SEMIFINAL: REID DUKE VS. PAUL CHEON

Posted in GRAND PRIX PORTLAND 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on August 11, 2014

By Tim Willoughby

(For the complete recap on this team Semifinal match, click here)

Paul Cheon already had a smile on his face before his match against Reid Duke even began. Much of Cheon's success in Magic had come before ChannelFireball was anything but a sick combo from Alpha. Since having to take a back seat from the game, his good friend Luis Scott-Vargas had become a superstar of the game and a member of the Hall of Fame. By making The top 4 of Grand Prix Portland, Cheon had secured a spot on the Pro Tour, having missed in a PTQ final just weeks earlier.

The Games

Cheon had drafted a black-green deck filled with powerful graveyard interactions, and kicked off his match with a Satyr Wayfinder to get his graveyard stocked. His opponent, Reid Duke, was sitting on a blue-red deck looking to power out difficult to deal with threats thanks to the likes of Ensoul Artifact and Darksteel Citadel.

Off a mulligan, Duke found himself on the back foot, but was not immediately punished. Cheon's deck, while synergistic, was not a quick one, and a lack of early plays from Duke did not put him far behind. When Ensoul Artifact did come along, making a 5/5 indestructible Darksteel Citadel, it seemed exactly the threat Duke needed. Black-Green is not a colorr with a great deal of removal that can get past indestructibility, and Duke capitalized on this, with his land representing an indestructible sword of damocles hanging above Cheon's head.

Nimbus of the Isles and Paragon of the Gathering Mists looked to be fine additions to Duke's board, but Cheon was far from beaten. Hornet Queen, one of the most powerful rares in Magic 2015 presented a buzzing wall of deathtouch which would take some time to deal with.

Duke went to the tank. To his left, William Jensen's first game was already over, and Luis Scott-Vargas was looking pleased with himself, while Duke found himself in an awkward deadlock which seemed sure to favor Cheon's deck. A Thunder Fist came down for Duke, which would help with his pest control, but while he was busy rumbling with assorted insects, Cheon was able to go about his business, gradually replacing them with bigger creatures.

Paragon of the Eternal Wilds from Cheon pumped virtually his entire team, and allowed for some substantial swings. Reid wasn't dead yet, but he certainly seemed to be losing traction on a complicated game one. Eric Froehlich, known as EFro to friends and draft opponents alike, soon took game one against Owen Turtenwald. Would Reid be the one to get the first game for the Peach Garden Oath?

Reid was forced onto the defensive, and soon found his life total at single digits. While he eventually cut down the remaining insects, a 6/6 Undergrowth Scavenger soon came along as the largest creature on the board. Suddenly that 5/5 Darksteel Citadel was no longer the big threat on the board, and Cheon's threats demanded an answer. Void Snare wasn't quite that answer, but it was a great way of delaying the question, so Duke went for it. That allowed for another hit in, putting both players at a low enough life total that any big trick would be enough to sway a close race.

The first player to find such a trick was Cheon, with a Hunt the Weak to put him ahead on the board. Reid had Peel from Reality to respond. His Paragon would not be dying today, and he was not about to let his teammates down by dying himself if he could help it. The trouble faced by Duke was that even with his trick, he knew that at some point Undergrowth Scavenger would be back. While Duke had some answer to what was on the board, it was the last fatty that got him.

Cheon 1 – Duke 0

By the time that Paul had won his first game, William Jensen had already defeated Luis Scott-Vargas 2-1. Meanwhile, at the end of the table, Eric Froehlich was at 1-1 with Owen Turtenwald. One way or another, Cheon knew that he had to win his match, if he was to advance to the finals of Grand Prix Portland.

For Game 2, Reid Duke was on a mulligan, but had a quick Ensoul Artifact on Darksteel Citadel once more, along with Forge Devil to kill off Necromancer's Assistant. Cheon was forced to play a 2/2 Undergrowth Scavenger, lest the early beatdown finish him off, but was facing a brutal assault. Reid calmly cast Brood Keeper for his turn, and untapped into a big turn where he could potentially put the game away by enchanting up the 2/3 and making a Dragon token. He looked to William Jensen for support. There was no enchantment coming, but he did have his teammate Owen Turtenwald looking over, as the series was suddenly all squared up. It was with a smile that Duke attacked in and won a quick second game, as his teammates looked on.

Cheon 1 – Duke 1

A match between two teams with incredible Magic pedigrees would see their tournament life decided by just a single game, where six great minds would be brought to every moment, as a crowd looked on.

After a little discussion between teams, with the players bringing their teams up to speed as to what they were to expect, Reid and Paul shuffled up. This last game would likely take a little longer than any of the others, as Reid found himself receiving sage advice, while Cheon had some choice feedback from EFro which seemed to keep him in good spirits.

When Satyr Wayfinder came along for Cheon, Owen was quick to ask for Hornet Queen to hit the grumper. It was not to be though, with Cheon getting a land, and not losing too much in the process. Reid had an early Ornithopter, and the Ensoul Artifact to make it a 5/5 flyer. This was followed up by a Tormod's Crypt from Duke, who was looking to put a stop to any graveyard shenanigans from Cheon.

Paragon of the Eternal Wilds allowed Cheon to attack for six as both players duked it out like prize fighters. A second Ensoul Artifact meant that Tormod's Crypt would get stuck in to the red zone too, leaving Cheon reeling.

"I look away for one second, and suddenly there's another 5/5 attacking me!" lamented Cheon, who would have to dig deep against what was a very aggressive draw from Duke. While Reid had only drawn three lands, it didn't seem to matter too much, as his aggressive potential remained huge anyway.

Cheon looked at the board intently. There must be some sort of way out of this. He was forced to pass the turn without a play, and five lands untapped. By now Reid had a smile on his face. He was having fun, and could feel himself mere moments from another final. As he attacked with a 5/5 Ornithopter the whole of the Cheontourage extended their hands. Duke, Jensen and Turtenwald would be in the Grand Prix Finals.

Duke, Turtenwald, and Jensen advance to the finals after defeating Cheon, Froehlich, and Scott-Vargas 2-1

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