Both these teams are used to the pressure of playing late in a Grand Prix. They had to win their final round of the Swiss to advance to the Top 4, and along the way they had to beat some of the best in the game.
They were also familiar with playing each other after meeting in the first round of the day when Eric Severson, Benjamin Weitz and Josiah Skallerup defeated Matt Katz, Ben Yu and Jameson Painter to kickstart their run to the Top 4.
That left Katz, Yu and Painter — three friends who have gamed together for years — in a rough spot to start the day. Still, the fought through a star-studded field and defeated a team led by Christian Calcano in the final round to make the Top 4.
Jameson Painter vs. Josiah Skallerup
Painter revealed himself early to be all-in on the mono-red plan, with multiple Foundry Street Denizen peppering his deck. Skallerup's plan was also made clear quickly thanks to a quick succession of Geist of the Moors, Razorfoot Griffin and Avacyn, Guardian Angel.
It was enough to allow him to begin poking away at Painter, but when the Red player responded with a pair of Scrapyard Mongrels and an Obelisk of Urd naming Hound, things began to change. One picked up a Hammerhand and Painter turned everything sideways before Skallerup could untap against with the Angel active.
A flurry of blocks later left Skallerup at three life but Painter with just a Foundry Street Denizen remaining. Avacyn locked the game up a few turns later.
Game two played out similarly, as Painter scored some early damage but was unable to poke through the Dauntless River Marshal followed by Avacyn followed by Constricting Sliver. The steady stream of defense was too much for the aggro deck to overcome, and Skallerup took the first match of the round.
Benjamin Weitz vs. Ben Yu
Quick riddle: What's the right answer when someone triggers the ability on Master of Predicaments?
Answer: There is no right answer.
That's exactly what Ben Yu found out in Game 1, as Weitz followed up his first few fliers with the Sphinx and posed a riddle of his own.
"I give you a riddle, what do you say?" Weitz asked Yu as the Master of Predicaments connected for combat damage.
Yu decided to play it safe and guess that the card Weitz hid with the Sphinx's ability cost more than four mana. He was wrong, which allowed Weitz to play a free Stab Wound. Alongside his army of fliers, that was enough to send the pair into Game 2.
Yu got his revenge in Game 2, using an Elvish Mystic to pull ahead on mana to play Charging Rhino the same turn his opponent deployed a Carrion Crow. His Roaring Primadox and Shaman of Springs on the following turns easily outclassed Weitz's Welkin Tern, and after a quick game it was on to the decider.
And in that decider Yu had all the right answers for the Weitz's riddles. A Reclamation Sage destroyed a Stab Wound, a Hunt the Weak took care of Accursed Spirit and Undergrowth Scavenger outclassed anything on the other side of the board, giving the match to Yu and leaving the fate of the semifinals on Katz and Severson.
Katz vs. Severson
In terms of "unlikely sequences of plays," this match has to hold the title of any match under the camera this weekend.
Game 1. Severson's blue-black control deck plays a Forest and then a Garruk, Apex Predator while at a healthy life total. The Garruk then survived for three turns. And then Severson lost.
Possibly the only sequence of cards from Katz's black-green deck that can make that happen? Triple Hunter's Ambush. That's exactly what he had, and he took the match on the back of them.
As unexpected as that was, it had nothing on Game 2. Seeing the Satyr Wayfinders in Katz's deck, Severson decided to sideboard in Endless Obedience. He also brought in Stormtide Leviathan because Katz's deck wasn't incredibly aggressive.
Game 2. Severson has five lands in play. And wins by attacking with Stormtide Leviathan.
We finally returned to "normal" Magic in Game 3, as a Satyr Wayfinder and Shaman of Spring for Katz met a Wall of Frost and Witch's Familiar for Severson. The Wall was the perfect answer to an early Siege Wurm, and a Hydrosurge was enough to negate the Titanic Growth that Katz tried to use to take down the Wall.
With his defenses secure, Severson was able to deploy Soul of Ravnica and then Garruk, Apex Predator. This time, it was enough to take the win and send Severson's team into the finals against the all-star lineup of Owen Turtenwald, Reid Duke and William "Huey" Jensen.
Severson/Weitz/Skallerup defeat Katz/Yu/Painter 2-1.