Four matches, four win-and-ins for the Top 4. Four matches filled with some of the game's best and notable players including Christian Calcano, who with his teammates Daniel Gardner and Miguel Gatica faced off against Matt Katz, Ben Yu and Jameson Painter in the final round with a berth in the semifinals on the line.
Daniel Gardner vs. Ben Yu
Talk about a lightning-fast match. Gardner described it best when he said, simply, "that was a beating" as he scooped his cards up after the second game.
It was a clinic in the power of the white Convoke cards in the set. Yu was able to utilize Midnight Guard all the way to its convoking potential thanks to Triplicate Spirits. That kept him alive long enough to play Avacyn, Guardian Angel with enough mana open to activate its abilities. After two turns of having his Krenko's Enforcer blanked by the Angel, Gardner packed it in for Game 2.
Things didn't get any better for him there, as Yu simply played out creatures from Turn 2 on, earning the concession after his 1/1 spirits continued to apply pressure even as consecutive Frost Lynx slowed down Avacyn.
Just like that, Yu's team found itself one match win short of a Top 4 spot.
Miguel Gatica vs. Jameson Painter
Gatica may have been watching Yu make spirits from across the table. If he was, the thought may have crossed his mind that he could do it better.
And in Game 1, he did. A Spirit Bonds on the second turn allowed the creatures he played over the next two turns to begin to populate the board. A Triplicate Spirits later and he had seven power of fliers on the board staring down a lonely Forge Devil.
Not for long, though, as Painter conceded and moved on to Game 2 as quickly as possible.
In that game Spirit Bonds showed up against for Gatica. But it wasn't in time and it wasn't enough as Charging Rhino and Kalonian Twingrove (and its twin, of course) were able to outrace the fliers and send the game into a deciding third one that threatened to end the match before Calcano and Katz could finish.
But it wasn't to be, as again the combination of spirits, flying and power was on display again. This time, though, it was much more than one apiece thanks to a Sanctified Charge that sealed the match for Gatica and left it all up to the final match.
Calcano vs. Katz
For a match that would decide which of these teams made the semifinals, it certainly lived up to the moment.
Game 1 featured a plethora of bombs, from Soul of Innistrad on Katz' side that saw its flesh turn to dust but nonetheless returned a host of creatures to Katz' hand.
Meanwhile, Calcano had his own, with Hornet Queen making a steady stream of offense untenable for Katz. But a Paragon of Open Graves and a pair of Accursed Spirit (returned thanks to the Soul of Innistrad) were able evade Calcano's defense for just long enough to finish him off before the hornets did their work.
Game 2 showed just how powerful the black-green decks can be in Team Sealed. Calcano began to combo off with Roaring Primadox, Shaman of Spring and Gravedigger, frustrating any and all attempts by Katz to control the board. A string of several Covenant of Blood gave Katz a chance to claw back by allowing him to survive long enough to untap with Nightfire Giant, but this time the hornets wouldn't be denied, and the freshly-drawn Hornet Queen was enough to close the game.
Game 2 was Calcano's chance to combo, and in Game 3 Katz returned the favor. He had a slow start, with just a Xathrid Slyblade on the third turn, but as soon as it picked up a Burning Anger he had a machine-gun creature that couldn't be stopped. It dominated the board for the next five turns, with the hexproof creature providing the perfect body for the powerful enchantment.
But Calcano wouldn't go down easily, and when he was able to save a Rotfeaster Maggot from an end-of-turn Lightning Strike plus Anger activation thanks to a Ranger's Guile he had a clock that could potentially fight through Katz's board.
That was, until Katz activated the ability on his Slyblade for the first time in the match, dropping Hexproof to add deathtouch and activiate the Burning Anger ability to kill the Maggot. That was the only window Calcano would get to kill the creature, but because he was tapped out he had to simply drop his Maggot into the graveyard.
A few turns more with the Burning Anger in play and the match was over, sending Katz's team into the Top 4.
Matt Katz/Ben Yu/Jameson Painter defeats Christian Calcano/Daniel Gardner/Miguel Gatica 2-1.