The round you play for 9-0 is the best round of the Grand Prix. You’ve locked up Day 2, and even if you lose you’ve given yourself a good position to make a run at Top 8. Naturally you want to win, but it’s that much easier to smile through the pressure.
A veteran of Mexico’s Magic scene and a former member of the National Team, Axel Martinez is looking to shake a curse that’s dogged him his last two GPs – back-to-back ninth-place finishes at Guadalajara and Mexico City last year. His deck is a truly grotesque Abzan Powerhouse, featuring such hits as Duneblast, Siege Rhino, and Dromoka, the Eternal.
On the other side, a local from the area, Erik Trejo Garcia, looking to improve on last year’s performance. He entered Day 2 at 7-1, but crashed and burned. At worst he’ll be in a similar situation, but every point counts and he’d love to start flawless. He’s part of a local team that did a lot of prep for this event, and it’s paid off, with multiple members crossing into Day 2. He’s also on Abzan, but despite its power his deck pales in comparison.
Trejo hit the ground running with a curve of Ainok Guide into Sandsteppe Outcast. Martinez was slowed by his dual lands, but managed a third-turn Debilitating Injury to stem the bleeding. Garcia ramped with Map the Wastes and hit for four.
Martinez finally got something on the board, and it was a doozy: Siege Rhino. Trejo hit for two in the air, then played Reach of Shadows. Martinez came back with a morph, but Trejo dispatched that with Hunt the Weak, growing his flier to a 3/3. Martinez played an unimpressive Battle Brawler, and when Trejo bashed and brought out Lightform it looked like the writing was on the wall.
Martinez had just the thing, however: Duneblast. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Trejo’s Lightform had manifested Ivorytusk Fortress. Trejo tried to rebuild with Daghatar the Adamant, but Martinez had Reach of Shadows. He also had Soulfire Grand Master, but that fell to Murderous Cut. Both were empty-handed. Martinez had the only creature.
Trejo drew and quickly passed. Martinez hit for two, then showed that he had drawn the mighty Abzan Beastmaster. Trejo needed to remove it immediately or it would take over the game. He drew. Another blank. Martinez’s two draws were not blanks, and the game was shortly his.
Martinez 1 – Trejo 0
Between games Trejo boarded out his fast creatures for cards better suited to a long, grindy game. Martinez swapped out Alabaster Kirin for Smite the Monstrous. They shuffled up and checked their openers. Martinez kept. Trejo went to six. They did not inspire confidence – six lands. After a long think he chose to keep.
Martinez was first on the board with Whisperer of the Wilds. Debilitating Injury sent it to the bin. It was replaced by Ainok Beastmaster who was soon outclassed by Trejo’s Daghatar the Adamant. Martinez played a morph and took four from Trejo’s attack. Trejo played his fifth land and passed. Martinez was happy to keep his creatures home and brought out Siege Rhino. Once again, he was threatening to bury Trejo in card advantage.
Trejo’s draws had dried up. He took a hit from the morph which revealed itself to be Pinewalker. Martinez would commit nothing further to the board, preferring to keep his mana open. Over a couple turns two Sandsteppe Outcasts surrendered their counters to Daghatar, potentially stopping Martinez’s runaway engine, but Martinez simply shrunk it with Debilitating Injury and continued the assault. By the time Trejo managed to get out Sagu Archers and move a counter onto it, Martinez was stocked with removal. He decided not to continue the farce.
Axel Martinez defeats Erik Trejo Garcia 2-0
I asked the players if they were ready for the draft tables tomorrow, and both answered emphatically in the affirmative. Both had put in a staggering number of drafts in the week prior.
I also asked Martinez if he’d expected a 9-0 performance out of his deck. “Absolutely. This deck might be the best ever. Just every card is incredible. Smite the Monstrous, it’s a good card, and it’s in my sideboard. That’s how good this deck was.”