Quarterfinals Daniel Ward (Hexproof) vs. Florian Koch (Abzan)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 23, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Daniel Ward is one of the more exuberant players around. His energy is infectious. When he’s winning, every else around him feels like they’re winning too (well, except of course for his opponent). This is his second Grand Prix Top 8, and he was excited to take his Hexproof deck—the only one in Day Two—further and further.

He was up against the European ringer, Florian Koch. He’s a two-time Grand Prix Top 8 finisher himself. He and his friends took a Magic-al vacation to Canada so his trip was going to be great regardless, but now he’s got a Top 8 to boot. His Abzan deck was ready and willing to take on all comers.

The match-up can be quite in Hexproof’s favor. If Koch doesn’t get the early discard and a Liliana of the Veil or two, Ward’s untargetable creatures could grow wildly out of control. But Koch has two killer one-ofs in the deck: Fracturing Gust and Curse of Death’s Hold. If he can get either one of those after the sideboard, he could steal any game that was spiraling away from him.

The Games

A first-turn Thoughtseize from Florian Koch was a great way to interact with the usually less-interactive Hexproof deck before it could get its shoes on.

“Good old Lava Axe,” Koch said as he took a Slippery Bogle from Daniel Ward’s hand..

But Ward had a first turn Gladecover Scout to back it up and Hyena Umbra was the first aura to get on in there and pump up the little dude. An Unflinching Courage followed closely behind, along with another creature to boot and Ward was looking too be ahead in the early game.

Ward had the aggro down, and even a Dryad Arbor to protect from Liliana of the Veil, but Koch drew a Path to Exile. Once that and a Dismember combined with the Liliana, both the landman, the Gladecover Scout, and all the threats, hit the bin.

“This game’s not over yet...” Koch said after a late Thoughtseize. Though he was in a commanding lead, the Rancor and Unflinching Courage left in Ward’s hand after the discard spell meant that his draws were still live. Koch wasn’t quite out of the slippery woods.

Florian Koch

But Ward did not draw what he needed in time. The Batterskull came down and took over the game. Koch won the first of a tough match-up against Hexproof by battering Ward into submission.

“I was hoping you didn’t have the Dismember or Path there; would’ve been a quite a different game,” Ward said while sideboarding. Koch couldn’t help but agree.

“The Dismember’s a one-of,” he said. One-ofs can be extremely important. After that, the two finished sideboarded and drew for the second game.

Two Ethereal Armor, a Gladecover Scout and land was the hand Koch saw after Ward started the second game with a first-turn Gladecover Scout. Ward had mulliganed once and this six-card hand was much better than continuing to go lower while on the play. It looked good to Koch.

Koch took the second Scout, confident he could remove the lonely creature on the battlefield. But Ward drew well and was able to get his aggro on. He had Koch to 8 life when the German untapped for his third turn. After a Rancor gave the Scout trample, Koch looked at the useless cards in his hand and realized it was for naught.

Ward evened up the scores at 1-1.

Daniel Ward

In the last game, both players mulliganed themselves down hard.

“Five against five, huh?” Was Koch’s comments on the subject. Ward ruefully agreed. Despite this setback, Ward was able to get both a Rancor and an Unflinching Courage on a Gladecover Scout, while protecting from Liliana with a Leyline of Sanctity. This was about the best five cards Ward could hope for. Along with a Dryad Arbor, the scores were quickly 24-7 in Ward’s favor, and he threatened to take the match.

Koch had just two Noble Hierarch to his name, and had to sink lower to fetch land and the end of his opponent’s turn. It was looking grim for the vacationing European. But the life loss was mitigated once Koch got to five mana. He had drawn a one-of. He cast Fraucturing Gust to kill everything.

“Ugh, the one-of Gust,” Ward said. “Siege Rhino?” He said the next turn, when he saw Koch tapping down his mana again.

“No, not Siege Rhino—worse,” Koch said. Worse? What could be worse than a Siege Rhino?

“Worse?” Ward asked in disbelief

“Another one-of,” was the short reply from Koch.

“Wow,” was all Ward could muster. He knew what was coming.

Curse of Death’s Hold from Koch cleared the board, and threatened to stop any more creatures from even staying on the battlefield. Though Ward wasn’t drawing dead, it sure was a long shot.

And he didn’t get there. After Ward had one of the best mulligans to five you could hope for, Florian Koch did him one better—drawing not one, but two of his killer one-ofs to advances to the semifinals.

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