SEMIFINALS: DENIS ULANOV VS. ERIC PEI

Posted in GRAND PRIX LOS ANGELES 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 20, 2014

By Marc Calderaro

"You have two of them?! That's so good!" Eric Pei said as he looked over Denis Ulanov's decklist. The card he was talking about Scouring Sands.

That is the weirdest thing I've heard in a Grand Prix Top 8 for a while. The two Mono-Red players left standing were downright giddy while comparing the each others' decks. Comparing and contrasting. It was like two mono-colored unicorns meeting in a room full of three-color rhinoceroses.

"I really don't think I can beat that. Two Scouring Sands is too good." Pei wasn't just talking about the board-sweeper, but also the Goblin Rabblemaster. Pei's deck didn't play them at all. That's usually good for a deck aiming to win by turn three or four, but in this attrition-based grinding mirror match (comparatively speaking, of course), the Rabblemasters would shine through.

The Games

This was a funny match. Firedrinker Satyr and Monastery Swiftspears abounded, and both players were really hesitant to make the first move. Each attack, each spell, was deliberate. Eric Pei was sitting with a handful of burn, while Ulanov had more early creatures. That would prove all the difference.

Denis Ulanov

Though they each had early dudes, Ulanov got many more creatures committed to the board in Akroan Crusader, two Swiftspear, and a Firedrinker Satyr. He was turning them all sideways too. Pei sat with a lowly Firedrinker Satyr and a Hall of Triumph. He had burned out some of the more threatening guys, but Ulanov just kept on pushing.

Pei was quickly falling behind on the board and in the life total. All it took was a Coordinated Assault midcombat to push Pei out of game one.

Denis Ulanov 1 – 0 Eric Pei

In the second game, Eric Pei chose to draw. He really didn't like his chances in this match-up, so perhaps the extra card would be of use. During the shuffled he remarked, "I think your 75 is just better." It might not be better positioned in the metagame as a whole, but it was certainly better in this rare dual-unicorn matchup.

But the second game looked much like the first: Ulanov just had more dudes, and quicker. Monastery Swiftspear, Foundry Street Denizen and Frenzied Goblin were all on team Kill-Eric-Pei-Real-Hard.

This time, Pei had something to say about it. Searing Blood was a great way to control the board while attacking back at the same time. But he was drawing more lands than he wanted, and he would have to solve that quickly.

Pei's next play was a counterintuitive one: He cast a Dragon Mantle on Ulanov's Frenzied Goblin. It earned some chuckles, but Ulanov had to consider for a moment whether it should resolve. Clearly Pei needed the extra card, so it was worth at least a second of thought. It did resolve and Pei tried to draw out of his land glut.

Eric Pei

If the first few turns of the game were Ulanov casting creatures, the next few were Pei systematically removing them. By around turn six the board was basically clear, and one could see why choosing to play was a good strategy. He had used basically all his non-lands to get back to parity.

But the scores were 8-12, and though Pei had been casting his burn, all those red instants were just burning holes in Ulanov's hands. Pei certainly knows what being at eight life means against a deck like this. And as was coming increasingly clear to everyone involved, Pei was drawing nothing but lands.

Ulanov's hand was all burn, and it went right at Pei's face to blast him out of the semifinals.

Denis Ulanov 2 – 0 Eric Pei

Denis Ulanov has pushed his Mono-Red one-drops to the final of Grand Prix Los Angeles!