to send the pair into a third game, attention shifted back to Froehlich and Duke. The aerial assault knocked Froehlich down to a perilously low life total, and when Auramancer landed to block the next powered-up elf attack, it looked as though Reid may have found a way to end the game before the Sigil took over.
But Froehlich was no longer interested in attacking alone. With Claustrophobia finding its way onto the battlefield on the next turn, Froehlich tapped down the Auramancer and attacked with everything, dealing exactly the 10 damage he needed to send his team into the finals.
(25) Stark/Scott-Vargas/(2)Froehlich defeats (13)Turtenwald/Jensen/Reid