Round 7 dawned at Grand Prix Indianapolis, and as the day drew near a conclusion both Brandon Nelson and Stephen Barrios found themselves in position to make a run. Though both had fought through a draw already neither had lost, which meant that the winner of their match would have the chance to finish the day undefeated, while the loser would suddenly find themselves with their backs against the wall to advance to Sunday.
Nelson sat down with the Dark Jeskai deck that has been at the forefront of Standard since Battle for Zendikar hit. Between Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and a myriad of ways to bring it back with Ojutai's Command, Kolaghan's Command and Tasigur, the Golden Fang the deck almost never ran out of threats to cast.
Across from Nelson was an Esper deck, though Berrios had taken a slightly different tack than many who opted for control builds. Rather than just the customary Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Berrios had access to Ob Nixilis Reignited and a complement of lordly dragons in Dragonlord Ojutai and Dragonlord Silumgar. That also meant he had access to Silumgar's Scorn as well, giving him the ability to counter some of Nelson's more vital plays.
A mulligan and a five-land hand meant that Nelson would be fighting uphill from the start, but the Grand Prix Salt Lake City champion was ready to put up a fight. He led off with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, though it met a Silumgar's Scorn to reveal Berrios as a friend of the dragons.
Nelson kept up the pressure with Soulfire Grand Master, but it met an Utter End after just oen turn. That set up perfectly for Berrios to resolve Ob Nixilis Reignited and begin drawing card. Unable to immediately deal with the planeswalker, Nelson worked to load up his board instead. A return try on Jace was met with a Silkwrap and a Mantis Rider met a similar fate on the next turn. That left Nelson looking toward the top of his deck for help, and it rewarded him with a second Mantis Rider to finally finish off the Ob Nixilis.
Unfortunately for him, that left Berrios with a grip full of cards thanks to several turns of the planeswalker. He calmly removed the second Mantis Rider and then dealt with a follow-up Tasigur, the Golden Fang as well.
Out of threats, Nelson turned to answering them instead. He used Crackling Doom to down a Dragonlord Ojutai, though a flurry of counterspells left a second one on the battlefield a turn later for Berrios. Not yet out of responses, Nelson summoned a Tasigur of his own, threatening to recur an answer for the dragon.
That is, until Dragonlord Silumgar joined the fray and convinced Tasigur to head over to Berrios' side. That was enough to for Nelson to concede the game and move on to the next.
A Jace mirror on the second turn set up the contest to be one of attrition, as both players began to stock their hand with a bevy of removal and counterspells. It was a Dig Through Time that stirred the first fight, and it ended with Nelson's end-of-turn Dig hitting the graveyard without resolving.
Not that it stopped him from drawing cards anyway. Nelson was happy to fall to 13 life if it meant drawing three cards off of Painful Truths, which is exactly what he did. With both players having burned through several counterspells, the threats began to find the field: Tasigur for Nelson and Dragonlord Ojutai for Berrios. A surprise block from Berrios traded his dragon for the banana king, though the Haven of the Spirit Dragon he played the next turn made his reasons clear.
Berrios smiles as he works to win his way into Day 2 on the wings of his Esper Dragons.
Berrios wasn't the only one with a backup; Nelson played a second Tasigur on the next turn. It was stolen by Dragonlord Silumgar, but Jeskai Charm kept it from attacking its owner. With Jace in play, the Jeskai Charm was a threat to hit Silumgar again if Berrios repeated the play. With that in mind, he chose to steal Mantis Rider on the next cast and attack the Jace directly. The ploy worked, and when the dust settled it was dragonlords Silumgar and Ojutai for Berrios staring down Mantis Rider and Tasigur for Nelson. For a game that had been so much about controlling the stack, it would now be about racing. The players traded attacks, and when Berrios cast Ob Nixilis to try and remove one of Nelson's creatures to guarantee he would win the race, it was met with a Negate.
That put it all on the final card in his hand, and it was then that he revealed it to be a Tasigur of his own. With a crucial blocker now available, that was enough to give Berrios the victory when Nelson's final draw step was a land.