SEMIFINALS

Posted in GRAND PRIX NASHVILLE 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 3, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

(18)Martell/Damo da Rosa/(20) Shenhar vs. (22)Black/Severa/Vidugiris

How do you introduce some of the greatest players in the game, working as teams to take on another team of great players?

Pro Tour Gatecrash winner and 18th-ranked Tom Martell is among the game's elite. With two Grand Prix wins already, Martell added a fourth with his team's appearance. With a full-on five color deck that Martell simply described as "You'll have to watch the draft viewer to see why," he drafted a plan of morphs – with Ghostfire Blade – and removal, including both End Hostilities and Duneblast. Five-color was a favorite strategy among some of the top players for typical Khans of Tarkir drafts, though with just six nonbasic lands it wasn't clear Martell would find the right mana when he needed it.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was already a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame with a staggering thirteen prior Grand Prix Top 8s, eight Pro Tour Top 8s, and one win in each of the event types. It's hard to overstate the skill Damo da Rosa brings to the game, and his draft deck showed it: A solidly black-green deck with a touch of blue just for two copies of Abomination of Gudul and Glacial Stalker, Damo da Rosa had a gameplan meant for the long plays. With cards like Death Frenzy, Archer's Parapet, Sultai Flayer, and Sultai Scavenger, setting up a late game Necropolis Fiend looked impressive.

The final star on the team was 2013 World Champion and 20th-ranked Shahar Shenhar. Three Grand Prix Wins under his belt, and an impressive streak otherwise, meant Shahar was no stranger to take trophy shots. For his draft, Shenhar settled into a similar Sultai angle as teammate Damo da Rosa, instead having better nonbasic lands and more blue for cards like Icefeather Aven, Sultai Charm, and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Two copies of Sultai Scavenger and a Swarm of Bloodflies meant Shenhar could take to the air as the game drew on.

Across from that formidable three sat the other talented crew that had fought to the Top 4. 22nd-ranked Sam Black had two Pro Tour Top 8s to fit alongside his eight Grand Prix Top 8s, and was long overdue to claim a trophy of his own. He settled into Mardu for his draft, yielding powerful cards like Mardu Ascendancy, Mardu Roughrider, and Ponyback Brigade paired with both great nonbasic mana fixing and a curve of creatures. Arc Lighting was the highlight of a suite of removal ready to keep the path clear.

Matt Severa may not be a name you recognize recently but don't be fooled: He earned a Grand Prix Top 8 appearance in Detroit well over a decade ago. While not a regular across the Grand Prix circuit, his skills were forged in one of the most skill-intensive regions of United States Magic: Madison, Wisconsin. Entering the Top 4 meant Severa would be returning to the Pro Tour as well, not a shabby way to reenter the premier play spotlight. His deck was a focused white-red and aggressive, adding a touch of black to cast Mardu Charm and unmorph Ponyback Brigade. His creature base was made to make tokens, including three Mardu Hordechief and a copy of Hordeling Outburst, then capitalize on one of the four copies of Rush of Battle. Punishing opponents quickly was the plan.

The final teammate for Black and Severa was Gaudenis Vidugiris. With two Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, with three Grand Prix wins among his six total Top 8s, Vidugiris had fallen out of his heyday of a couple years ago. Without falling off the train of top players, Vidugiris continued to demonstrate his skills. His draft led him to Temur, including a Temur Ascendancy, with a focus on red and green creatures: two copies of Alpine Grizzly and two copies of Summit Prowler meant cards like Crater's Claws and Dragon Grip would hit hard. Outmuscling the opposition was his aim.

The Games

Black and Martell was the first match to finish. In the first game, Black came out of the gates with plenty of creatures that topped off with Mardu Roughrider. Between the Roughrider and an Arc Lightning that killed two creatures, Martell couldn't hold out long enough to find blue mana for the cards in his hand.

The second game was slightly longer. Martell created a small army of morphs and delayed Black as long as possible. Forced to cast his creatures and extend into Martell's battlefield, End Hostilities reset the clock. However, if Martell thought Black had run dry of threats is wasn't true. A few turns, and several removal spells later, Martel pulled the trigger on his Duneblast as well. While Martell had pulled out all the stops to stabilize, his life total was precariously low. When Black ripped Arc Lightning for the turn he claimed a win for his team.

Despite winning a match against Martell, it was Black, Severa, and Vidugiris looking for ways to climb back into the match.

Vidugiris and Shenhar played three games but finished second. The first game was a testament to the power of Vidugiris's rares. Despite Shenhar throwing removal, growing a 6/6 Swarm of Bloodflies, and making a 6/6 Elemental from it with Kin-Tree Invocation, Vidugiris slowly pulled further and further way. With Temur Ascendancy online early enough, he drew cards to replace his creatures that traded in combat. With Crater's Claws and Dragon Grip to defeat the biggest creatures Shenhar made, an Incremental Growth a few turns later pumped Vidugiris's army enough to close the door.

The second and third games were faster, but they didn't got he way Vidugiris had planned. While both games had an early Temur Ascendancy for him, Vidugiris ran low on threats. In the second game Shenhar grew his Swarm of Bloodflies to 5/5 and pummeled Vidugiris with removal, eventually flying all the way to the win. The third game saw Vidugiris stumble to make creatures at all, and Shenhar curved out with a backbreaking Krumar Bond-Kin to claim a match for his team.

Damo da Rosa asked plenty of questions, and trusted the answers his teammates Martell and Shenhar provided.

In between the Black-Martell and Vidugiris-Shenhar showdowns sat Severa and Damo da Rosa. They played two games and each was a similar story with slight different structure. The first game saw a rush of tokens and Sage-Eye Harriers assault Damo da Rosa, leading up to a Rush of Battle that took 14 life while gaining Severa 16. From 4 life Damo da Rosa crawled back up by creating creatures too large for Severa to Tame. Pine Walker, Woolly Loxodon, and Sultai Scavenger among others forced Severa into a defensive position. Without copies of Arrow Storm or other burn, Severa couldn't close the game out before becoming overwhelmed.

The second game was the same tune remixed: Creating tons of tokens with Ponyback Brigade and Hordeling Outburst and running out with Rush of Battle dropped Damo da Rosa to 5 life. But that was it.

Both teams put everything into the decisive game between Severe and Damo da Rosa.

The humble Sidisi's Pet pecked back life for Damo da Rosa, leading up to an Archers' Parapet that did most of the damage. A backbreaking Death Frenzy with Sultai Flayer on the battlefield put Damo da Rosa back up to 20 life. He could afford to lose his Necropolis Fiend and more as Severa worked with his teammates to stay alive. In the end, the lowly Archers' Parapet – with a little help from some attackers – claimed the match for Martell, Damo da Rosa, and Shenhar.

Tom Martell, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Shahar Shenhar defeated Sam Black, Matthew Severa, and Gaudenis Vidugiris, 2-1.