In a Top 8 packed with new names and faces, Quebecois Pascal Maynard is our mooring. This is his fifth Grand Prix Top 8, and his second in as many months, thanks to Grand Prix Ottawa. He was behind the wheel of a saucy Blue-Red Delver build with a full set of Goblin Guides for extra speed.
But that speed could mean nothing against Illinois native, Stephen Speck. His deck was the scuttlebutt of the Top 8. An Amulet Bloom deck had never made it this far before. A deck that could win on your opponent’s first upkeep? Heresy! Though it didn’t happen often, people were already talking about a turn-one kill Speck pulled off earlier in the tournament.
Steven Speck had a relatively slow start, which meant a turn-two Summer Bloom. So Speck ended the turn with a Golgari Rot Farm, Glimmerpost, Tolaria West, and a Tendo Ice Bridge in play. These were good permanents to have, for certain, but Pascal Maynard was on a much more proactive permanent plan and by his third turn was attack with a flipped Delver of Secrets and a Goblin Guide, taking medium-sized chunks out of Speck. He would have to use that early mana fast.
When Speck was down to 13 life, he used his cache of lands, including a Cavern of Souls (naming “Giant”), to cast an uncounterable Primeval Titan. He sought out second Glimmerpost from his library to go back up to 15 life, and was all-of-a-sudden the new aggressor.
Maynard had a Vapor Snag ready for the Titan, but Speck had a Pact of Negation. Then, because of all the bouncelands available to Speck, like Gruul Turf, he kept moving his Glimmerposts in and out of play (or Vesuva impersonating Glimmerpost), and kept himself out of Delver death range.
Maynard continued to pound hard, and was making progress, but it felt just shy of racing the Titan. At one point, Speck had to ask, “Double Lightning Bolt?” hinting at his own demise, but Maynard just didn’t have it in him.
Stephen Speck powered through the first game on the back of Titans and a strong Summer Bloom.
Stephen Speck 1 – 0 Pascal Maynard
Maynard began the second game with his favorite start—turn-one Goblin Guide. If he wanted to kick the legs out from under this Amulet deck, he would also have to apply steady pressure up top. Goblin Guide helped that immensely.
Maynard, who was down on cards from a mulligan, used his second turn to draw more cards. But passed the turn tapped out, so a big turn from Speck cound end it all. Speck had an Amulet of Vigor, laid a Simic Growth Chamber, untapped it with the Amulet and retapped it to add two mana before it returned to his hand. He then used that mana to cast a Summer Bloom, then starting playing, untapping, tapping, then replaying the bounceland to amass six mana. If he had either of his six-mana game-enders it would, well, end the game.
But alas, Speck did not. He cast Chalice of the Void on two counters, then cast Serum Visions. Did you catch the odd thing in there? Speck decided to cast the Chalice on two charge counters, and ended with a Serum Visions. That was good, but decidedly less impressive than just winning.
He passed the turn, and Maynard won the game. I’m sorry, did I get ahead of myself? I mean, “then Maynard cast a Blood Moon.” “I don’t think you can win now, can you?” Maynard said, but Speck wouldn’t give in. “Well, looks like I’ll have to deal 17 damage with a Goblin Guide.”
Thought that would have taken awhile, thanks to some other creature friends, Maynard didn’t have to. The Blood Moon turned all the amazing non-basic lands from Speck’s deck into basic Mountains (many of which would come into play tapped), and left him helpless to the one-drop beaters.
Stephen Speck 1 – 1 Pascal Maynard
Maynard was riding high off his last win, and went even higher after the third game started. “Trusty, trusty Delvers,” Maynard said as he revealed a Lightning Bolt going into his second turn.
“Blind-flipping Delvers . . .” was what Speck muttered in response.
Maynard cast a Gitaxian Probe, then immediately regretted it. “I don’t know why I bother looking at your hand. I don’t know what the hell’s going on.” Then paused while notating the cards nonetheless. “I know what they do, just not together.”
Azusa, Lost But Seeking was able to give one additional land drop (a Simic Growth Chamber), but was hit by a Lightning Bolt in response to the land’s enter-the-battlefield trigger (without the trigger, Maynard would have never received priority to do so). But though Speck was being gnawed at by an Insectile Aberration, he was still amassing lands.
Cavern of Souls came down naming “Giant,” but Maynard didn’t expect Speck to have actually drawn the Primeval Titan. I mean, he just saw his hand like a turn ago. Defying everyone’s expectations yet again, like Amulet Bloom had done the entire tournament, Primeval Titan was cast. And thanks to the Cavern, there was nothing Maynard could do about it. It was 11-11 and Speck had a Titan.
Maynard had a Vapor Snag ready, but right as rain the 6/6 came back the next turn. This time, after an Amulet of Vigor. Pascal saw some writing on some wall somewhere, be he couldn’t yet read it. He cast a Smash to Smithereens on the Amulet in response to the Titan trigger, and fought it through a Pact of Negation. He was fighting for every inch.
The Titan trigger found two Glimmerposts to gain precious life. As the turns moved, Speck used subsequent land drops to bounce and replay the land, and subsequent Titan triggers to find Vesuva to copy the Glimmerpost. Speck was always teetering on the edge of death, but stayed just on the right side of death. On a particularly spicy turn, where he needed a Summer Bloom to replay a bounced Vesuva, he used a Simian Spirit Guide to beat a Mana Leak.
And on the next turn, Speck had a second big green monster. This earned a despondent “Yep,” from Maynard, and a raspberry with his lips. With the Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, Speck had Maynard dead.
“This deck’s insane,” was all Maynard could say as he shuffled up his deck and shook Speck’s hand.
Stephen Speck 2 – 1 Pascal Maynard
Stephen Speck and Amulet Bloom advances to the finals!