Finals: (22) Ben Stark (Red-White Aggro) vs. Jack Fogle (Sultai Control)

Posted in GRAND PRIX MEMPHIS 2015 on February 23, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

No. 22 Ben Stark came into the finals having already overcome two controlling opponents with his White-Red Aggro deck. But where both Chris Fennell and Steve Rubin had opted for Abzan builds, Stark's finals opponent, Jack Fogle, was a devotee of the Sultai brood. Fogle stormed his way through Day 1 with an unblemished record, and had himself already bested two Abzan Control opponents en route to the finals.

“Your deck was a great choice for this weekend,” Stark said. “It seems like it would have a horrendous match-up against hyper-aggressive decks, but there were none of those around.”

Fogle agreed, and jokingly lamented that he would have to return the whole deck to the friend he'd borrowed it from after their match. His Sultai Control deck might get off to a slow start, but with powerful late-game threats like Garruk, Apex Predator and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon it had plenty of raw power to over the top of the many variations of Abzan, Red-White and Jeskai that cluttered the top of the Swiss standings this weekend.

For Stark's part, he had a build of White-Red Aggro featuring full main-deck playsets of two new Fate Reforged cards: Soulfire Grand Master and Outpost Siege. Between the Monk's ability to recur spells, and the Siege's card drawing, Stark said that his take on White-Red played out more like a control deck itself—though of course he always had the option of sending his burn spells straight at his opponent's life total.

Game 1

Fogle led with a first-turn Thoughtseize, stripping away Stark's Outpost Siege and leaving him with a Seeker of the Way, Lightning Strike and largely irrelevant Chained to the Rocks. Stark tries to stick a few early threats, but a fifth turn Crux of Fate set him back to square one.

An early Thoughtseize taking Outpost Siege left Stark in search of a recurrent source of card advantage.

Fogle began building his own board with a Satyr Wayfinder and the slightly more threatening Garruk, Apex Predator, which summoned a Beast. Stark had only a lone Seeker of the Way on his side of the board and, faced with the thorny problem of an Apex Predator, went deep in the tank.

“I can't cast Chained to the Rocks without a Mountain, right?” he asked, trying to figure out a way to generate enough prowess triggers to take down Fogle's Garruk. Stark started with a Wild Slash on Wayfinder, and a Lightning Strike on the Beast token. A final Wild Slash on the Garruk, combined with an attack from a 5/5 Warrior finished off the Garruk, but at the steep price of three cards.

With the players back near parity, Stark resolved an Outpost Siege, naming Khans. Fogle responded with Kiora, the Crashing Wave, which locked down Stark's Seeker. Kiora was soon joined by Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, which promptly put a copy of Stark's own Soulfire Grand Master into play on Fogle's side of the table.

Fogle's Ashiok turns Soulfire Grand Master against its master.

After a series or burn spells and attacks from Stark eliminated Fogle's Planeswalker, Fogle returned the favor with a Sultai Charm to Naturalize Stark's Siege. Both players went into top-deck mode. Stark found the first threat with a Goblin Rabblemaster, but Stark found the better threat with an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. A few rides up on the Ugin escalator and Fogle had taken down Game 1.

Fogle 1 – Stark 0

Game 2

Stark kicked things off with a Soulfire Grand Master on his second turn, eliciting a Drown in Sorrow from Fogle. Stark followed up with a second copy of the lifelinking Monk, which steadily depleted Fogle's life total.

Meanwhile Fogle was stuck with a hand full of expensive cards, including two hard-to-cast copies of Dig Through Time, and Ugin. He aimed a Sultai Charm at the Grand Master, but was foiled by a Valorous Stance from Stark, who attacked Fogle down to six and then burned him to three.

A Bile Blight finally exterminated the 2/2, but Stark had a third copy that got right back to work.

Stark added a Rabblemaster to his side of the board, and Fogle Dug in response leaving two open mana. When the only instant he found was an uncastable Hero's Downfall they moved on to Game 3.

Fogle 1 – Stark 1

Game 3

Stark started the action with a Seeker of the Way on turn two. When Fogle followed up with a Satyr Wayfinder in order to wayfind a third land, Stark added a Rabblemaster to the board. A frighteningly fast clock, but it was not long for this world, as Fogle had a Drown in Sorrow to wipe the board clean.

Stark followed up with a second copy of Rabblemaster. On Fogle's turn he gave it a sip of Pharika's Cure and cast Tasigur, the Golden Fang for the low, low price of a single black mana. The ground blocked up, Stark took to the skies with a hasty Stormbreath Dragon knocking Fogle to 16. But Fogle had all the answers with a Downfall for the Dragon and a Disdainful Stroke for Stark's Outpost Siege.

With Tasigur munching away at his life total, Stark began turning his burn spells on the legendary Shaman. A Stoke the Flames dealt the first four damage and Arc Lightning finished the job. But a Dig Through Time for Fogle found another copy of the 4/5. After giving Fogle first one, then two bonus copies of Hero's Downfall with Tasigur's ability, Stark drew for his turn. He paused, revealed his hand of two lands, and offered the handshake.

Fogle 2 – Stark 1