THE BATTLE FOR PERFECTION

Posted in GRAND PRIX SANTIAGO 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 1, 2014

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

As we entered the final round of day one, four players could claim a perfect 9-0 record. With pleasing symmetry, those two winners could both be from the home contingent, or both could be foreign interlopers intent on spoiling the party. The four players:

Javier Luna of Argentina versus Cristian Stone of Chile

Daniel Gaete Quezada of Chile versus David Sologuren of Bolivia

On table one, Stone was quickly the aggressor, opening up with almost every decent one-drop in the format – Monastery Swiftspear, Firedrinker Satyr, and Frenzied Goblin. Despite only Forests in play, Luna was clearly Green-Black, since he had Eidolon of Blossoms in play, and once his Black mana appeared, the signature duo was complete with Doomwake Giant.

Mono-Red was also in action for the Chilean at table two, Daniel Quezada. His early pressure had been thoroughly blanked however, the Temur Monsters deck of David Soluguren keeping his lifetotal high early.

By this time, Luna had taken comfortable control of game one. Courser of Kruphix is always awkward to get through, and Polukranos, World Eater is a total beating for little 1/1s in Red. Once the big guns come out to play, they're quickly outclassed. The mono-Red deck was also being outclassed on table two, where a pair of Lightning Strikes from Sologuren were enough to give the Bolivian a 1-0 lead, after Heir of the Wilds had bought him the time he needed.

Quezada 0 – 1 Sologuren

Luna 1 – 0 Stone

So it was advantage to the Argentinian and the Bolivian, looking to be certain of their first round opponent on Sunday morning by virtue of being the only two perfect records left in the tournament. Of course, 9-0 is no guarantee of a Top 8 finish, but it sure helps, especially when the field is relatively small, and a twelfth win sometime on day two might well be enough to reach the elimination rounds.

Javier Luna (left) and Daniel Gaete Quezada (right)

On table two, it was like Theros all over again, as Akroan Crusader carried both Dragon Mantle and Hammerhand into battle early. A second Hammerhand triggered Prowess on Monastery Swiftspear, while the Crusader was creating a huge, er, small army. Sologuren was patient, building his board with Elvish Mystic, and two copies of Heir of the Wild. Patiece is often rewarded, but not here, as the mono-Red deck simply smashed through his attempted defense, forcing game three before Luna and Stone had even resolved their mulligans.

Quezada 1 – 1 Sologuren

Knowing the incredible pressure he could be under, Sologuren opened on Elvish Mystic, and it was his early plays that would likely decide this final game. The Red deck would do what the Red deck would do, and it was on Sologuren to find an answer. Blocking wasn't it, when his Mystic fell to Coordinated Assault. Having a third land come into play tapped probably wasn't it either, as Quezada soon had another army to rival that of game two. Then Sologuren struck, with Anger of the Gods completely wiping the board. That left Quezada looking to plan B – that's B for Burn.

David Sologuren (left) and Cristian Stone (right)

Across town, Luna and Stone were finally under way in game two, but with severely crippled opening hands – Luna had stuck at 6, but Stone was forced to 5 before keeping.

Quezada was finding Lightning Strikes, but could he find enough? Sologuren had Boon Satyr in play, and was taking chunks out of Quezada's life. A couple of Mountains later, it was over, with Bolivia's David Sologuren advancing to a perfect 9-0.

Quezada 1 – 2 Sologuren.

Back at Luna v Stone, the Chilean Stone was putting up a dogged fight off his mulligan to five. With Luna into single figures, Stone stole a Doomwake Giant, dropping Luna to 6, which was well within burn range. Then Luna played his trump card in the matchup, Whip of Erebos. Having regained control of his Doomwake Giant, it was now swinging four points of life both ways, and the resigned smile on Stone's face told the tale – he was getting whipped. He stole the Doomwake Giant again, but Luna was still at 7, and ready to gain more with his Giant. And more. And more.

Luna 2 – 0 Stone

So with the final round ticking down, we knew our undefeated matchup for Sunday morning. It would be Argentina's Javier Luna, playing Green-Black Enchantress, against Bolivia's David Sologuren, with Temur.

Javier Luna (left) and David Sologuren (right)