Ray Perez, Jr. calls himself a “future pro” — both in Magic Online and in his Top 8 profile, but the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year is no stranger to tournament success. His incredibly successful rookie run came to end last year, and he wasn't guaranteed an invite to the next round of Pro Tours. A Top 8 appearance at Grand Prix Indianapolis changed all that, but he was looking for more as he sat down for the finals across from Brent Clawson.
Clawson was making his first Grand Prix Top 8 appearance, but he had played solid as a rock in Day 2, entering the final day at 7-2 but not losing once as he made his way to the finals with a chance to finish off the streak with a trophy.
Clawson's deck was a common choice throughout the room, but few had wielded Abzan as well as he. The quintessential Siege Rhino deck, Abzan was one of the decks everyone in the field knew to prepare for and aimed to beat.
Perez's deck was set up to do just that. Playing Esper Tokens, he had preyed on Dark Jeskai decks all day and had vanquished Abzan once already in the Top 8 in a nailbiter of a semifinal match.
Game 1 started off slowly, with the first play of the match coming on a morphed Den Protector by Clawson. It was met by a Knight of the White Orchid for Perez, which fetched up a Prairie Stream but wasn't joined by a land from his hand. A Siege Rhino followed for Clawson, and when Perez went two more turns without a fourth land, and scooped up his cards soon after.
Warden of the First Tree got the pressure going early for Clawson, while Perez opted to load up his hand with Painful Truths on the third turn. An unmorphed Den Protector was the play on Clawson's third turn along with a tapped land, setting the stage for Perez to unleash his grip full of cards.
Duress revealed two more Den Protectors along with Dromoka's Command and Abzan Charm, meaning the Disdainful Stroke Perez had hoped to hold up would be a dead card. He opted instead to remove the Warden with Silkwrap, though the Command brought it back on the next turn, along with another face-up Den Protector.
Facing down the onslaught of small creatures, Perez needed an answer. Instead, all he had was Sorin, Solemn Visitor, which bought him a turn but nothing more. When that turn yielded nothing but another land, Perez extended the hand.
With that, Clawson was crowned the winner, not that he could believe it.
“What just happened?” he asked quietly as Perez congratulated him.
Believe it or not, Clawson is your Grand Prix Indianapolis champion.