In this semifinal match, Sweden's own Erik Wahlberg faced off against Dutchman Elmer van Eeghen. It was the first Top 8 for both of them, and they were determined to make it count. Of course, only one of them could advance to the finals …
Van Eeghen had drafted a green and blue emerge deck, while Wahlberg was on White-Black Delirium. It wasn't really clear who of the two had the better late game, and who would be faster out of the gates was also hard to say. These were simply two well-rounded Limited decks and the match could certainly go either way.
In the first game, van Eeghen went first, but it was Wahlberg who actually cast the first spells: Olivia's Dragoon, Guardian of Pilgrims, and Olivia's Bloodsworn. But van Eeghen kept up nicely with Ingenious Skaab, Reckless Scholar, Bloodbriar, and Prey Upon taking down Wahlberg's pesky flier.
Wahlberg attacked with Guardian of Pilgrims and Olivia's Dragoon. Bloodbriar blocked the latter and Wahlberg's escalated Borrowed Malevolence meant van Eeghen not only lost his blocker but Reckless Scholar too!
Unfazed, van Eeghen cast Pore over the Pages, hit for another 3 with Ingenious Skaab to bring Wahlberg down to 9, then sacrificed his sole creature to a Wretched Gryff. Wahlberg just re-cast Reaper of Flight Moonsilver and passed the turn back to van Eeghen whose Wretched Gryff brought Wahlberg to 6. A Tattered Haunter was cast and van Eeghen passed his turn with 4 mana up.
"Attack with Reaper …?"
Van Eeghen cast Pack Guardian at end of turn, then attacked with Guardian, Wretched Gryff, and Tattered Haunter. Guardian and Haunter were blocked by 1/1 tokens and Wahlberg went to 5. Within the span of just one combat step to the next, Wahlberg's position had gone from being in the race to being in dire need of some help!
And van Eeghen's Lashweed Lurker meant that help was not coming. It took van Eeghen a couple of turns, and another Drag Under, to run Wahlberg out of blockers, but he did and the players moved to game two.
Here, Wahlberg again took the lead with Olivia's Bloodsword, Crow of Dark Tidings, and Thraben Foulbloods. Van Eeghen tried to stem the tide with Drag Under, then Pack Guardian. That took care of the Foulbloods, but what to do about the fliers?
Van Eeghen decided attacking was the best defense, cast another Drag Under on the Foulbloods and attacked for 6. On the backswing, he also had Aim High to kill Olivia's Bloodsworn. It seemed as if this game would follow a similar pattern as the first: with a strong start by Wahlberg but van Eeghen stronger later on.
However, nothing could have been further from the truth. Postcombat Wahlberg cast Distended Mindbender. This meant Wahlberg still only had one creature on the battlefield, but when he saw van Eeghen's hand and made the latter discard Lashweed Lurker the trade-up was definitely worth it.
In fact, it didn't take long for the Mindbender to take the game and to even the score, alongside Thraben Foulblood and Angelic Purge.
"That Mindbender was quite a good card," said an impressed van Eeghen.
"I was actually debating whether to cast it then or to wait …" said Wahlberg.
"I would have liked that."
"Yeah, I would definitely have lost that game if I had waited."
In the third game, it was finally time for van Eeghen's deck to show what kind of speedy starts it was actually capable of: By turn three, he had already cast Ulvenwald Captive, Tattered Haunter, and Noose Constrictor, Bloodbriar and Backwoods Survivalists soon followed.
Wahlberg fought back as best as he could with Sinister Concoction, Guardian of Pilgrims, Thraben Foulbloods, Spectral Reserves, and Gavony Unhallowed. But Rabid Bite killed the latter Gavony Unhallowed, and van Eeghen's Intrepid Provisioner increased the pressure still.
Eventually, Ulvenwald Captive transformed into Ulvenwald Abomination and Lashwood Lurker joined the party. Van Eeghen even had Aim High to save his Lurker once. The big Eldrazi was eventually wrestled down in combat, but it took down multiple creatures on the way. Wahlberg was almost out of blockers, when Pack Guardian and its companion Wolf sealed the deal.
Elmer van Eeghen defeated Erik Wahlberg and advanced to the finals where he would battle for the title with now two-time finalist Matteo Moure …