Semifinals: Jeremy Dezani vs. Gabriel Carleton-Barnes

Posted in Event Coverage on February 1, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Gabriel Carleton-Barnes just won his hour plus-long quarterfinal match and didn't even take a break before sitting down for the semis. The Portland resident has qualified for the Pro Tour a few times and was happy to requalify today in Vancouver.

Jeremy Dezani is Silver in the Pro Player's Club and as his 9th GP Top 8 he didn't seem phased to be in the spotlight. Dezani drafted a hyper-aggressive White-Red deck with a tight mana curve. With cards like Expedition Envoy and Zada's Commando at the low end of his curve he was looking to end the game as quickly as possible.

Jeremy made a pretty controversial first pick of Press into Service. It's pretty rare to see a player first pick a Threaten effect. “The pick was risky, but I really wanted to draft aggro,” explained Dezani. Dezani was happy with his deck overall. He originally wanted to draft red-black after picking a few early Vampire Envoys. “The 1/4 flyers were really hard to give up, but white was open so I had to.”

Carleton-Barnes drafted a synergistic white-black allies deck complete with General Tazri to find what he needed. He really wanted to draft blue because it was really open at his seat, but he just couldn't figure out how to get into it. Overall he was happy about his draft. “The deck can win,” he said.

Players were silent as they shuffled up for Game 1. Carleton-Barnes elected to play as the high seed but he quickly mulliganed to five. He finally found a hand he liked and after a quick scry, the game was underway.

The Games

Dezani started with a Reckless Cohort that was quickly nullified by Carleton-Barnes's Nirkana Assassin. An Akoum Flameseeker the next turn from Dezani made it so the Cohort wasn't thrown under the bus.

Transgress the Mind from Carleton-Barnes showed a hand of Isolation Zone, Allied Reinforcements, and Valakut Predator. The Isolation Zone was Carleton-Barnes's choice to be exiled.

Carleton-Barnes missed a fourth land drop providing Dezani some time to improve his hand with Akoum Flameseeker. After another missed land drop, Carleton-Barnes passed the turn again, visibly frustrated.

Gideon's Reproach out of Carleton-Barnes stemmed the bleeding a bit, and he soon found some lands and started to get back in the game. A Warden of Geometries and a pair of Shoulder to Shoulder provided enough defense to stop the attacks out of Dezani. The board was finally stabilized.

While the life totals weren't changing, Dezani continued to deploy threats while discarding lands to Akoum Flameseeker for better cards. Dezani finally found the window to alpha strike with his nine creatures into Carleton-Barnes's three blockers. After damage resolved Carleton-Barnes fell to one and conceded the following turn.

Both players were silent during sideboarding and after another mulligan to five from Carleton-Barnes, Game 2 was in progress.

Carleton-Barnes started with a Hedron Crawler into a Kor Sky Climber and Dezani called with a Valakut Predator. The Predator got into combat and but was lost to an Unnatural Endurance. Consecutive Allied Reinforcements from Dezani put him in the driver's seat, but Carleton-Barnes followed up with General Tazri finding a Malakir Soothsayer and things were finally starting to look up for the Portland native.

Dezani wasn't done yet. Expedition Raptor came down and pumped some ally tokens which made blocking difficult for Carleton-Barnes and damage was forced through. Dezani was sneaking through damage every turn but the two life that Carleton-Barnes gained each turn with Ondu War Cleric made things progress very slowly.

A Relief Captain from Dezani added a counter to his flyer and he finally had an unblockable threat. After attacking in the air for a few turns, Carleton-Barnes fell further and further behind. He really needed to draw something and when the top of his deck gave him Ondu Rising, he could only laugh; it was his worst draw when he was behind. He had no choice but to cast the spell to make a 4/4 blocker and pass the turn.

Dezani untapped and swung with everything and after Carleton-Barnes made his best blocks he fell to two. Carleton-Barnes drew for the turn but the land he found wasn't going to help him and he extended his hand.

“If I drew the awaken spell a turn earlier I could have gained twelve and you may have been in trouble,” said Carleton-Barnes. The players laughed and congratulated each other on their Top 8 finish.

Jeremy Dezani defeats Gabriel Carleton-Barnes 2-0.

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