It's been an emotional weekend for Matthew Sperling. This is Sperling's first Pro Tour Top 8 after playing for the better part of twenty years. His best friend, No. 11 Ranked Player Paul Rietzl, was elected to be a part of the 2014 Hall of Fame Class this weekend. Usually, Sperling does testing with the Team ChannelFireball Pantheon, but work commitments prevented him from being able to take part in their testing process for this event. Instead, Sperling went to social media and asked his friends for input. This was the perfect Pro Tour to test by yourself," he said. Magic 2015 Limited and a relatively established Standard format meant that the majority of leg work had already been done.
This is also Ivan Floch's first Pro Tour Top 8. With over 150 lifetime Pro Points, this Top 8 almost seems inevitable. Floch's performance this weekend secured his place as the captain of the Slovakian team for the World Magic Cup.
These two met once already in the swiss, where Sperling won a very tight match. Would the results repeat?
Floch started the first game on six cards, while Sperling was content with his opening seven. Young Pyromancer came down for Sperling on the second turn, and the Chandra's Phoenix that followed was met with Dissolve. Sperling was already attacking for two and a single burn spell would allow him to recoup his losses, but Floch needed to aggressively protect his life total if he wanted to take over the game with late game bombs like Sphinx's Revelation.
Floch's Supreme Verdict cleaned up the board and Sperling shocked him to reclaim Chandra's Phoenix and keep the pressure going. Another Supreme Verdict dealt with the Phoenix and Sperling had Young Pyromancer for the following turn. Floch had the third Supreme Verdict, but his life total was dwindling.
The next turn, Floch tried to turn the tables with Sphinx's Revelation for four extra cards, but Sperling's Skullcrack prevented him from gaining any life. Sperling started firing off burn spells, but Floch had a seemingly endless stream of countermagic. Last Breath permanently dealt with Chandra's Phoenix when Sperling tried to replay it.
Floch firmly established control with Sphinx's Revelation for another four cards and four life. The pressure kept coming, but Floch had enough cards to contain the American's offense. On a key turn, Floch activated his Mutavault to block Sperling's. This gave Sperling an opportunity to cast Searing Blood, but Floch used Syncopate to make sure Sperling needed to tap all of his mana. Floch took advantage by resolving Sphinx's Revelation for seven without fear of Skullcrack.
From here, Floch had answers for everything. No threat went unanswered and the following Sphinx's Revelation, this time for seven, was enough to force a concession.
After sideboarding, the match-up improves for Floch. Dispel and Nyx Fleece Ram are particularly powerful effects.
Both players kept their opening hands. Young Pyromancer came down on turn two for Matt Sperling and he started applying early pressure on Floch with Lightning Strike in response to Azorius Charm, making an elemental token. Playing around Syncopate, Sperling recast Young Pyromancer on the following turn and pecked away at Floch's life total with his elemental token. Mutavault dealt with Sperling's Elemental after being protected from Lightning Strike by Syncopate.
The sideboarding advantage became apparent when Nyx Fleece Ram came down for Floch and Sperling had to make it a race. Sphinx's Revelation brought Floch back to 16 while drawing him four additional cards and things began to look very good for the Slovakian. A second Nyx Fleece Ram further cemented Floch's lead. Sperling tried to use Glare of Heresy to deal with one of the Nyx Fleece Rams, but Dissolve saved the valuable life-gain engine. Sperling was able to deal with one of the rams by getting Floch to block and using Warleader's Helix, but the other remained in play, gaining Floch additional life every turn.
Sperling had a lot of Elemental tokens, but Floch pulled further into the lead with another Sphinx's Revelation, this time for six.
Sperling mounted an offense of elemental tokens with Young Pyromancer, but Floch, with a wealth of potential options, used Planar Cleansing to clear the table. Another Nyx Fleece Ram came down and it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before Floch secured his spot in the semifinals. All threats from Sperling were immediately answered while Floch resolved multiple huge Sphinx's Revelations while ticking up Jace, Architect of Thought. More Nyx Fleece Rams came down and Floch's lifetotal swelled above thirty as Sperling could only smile as he watched despondently. "You didn't board the angels in?"
Confident that the game had already been won. An honest Floch answered. "No. You have plenty to deal with them and it's a five mana sorcery."
Floch used Jace, Architect of Thought's ultimate ability and put one of Sperling's Young Pyromancers into play. Sperling couldn't push an answer through Floch's wall of countermagic and Floch began building an impressive army of elementals.
"Are you having fun?" asked Sperling.
Floch nodded, "Actually, yes, I am."
The elemental tokens piled up and Floch, with an embarrassment of riches, whittled Sperling down to nothing over the course of the coming turns.
Ivan Floch defeats Matt Sperling 2-0 and advances to the Semifinals!