Jonas Friberg had made the Top 8 of a Grand Prix before, at least in theory. Six weeks ago, at Grand Prix Barcelona, a problem with the tournament software resulted in a miscalculation of tiebreakers and put him in ninth place. Only later was it discovered that Friberg should have advanced to the playoffs, too late by then. Of course Friberg was compensated, and generously so, but still he had missed his chance for greater glory. This weekend, Friberg was back and was finally able to play in a Top 8.
Friberg had brought Grixis Control to the table, his opponent, Julien Henry, was playing Bant Company. The matchup, like so many in today's Standard, could definitely go either way and would most definitely be interesting to watch.
Both players summoned a double-sided creature on turn two: Henry had Duskwatch Recruiter, Friberg Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Both were, in turn, removed, however, with Reflector Mage and Ruinous Path, respectively.
On turn four, Henry cast a second Duskwatch Recruiter and passed with two lands untapped, while Friberg recast his Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and also passed with two lands untapped. Henry attacked; Friberg pointed Fiery Temper at Duskwatch Recruiter; Henry used Dromoka's Command to put a +1/+1 counter on his creature and kill Jace.
"Did you just draw that Dromoka's Command? Why didn't you play it during my turn?" Friberg asked much later, after the match was finished. "I figured if you had it you would cast it at the end of my turn."
Henry explained that he had had a suspicion about Friberg's removal spell, from the way Friberg had arranged his lands. "I saw the chance to get you really good, and I took it," he said.
"Well played," Friberg admitted.
Back to the game: A combination of Ruinous Path and Goblin Dark-Dwellers was able to halt Henry's offense, but another Reflector Mage made the Goblins dwell in Friberg's hand, and left Friberg without a blocker for the duration of two attack phases. When Friberg was down to 4, Henry passed his turn with two Reflector Mages and one Eldrazi Displacer, though without mana to activate it. Friberg, at this point, only had Goblin Dark-Dwellers and lands in hand, only lands in play too, and was teetering on the edge of defeat.
Friberg was back in the game and, over the next couple, actually looked to be winning. At one point, he even controlled three creatures (Goblin Dark-Dwellerrs, Dragonlord Silumgar, plus a stolen Reflector Mage) to Henry's zero!
Still, Henry didn't despair. With the help of two Lumbering Falls, a Tireless Tracker, Dromoka's Command, Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist, and Declaration in Stone, he was eventually able to overwhelm Friberg's defenses after all. It also didn't help that Friberg couldn't stop drawing lands.
In the second game, both players had Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on turn two, and fought fiercely over it. Henry's was caught in a Grasp of Darkness, while Friberg's was finally exiled by Henry's second Declaration in Stone after the first met Negate.
This exchange left Henry without an answer to Friberg's real threat though: Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. The Vampire completely dominated the game, especially after Radiant Flames left Henry with no creatures but gave a pair of Zombies to Friberg. The Vampire/Zombie team-up brought Henry to 3 before Kalitas finally fell to another Declaration in Stone. Henry came close to stabilizing, but Kolaghan's Command dealt the final damage.
The third game, unfortunately, was the least interesting of the match. Henry kept four lands, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Eldrazi Skyspawner, and Archangel Avacyn, while Friberg thought long and hard about his opening seven. He kept, but had trouble with his lands, missed with his Duress, and had to allow Henry's Jace, Vryn's Prodigy two activations before he was able to kill it.
At the end of Friberg's turn five, Henry cast Archangel Avacyn, untapped, cast another Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, played Lumbering Falls as land number six, and summoned Sylvan Advocate. Friberg, meanwhile, was stuck on four lands, holding three Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Julien Henry defeated Jonas Friberg two games to one and advanced to the finals where he would meet the most accomplished player in the tournament, Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy …