It was a David and Goliath match in every sense. Thirteen-year-old Ethan Brown had made the first Grand Prix Top 8 of his nascent Magic career with an army of tiny artifact creatures. Standing in his way on the road to the finals was Pascal Maynard, a ten-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor who has been on a tear for the last year. Maynard also happened to be doing battle with Eldrazi, the monsters who ravaged the Modern landscape at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. The match-up seemed favorable for the speedy Affinity deck, but Maynard would surely be sideboarding in Stony Silence to keep the tiny creatures at bay.
Paul Cheon came into the feature match area, armed with his camera, to congratulate Brown on his first Top 8. Brown was exuberant, pumping his fist in the air and promising to do his best. Maynard also seemed impressed by his young opponent and engaged him in conversation about his deck choice before the match started. Maynard, as it turns out, was set on playing Affinity until a teammate convinced him to hop on the Bant Eldrazi train. Brown admitted that Affinity was the only deck he’d ever played in Modern, and the only deck he’d considered playing in this tournament. He hoped his practice would pay off.
Maynard started off Game 1 with a mulligan to six and soon found himself on the back foot. As expected, Brown played the aggressor in the match-up, clearing away an early Eldrazi Mimic with Galvanic Blast and trying to force Maynard to trade his Eldrazi Displacer for a Memnite equipped with a Cranial Plating. Maynard declined the trade and used his next turn to activate Displacer’s ability targeting Brown’s Arcbound Ravager. To his surprise, the tiny metal Beast returned to the battlefield, counter and all. Maynard shook his head, laughing to himself at his blunder, and passed the turn resignedly.
Maynard could barely stem the bleeding once Brown geared up for an all-out attack. Path to Exile proved useless against Arcbound Ravager, and it was difficult to block any of the artifact creatures profitably, as Brown could use his two Glimmervoids to move his Cranial Plating from one to another. Before long, Brown had amassed an army of evasive creatures: Etched Champion, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Signal Pest. Eldrazi Displacer couldn’t possibly face them all alone, and Maynard was forced to scoop up his cards.
Unfortunately for Maynard, he drew yet another inadequate seven for Game 2, but kept a six-card hand that contained acceleration and answers. He deployed a Noble Hierarch on Turn 1, hoping to power out some Eldrazi in the mid-game, but Brown was prepared to disrupt him with a Thoughtseize. “Yeah, I’ll take that Stony Silence,” Brown said giddily.
The rest of the game was a struggle for Maynard. Brown built out his board with Ornithopters and mana-producers, then started sacrificing permanents to his two Arcbound Ravagers. It was his Inkmoth Nexus that posed the biggest problem, however, as it threated to end the game in just a few short turns. Maynard found an Engineered Explosives with Ancient Stirrings, clearing Brown’s board, but he still couldn’t find an answer for the Nexus.
The final moments of the game perfectly summed up this duel between an enthusiastic wunderkind and a stoic pro player at the top of his game. A giant Reality Smasher came down on Maynard’s side and started to race the infectious flyer. The players traded blow after blow, and Brown seemed to be the favorite until Maynard found an Eldrazi Displacer to take care of the pest. Brown had to get one more attack in if he wanted to lock up the match. Sure enough, the answer he needed was on top of his library.
Maynard’s only response was to shake his opponent’s hand. The Eldrazi Goliath had fallen.