Posted in GRAND PRIX NEW JERSEY 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 16, 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.

How does a former member of Wizards R&D match up against a recent Grand Prix Champion? It's actually a tricky question since both are also Pro Tour Top 8 competitors.

Gerry Thompson was a longtime player, touring the country for Grand Prix and following along the StarCitygames Open Series before making his breakthrough to a Pro Tour Top 8 at Pro Tour Gatecrash. It wasn't long thereafter he took up the mantle as an intern at Wizards of the Coast. With a recent return to the competitive scene, Thompson was again on his country-crossing tour to rise to the top of the game.

Michael Sigrist is another longtime player, though he's having the year of his Magic career: With a Grand Prix Top 8 in Richmond, a Grand Prix win in Washington D.C., and a Pro Tour Top 8 at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir just over a month ago, Sigrist's streak stretched over months. Already battling to relative success in an oversized event at Richmond, Sigrist was more than familiar with the tenacity needed at top.

The Decks

Thompson had prepared a straightforward Blue-Red Delver deck for the weekend. When Khans of Tarkir joined the Legacy retinue of sets three cards jumped to the forefront. Two of them, Treasure Cruise and Monastery Swiftspear, served to push Blue-Red Delver to new heights. A deck filled with cheap spells, ready to pump a Swiftspear or transform a Delver of Secrets, combines well with the potential to cast a de facto Ancestral Recall multiple times in every game.

It was a battle tested true at several Legacy events coming into the weekend, and it proved popular among the top pros that attended.

Sigrist, however, elected to bring a deck that used the third Khans of Tarkir card to impact the format: Dig Through Time. The Jeskai Miracles deck was outfitted with the potent Sensei Divining Top and Counterbalace duo, which played well with cards like Terminus and Entreat the Angels. Dig Through Time joins in by sifting seven cards deep and leaving a fresh layer of three on top for Top to tap into.

Like Blue-Red Delver, Sigrist's deck was another big winner from recent Legacy showdowns. This match was one of the many times the two decks clashed.

The Games

Thompson started, leading with an early Delver of Secrets – that flipped before falling to Swords to Plowshares – and a second. Sigrist simply brought Sensei's Divining Top online to begin massaging his deck.

With his second Delver of Secrets transformed, Thompson pressed his aggressive advantage with Chain Lightning to put Sigrist down to 10 life. Pyroblast was Sigrist's answer the second time, though he decided to hold back from casting Counterbalance to leave mana for Brainstorm.

With a stocked graveyard, Thompson had a "one mana" Treasure Cruise which sent Sigrist into a flurry of Brainstorm and using his Flooded Strand.

"I'm not playing Blood Moon," Thompson offered when Sigrist went for his third dual land.

There was a pause before the game progressed. "Sure," was Sigrist's ultimate response to Thompson's Cruise.

"Yay!" Thompson said with glee before reloading his board with Monastery Swiftspear and a third Delver of Secrets. Terminus off the top was exactly what Sigrist needed (He had left it there with his Sensei's Divining Top.) but Thompson fought back with Force of Will.

"Yup." It wasn't was Sigrist wanted to say after his in-response-to-Force Dig Through Time resolved. While Sigrist sat at 8 life, he only fell to 6 on Thompson's attack. Counterbalance finally made its appearance on Sigrist's turn, and he set up drawing a second Terminus next.

When Thompson flipped Delver of Secrets on his next upkeep Sigrist pulled that trigger. Thompson tried Young Pyromancer instead, but Sigrist used Force of Will to keep the battlefield clear. A second Treasure Cruise tugged Thompson back into things with his second Young Pyromancer, which fell to Swords to Plowshares from Sigrist.

Thompson had his hands filled by Treasure Cruise throughout the match.

The next turn, Sigrist used his Sensei's Divining Top to miracle Entreat the Angels for two. Locked under Counterbalance and facing an air force outside of the range of Lightning Bolt, Thompson toppled quickly.

"Basically, no matter what happens it's always fun." Thompson said as they surveyed their sideboards for the second game. "I hope I win this game very quickly, or lose." Twenty minutes had already evaporated in the round.

"I played four games today: Won them all." If Sigrist was boasting Thompson didn't flinch.

Thompson flipped up Gitaxian Probe, now in his sideboard pile. "This can't be right but... eh," he said. A quick shuffle later had Thompson changing his mind. "Wait, I know a better card."

Perhaps it was mind games on both sides.

The second game featured Thompson leading off again, with Monastery Swiftspear attacking on the first turn, joined by a second and Ponder on the next. Sigrist was at 15 life untapping for his second turn.

"This is Ian Duke's favorite card." Thompson's trivia knowledge was shared during this photo opportunity.

Counterbalance completed the Sensei's Diving Top for Sigrist. Thompson's Gitaxian Probe revealed a hand with two more copies of Counterbalance for Sigrist, though the Brainstorm and Flooded Strand were set to change that if he had wanted.

Brainstorm followed for Thompson, and Sigrist put his own Top on top to counter that. Hydroblast puffed at Counterblance, but the third prowess triggers for the Swiftspears meant Thompson crashed in deal 8 damage. Just 6 life remained for Sigrist, who recast his Sensei's Diving Top before passing.

Treasure Cruise reared its head for Thompson, though Sigrist was prepared with Red Elemental Blast. He still fell to 3 on the next attack. After drawing for his turn, Sigrist found he had run out of tricks.

"You keep in Jace against me?" Thompson asked as they reviewed sideboards again, referring to the Jace, the Mind Sculptor revealed from the last Counterbalance trigger Sigrist had resolved.

Sigrist chuckled a little bit before answering. "You have to." Perhaps some cards are just that powerful? It was a point left unanswered as they moved to finish their match.

"Good luck." "You two." The exchange was set for the decisive game.

Sigrist's first turn Sensei's Divining Top led to a second turn Swords to Plowshares to rid the battlefield of Thompson's early Delver of Secrets. Thompson didn't have another creature to follow until his third turn when he tried Young Pyromancer.

After fiddling with his deck through Sensei's Diving Top, Sigrist let it go before adding Counterbalance to his side. Dancing with Thompson around killing his creatures, Pyroblast nailed the Counterbalance before Sigrist cast Pyroclasm for a lonely second Young Pyromancer.

Digging with Brainstorm and Ponders, his stocked graveyard looked like a prime target for Treasure Cruise. Peeking a potential resistance with Gitaxian Probe, Thompson cast his Cruise and countered both Dig Through Time and Pyroblast from Sigrist.

But Thompson was still without creatures. It would take another turn before Monastery Swiftspear arrived. Sigrist tried for his second Counterbalance but hit Pyroblast again, though Red Elemental Blast jumped into the fray for him when Thompson tried his second Treasure Cruise. Just like the first game, both decks were scraping to hold on and it was Thompson's Brainstorm to set up Force of Will for the Red Elemental Blast that tipped the scale.

Until Sigrist rattled off Supreme Verdict, at least.

Michael Sigrist's Jeskai Miracles would need one to recover as Thompson cruised along.

With his third Young Pyromancer of the game, Thompson again tried to press an advantage. Will of the Council from Sigrist forced Thompson into the unenviable spot of casting Price of Progress to deal himself 6 damage, but just 2 to Sigrist. It created a second Elemental token that allowed Thompson to attack well. Attacking into Sigrist, Thompson spent another Force of Will to stop Terminus and put Sigrist down to 6, then 4 on the next turn.

Sigrist's Jace, the Mind Sculptor took care of one of the two Elemental tokens on Thompson's side though the third Treasure Cruise Thompson resolved that game found a Sulfuric Vortex. At just 3 life, Sigrist's time had come.

"That was a hell of a match!" Thompson offered as he and Sigrist shook hands.

"So you'd take out all the Jaces against you?" Sigrist asked.

"They seem kinda vulnerable," said Thompson.

"All the spells I want to resolve are blue"

"Sure, I mean if you're fighting Pyroblast but I feel like you can just use your own more aggressively."

The exchange trailed off as they reset their deck configurations. In this clash, at least, it was Thompson and Delver that took the points away.

Gerry Thompson defeated Michael Sigrist, 2-1.