Semifinals: Samuel Black vs. Samuel Pardee

Posted in Event Coverage on July 30, 2017

By Marc Calderaro

These two American players have played many times before, but not under the Sunday lights. The Battle of the Sams—with a likely rematch at the World Championship in October—was about to commence.

Samuel Pardee is capping off a great last twelve months. This time last year, he was Top 8ing his first Pro Tour at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, locking up Platinum and heading to the World Championship. And now one year later, Pardee has achieved the same three feats. It was a bumpy road, and it wasn't clear that he would make it, but he got there just the same.

Another feat of Pardee's was getting through that quarterfinals match. His Black-Green Constrictor deck is not set up to prey on decks like Zombies. And with all the other decks in the Top 8 playing red, Pardee had drawn the proverbial short straw, and made it through alive.

One of those other red decks was piloted by now-opponent Sam Black. Black navigated through a mirror match to get here, and with Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa already through to the Finals, with a win here, Black must face another.

Black was almost playing for fun this round. Though he was obviously in it to win in, he got over his biggest hurdle last round. By winning in the Quarterfinals, Black clinched both Platinum and a World Championship slot as well. He seemed quite content no matter the outcome.

Samuel Black and Samuel Pardee face off in a semifinals where both players look to improve on an already stellar day.

This contentment would come in handy in the first game.

The Games

Well, there really was no Game 1 to speak of.

Sam Black went to four and kept a no-land hand. As the two were chatting about it before the match started, Pardee said, "Oh, I'm sure this is exactly what people want to see—after that." He was sarcastically referring to the true nail-biter of a five-game semifinal between Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Yam Wing Chun. That was a match that will go down in history.

That match was great, but this game was not.

Pardee started on curve, casting creatures like clockwork. And after Black saw three no-land draw steps, he scooped up his cards.

After the first game action of the second game, it was already better than the first. Black led with a Mountain—already distinguishing it for the better—and then Bomat Courier, two Earthshaker Khenra, and Ahn-Crop Crasher followed, bing-bam-boom.

Pardee, who had kept a slower opener, was getting swiftly punished for his mistake. He only managed to cast a Walking Ballista before succumbing to the repeated assaults charging through the red zone. This match was definitely better than the first, but admittedly not by much.

Black seeks opportunity after a series of unfortunate Game 1 mulligans.

For those hoping for challenging games with tough decisions, Black and Pardee had yet to reward us. But if you were hoping for an even matchup, at least both players were still on equal footing.

Game 3 was the closest to a real game the match had yet seen. Pardee opened by setting up a defense perimeter with Walking Ballista, Grim Flayer and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

Next, Black spent his turns knocking them down, using burn, exerting Glorybringer to activate its fire breath, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Though Black couldn't gain complete control of the board, he was slowly gaining an advantage.

Black had two Hazoret the Fervent ready to unload, and hoped they would be twin nails in Pardee's coffin. Though Legendary, Black was well aware of Pardee's Grasp of Darkness. It would give -4/-4, and even an indestructible being goes to the graveyard when it's a 1/0. (Maybe "State-based Effects" are the real Gods of Magic.)

Pardee was sinking on life, down to 13, but was keeping a speculative check on the board state. He killed Chandra over a series of turns, and used Grasp of Darkness to remove Black's first Hazoret the Fervent. He cast Nissa, Voice of Zendikar looking to keep a steady supply of blockers.

But that Glorybringer was about to untap and not a Plant Token in sight could stop it. Additionally, Black used a second Hazoret the Fervent to exchange two Mountains in his hand for 4 more damage.

A second Grasp of Darkness took out the second Hazoret, but that Glorybringer, though...

Pardee was fighting to stay alive, but with Black still at 20, with a Ramunap Ruins in play, it seemed hopeless.

Things became bleaker when the judge informed Pardee that how he tapped his mana meant he took a damage from Hashep Oasis that he hadn't accounted for. Once Pardee went from 3 life to 2 life, the Ramunap ran him up.

After the first flurry of flubs, Pardee and Black decide to challenge themselves in the fourth contest. The challenge would be unique to each combatant, and they didn't actually say this out loud. But by how the game played out, surely this is what happened. Ask them about it sometime.

As if being a game away from defeat wasn't hard enough for Pardee, his additional weakness was Hashep Oasis was his only early source of green mana, so he would ping himself for some additional damage while still trying to stave off the red deck.

It was a tough challenge for sure, but lucky for him, Black had also given himself such a drawback. He tried to see if he could win on only two lands. I don't just mean in his opening hand, I mean the entire game.

Pardee pieces together his options.

Though Black's early game was rather effective, it dried up soon after. The Bomat Courier and company were little match for an increasing army of Constrictors and Flayers. Damo da Rosa's hand could've easily kept up, but the land count was prohibitive, even being able to cast multiple Abrades in the process.

"Well at least I don't have to feel too terrible about that Hashep Oasis; it didn't lose me the game there," Pardee said as the two shuffled up. Black seemed skeptical of its inclusion in the deck at all, and the two discussed its merits. Pardee said, "We went back and forth on it, but it's relevant in the control matchup." Black agreed, and they shuffled up for the last game, hoping to get one strong, good contest out of the set.

Moments later…

"I'm over it," Black said as he went to four cards for the second time in the match.

On his third turn, Black defiantly, proudly, slammed a one-drop Village Messenger onto the table and passed. He was finding joy in the little things; he was locked for Platinum and going to Worlds already. Another little thing he found joy in was Pardee immediately killing it without mercy. He laughed as he put it into the graveyard.

Though his battlefield looked paltry, and his card count was low, Black was making the best of the situation, using burn spells efficiently and effectively. Taking advantage of the fact that Pardee's hand was mostly removal.

While Pardee was adding counters to his Winding Constrictor with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Peema Renegade, Black was getting Pardee to 9 life, and then even lower.

But Pardee was chipping in some damage too, and soon had Black to 8 life.

On the last turn, he had hit delirium and cast Traverse the Ulvenwald for Verdurous Gearhulk. With just enough mana left over to cast it, he put all four counters on the already-4/5 Winding Constrictor and swung for the fences.

Black extended his hand to congratulate Pardee and scooped up his cards.

Samuel Pardee defeats Samuel Black 3-2 and advances to the finals!

Black, Samuel - Ramunap Red

Pardee, Samuel - Black-Green Constrictor

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