On his Top 8 Profile, Will Cruse, the Huntsville, Alabama native wrote his occupation as “Money Incinerator.” When asked about this he stoically replied, “I burn money.” He added afterward, “It doesn't pay a lot.” Cruse is on the Bant Company deck, and was exuberant and talkative throughout the pre-game process against Pascal Maynard. Despite seeming less-than optimistic about his chances.
Maynard, now playing his eleventh Grand Prix Top 8, did not quite expect to finish this well so far, and this puts him in striking distance of Platinum. If he wins the tournament, he will lock that top Pro Player status. But chatting about the match-up, he admitted, “Never played it actually. Oliver [Tiu] says it isn't good.” He laughed.
Note: Cruse was not within ear shot to hear that statement. So the façade that both players were not favored remained intact.
“I hate playing against that deck,” Cruse said looking over Maynard's decklist. “They're fast, and have all these tricks and [stuff].” As he shuffled up he added, “The last four times I was up against this deck, I got my [tuchas] kicked Game 1, so we'll see.”
It's well-known that one of the strongest plays is Lambholt Pacifist into Dromoka's Command, as a one-two punch. Not only does it take out a creature, but makes a 4/4 attacker on the third turn. This is what Cruse was scared about. Especially because Maynard was higher seeded and was on the play.
After they drew their opening hands, Cruse said, “All right, you're keeping? Looks like we're shoving [cards] around.” Maynard got a good laugh and the two got down to it.
Maynard started with turn-two Lambholt Pacifist. Cruse was as-of-yet unperturbed—you could tell by his whistling.
Maynard followed up with a second fight-ready Pacifist and a Thraben Inspector, while knocking Cruse down to 12 life. Cruse had only a Duskwatch Recruiter to his name. This was not going as he might have hoped.
Though Cruse started whistling again after he had a Tireless Tracker plus land, he was still on the back foot. He stopped again on the next turn when Maynard swung in with his entire team. Cruse took a dunk in the think tank.
After he came out he said, “Can't let Thraben Inspector hit me; it's too embarrassing.” But regardless of social poise and appearances, Cruse was sliding down in life total. Even with a mid-combat Collected Company, Cruse had to play defense without the ability to get his full line-up on the field for his untap step.
Cruse didn't have many outs, but he had to hope that Maynard didn't have Dromoka's Command to take out his fresh blocker. That was the only thing that would let him live for another turn.
Maynard had it, flashed it, and we were onto the second game.
“Do damage. That's my goal. I'll try for a little bit more from there, but you gotta set reasonable goals.” Cruse had a clear mindset for the second game, and was on the play. So he had a little push.
Cruse built up his board with Tireless Tracker and Sylvan Advocate, while negating Maynard's with a Reflector Mage and Declaration in Stone. The second game was already better than the first for Cruse. Maynard was now the one playing from behind.
Cruse attacked in and Maynard cast a pensive Collected Company as he asked, “Clash?” He was hoping not to run into Clash of Wills from Cruse. But the blue counterspell came down and stopped Maynard from doing anything about the attackers.
Maynard was down to 11 life, and Cruse had achieved his goal of doing damage. Now he was on to the “little bit more” part. On his next turn, Cruse sat for a long time, staring into Maynard's empty board, but a lot of untapped land.
After considering everything, he animated his Lumbering Falls and attacked with everything—Tracker, Mage, and Advocate all joined the fray. Despite Maynard having an Archangel Avacyn, he still sunk to 2 life. And with only the lonely angel, he was still dead to rites on board.
Maynard dug on his turn, losing a Clue, but he found Ojutai's Command might help him live for just one more turn. As long as Cruse didn't activate Lumbering Falls and go in fully again—which of course Cruse did.
“Ok, I have a new goal. It's cast Collected Company in our match.” Cruse joked. “I hope we can have a real game this time.”
Maynard returned, “It was pretty classic: person on the play attacking, the other person trying to block ... and dying.”
“Yeah well, I don't like the classic for this game, OK?” Cruse said, knowing full well that Maynard was on the play.
For the last game, Cruse had a powerful, but awkward opening hand. He had multiple Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but had all enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands. He weighed the risk. If Maynard had a Lambholt Pacifist on time, and he didn't draw a untapped land, he had nothing to do on the second turn. Cruse, against his better judgment, kept.
When the second-turn Lambholt Pacifist from Maynard flipped into a Lambholt Butcher, both Oliver Tiu and Eduardo Sajgalik smiled a little bit. Cruse didn't hit the land, and now he was facing down an attacking 4/4. The Butcher hit in and signaled the beginning of Maynard's unbridled assault.
The Québécois pushed in the next turn with more. Cruse was again a step behind, maybe two steps, but his hand had three Collected Company. This would be the way to catch up. He cast the Company in his main phase and found two Eldrazi Skyspawner. That meant lots of blockers.
“I achieved my goal,” Cruse said. He smiled. He'd cast a Collected Company. Sadly, that was the last time in the match he smiled. Though Cruse continued to add creatures, they were only serving as blockers, being fed to the incinerator.
On Maynard's attack, he sent a 2/2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer into seemingly certain death with six lands. Cruse was tipped off immediately. “This is gonna end in tears, isn't it?”
He was right. Though never quite confident with his blocks, he said, “All right, let's do this,” and took his hands off his cards. Maynard cast Dromoka's Command and wiped all four Cruse's creatures off the board while Maynard lost none.
Pascal Maynard has defeated Will Cruse, 2-1.