Round 6: Justin Cohen (Red-Green Bees) vs. Ben Friedman (Abzan Control)

Posted in PRO TOUR DRAGONS OF TARKIR on April 10, 2015

By Josh Bennett

With four wins already under their belts, these two players have secured Day Two. However, the goal is a Top 8 berth, and while one loss is nothing to worry about, a second will bring a lot of added pressure. There's a lot of Standard Constructed to be played, and these late rounds on Day One can set the tone for a player's entire tournament.

Ben Friedman is a three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor still looking for his first taste of Sunday play at the Pro Tour. Known for his flamboyant personality and equally flamboyant dress sense, Friedman is working without his cowboy hat this weekend, but seems unhindered by its absence. Like his Day1Games teammates, Friedman is armed with an Abzan build that skews toward dominating the end game.

Justin Cohen burst onto the global stage with his second place finish at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. His deck, an innovative hybrid of the Amulet of Vigor and Hive Mind combos, was the darling of the tournament, and his long-time friend and teammate Samuel Black came just one win shy of joining him in Top 8 with it. It's no wonder the new powerhouse team on the block, Team Ultra PRO, was so quick to add both of them to its roster. They've fielded another sweet brew this weekend: a take on Red-Green that gets maximum value out of Hornet Nest and Chord of Calling.

While the talented rookie Justin Cohen came prepared with a very special deck, Ben Friedman's traditional collection of good stuff within 75 cards would prove to be a difficult battle.

The Games

Cohen was hobbled early thanks to Friedman's opening of Thoughtseize on turn two, followed by two more on turn three. That left Cohen with just a Hornet Nest in play and two Setessan Tactics in his hand. Cohen passed an empty turn while Friedman got his Courser of Kruphix online. Cohen plucked a fourth land to bring out Xenagos, the Reveler on the following turn, starting to build a board of Satyr tokens, but he was watching Friedman stock his hand first with Elspeth, Sun's Champion and then Tasigur, the Golden Fang.

Friedman went into the tank over his next move. He asked Cohen how many cards he held.

"Two cards. Could be anything," he deadpanned.

Hero's Downfall took care of the Nest and let the Courser drop Xenagos to one loyalty. Cohen made a second Satyr and hit for 4, then played out the Sylvan Caryatid he'd drawn. It was a fine turn, all things considered, but it paled in comparison to Friedman's next: Windswept Heath to get a fifth card in the graveyard, delve out Tasigur, summon Siege Rhino.

To say that Cohen was in a bind would be putting it mildly. Friedman was accumulating advantages all over the place, while Cohen was spending his turn on a free 2/2 and a land drop. Friedman's monsters took care of Xenagos, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion showed up with three soldiers in tow.

Cohen tries to find a way to get out of the bind that Friedman put him in.

Cohen played on. He summoned Polukranos, World Eater. Friedman untapped, and after drawing, saw that he had Abzan Charm waiting for him. He activated Tasigur, milling Charm and land, and then used the Charm to get rid of Polukranos. Elspeth gave him another trio of soldiers and he passed. Cohen got a replacement Xenagos and made a fourth Satyr, but Friedman's board was overwhelming. Friedman charged in with all his creatures, and Cohen decided not to waste any more time on this farce.

"No antics today?" asked Cohen. So far, the match had been quiet save for Friedman's floral shirt.

"Well, you know, there aren't as many people here. It's just you, me and our entourage. No cameras on me. If Rich Hagon were here, there would be antics."

The devilishly handsome Hagon proved devilish in other ways as he appeared ringside, grinned at the players, and then immediately left to attend to other business. Cohen went to six, and they were off.

Again, Friedman opened the proceedings with a second-turn Thoughtseize. He saw lands, Scuttling Doom Engine, Ashcloud Phoenix, and a Whisperwood Elemental. The elemental was sent to the bin. Cohen played a third land and passed. Friedman brought out Courser of Kruphix. A fourth land came for Cohen, but he still no second red for his Ashcloud Phoenix, just the one Wooded Foothills. Friedman summoned a second Courser and passed.

The usually animated and loud Friedman was relatively serious during play in the sixth round.

Cohen desperately needed to hit a land, preferably a Mountain. He drew Courser of Kruphix. He played it and saw Xenagos on top. He fetched a Mountain to get a shuffle and was rewarded with an un-castable Stormbreath Dragon. Meanwhile, Friedman's Coursers were hitting lands right on time. Utter End dispatched Cohen's Courser and set him back even further thanks to the dead draw on top of his deck.

Friedman brought out Elspeth, and two turns later he had taken the match.

Cohen 0 – Friedman 2

Cohen was unruffled by the drubbing. "It's a bad matchup anyways. I'd need to be drawing as badly in the opposite direction to win."

"Better luck in the next two," said Friedman.

"Just the next two?"

"Alright, alright! The next ten."

"Why not better luck for the rest of your life? I mean…as long as you're shipping it."

They talked briefly about Cohen's deck, and how Hornet Nest is a big trump in some matchups.

"Red-Green cannot beat a bee. One bee, and they lose."

I asked Friedman what made him go with Abzan for this weekend. "Well, that would be Andrea Mengucci, best Italian Magic player! Andrea, why are we playing Abzan?"

The irrepressible Mengucci grinned. "Well, building decks with the new cards, Abzan was the only deck I liked. Good against creatures, good in long games. No bad matchups."

Friedman picked up the tale. "So he comes to our testing house and it beat everything we threw at it. It also fits our philosophy: You don't need to have the best deck. You just need a good deck, and Abzan is basically the definition of that. You have game against everything, so you just go 7-3 in Standard and draft your way into the Top 8."

I asked them if the field matched their expectations. "Mostly," said Friedman.

"There's one card we missed," added Mengucci, "Den Protector. Tom Martell played it against me and it was very good. I won, but only because I drew six land and all spells. I really wish we had Den Protector in our deck."

Justin Cohen's Red-Green Bees

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Ben Friedman's Abzan Control

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