The second semifinal of the day featured Alexander Ivanov, one of the few players at this tournament with virtual no offline play experience but some monumental success given his short duration of play on Magic Online, against Gerry Thompson, one of the more seasoned offline and online competitors.
Ivanov has shown his online skills here this weekend, remaining near the top of the standings throughout both Friday and Saturday. His deck choices, an interesting spread of Death's Shadow Aggro for Modern, Goggles Ramp in Standard, and the very unique mashup of Punishing Jund and Knight of the Reliquary known as Punishing Knight in Legacy, shows off a spread of play styles.
Thompson, a deck brewer specialist, had some hiccups in the Legacy rounds, but smoothed out his poor start through Standard, Booster Draft, and Modern. His deck choices showcase his respect for the established decks with a lot of room to play and tinker, as he was equipped with Green-White Tokens in Standard, Shardless Sultai in Legacy, and Jeskai Harbinger in Modern.
Thompson, being in 2nd coming into Sunday, was given the opportunity to select the first format of Legacy, Standard, and Modern to play in a best two-out-of-three matches semifinals. Thompson went with Modern.
"I think I needed help in Modern, and the die roll matters a lot more for me," Thompson said, referring to his first format choice. Going first and being able to suspend Ancestral Vision is critical, and being able to select that format when you know you can choose to go first made Modern the easiest selection.
While Thompson got decimated by a powerful draw in the first game, Ivanov found a glut of lands in the second and third game, giving Thompson more than enough time for his deck full of Ancestral Visions to build up its avalanche of cards. Thompson clinched the match via Nahiri, the Harbinger's ultimate ability, fetching up Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in their third and final game.
With a match down, Ivanov selected Standard, favoring his Red-Green Goggles Ramp against Thompson's Green-White Tokens.
Thompson's mana troubles kept him from capitalizing on a slow start from Ivanov in the first game, and once Ivanov found Traverse the Ulvenwald with delirium active, he was able to cycle through Drownyard Temples with some Magmatic Insights, ramping to Dragonlord Atarka. From there, Thompson was never able to get out of his hole, succumbing to one haymaker after another while stuck on four lands with three Archangel Avacyn in hand.
The second game was the reverse of that: Thompson had a 2-mana creature, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. That sequence of spells was far too much for Ivanov to handle, who conceded in the face of multiple lethal threats.
The third game was again decided by Thompson's mana troubles, but this time it was a lack of white mana, and the triplets that were rotting away in his hand for the final game of Standard were three copies of Declaration in Stone. While Ivanov's draw was a bit slow, Thompson's lack of action gave him more than enough time to turn a slow hand into nothing but action with Chandra, Flamecaller, which propelled him through to a third and final match.
While Ivanov had to mulligan to six, a scry for his mulligan revealed a Dark Confidant to him, which he left on top. When Thompson's opening Thoughtseize revealed four lands, Mox Diamond, and Chalice of the Voice, Thompson discarded the Chalice and slumped back into his chair as Ivanov accelerated into his first-turn Dark Confidant.
That 2-mana creature then revealed and drew him an Abrupt Decay, and was followed by a replacement Chalice of the Void. The Chalice locked Thompson out of an in-hand Brainstorm, Wasteland dispatched one of his two lands, and the Decay took out Tarmogoyf. When a replacement second land was nowhere to be found, Thompson picked up his cards for a second game.
The second game involved a little mind trickery from Thompson. After casting Thoughtseize, Thompson was able to see that Ivanov had a Wasteland, Knight of the Reliquary, two Punishing Fires, and a Grove of the Burnwillows. He chose to discard a Punishing Fire, baiting Ivanov to cast Knight of the Reliquary by tapping out instead of Wastelanding one of Thompson's two lands. Thompson was at the ready with Force of Will, allowing him to untap and cast a Shardless Agent, finding Sylvan Library.
That let him set up a second Shardless Agent to cascade into Ancestral Vision, putting him far ahead in the game. After a tense back-and-forth between the two players, Thompson's Sylvan Library allowed him to stave off enough draws from Ivanov and resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. This, combined with a stream of threats, allowed him to eventually take the game.
The third and final game of the semifinals came down to whether Thompson could find a replacement land after a Wasteland from Ivanov so he could open up some Abrupt Decays. However, when Ivanov found both his copy of Thespian's Stage and Dark Depths. Without any answer to an indestructible 20/20, Thompson offered the handshake.
Alexander Ivanov defeats Gerry Thompson 2-1 and advances to the final match!