“This is sick,” were Eric English’s first words when he sat down across from his opponent, Evan Buchholz. All weekend these two and Ralph Betesh (in the other semifinals match) have been hanging out together playing games, eating food, and talking Magic.
Before the match, English and Buchholz continued relishing how crazy it was that all three of them were here, and then Ralph Betesh joined the conversation from the other feature match. It was lively, for sure. The fourth man, Huang Hao-Shan was almost silent. He was taking this quite seriously.
But the banter went on. “This is absolutely incredible ... You joke about these things, and then they actually happen!” English exclaimed.
“Ooo, maindeck Phyrexian Metamorphs!” It was clear English was now pumped. But now he’d have to convert that energy into a win.
Eric English is from Rochester, New York. He was an early pick by Brian David-Marshall this weekend because until Round 9, English had only lost one game. English had said, “I’ve never played with at deck this good at a Grand Prix before.”
His opponent and new friend, Evan Buchholz came here from Pennsylvania (though he’s from New Jersey). He’s been trying to get on the Pro Tour for a decade now. Ever since he started watching the Pro Tours back in 2006, he’s wanted to be the one up there. With this Top 8, he’s finally made that dream a reality.
As the chatter slowly faded into shuffling and presenting, Buchholz put a button on the event: “Magic’s great.” Everyone agreed.
It was Red-Green Eldrazi versus White-Blue Eldrazi. The key cards are World Breaker for the first, and Eldrazi Displacer for the second. If either stopped the initial push from the other Eldrazi aggression, it was one of those two cards that would hold the key to the game.
Evan Buchholz was on a completely different plan. He used Eldrazi Displacer to take out blockers, and raced with it and a 2/2 Endless One. He was getting in there repeatedly and was building up the damage. However, he didn’t know it, but this plan was way up in the clouds.
Soon, reality smashed in. The Reality Smasher flipped the beatdown. Now it was English in the driver’s seat. After his attack, it was 9-10 in his favor.
Buchholz had to be careful here. He could be aggressive, but if English didn’t die outright, and had some shenanigans, Buchholz could become woefully behind. World Breaker is a real card. It’s a real good card. And it could be murder in the mirror.
All the creatures came in. A Kozilek’s Return took out a 2/2 and also so much more. English went to 7 life, but then untapped and “flashed it back” casting a World Breaker to sweep the board. The board was clean after the world was broken. Things looked good for English.
But Buchholz was holding a trump. English had worked very hard to take out the first Displacer, and Buchholz simply laid a second one. Now he almost had it. Along with the Displacer, Buchholz had a Phyrexian Metamorph copying World Breaker (no, you don’t get the cast trigger). Buchholz just needed to find a real kill—a final nail.
When he cast a Drowner of Hope, English realized his opponent had found it. If he didn’t realize, he certainly did when Buchholz asked, “You’re at 7, right?” The Drowner’s Eldrazi Scions were sacrificed to tap down both of English’s blockers and Buchholz attacked for lethal damage.
In between games, Ralph Betesh asked how things were going from across the feature match area. English was sad to report the result, but was jocular about it. Soon Buchholz joined, and they were all conversing like before Game 1.
“Wait, where are you from? I realize I’ve never asked where you lived?” Buchholz noted that will all the palling they had been doing, then hadn’t done the requisite Top 8 small talk. Huang Hao-Shan still focused.
This chatter continued until Eric English drew his opening hand. Then he got quieter. He stared at his cards for a second, and sent them back. After he drew his six, he was totally silent.
He had a one-land hand, and no colors. He was trying to figure out the odds of a decent five-card hand versus drawing, say, Grove of the Burnwillows. He contemplated for a while, intently concentrating, then kept. He aggressively scryed Dismember to the bottom and steadied himself.
English played his land. Then he drew for his next turn ... and he passed without a land drop. English couldn’t do anything but brace for an onslaught. And what an onslaught it was.
The two shook hands, and English wished Buchholz luck in the finals.
Evan Buchholz, the guy trying to go pro for ten years, is going to the final round!