The rush of making it into your first Grand Prix Top 8 (and the accompanying Pro Tour invite) can take the sting out of an early quarterfinal exit, but by the semifinals it fades as the chance at a Championship looms large. Our two finalists were all business as they shuffled up for the biggest match of Magic in their careers.
Quebec's own Hugo Demers started out 7-2, but picked up the pace in Day 2's drafts, putting up a perfect 6-0 to secure his place in Top 8. There, he drafted an aggressive Red-Black Vampires deck with a good curve and some powerful rares, but a little short on madness outlets. He's matches were quick and brutal affairs, and he had plenty of time to rest before his finals showdown.
Hunter Cochran came a long way to compete this weekend, having driven over eight hours. He took a pair of losses early in Day 1, but won his last three matches to keep the Top 8 dream alive at 7-2. Like, Demers, he swept both his draft pods. His Top 8 deck is Blue-Green Emerge, with a lot of enablers to dominate the early game and several spells that offer late game power.
Demers mulliganed to six, and they were off. He led out with Field Creeper, slowed by Cochran's Press for Answers, and then a Graf Rats. Cochran put out a Foul Emissary and got himself a Hinterland Logger. Demers pressed his advantage with Burn from Within, stopping any Emerge shenanigans, then hit for four and added Rancid Rats.
Cochran untapped and put down another roadblock: Drownyard Explorers. Demers sent his skulker in for a point of damage. Cochran swung back for two and passed, a move that was too suspect to ignore. Demers refuse to bite. He simply hit for another single point and added Weirded Vampire to the board. Cochran sacrificed both his clues. He tapped out for Thornhide Wolves.
Another turn went by, and Demers could do nothing but keep plinking for one. Cochran fired back for four with his Wolves, then added Hinterland Logger and passed the turn back with four mana open. With just Incendiary Flow and two lands in hand, Demers was running out of options. He decided he had no choice but to risk a crab ambush. He went in tentatively, with just Field Creeper and his Rancid Rats. Cochran naturally blocked with the Explorers. Demers tapped two for the Flow and Cochran showed him Drownyard Behemoth.
If there was any mercy in the exchange, it was that Cochran ended it shortly thereafter with a double Woodcutter's Gift.
Cochran 1 – Demers 0
Again Demers had to mulligan, and his six warranted a long think. He eventually chose to keep and scryed a spell to the bottom. He summoned Rancid Rats and then Field Creeper but could not find a third land. Cochran brought out Bloodbriar. Demers hit a mountain, a good start, but hardly the second swamp that would activate the Murder and Succumb to Temptation in his hand.
Cochran's draw was slow, however, with just Silent Observer as a follow-up. Another mountain came off the top for Demers and he started to build out his board with Weirded Vampire. Cochran added Shrill Howler. Another mountain for Demers, and with it a Vilden-Pack Outcast. He still couldn't make any headway against Cochran's defenders, and then Nebelgast Herald was sailing over for damage. Cochran bought more time with Drag Down but was stuck hitting for just two a turn.
Demers continued his avalanche of lands and replayed his Outcast. Cochran couldn't resist an observation.
“Man, you drew all the lands after not drawing any.”
“Yep… That's the problem.”
Cochran got himself a Thorhide Wolves to hide behind, but Demers peeled a swamp to threaten the transformation on his Outcast. He swung in. Cochran blocked with his Wolves and Bloodbriar, accepting the trade for the werewolf, but Demers was ready with Murder. Cochran passed his turn, flipping his Logger into Timber Shredder. Again Demers sent the Outcast. Cochran sacrificed his Silent Observer to flash in Drownyard Behemoth and double-blocked, but Demers again had a trick: Uncaged Fury! He pumped his Outcast to a 7/3 doublestriker to trade for both creatures. Cochran shook his head in disbelief.
“God damn, you drew VERY well!”
Cochran peeled and couldn't put Tireless Tracker into play fast enough, along with the land he'd been sandbagging. After a beat, Demers deadpanned “Pretty good draw.” Cochran laughed. “Hey I think I'm owed one,” then did a double take at the board. He had been under the impression that the Outcast had survived.
“Oh, I thought that thing was still alive. Now I look like a total [expletive deleted]. I thought he'd just totally owned me.”
They shared a good laugh over the misunderstanding, but then it was back to business.
Demers passed and watched as Cochran played another land, sacrificed the clue, summoned Tangleclaw Wolf, and played Press for Answers on Rancid Rats to open an attack path for the Tracker. Demers untapped and played Sinister Concoction, pitching his last card to be rid of the Tireless Tracker. “Not one I wanted to discard,” he said, putting Hanweir Militia in the bin. Cochran was firmly in the driver's seat now. Foul Emissary found Niblis of Frost, and Demers was down to his last turn.
He slowly peeked at his draw, then counted his lands. With a sigh he turned over Burn from Within, having come one mana short of forcing a game three, and extended his hand in congratulations.
Hunter Cochran defeats Hugo Demers 2-0