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

By Marc Calderaro

"That has never happened to me before," 17th-ranked Eric Froehlich said about his Top 8 berth. He lost a heartbreaking three-game set in the last round of the day. He left the play area dejected, only to hear his name called over the loudspeaker. "It's a weird feeling," to lose so hard, then immediately be rewarded. It's kind of like kicking a wall and breaking your foot, but revealing a hidden room with a treasure chest filled with copies of the Power 9.

Four-time Grand Prix Top 8 player (and Grand Prix San Diego winner) Nathan Holiday, was hoping to confuse Froehlich's feel centers even more by immediately sending him home. His White-Green deck "had some game" as he'd said before, but was missing some key elements to be truly archetypical.

Froehlich felt equally bad about his deck, but it seemed a bit unwarranted. He had three Sanctified Charges and a bevy of tempo and removal to push his little ones through. It was just that he was shy a few two drops, but it was a solid deck.

The two shuffled up and readied for the match.

Game One

Froehlich was the first aggressor, assembling the correct mana for a Kinsbaile Skirmisher, a pumped-up Dauntless River Marshall, and to push out a turn-four Triplicate Spirits. Holiday was no slouch, with a Yisa, the Wanderer Bard and a Raise the Alarm, but it just wasn't as imposing as three little spirits and some weenies. Froehlich couldn't profitably attack yet, but added some more two-drops to the board.

Holiday was able to develop into Living Totem, granting a +1/+1 to a token, and a Netcaster Spider which was a target of Hunt the Weak, killing the most threatening card, Dauntless River Marshall. The board was crowded with white things when Froehlich landed a Spectra Ward on an Oreskos Swiftclaw (thanks to a Heliod's Pilgrim). It was 11-18 in EFro's favor after attacks and threatened to be much worse if Holiday didn't do something soon.

Though Holiday was bleeding fast, Yisa started pulling her weight. She added a verse counter and fetched out a Soulmender. Then, mid-combat it fetched out a Kinsbaile Skirmisher to save Holiday's Geist of the Moors from certain doom. He calculated each slightly aggressive attack to effectively race the nigh-unkillable 5/3 Swiftclaw.

Holiday had Titanic Growth, but was strangled on green mana. He only had one Forest to his name. Using Yisa was constraining his available tricks.

On Holiday's next calculated attack, Froehlich had a surprise Raise the Alarm. That, plusThen thanks to Frost Lynx, his crackback was lethal. Holiday let out a sigh and scooped up his cards. "All right, that's game."

Eric Froehlich 1 – 0 Nathan Holiday

"How many limited GP Top 8s do you have?" Holiday asked.

Froehlich chuckled, "I don't really know anymore. Like 8?"

"Wait, so how many Top 8s total?"

"Depends on how you count." Froehlich smiled.

Holiday sided out a Ranger's Guide and some others and boarded in Congregate.

Game Two

Holiday went one-drop into a two-drop—Soulmender and Kinsbaile Skirmisher. Froehlich on the other hand, stumbled on two Islands for a turn and passed his fourth turn without having played a spell.

It was 20-9 before Froehlich cast a Void Snare on the kithkin and an Illusory Angel. That stabilized the Top 25 player for the moment, still without his second color. He passed his next turn with all his mana up, looked at his hand, and grumbled a bit to himself. It would take him another turn to finally draw a Plains.

Holiday attacked into the 4/4 with weenies, and when the Angel blocked, Holiday tried a Devouring Light but a Quickling saved the Angel. The new Plains allowed him to recast the Illusory Angel after playing a Dauntless River Marshall. It was 6-20, but it would be hard to Holiday to get through more damage. That went double when Heliod's Pilgrim again found the Spectra Ward.

Holiday had Hunt the Weak and Solemn Offering in his hand, but Froehlich was disciplined enough to not cast it into untapped mana until he absolutely had to. The Santa Cruz player tried to figure out how to sneak in the damage, and settled on using the Hunt the Weak (but leaving up Offering mana) to take a flyer down. Again EFro had a trick, Peel from Reality, saving his creature again from Holiday's removal.

The plays were incremental from there. Froehlich had stabilized. Each turn he could lock down Holiday's Geist of the Moors and gain himself life with his new Soulmender. He was content with that. Holiday was also gaining one a turn, but his life total (now at 23) was less relevant at the moment (and less single-digity).

Soon the Illusory Angel started chunking out Holiday's life points. With eight land, the Dauntless River Marshall could completely lock down two attackers. Another tapper, Kapsho Kitefins, only worsened Holiday's situation. Even a Constricting Sliver wasn't enough. When Holiday incidentally pumped it with a Sanctified Charge during an all out, albeit partially hindered, Pillar of Light had a new target.

At 5-20, Holiday was so close, but the game was being wrenched from him. That River Marshall wouldn't let him near Froehlich. And remember, Froehlich still had the Spectra Ward in his hand.

Holiday tried and tried to pry himself from Froehlich's grasp, but it was to no avail. Froehlich just had better weenies—oh, and also a 4/4 angel. But the whole time, Holiday planned to buy infinite more turns. At the last possible moment, he cast a Congregate, gaining, approximately 8404959403 life. Approximately. It was 21-8, like old times. But this time it was different.

Holiday was clearly behind, and the additional life only served to keep Nathan Holiday in purgatory longer. He drew dead for a few turns before actually being dead.

Eric Froehlich 2 – 0 Nathan Holiday

(17) Eric Froehlich advances to the semifinals!