Every so often there is a Standard format that comes to be defined by a particular deck. For Shadows Over Innistrad Standard, that deck is Green-White Tokens. And third-ranked Steve Rubin is the reason for that.
Rubin found his breakout success at Pro Tour Shadows Over Innistrad, winning the event and introducing Green-White Tokens to the world in the process. Since then it has slowly become more and more of the field, culminating in representing more than 30 percent of the top 100 Day 2 decks at Grand Prix Pittsburgh.
Rubin led the way, and he didn't get left behind by the new developments, either. He finished Saturday in Pittsburgh undefeated with his signature deck, and rode the hot streak all the way into the semifinals.
There he met Evan Petre, battling with the same deck. Playing Green-White mirrors has become an ever more important skill in current Standard, and both of these players exceled at them through the weekend to make it to this point. Petre made a Top 8 appearance at Grand Prix Los Angeles a month ago, and bettered that performance on the other side of the country. Soft-spoken but determined, he was not at all intimidated by facing off against one of the best players in the world.
As is typical in the mirror, the board stalled early, with Rubin's Hangarback Walker facing off against Petre's Sylvan Advocate. When Petre threatened to make use of the board stall by ticking up Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and threatening a board that could protect Nissa all the way to her ultimate.
Rubin put a quick dagger in that plan, using a pair of Dromoka's Command to have his Walker fight first the Sylvan Advocate and then the plant token, capping off the momentous turn with an attack to take down Nissa.
That immediately put Petre on the back foot, though he reloaded his board with another Sylvan Advocate and Hangarback Walker. A strong board, but not one that could face off against the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn that followed from Rubin.
Quickly falling out of the match, Petre needed a big play. A timely Dromoka's Command was just that, allowing him to dispatch Avacyn and load his board with Thopter tokens from the downed Hangarback Walker. The thopters then gave their lives for the cause, allowing Petre to go all-in on Westvale Abbey, transforming it and using Ormendahl, Profane Prince to end the game in two quick swings.
In the second game it was Petre who got off to a fast start, with double Hangarback Walker. With Tragic Arrogance floating around both sides, the tokens they would leave behind were a key factor to consider. Rubin responded with a pair of Sylvan Advocates, but both received a Declaration in Stone to put him behind on board.
As both players tried to advance their board from there, the total count in power stood at 12 on Petre's side and just two on Rubin's side, from a morphed Den Protector. Rubin had managed to poke Petre down to six life but the pro had fallen periously behind on board.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer was his answer, calling upon the power of Ashaya to try and hold the ground alongside a Hangarback Walker and a newly-found Evolutionary Leap. That was enough for Petre to pull the trigger on Tragic Arrogance, clearing most of the board and leaving Rubin a Hangarback that was quickly cleaned up by Declaration in Stone, though Rubin did cash it in for three tokens before it went.
That left Rubin with chump blockers but not much else on the board. Facing down lethal the next turn from Petre, the match looked like it was nearly over. Of course, the alternative to blocking is attacking, and a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that gave its life to make an emblem meant that Rubin had exactly lethal damage in the air, stealing a game that looked to be over.
The shocking end to the second game pulled Rubin from the grave and swung all the momentum his way heading into the decider. In that final game he had a quick start of Oath of Nissa into Hangarback Walker, while Petre mulliganned and didn't have a play until Nissa, Vastwood Seer arrived on the third turn.
Rubin answered it with a Declaration to Stone, but that meant he had only Hangarback Walker on board when Petre landed Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The Knight Ally he brought with him was enough to stymie Rubin's offensive, and when he was forced to just pass the turn back Petre found himself squarely in the driver's seat. He added to the board with Archangel Avacyn, and then cashed in the Gideon for an emblem before adding a second one to the battlefield.
Needing something to swing things, Rubin resolved one of the best ways to do just that with Linvala, the Preserver. But a Dromoka's Command off the top follow by Declaration in Stone left Rubin's board clear and the way open for Petre. One giant swing and empty draw step later, Rubin conceded the match and sent Petre to the finals in his first-ever Grand Prix Top 8.