Posted in GRAND PRIX NASHVILLE 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 2, 2014

By Marc Calderaro

(22) Black/Severa/Vidugiris vs. Wescoe/(17) Hayne/Skarren

The team de-facto called "Team Madison" ran hot all yesterday. No. 22 Sam Black, Matt Severa, and Gaudenis Vidugiris are starting Day 2 sitting at 8-1, just below the pole position. Right up there with them was team "It's Hayne's Fault" (see how the team got together in yesterday's coverage), Craig Wescoe, No. 17 Alex Hayne, and Frank Skarren.

The decks lined up well this round, with no archetype mirrors; it was a nail-biter.

(22) Sam Black vs. Craig Wescoe

These games were the at the same time the most traditional and the least traditional of the round. Most people in the audience could guess that Craig Wescoe was on an aggressive white-based strategy. It was with red spells as well that were equally aggressive. While Sam Black's was a Jeskai deck that played control here.

With multiple Warden of the Eye and Narset, Enlightened Master, and a bevy of early removal spells, if Black could survive the first few turns, he would most certainly survive the whole thing. The team described as a "pile," but I'm going to be a bit more diplomatic and just that that in this match it "played control."

Wescoe sprinted out of the gates with Seeker of the Way, Jeskai Student, Horde Ambusher, Defiant Strike. Black was down to 12 before he got any real presence on the board. He had big spells that took his whole turn, so he fell behind quickly.

But a sequence of turns flopped the game around. Black went Jeskai Charm, then Warden of the Eye to return it. Just for the extra nug, when Wescoe triple-blocked the Warden to get the biggest guy off the table, Black had a Feat of Resistance to just make it bigger. The game was over soon after that.

The second started the same. Black opened with a Jeskai Banner, while Wescoe had a Horde Ambusher and a morph. On the next attack Black asked, "I take seven?" He was right; the morph was Canyon Lurkers.

But just like the second game started the same, so too it ended. Black barely stabilized enough to land, then attack with, a Narset, Enlightened Master. It grabbed a Force Away (that was subsequently returned with two Warden of the Eye), and then on Black's self-admitted "Let's-attack-and-see-what-happens" turn, attacking with his team, Narset flipped up a Jeskai Charm and a Flying Crane Technique.

Craig Wescoe, (17) Alex Hayne, Frank Skarren

"Hoah," was all Wescoe could muster.

"I may have effects before blocks," Black said.

He did. Wescoe died. Black had earned his team the first point.

Matt Severa vs. (17) Alex Hayne

Matt Severa just recently re-qualified for the Pro Tour, and he was looking to gain more steam here. His Red-Green deck could spit out a lot of pressure quickly, and his creatures were more impressive than Wescoe's Red-White little dudes. No. 17 Alex Hayne was on the Abzan Midrange plan, so he would have to stem some bleeding and drain Severa out.

In the first game that plan failed miserably. Though Hayne cleaned up an early Bloodfire Expert (pumped by Arc Lightning), Severa barely blinked and followed with a Mardu Warchief into a Hooting Mandrills, way too early. Add to the mix a dash of the valley, and Severa took the first game.

Severa opened similarly in game two, but it was not as successful. Debilitating Injury on his the early Valley Dasher, then a quickly grown Salt Road Patrol set up Hayne's shields a little better this time around. Using Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Abomination of Gudul, and Bellowing Saddlebrute, Hayne made sure he could press his advantage for the win.

Both players now fully understood how these decks function against each other. The last game was just a good ol' fashion race to the finish. Severa's horse barreled out of the gate—I'm talking Heir of the Wilds, Mardu Hordechief into Horde Ambusher, and a Valley Dasher, with an Arc Lightning for backup. It was rough. The Archers' Parapet was Hayne's only saving grace.

Hayne was down to single digits before his horse started galloping. But really, it had just upgraded to a jet pack. Sorin, Solemn Visitor, with the help of Sultai Flayer and friends brought Hayne from the brink of death back up to 18 life. Even Act of Treason couldn't help Severa out of that mess.

Hayne tied the points at one a piece. It was all up to the last match-up.

Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Frank Skarren

Frank Skarren had a Blue-Green monster-y build that featured a strong Temur Ascendancy. Sticking that card was almost constant card advantage, and constant board advantage thanks to the haste. Gaudenis Vidugiris was on a powerful Sultai Control deck, but it functioned on inherent card advantage. The Ascendancy not only evened that playing axis, but Skarren would be able to get more cards faster, while casting creatures.

Vidugiris successfully avoided the Ascendancy in the first game, and just played against blue-green big dudes. Though Skarren was up early, cards like Debilitating Injury and Murderous Cut (in response to a Savage Punch—that's savage), kept Vidugiris out of the red.

Once he could safely spend his turn casting Treasure Cruise, his next was building an army. Vidugiris won shortly after that.

(22) Sam Black, Matt Severa, Gaudenis Vidugiris

In the second game, Skarren had a Temur Ascendancy on turn three and never looked back. Each morph had haste, and each non-morph drew a card and had haste. Vidugiris was just too slow. He used a Death Frenzy to stay alive (and take down some creatures), but that card advantage couldn't make up for the extreme advantage Skarren had, and he rolled over Vidugiris.

It was down to this final game for the whole match—and Vidugiris would have to face his fears again. Skarren had another turn-three Temur Ascendancy. Gau sighed and cast a Bitter Revelation—sculpting a hand to stop the inevitable wave to come.

But as a surprise to both players, it just didn't come. Skarren stumbled on his lands, so he had to cast creatures in forms that just didn't work with the enchantment. His morphs didn't draw a card, and neither did his Mystic of the Hidden Way. In a huge contrast to the last game, the Ascendancy was doing nothing to get Skarren out of the mess he was in.

Vidugiris had Archers' Parapet, plus Kiln-Tree Invocation (nice two-mana 5/5), and a Death Frenzy. He was afraid of none of the threats Skarren was presenting.

The last coffin nail came soon after. When Skarren finally cast the first creature that would draw him a card, a lowly Summit Prowler, Vidugiris unmorphed a Kheru Spellcaster and stole it.

It was such a key play, Vidugiris was fine with it even if he had to cast the 4/3 with mana. "Wait, I don't have to pay at all? Even better!" he said and slammed the Prowler down.

Without cards like Alpine Grizzly and without land, the Ascendancy showed itself to be just as underwhelming in this game as it had been overwhelming in the last.

Vidugiris was able to take the last game, and with it, the entire match.

Hayne, ever the jovial one, said to Severa, and his team, "You just won a PTQ, you're not supposed to be motivated!" Severa laughed.

Vidugiris retorted, "He isn't. He's the one who lost remember?" They all smiled and shook hands.

Sam Black, Matt Severa, and Gaudenis Vidugiris deafeat Craig Wescoe, (17) Alex Hayne, and Frank Skarren.