Round 7: Ben Friedman (Abzan Control) vs. Craig Wescoe (Ojutai Bant)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 10, 2015

By Craig Jones

Craig Wescoe is no stranger to playing with green and white critters. His Selesnya deck took down Pro Tour Dragon's Maze back in 2013. For the tournament today, he's added blue for Dragonlord Ojutai. It's another of his own concoctions, and he couldn't convince the rest of his team to try it out.

In contrast, Ben Friedman's team (which includes No. 25 Christian Calcano) was more uniform in their deck selection, with only two dissenting from the Abzan Control deck they decided to run. Friedman, who has racked up fifteen Pro Tour appearances despite still being at the young age of 22, likes the deck because it's better than 50/50 versus most of the field and is versatile enough to have answers for the harder matchups.

While Ben Friedman's team were mostly uniform in their deck selection, Wescoe deviated from his team for something with a bit more personal flair.

The Games

Friedman won the dice roll and elected to play. He didn't have the quickest of starts, with three lands in a row that entered the battlefield tapped. Meanwhile, Wescoe had raced out of the gates with an Elvish Mystic, allowing him to run out a Deathmist Raptor on turn three.

On turn four, Friedman found his first play when a Siege Rhino entered the battlefield. Normally, that would be a sizeable obstacle for most beatdown decks, but the Deathmist Raptor had deathtouch, and its ability to return from the graveyard every time a creature turned face-up made most trades unprofitable.

And then, we had my first feature match Dragon, as Dragonlord Ojutai appeared on Wescoe's side of the board. Unfortunately, it was only a brief glimpse, as Friedman wiped the board with End Hostilities.

Day of Judgment effects are a bane of creature beatdown decks. One of the plans to combat mass removal is to go cheap, and try and do enough damage before they reach mass removal mana. Another is to try and dodge it with haste and flash creatures. Yet another is to recruit the "cockroaches". These are creatures that are hard to permanently answer and eventually wear out the removal from the control decks. Deathmist Raptor is the latest in a long line of annoying, why-don't-you-just-stay-dead creatures.

Wescoe's deck is set up to play that strategy. He rebuilt with a morph card, which flipped face-up to reveal Den Protector, fetching back Ojutai and putting Deathmist Raptor into play.

Against some draws, that might have been enough, but Friedman's Abzan deck was no way near done. He already had Elspeth on his side. Ojutai lost hexproof to attack her and that was enough of an opening for Hero's Downfall to send him back to the graveyard. In the same attack step, an Abzan Charm sent the Raptor into permanent exile.

Friedman has proven round after round that Abzan still has a lot of really great answers as well as threats.

Now, Wescoe was out of gas. His draw fizzled out, while Friedman used Elspeth to bring more soldiers to the board and then finished things off with a second Siege Rhino.

The second game was sadly anticlimactic, as Wescoe went down to five cards. He had two Den Protectors that might have been able to claw back some of the lost card advantage. Unfortunately for him, Friedman nailed both with Hero's Downfalls before Wescoe could turn either face-up.

Wescoe struggles to rebound from a bad draw.

The rest of Wescoe's hand was purely reactive. A Valorous Stance dealt with the first Siege Rhino. A Duress from Friedman revealed he had two more in hand. He lost one and then the other to the Liliana Vess Friedman cast in the same turn.

Now, Wescoe was down to nothing and kept drawing lands while Liliana ticked up to ultimate.

This game was pretty much all over, bar the rhino. The horned beast put in an appearance, and then Liliana Vess's ultimate ability added an army to put Wescoe out of his misery.

Friedman 2 – Wescoe 0

Wescoe mentioned he'd played the same deck earlier and had beat it despite being forced to mulligan to five in one of the games. Friedman's draws had just been too strong this round.

Ben Friedman's Abzan Control

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Craig Wescoe's Ojutai Bant

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