And over in this semifinal, the champion of last year's Grand Prix Madrid, Immanuel Gerschenson, was looking to add another trophy to his cabinet. To do so, though, he would first need to overcome Nicholas Merrien who was playing in his first career Top 8.
Gerschenson came equipped with Blue/Black Control, a deck that had gained a lot of ground thanks to the introduction of Fate Reforged cards like Crux of Fate and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Meanwhile, Merrien was playing Abzan Midrange, one of the format's favorites in the days before Fate Reforged.
Merrien went to work fast and furious, with Thoughtseize taking Silence the Believers followed by a turn-three Tasigur, the Golden Fang off of two fetchlands, all while Gerschenson had only played to taplands and was unable to do anything about it.
This early advantage didn't carry over into the later stages of the game, though, as Gerschenson caught up with Jace's Ingenuity and Crux of Fate. This, however, left an opening for Merrien to summon Fleecemane Lion and play an eighth land … which unfortunately entered the battlefield tapped. When the Lion finally attempted to go all monstrous on Gerschenson, he had the Bile Blight to stop it (dead in its tracks, that is).
Dig Through Time and Perilous Vault signalled that Gerschenson was taking full control of the game now, while Merrien was clearly out of gas. It took a while to actually end the game, but several turns and many counters, removal and card advantage spells later, Pearl Lake Ancient clinched the victory for Gerschenson.
Nicholas Merrien 0-1 Immanuel Gerschenson
Merrien mulliganed and kept a hand of four lands, Hero's Downfall, and Siege Rhino—not bad cards by any stretch of the imagination, but not exactly what he needed to put pressure on Gerschenson's control deck.
And things only got worse for him, as he proceeded to draw four straight lands from the top of his library. When he finally found another spell in Thoughtseize and made his move, however, he was in for a big surprise: Gerschenson had kept an opening hand with three spells and had only drawn further lands too! He lost Disdainful Stroke to Thoughtseize and was left with merely Perilous Vault and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, while Merrien got to resolve Siege Rhino.
Subsequently, Perilous Vault was lost to Utter End, Siege Rhino was lost to Hero's Downfall, and when Merrien cast another Thoughtseize a couple of turns later, Gerschenson was still holding Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as his only nonland.
In theory, both players being severely flooded by lands should favor the blue-black deck. When they'd finally draw into the business end of their decks, as Gerschenson would potentially be able to chain one card-draw spell into another. However, in yet another unlikely turn of events it was Merrien who got to do that, casting a pair of Abzan Charms on the search for threats.
In fact, the very first extra cards Gerschenson drew in this game came courtesy of none other than Ugin, the Spirit Dragon! The always helpful Planeswalker had previously eaten one Sorin, Solemn Visitor and a Vampire token, and once Gerschenson activated Ugin's third ability, the game was virtually over. Again, it took some time for "virtually over" to turn into "actually over," but it obviously did.
Nicholas Merrien 0-2 Immanuel Gerschenson