Round 7 Feature Match (10) Ari Lax, Chris Fennell, (24) Craig Wescoe vs. Jeff Liu, Ben Seck, Kitt Holland

Posted in Event Coverage on February 1, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Each team sitting at the table were sitting at 5-1—it's a precarious place to be.  Sure it feels good to be winning, but with two bad rounds, it all comes crashing down.  However, as far as “THE” Ben Seck is concerned, he and his team are happy with that record already.  “Yeah, we're so lucky to be here right now,” he said.  Jeff Liu nodded in agreement behind him.  Still, if they could pluck out a few more wins tonight, that Sealed pool they hate will be a thing of the past, and they'll get twelve fresh packs tomorrow.

But they had a rough round ahead of them.  Pro Tour winners No. 24 Craig Wescoe, and No. 10 Ari Lax, along with the final teammate Chris Fennell, six-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher (including a team win in Washington, DC), know exactly what's up, and they didn't like sitting at 5-1 either.

(24) Craig Wescoe vs. Kitt Holland

The first game seemed like it was all Kitt Holland.  Half of the famous Holland Duo— Kitt and his wife Megan (since retired from her “MTG Mom” position to be a “Kid Mom”)—Kitt had some early combos set up that pressured Wescoe early.  Living the dream of Archers' Parapet and Kin-Tree Invocation, Holland pressured fast while also playing a strong defense.  However Pro Tour Dragon's Maze winner Craig Wescoe climbed back into it after his initial wave, if barely, scraping out points here and there with his Mardu aggro deck.

Wescoe had net some damage, and he snuck Holland down to 5 life before he basically ran out of gas.  He had almost nothing but a manifest creature to his name, and Holland was ready to pounce with a board hilariously full of green ground pounders.  With one more turn, Holland would overwhelm Wescoe.

But there was a surprise awaiting Holland.  The manifest creature was a Butcher of the Horde.  Surprise!  With Holland at 5 and no flyers to his name, Wescoe had exactsies, and stole the game out from under Holland in one attack.

In the second game, Holland landed an early Siege Rhino, but Wescoe had a Butcher of the Horde.  The Godzilla-sized beasts battled it out, but the Rhino didn't have enough help, whereas the Butcher did.  Granted, lots of that “help” was like “Hey, let me eat you so I can get lifelink,” but help is help.

Wescoe was already ahead, and the final nail in the coffin came when an Elite Dragonscale came down, bolstering and tapping—clearing a path for Wescoe while at the same time making some creatures bigger.

Holland realized the jig was up.

“Jeez, a rare and a mythic uncommon team up?!”  Ari Lax goaded from his match.  Watch yourself, Ari; you're up next.

(10) Ari Lax vs. Jeff Liu

Honestly, the first game was a blur.  Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir champion, Ari Lax and Jeff Liu started fast and ended fast.  Liu was merciless.  Before Lax and his Temur deck could do anything at all, Liu's blazing Blue-Red aggro had swept up the game.

It was like a hit and run, really. It was done with some combination of Outpost Siege and Lotus Path Djinn, but who can say for sure, really?  Ari Lax was the only witness to the crash, and he didn't live to talk about it.

Lax informed his teammates of his status.  “I lost game one, guys.  I didn't do anything.”

In the second game, Lax was on the play and established himself a bit better.  “Horsey,” he said as he cast a second-turn Temur Charger.  “Giddy Up,” he followed when turning it sideways on the next turn.  It was a decent start, for sure, but Liu's Bloodfire Mentor gummed up the works fast.

“Why is that guy so good?!” Lax said, exasperated.  The five toughness was the perfect amount to stop everything Lax was bringing to the table.  Temur Sabertooth had four power, so did Glacial Stalker.  Though he was filling his side of the battlefield, Lax wasn't able to explode the way he thought he would.

Liu built his own side with Jeskai Windscout, Rageform, and a morph.  The two players traded blows, back and forth, and knocked each other into single digits as creatures moved in and out.  The move of the game came during Ari's declare attackers step.  Liu had a Crippling Chill for Lax's only flyer and it looked like Liu would swing back for the win.  But Lax unmorphed a Mistfire Weaver to give his creatures hexproof and negate the spell's effect.

With a new three-power flyer, it was clear that Lax had the win.  “Attack with the squad,” he said, as he turned all his compatriots sideways.  Liu suffered a tragic death.

From another match, Chris Fennell expounded, “If the word ‘squad' is ever being used by Ari, the game's over.”

“Oh is that my ‘tell'?”  Ari said.  There was only a nod in response.

Now tied 1-1, the whole round would potentially hinge on this game.  As the players re-sideboarded, Fennell exclaimed, “You can't win the late game! Don't board that out, please.”  Lax would have to come out like he did in the second game, and now he was on the draw.

Liu had no plans to let Lax even dream of a late game.  Liu went Jeskai Windscout, Goblin Heelcutter, Lotus Path Djinn.  Bing-Bam-Boom. Then, for an extra Pow, had a Mindswipe ready for Lax's Whisk Away.  After taking Lax for, like, 11, Lax just burst out laughing as he moved his blue instant into the graveyard.  He knew he was not going to win this game.

He drew for his turn, already aware of the futility.  He scooped up his cards.  “Yeah, I didn't get there, guys,” Lax said, again informing his team of his status.

The overall round was tied 1-1.  It was up to the last two players.

Chris Fennell vs. Ben Seck

Ben Seck was playing a hyper-aggressive Mardu deck, and Chris Fennell was the complete opposite.  His Sultai Control deck could easily win the long game, as long as he got there.  In the first game, it sure did.  And how.

Seck must have thought he was a sure win, opening up the game with things like Mardu Strike Leader and Monastery Mentor.  But they were both in the graveyard way too early, and he had only an Aven Skirmisher to his name.  Don't get me wrong, it was plinking away dutifully, as Fennell kept letting it go by.  But let's just say if Seck could have cast a Living Death, I'm pretty sure he would have.

In the midgame, Seck was drawing very little support for his 1/1 flyer.  Things like Pressure Point were often good, but his opponent was still at 12 life and tapping stuff and hitting for 1 wasn't going to cut the mustard.  While this mediocre drawing was going on, Fennell was filling his board with morphs and manifested cards, and, oh yeah, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.  Gross.  This wasn't going to end well for Seck—unless he somehow got that Living Death I was talking about.

Fennell was just biding his time, while plucking life points with an Archers' Parapet.  Seck kept going, but he was fighting a losing battle.

Then he lost.

In the next game, Seck was again the aggressor with Sandsteppe Outcast, Hooded Assassin, and a Mardu Charm on Fennell's Sidisi (after it whiffed on a zombie mill).  When considering attacking into five untapped mana, he said aloud, “He has the value ambusher” [Ethereal Ambush].  Seck thought for a second and cast an Ankle Shanker, and said, “well, it's less valuable now.”

After some shanking, the score was 6-21, and Seck was close to the win.  But a kill spell on the Ankle Shanker, then Tasigur, the Golden Fang plus Grim Contest, Seck was itching for a way to punch through the last damage.  He just had little dude after little dude, and Fennell was populating the board with things that could easily stop little dudes.

Seck eventually found Watcher of the Roost and Highspire Mantis to try and fight in the air, but Destructor Dragon and Lotus Path Djinn were playing spoiler.  Seck tried every trick in the book, including a Diplomacy of the Wastes, but he couldn't get past in the air.  And Fennell's two Wooly Loxodon made sure it wasn't happening on the ground either.

You only need one elephant to win, but Fennell had two.  He Loxodon-stomped his way to victory in the game, the match, and the round.

Ari Lax, Chris Fennell, and Craig Wescoe defeat Jeff Liu, Ben Seck, Kitt Holland, and go to 6-1.

Ari Lax, Player A

Chris Fennell, Player B

Craig Wescoe, Player C

Jeff Liu, Player A

Ben Seck, Player B

Kitt Holland, Player C

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