“Your good cards are good; your bad cards are bad—that's Team Draft.”
This was what Matt Costa said to teammate Shahar Shenhar, and basically encapsulates the format so well. During the builds the teams were trying to not only build each of their three decks, but also understand what they were up against.
Team Nass/Wilson/Pardee discovered they were all playing White, and were convinced that Matt Costa wasn't White as well (he was—that's what happens with three Sentinel of the Eternal Watch opened in a team draft). While Team Shenhar/Costa/Parker were busy deducing signals. “I figured he was trying to hook me in Green; so I tried to slip [Joraga Invocation] to you. I'm glad you got it.”
There is nothing quite like Team Draft, and after they'd settled on their final cards, these veteran teams were ready to settle it on the battlefield.
Matt Costa (White-Blue) vs. (11) Jacob Wilson (White-Blue)
After the two laid their first lands, and each player realized they were in a mirror match and chuckled. “Your deck must be so bad,” Jacob Wilson chided. Matt Costa stone-faced him—and then proceeded to stomp Wilson into the ground in the first game.
Matt Costa went Akroan Jailer, into Jhessian Thief, then Soulblade Djinn, and Sentinel of the Eternal Watch. It was really strong. Eleventh-ranked Jacob Wilson mustered a decent start, but he could see it wasn't going great—and drawing extra land wasn't helping
The scores were 14-17 in Wilson's favor, but one attack later—with a mid-combat Artificer's Epiphany pumping everything (#ThanksDjinn)—it was down to 14-7. Wilson stared back at his hand, and saw three land. He shuffled them a bit to ponder his options, but none of them were good, and Costa took the first game.
In the second game, Wilson went 2-drop, 3-drop, 4-drop, and Costa when 2-drop, 3-drop, 3-drop. That second 3-drop was because Wilson's 4-drop was Separatist Voidmage, bouncing Costa's Jhessian Thief. Despite the minor set-back on Costa's side, neither player was able to be aggressive, and it very quickly turned into a control-on-control attrition match.
The match stalled out hard. It was like the World War I trenches—but if the French were also fighting the French. These two White-Blue decks were bouncing and tapping things left and right—Disperse, multiple Separatist Voidmage, Akroan Jailer, Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Suppression Bonds; Disperses bouncing Suppression Bonds. It was mayhem, I tell you.
The scores were 15-15. And neither player was budging. But perhaps we'll return to this match later. There were two others going on.
(17) Shahar Shenhar (Black-Green) vs. Matt Nass (White-Black)
World Champion, seventeenth-ranked Shahar Shenhar was going up against the Bay Area's Matt Nass. Typed out that makes it sound one-sided, but I want to remind everyone that Nass has won two Grand Prix, and has only lost one match all weekend.
The first game was a long one. Shenhar had Priest of the Bloodrite and Nantuko Husk going on early and put quality pressure on. Nass's deck wasn't great against pressure, but it was keeping it respectable with two Blessed Spirits, who eventually went to 3/3s. Nass's deck had barely any two-drops, and precious-few three-drops, but it's top end was absurd. If the game wears on, there's a good chance Nass will get in there.
Nass slipped lower and lower on life, but he was hanging on. At one point, he went down to 2 life, and things looked grim. He often consulted with his nearby teammate, Jacob Wilson, to make sure he could stay with it.
The whole time, those Blessed Spirits were chipping away. Nass was still barely breathing, but he just needed one more turn. And the second Suppression Bonds did it for him. It stopped the one reach blocker Shenhar had, and Nass took an unlikely first game.
However the second game was basically a squash. Shenhar used Leaf Gilder to accelerate into Priest of the Blood Rite and Nantuko Husk, while Nass had one of his slower draws. The only battlefield opposition for this black-green onslaught was an Auramancer—that didn't even return an aura.
In the last game, Nass got the offensive draw his deck couldn't possibly have. A Blessed Spirits picked up an Infernal Scarring, and started hitting for five damage in the air way before that should be able to happen. And any reach blockers Shenhar cast, Nass had the Suppression Bonds to stop it—all while growing the Blessed Spirits.
Shenhar was frustrated, and stalled for as long as he could, but the honored spirits of dead flew over for the victory, and team Nass/Wilson/Pardee's first match win.
Brock Parker (Black-Red) vs. Sam Pardee (Green-White)
Brock Parker was able to mount some offense with Boggart Brute and Eyeblight Assassin, but it wasn't close to enough. The big green beats (slightly bigger with the equipment) trampled Parker to death, as Pardee went up quickly.
In the second game, again Pardee was in the board-position lead with his Rhox Maulers, Veteran's Sidearm, and an Alchemist's Vial, but a well-positioned Languish took all that offensiveness away. Parker would not be killed by the same thing twice
“Uh, that's bad,” Pardee said. He was down to two cards, and he knew Parker had been building and waiting for this. So he likely had a strong follow-up.
Parker did. In addition to creatures to refill the board, his card advantage continued with Read the Bones. With Pardee down to an unimpressive creature, it was elementary after that. The post-Languish portion of the game was pretty one-sided.
In the last game, Pardee started with two Timberpack Wolves and an Orchard Spirit—getting in lots of damage early. After a timely Suppression Bonds, Pardee pushed though to get Parker all the way to 22-4, and it looked like he had Parker dead to rights.
But Parker was able to again sweep the board with a Chandra's Fury, trying to play catch-up. But because Pardee had seen the Languish, he came better prepared this game, and had cards waiting in the wings. This time, both players we able to refuel, which stalled out the board momentarily.
But because Pardee was light on lands, Parker passed one turn without his Alchemist's Vial mana up. And something that simple proved fatal. The lands tapped for a perfect Wild Instincts, and Enshrouding Mists. Not only did that one-two kill Parker's best blocker, but it pumped Pardee's creatures enough to get lethal damage in.
This was the second win for team Nass/Wilson/Pardee. Matt Costa and Jacob Wilson, who were still in their second game, scooped everything up and shook hands.