In 2010, Brad Nelson was making a run at the Player of the Year title, and he looked like a lock with a solid finish at the World Championship in Chiba, Japan. But what's the old saying about counting chickens before they hatch? Nelson fared slightly less than solid, leaving the door open for a handful of players to overtake him, should they make the playoff of that event.
As the smoke cleared over the Top 8, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa could take the title if he won the tournament, and Guillaume Matignon could force a tie if he won. Matignon beat Damo da Rosa in five games in the semifinals, and then toppled his fellow countryman Guillaume Wafo-Tapa in the finals, leaving an unprecedented two-way tie in the 2010 Player of the Year race.
Both players fronted up to a playoff at the following Pro Tour in Paris at the start of 2011. It was a hotly contested match, and while Nelson emerged the victor, the pair formed a fast friendship that has lasted to this very day.
No doubt until they each saw the pairings for Round 9 here in Honolulu and exclaimed "You!" in villain-like outrage.
Guillaume Matignon and Brad Nelson are practically the dictionary definition of "frenemies".
"I drafted my favorite deck, I just don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing," Nelson laughed as they sat down to play. Nelson won the die roll and had the first play on turn two, a Secret Plans.
"Oh so that's your favorite deck, eh?" Matignon chuckled, playing a Jeskai Student.
"Not so secret," Nelson joked, as he played an Alpine Grizzly on turn three.
Nelson was the first to play a fifth land, and confidently pushed his morph across the table. Matignon knew better than to put his Patrol in harm's way, and let it through. Nelson flipped it over anyway, revealing it as a Pine Walker and untapping it.
Seeing his Patrol now outclassed, Matignon tapped it offline to give it a +1/+1 counter, and passed the turn back with three mana open. I don't think anyone was surprised when Nelson untapped and his Pine Walker suddenly came down with a Crippling Chill. Nelson played two morphs, fussing over them repeatedly and ensuring they were arranged in the order he played them.
"You played them on the same turn. I think it's okay," Matignon assured his friend.
"I'm just making sure they're both morphs!" Nelson cried.
"Yes, that is something you have to check," Matignon laughed, playing a face-up War Behemoth.
Nelson untapped and silently considered his play. The Pine Walker took down the Behemoth with a Savage Punch, and a Bring Low brought the Jeskai Student a cosy plot in Matignon's graveyard. Nelson continued to play and flip up morphs, as Matignon tried to build a defence with Sage of the Inward Eye, even recovering a healthy chunk of life, thanks to a timely Feat of Resistance. However, Nelson kept laying more and more Secret Plans and flipping them over for value. With Matignon on the ropes, he instead played a Hooded Hydra face-up.
"You don't want to draw cards?"
"I don't want you to Wrath me!"
"Ahh, good wizard," Matignon replied, and scooped up his cards.
Matignon 0 – Nelson 1
Unsurprisingly, Matignon elected to play in Game 2, and was the first to attack with a morph with 5 mana at his disposal. To make matters worse, Nelson failed to find a fifth mana for several turns, while Matignon turned over back to back Mystic of the Hidden Way to put Nelson on a very serious clock.
Brad Nelson, flippin' morphs and taking names.
Matignon 1 – Nelson 1
Matignon had the first play of the decider with a Jeskai Student, but when Nelson reached his third turn he sighed and let out a "Ohhh, don't do me like this," playing a face up Dragon's Eye Savants and failing to play a third land. "I would also like to play a game," Matignon agreed, playing a morph.
Nelson found his third land and played a Tuskguard Captain. Matignon flipped over a Mystic of the Hidden Way and went to town. Nelson drew and played a Mountain, eliciting a "soooo lucky" from Matignon, and a laugh from both.
Nelson outlasted his Captain and played a morph of his own. Matignon attacked Nelson to 14 and played another morph. Nelson found his fifth land and weighed up his options.
Matignon played a sixth land and attacked with his Student and his remaining morph. The Savants blocked the morph, who turned out to be an Efreet Weaponsmith, helping the Student knock Nelson to 10.
Nelson played a sixth land and brooded over his options. He attacked with his Captain for 4 to put Matignon to 16, before playing a Riverwheel Aerialists. Matignon quickly attacked back with both the 4/3 Weaponmaster and the 1/3 Student. Nelson pushed the 0/6 Savants in front of the 4/3 and his 4/5 Aerialists in front of the 1/3. Caressing his scalp, Matignon pondered things.
Guillaume Matignon agonized over his options.
Defiant Strike made the Student 3/4 and drew Matignon a card, then Jeskai Charm gave his team +1/+1 and Lifelink, making the 4/3 a 5/4, and the Student a 5/6, killing the Aerialists and putting Matignon up to 26.
Nelson was left with just his Tuskguard Captain, and plenty to consider. He played a Rugged Highland to go up to 11 life, and played the last card in his hand; a morph.
Matignon untapped and pointed a Crippling Chill at the Captain, attacking Nelson to 5 before playing another Student.
Nelson untapped and summoned the Pine Walker face-up. Force Away from Matignon returned it to Nelson's hand, and Nelson's morph was forced to chump the 4/3, revealing a Hooded Hydra, and grinding Nelson down to just 1 life.
"What can that card be?" Matignon asked with a smile as he attacked with the 4/3 and a pair of 1/3's.
Nelson could only shrug and offer his friend the handshake as he fell below 0 life.
Matignon 2 – Nelson 1