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.

Jamie Parke is a bit of an enigma within competitive Magic. Returned and redoubled to the game in recent times, he found success with Top 8 appearances at both Grand Prix Richmond and Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, Parke was on the rise again after his hiatus. He even celebrated in a song he shared with the world.

Brandon Nelson had been on the cusp for a couple years. With plenty of heartbreak ninth-place finishes at recent events, adding a second Grand Prix Top 8 to his first from Kansas City was another notch in the best of a rising star. Surrounded by friends watching, Nelson looked the part of someone ready to win his first Grand Prix.

The Decks

Nelson's deck was a thing of Magic 2015 drafting beauty. With Resolute Archangel to climb back from even the most precarious of life totals, Spectra Ward with Heliod's Pilgrims to threaten a nigh invulnerable creature, and copies of Triplicate Spirits and Sanctified Charge for good measure, Nelson's plan was powerful. Layering red on top of it, including cards like Inferno Fist and Stoke the Flames gave Nelson multiple ways to close out game quickly.

Parke, too, was on a similar strategy. With copies of Triplicate Spirits, Sanctified Charge, and Stoke the Flames of his own, Parke wanted to end the game just as fast a Nelson. Instead of white creatures to lay down a base of attack, Parke leaned heavily on red creatures like Torch Fiend and Krenko's Enforce to get the average attack done.

The Games

Nelson began with the one-two combo of Soulmender into Ajani's Pridemate, threatening to make a 4/4 on the attack the next turn. He did so, and began delivering the beats. Parke was undaunted, playing one of the best white spells in the format: Triplicate Spirits. Using it to cast Devouring Light on the massive Pridemate, Nelson responded in kind by calling on his own trio of flying Spirits.

The battlefield was suddenly a little crowded.

Heliod's Pilgrim helped pull Nelson ahead in the game, putting Spectra Ward into his hand with a Resolute Archangel in waiting. Spectra Ward resolved next turn, and Nelson began to take 6 life chunks out of Parke's total using the oversized Borderland Marauder.

It wasn't long before that more than Parke could handle.

Parke 0 – Nelson 1

In the second game Parke led strong with evasive creatures – Krenko's Enforcer and Sungrace Pegasus – but Nelson was ready to block with Crowd's Favor off Goblin Roughrider. Brawler's Plate and Scrapyard Mongrel replaced Parke's lost Enforcer, though Nelson was content to trade more away to keep Parke's battlefield diminished.

Hoarding Dragon was Parke's lone bomb, searching out a Will-Forged Golem to lay in wait. Having traded away most of his creatures, it was an air force leader that proved more than Nelson could handle.

Parke 1 – Nelson 1

Nelson moved quickly in the third game, Using Ajani's Pridemate and Heliod's Pilgrim to find and enchant Divine Favor, giving him reasonable attacks against Parke's Preeminent Captain. While Parke had opportunities to attack, he didn't have a supply of soldiers to slip onto the battlefield. Nelson raced ahead, 21 life to Parke's 8, though the opposite side of the battlefield was quickly filled up with Krenko's Enforcer, Torch Fiend, and Razorfoot Griffin as well.

Spectra Ward took away Parke's ability to block, and Nelson dropped the storied pro down to just 4 life. Parke didn't have an answer on the next turn.

Brandon Nelson defeated Jamie Parke, 2-1.