The quarterfinals at Grand Prix Providence showcased a diverse array of the varying strategies that have been viable in Dragons of Tarkir Standard. Red-Green Devotion managed to put two copies into the Top 8, while the remaining six decks ranged from a base black-and-green deck playing five colors worth of Dragons, to a Bant Megamorph deck, to tried-and-true Abzan Aggro.
Steve Rubin (23) (Red-Green Dragons) vs. Pedro Carvalho (Four-Color Whip)
Rubin got off to an aggressive start in Game 1 with two copies of Goblin Rabblemaster and Xenagos, the Reveler quickly spitting out a horde of tokens. All that work was quickly undone, however, when Carvalho managed to survive to his seventh land drop and cast a Hornet Queen with a Whip of Erebos in play. Rubin gamely tried to hang in there, but soon enough they were on to Game 2.
Carvalho's second copy of Whip of Erebos sealed the deal in Game 2.
Drown in Sorrow stymied Rubin's early start in Game 2, and left the Dragons player trying to rebuild with two face-up copies of Deathmist Raptor. But Carvalho had yet again survived to cast an expensive threat—this time Dragonlord Atarka—with a Whip threatening to recur it. Rubin managed to take down the Whip with Back to Nature, but a Courser of Kruphix from Carvalho soon revealed another waiting atop his library. That proved too much for Rubin and Carvalho was off to the semifinals.
Carvalho 2 – Rubin 0
Josh McClain (Abzan Megamorph) vs. Eric Severson (Bant Megamorph)
Severson mounted an assault with multiple copies of Fleecemane Lion in Game 1.
In the battle of megamorphs, Severson was the first to apply serious pressure with a fifth-turn Dragonlord Ojutai, but McClain had a clean answer with Crux of Fate, naming Dragons. But Severson soon found his second and third copies of Fleecemane Lion in the game and they managed to chomp away at McClain's life total before the Abzan player could stabilize.
McClain was able to pounce when Severson couldn't find his fifth or sixth lands in Game 2.
McClain was able to strike back in the second game, using a Dromoka's Command to make Satyr Wayfinder a 2/2 and gun down Severson's Elvish Mystic. A Glare of Heresy took out Severson's Mastery of the Unseen, and McClain was able to take the game before Severson could find his fifth or sixth lands for the Dragonlord Ojutai and Elspeth, Sun's Champion stranded in his hand.
The third game was all about Disdainful Stroke. Severson used it to counter first a Siege Rhino, then a Wingmate Roc. A Den Protector for the Bant player rebought a Stroke and countered yet another spell—Crux of Fate—from McClain. It was too much for McClain and Severson was off to the semifinals.
Severson 2 – McClain 1
Oscar Tiu (Five-Color Dragons) vs. Sky Mason (Red-Green Devotion)
Mason got off to an explosive start in Game 1 thanks to Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Mason came roaring out of the gates in Game 1 and was able to jump far ahead on mana before Tiu's deck—which can take time to assemble the necessary mana to cast its assorted Dragons—was really able to get going.
Tiu struggled to keep Mason's board clear in Game 2.
In the second game, Tiu managed to keep the board clear for a while, but with Nissa, Worldwaker Mason finally stuck a resilient threat. When that was soon followed by Whisperwood Elemental and Dragonlord Atarka, Tiu found himself with no board presence, staring down a massive army, and had to extend his hand.
Mason 2 – Tiu 0
Neal Sacks (Abzan Aggro) vs. Raeef Istfan (Red-Green Devotion)
Sacks was able to drop Istfan to 3 life—just enough for Siege Rhino to finish the job—in Game 1.
Sacks started attacking early in Game 1, with Rakshasa Deathdealer and Anafenza, the Foremost quickly munching massive chunks from Istfan's life total. Isftan managed to stabilize behind Whisperwood Elemental and an army of 2/2s but at that point he had alreaday fallen to 3—a critical number in the match-up. He managed to survive one draw step, then a second, but a Siege Rhino finally appeared for Sacks sending the players on to Game 2.
It was a much more reactive hand for the Abzan Aggro player in Game 2, as Sacks didn't commit a threat to the board until Istfan had already begun churning out Satyrs with Xenagos, the Reveler. When Xenagos finally decided to add loyalty—and mana—Sacks let out an “Oh, no.” A Genesis Hydra for 8 mana followed, digging Istfan to Atarka and evening up the match.
When Istfan ticked up his Xenagos to add mana, Sacks could only mutter, “Oh, no.”
In Game 3, Sacks cleared away Istfan's early mana creatures with Drown in Sorrow and then set to work creating the largest Warden of the First Tree he could. Meanwhile Istfan began rebuilding his board with first one Whisperwood, then another. One of them was flipped up to reveal a Hornet Nest, earning Istfan two deathtouch Insects when the Warden next attacked.
The following turn the Warden was now a 13/13 and threatening to get larger when Sacks attacked. Isftan threw all his creatures—minus his Whisperwood Elementals—in front of it to take it out. Sacks used Drown to clear away Istfan's remaining blockers and soon there was a lone Whisperwood, a Hornet Nest and a manifested creature to hold off Sacks's attackers.
Sacks 2 – Istfan 1