Semifinals: Olivier Ruel vs. Ricardo Sánchez

Posted in Event Coverage on July 5, 2015

By Craig Jones

There were only four players left in Europe's single Legacy Grand Prix this year. We've seen a diverse array of decks, but—as with GP Kyoto earlier this year—it's the Miracles decks that appear to be rising to the top with one in each semifinal.

Piloting the Miracles deck here was a player who is no stranger to advancing this deep into a Grand Prix. This was an incredible 28th Grand Prix Top 8 for Olivier Ruel and he was chasing a sixth title.

His opponent, Ricardo Sánchez, was considerably less accomplished in comparison, but his Infect deck had held up well so far. A blisteringly fast start might send him to the finals at the expense of his illustrious opponent.

Ruel: "I've not played this matchup. Is it good?"

After looking through Sánchez's decklist, he concluded: "This match will be a little quicker."

Sánchez got to play first by virtue of finishing higher in the Swiss. A good advantage to have for his Infect deck, although his first hand was so unimpressive he traded it in for six new cards. He didn't find much fast action from his deck. A Glistener Elf appeared on turn two and he only managed to peck away with that and an Inkmoth Nexus for a couple of turns.

That in itself was enough to give Ruel half the number of poison counters required to finish him. It was time for the Frenchman to do something about the situation.

On the next attack Inkmoth Nexus was exiled with Swords to Plowshares and a miracled Terminus, with Pyroblast to push it through, sent the rest of Sánchez's board to the bottom of his library.

It looked like the Infect deck was out of gas.

Ruel dropped Counterbalance. Without library manipulation it was unable to stop Sánchez's Noble Hierarch from arriving. The Hierarch's exalted trigger was enough to make Sánchez's second Inkmoth Nexus look more of a threat …if Ruel hadn't had a second Swords to Plowshares.

Would this be one of those crazy Infect games where the Infect player had to fall back on normal damage dished out by Noble Hierarchs?

Ricardo Sánchez

It seemed unlikely. Dig Through Time from Ruel found Sensei's Divining Top to establish the soft lock. Now it was all over bar the win condition. Sánchez clung on with Force of Will and Daze to keep a Jace, the Mind Sculptor off the table.

It was only delaying the inevitable. Entreat the Angels summoned a couple of Angel tokens to end the first game in a couple of attacks.

Olivier Ruel 1-0 Ricardo Sánchez

Sánchez's draw was more promising in the second game. He missed a second land, but with Noble Hierarch and especially Sylvan Library he had some good tools to fight the control deck with.

Ruel had the deck's signature Counterbalance on turn two. There was then some trading of cards as Krosan Grip blew up Counterbalance and Swords of Plowshares exiled Blighted Agent. Then Ruel found a much more troublesome card for the Infect deck in Izzet Staticaster. Most of the key infect creatures all have one toughness.

The game again started to drift away from Sánchez as Ruel found a replacement Counterbalance. He didn't have Sensei's Divining Top yet, but ended up not needing it in a series of turns that reinforced it just wasn't going to be Sánchez's day. Sánchez attempted to Force of Will Ruel's Dig Through Time only for Ruel to flip the top card of his library over blind and reveal the five-mana Force of Will he needed to counter Sánchez's.

Who needs library manipulation for Counterbalance? That got a few chuckles from the crowd and a despairing shrug from Sánchez.

Olivier Ruel

Ruel started to turn the screw with a Vendilion Clique. Sánchez had no time left. He pushed out Glistener Elf and Blighted Agent. His only hope now was to overwhelm the Staticaster in the hope that one of his Elf, Agent, and Inkmoth Nexus could somehow get through on the next turn. It was a last-ditch effort that relied on Ruel having nothing but blanks.

This wasn't the case and Wasteland and Swords to Plowshares left Sánchez with nothing and put Olivier Ruel into the finals of Grand Prix Lille.

Olivier Ruel 2-0 Ricardo Sánchez

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