With a Pro Tour win in 2013 at San Diego, Craig Wescoe put himself onto the map as a master of aggressive white creatures. From there he had risen and fallen on the Top 25 rankings and entered the weekend at a "shaky" twenty-fifth-ranked, though assured to pick up steam and standing from his already great finish. Consistent performance is already tough challenge in competitive Magic, but Wescoe's penchant for aggressive decks using Plains underscored how proficient at the game he was.
It was that consistency that made him a formidable opponent across Grand Prix and Pro Tours ever since.
For Aaron Webster, it was his breakout moment using his longtime Modern deck. Since the format's inception for Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011, Affinity had played a large role in shaping it. Webster was one of the many players that had put in the practice and patience to work at mastering a deck, and it paid off in spades for him this weekend by earning an invite to Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch and a Grand Prix semifinals appearance.
Now he just had to defeated a Pro Tour winner for a shot at a Grand Prix title. No easy feat.
Webster's Affinity was a typical build, using red to cast Galvanic Blasts and splaying creatures like Ornithopter, Memnite, and Signal Pest backed up by Arcbound Ravager and Steel Overseers. With Mox Opals and Springleaf Drums to provide fast access to mana too, Cranial Plating was an instant speed swap in the middle combat that made blocking a nightmare – and often a useless defense.
Wescoe's Green-White Aggro deck was one of the versions of "Hate Bears" that have hung around Eternal formats for ages. While Death and Taxes was an esoteric-made-normal name in Legacy, here the aggressive monniker is apt: Early creatures like Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben could both attack and slow down opponents plans of all types, and with tricks like Aven Mindcensor to dive in and truly demolish the ways other decks rely on searching their libraries. With beefy (and anti-discard) Loxodon Smiters and Brimaz, King of Oreskos around too it meant the Path to Exiles coming behind could keep the path clear for victory.
The first game was fast, as aggressive-meets-aggressive combo is wont to me. Webster's turn was Darksteel Citadel led into Signal Pest and Ornithopter, followed by a second Darksteel Citadel and Steel Overseer on the second turn.
Wescoe's second turn was Path to Exile for the Overseer – stopping any plans for +1/+1 counters – before passing back. Arcbound Ravager into Memnite and a second Signal Pest kept the pressure on Wescoe to respond.
Voice of Resurgence was Wescoe's only play.
Aaron Webster's explosive opening in the first game as a fast finish to take the an early advantagte.
Cranial Plating came down for Webster, and forced a trade with the Voice that still put Wescoe down to 3 life in one hit. Qasali Pridemade was a promising on-board trick for Wescoe but Galvanic Blast was more than enough for Webster to take the first game.
The second game was a touch slower, with just Vault Skirge for Webster on his first turn. Stony Silence came in on the second for Wescoe, and it put a damper on the tricks and abilities of Webster's artifacts.
That would prove to be a deciding moment.
Steel Overseer appeared for Webster too after the Skirge struck in again. Wescoe fell to 13 life casting Loxodon Smiter, finally tipping the race back into his favor. Path to Exile stopped the Skirge's next strike and while Webster replaced it after combat, Wescoe untapped into a dominant battle field position.
Wescoe's attack put Webster at 12 life, and left a Voice of Resurgence behind to block with. Cranial Plating threatened to tip things back to Webster, but Wescoe attacked undaunted and put Webster to just 6 life.
"Let's go to the next game," Webster said picking up his attackers.
The third game was a flurry of opening activity for Webster: Darksteel Citadel and Signal Pest into a second turn second Citadel and Arcbound Ravager. When Wescoe cast Stony Silence on his second turn, Webster sent one Citadel into he Ravager in response. His next attack, now joined by an active Blinkmoth Nexus, put Wescoe down to 15 life.
Craig Wescoe used a second turn Stony Silence to help win the second game. It was promising start to his third as well.
Voice of Resurgence and Burrenton Forge-Tender came in for Wescoe, putting some roadblocks into the way for Webster. Vault Skirge and Ornithopter joined Wesbter's team but no attack came, Wescoe's army did its work slowing things down on the ground.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos joined Wescoe's side and Webster went into race mode through the air, rising to 18 life to Wescoe's 10.
Arcbound Ravager blocked Brimaz, and moved two +1/+1 counters onto Webster's Ornithopter. Qasali Pridemage made a return appearance in the match, this time poised to prevent any tricks Webster might offer.
Webster activated his Blinkmoth Nexus, and as he went into combat Wescoe traded his Pridemage for a Signal Pest. The attack still dropped Wescoe to just 3 life. Wescoe struck back on his attack and put Webster down to 9 life before adding Leonin Arbiter.
It wasn't enough.
"I was a little choked on lands," Wescoe lamented, revealing one Path to Exile and a couple more creatures, not enough to stop Wester's lethal attack.
"If you had a little more you would've locked down my team," Webster admitted.
Wescoe nodded and extended his hand.
Aaron Webster defeated Craig Wescoe, two games to one, and advanced to the finals of Grand Prix Pittsburgh.