Posted in GRAND PRIX MADRID 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 15, 2014

By Tobi Henke

Two undefeated players met in round 8: Ivan Floch, recent Pro Tour champion and currently ranked fifth in the world, was facing little-known Julio Fernandez, making his first run at the fame and the glory.

Floch was running Blue-Red Delver, arguably the most expected deck this weekend, though his version featured a bit of white for sideboard cards. Fernandez meanwhile brought a deck no one expected at all: Mardu Midrange with a bit of discard, a bit of burn, a bit of creature removal, some token generators and some more creatures.

Game 1

As said before, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, and Spaniard Julio Fernandez indeed started the match with Inquisition of Kozilek. Ivan Floch revealed Young Pyromancer, Delver of Secrets, Vapor Snag, Treasure Cruise, Thought Scour, and two lands. Even without the Delver, which Fernandez took away, that hand looked awesome. It did suffer a bit, however, when Fernandez continued the discard with Thoughtseize and took Treasure Cruise.

So far, Fernandez had just searched for basic Swamp and basic Plains and Floch must've been curious to learn what he was actually up against. He cast Young Pyromancer and Gitaxian Probe to create a token and see Lightning Helix, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Lingering Souls, and land in Fernandez's hand.

Brimaz was cast to provide some defense, but Floch redoubled his efforts with Monastery Swiftspear, Serum Visions, and Vapor Snag. His attack brought Fernandez down to 5 already. Brimaz was replayed, but Floch was not to be denied. He cast Treasure Cruise, found another Vapor Snag, and snagged victory.

(5) Ivan Floch 1-0 Julio Fernandez

Game 2

This was a long war of attrition. Several times Floch made some respectable inroads, with Monastery Swiftspear and Gitaxian Probe on turn one for example, and later with Young Pyromancer generating a total of five tokens.

Julio Fernandez

But Fernandez had just the right amount of burn to deal with Floch's early offense and then summoned a pair of Vampire Nighthawks, taking a decisive lead in the damage race. In between, he destroyed four of Floch's five lands using Boil and added yet more pressure in the form of Brimaz, King of Oreskos.

Floch had lost the iniative and, as the so often is the case, found his tempo deck not well suited to play defense. As Floch picked up his cards in defeat, the crowd of mostly Spanish spectators cheered for their hero.

(5) Ivan Floch 1-1 Julio Fernandez

Game 3

The first three turns here were simply beautiful to watch. Floch led with Delver of Secrets off Scalding Tarn on turn one; Fernandez had Relic of Progenitus. On turn two, Floch revealed Treasure Cruise, transformed Delver of Secrets, cracked a fetchland, cast Gitaxian Probe, and saw Lightning Helix, two copies of Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and lands in Fernandez's hand.

Floch thought long and hard about how to best navigate the rest of his second turn. He did some math and finally cast two Serum Visions, putting his number of graveyard cards at five and putting his opponent squarely between a rock and hard place. Fernandez could now either use Lightning Helix to shoot down Insectile Aberration or crack Relic of Progenitus to prevent the Treasure Cruise he already knew was lurking in Floch's hand. He went with Lightning Helix.

Ivan Floch

Floch's turn three was: fetchland, Monastery Swiftspear, Gitaxian Probe, Treasure Cruise. Fernandez never recovered. Floch summoned Geist of Saint Traft, forced it past Brimaz, King of Oreskos via Vapor Snag, and when Brimaz was recast had Snapcaster Mage to recast Vapor Snag.

(5) Ivan Floch 2-1 Julio Fernandez

"I think it even was the right decision to cast Lightning Helix there," Floch admitted after the match. There just wasn't anything Fernandez could have done to escape the dilemma Floch had put him in.