The stakes are about as high as they get. This is the final round of Pro Tour Fate Reforged and the winner of this match will secure a spot in the Top 8 elimination rounds. These two have successfully battled their way through fifteen rounds of Magic against the best players in the world and now there's only one round remaining to decide their fate.
Platinum Pro and twelfth-ranked Samuel Black already has two Pro Tour Top 8s and ten Grand Prix Top 8s. A third Pro Tour Top 8 would, without any doubt, make Black a major contender for the Hall of Fame. Black is playing an Amulet of Vigor combo deck that he and his roommate designed and tested with one another; more amazing, his roommate, Justin Cohen, is also playing for Top 8 less than fifteen feet away in the feature match area.
His opponent is the ever elusive Jesse Hampton, a player that seldom makes an appearance at Magic tournaments, but makes his presence known whenever he decides to show up. Hampton brings a terrifying amount of raw talent to the table and looks to score his second Pro Tour Top 8 this weekend with the ever-popular Abzan deck.
The round before, Black was forced to play against his closest friend, Justin Cohen, who was playing in his first Pro Tour. After two games, the two decided to draw so both would have a shot at winning the following round to secure a spot in the Top 8.
Hampton inquired about the situation. "Now there's a chance that neither of you make Top 8," he commented.
Black smiled. "Yes, but there's also a chance that we both do."
"Fair enough," said Hampton.
Black continued, "I did not think I'd be playing for Top 8 right now. I came into today at X-3 and just haven't lost a match."
Hampton was unimpressed, "Yeah, I Top 8'd my first Pro Tour. Then I got beat by some guy."
Black looked over at me and smiled. "Do you know who that guy was?"
Twelfth-ranked Samuel Black and Jesse Hampton have a little Pro Tour history already. Now, they were about to create a little more.
It was him. These two battled against one another in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Philadelphia in 2011 and Black emerged victorious.
Hampton excused himself. "It was a terrible match-up," he said. "I don't think there's anything I could have done to win." One could visibly see the cogs in his head turning as he replayed the match in his mind.
Black teased. "I thought it was pretty fun."
Hampton was forced to mulligan to six cards while Justin Cohen's opponent was also going down to six on another table in the feature match area.
"You guys are the luckiest," said Hampton as he shuffled.
"I certainly hope so."
Amulet of Vigor came down for Black and he used the opportunity to transmute Tolaria West for Summoner's Pact after playing Khalni Garden and making an 0/1 plant token, which likely meant he'd be able to win on the following turn barring any disruption from Hampton.
Hampton has the disruption for a combo deck, but would he have the right pieces at the right time?
Hampton was out of cards and could only use the minus two on Liliana to dispatch of Black's plant.
Hampton failed to find a threat and Black had Primeval Titan for the following turn. Primeval Titan gave Black all the tools he needed to win the game and Hampton was forced to concede on the following turn.
The two discussed their deck choices as they shuffled up for the second game.
"I almost played Burn," Hampton firedback.
Black lifted his hands from the table. "Gah! I wish you were playing Burn!"
Hampton went to six cards again without any kind of emotional reaction. He remained ice cold, calm, and collected.
Black tried to turn the knife a bit, "I have a lot of practice cutting decks. Maybe you should have played twenty-seven land?"
It looked as if Black was going to combo out when he cast Summer Bloom with Amulet of Vigor in play, but he simply set up Primeval Titan for the following turn and stuck Leyline of Sanctity to block Hampton's discard spells.
Black's deck can bloom some monsters, but the monsters still needed to stick.
Hampton pushed harder with Siege Rhino.
Black was able to resolve Primeval Titan, but he couldn't win right away given the current board-state.
The players were noticeably silent as they shuffled up for the third game. This was it. The winner of this one would be in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour. Would it be the naturally talented Jesse Hampton or the tempered master Samuel Black?
Black could only play lands and watch as Hampton continued to advance his board-state, all while further disrupting Black.
Then came Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Black could only cast Sigarda, Host of Herons to play blocking duty. Hampton used Inquisiton of Kozilek on himself the following turn to pitch Abrupt Decay, forcing a chump block with Sigarda from Black.
Black 1 – Hampton 2