Posted in GRAND PRIX SALT LAKE CITY 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on September 8, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Throughout the latter half of the Grand Prix Salt Lake City weekend, Pro Tour Hall of Fame elect and 13th-ranked Paul Rietzl had performed well. As the audience and community has come to expect from the Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 winner, Rietzl brings both skill and humor to his matches. Entertaining opponents with both honest and biting observations, Rietzl is among an elite class of player that can both keep an audience enthralled and perform exceptionally well.

Facing down this juggernaut of a player was Sam Batarseh, A longtime competitor of the Grand Prix circuit with two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name across a decade of play. While Rietzl's resume was certainly more flattering, Batarseh has narrowly lost playing for undefeated on Day 1, and marched through the draft rounds to secure his third Top 8.

Bigger players than Rietzl have fallen, and newer players than Batarseh had accomplished much more. Anything can happen in Magic.

The Decks

Rietzl's deck was typical of what blue-black had to offer in Magic 2015 draft. Flesh to Dust, Jorubai Murk Lurker and more promised plenty of answers and time, assuming the mana and cards fell into line. While white was the star of the draft show all day, the ability for synergies in other colors to outshine the Triplicate Spirits plays meant Rietzl's deck was more than dangerous.

Batarseh's deck was built for speed, powering out early attackers with cards like Blastfire Bolt and Genesis Hydra to go over the top of whatever opponents might try to stabilize with. With Borderland Marauder, Forge Devil, and Torch Fiend all available early, it was a fast deck with ways to reach even deeper thanks to Rummaging Goblin.

The Games

Typhoid Rats and Black Cat was a gummed up ground Rietzl led with in the first game, and though his deck was two colors his lands were distinctly monochromatic. Batarseh was able to use Meteorite and Scrapyard Mongel to hit much harder than Rietzl could, though an Island looked to unlock the second half of Hall of Fame elect's deck.

Flesh to Dust handled the Mongrel, but Genesis Hydra for five let Batarseh reload his battlefield. While Batarseh lost his Heat Ray to Black Cat, the 5/5 Genesis Hydra functioned like The Abyss, eating Reitzl's blockers until Necrobite killed the green fatty. Jorubai Murk Lurker recovered some like for Rietzl, until Blastfire Bolt came down upon it.

Paul Rietzl worked hard to stay in without cooperative mana.

Welkin Tern and Accursed Spirit started to attack for Rietzl, but Rummaging Goblin drew Batarseh into the removal he needed to shift the race back into his favor. Without enough blockers, Rietzl was eaten alive.

Rietzl 0 – Batarseh 1

"I am going to draw. Playing didn't work." Rietzl said.

"I didn't exactly come out of the gates either." Batarseh admitted, though it would turn into a prophetic phrase.

Batarseh's Borderland Marauder led the way early in the second game, and after Inferno Fist dropped onto it Rietzl's life total plummeted. Invasive Species joined the fray, leaving Rietzl's Welkin tern woefully behind in the race and unable to block.

Batarseh's blistering attacks left Rietzl's life total burned out.

With Heat Ray to clear the only blocker Rietzl could cast, Batarseh closed a speedy end to the first quarterfinal match to finish just a couple minutes after starting the second game.

Sam Batarseh defeated Paul Reitzl, 2-0.