Ben Friedman is a rising star in the Magic community. Don't be fooled by his ridiculous attire. Friedman, a three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor, is a pensive mastermind on the battlefield. His opponent, Ivan Floch, is a Gold-level Pro with four Grand Prix Top 8s to his name.
What's at Stake?
This is it. The final step on the path for greatness. The winner of this match will secure a spot in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Magic 2015. Both of these players have probably already locked up Gold for next season, but a win here could catapult either of them to Platinum status with a strong Sunday showing. Waiting for the match to start, both players sat in what would've been complete silence if it weren't for the enormous volume of Friedman's outfit.
Friedman and Floch both started the first game on six cards. Friedman's turn three Thoughtseize was the first play of the game. He saw a hand of Supreme Verdict, Dissolve, Syncopate, Elixir of Immortality, and lands. He took the Supreme Verdict and traded Mutavaults with Floch. Pack Rat came down for Friedman, who had the necessary mana to pay for the Syncopate he knew about. With a reasonable amount of knowledge about his opponent's hand. Friedman started making rats with his Pack Rat. Floch activated his Elixir of Immortality to buy some time, but the Rats kept coming and Floch was unable to find the necessary second copy of Supreme Verdict to deal with them. Three attack steps was all it took for Friedman and his rodent army to steal the first game.
Both players kept their opening seven at the start of the second game. Friedman made the first play of the game with Lifebane Zombie, but Floch had Syncopate to keep the pressure off. Jace, Architect of Thought came down into an empty board and ticked down immediately. Friedman killed the Jace with his Mutavault, but the mana sued to do so meant that he would be unable to play anything else that turn. Another Jace came down for Floch and he ticked it up. Friedman, with his opponent tapped out, used the opportunity to resolve Underworld Connections. Floch brought his Jace down to three and found Dissolve. Mutavault tried to come at the Jace, but Quicken and Supreme Verdict from Floch meant the Planeswalker would go untouched.
Still, Friedman had another Lifebane Zombie and Floch revealed Planar Cleansing, Dissolve, and Sphinx's Revelation in addition to a few lands. Jace continued accruing card advantage. While Floch consistently answered every threat that Friedman presented. Eventually, Friedman baited Dissolve with his Duress and used the opportunity to resolve Desecration Demon. The Demon didn't last for long, though, as Azorius Charm sent it to the top of Friedman's deck. Read the Bones found Sin Collector and Floch cast Sphinx's Revelation for three in response. Friedman had blasted through enough cards out of his opponent to resolve what seemed like a safe Pack Rat. Floch had used enough relevant cards to activate his Elixir of Immortality, but he forgot to gain the 5 additional life.
A turn later, Friedman realized what happened, "You should have five more life. You forgot to gain it with Elixir of Immortality."
Floch thanked Friedman for his honesty before casting Elspeth and making some soldiers. Friedman made a few rats and Hero's Downfall dealt with the Elspeth, but the soldiers stuck around to live another day. Friedman attacked with his three Pack Rats and Floch triple blocked one of them. Friedman made a fourth and Floch had Supreme Verdict the whole time to leave Friedman with only a few cards in hand. Liliana Vess was dissolved, but Friedman had Obzedat, Ghost Council for the following turn.
Obzedat started attacking, but Floch found Sphinx's Revelation on the top of his deck and cast it for ten the following turn. The game dragged on from here, but the massive number of cards in Floch's hand were too much for Friedman to overcome. Floch eventually found Elspeth, cast it, and passed the turn. Friedman gave him a confused look.
Floch forced air through his lips, "I meant to make soldiers."
Friedman, in a tremendous showing of good sportsmanship, shrugged, "It's fine, just make them."
Elspeth stuck around for a few turns and Friedman eventually died to the swarm of tokens.
Friedman lamented, "That top-decked Revelation was pretty good."
"That's what you have to do in this match-up," Floch pointed out.
"Yeah, I have a lot of discard."
Both players kept their opening hands for the third game. Friedman cast Thoughtseize on the second turn and Floch revealed a hand of lands and Jace, Architect of Thought. Friedman took the Jace and left his opponent with nothing but topdeck potential. Underworld Connections came down for Friedman and Floch started to dig through his library with Quicken and scrylands. Sin Collector from Friedman revealed Elspeth and Quicken. Floch had plenty of lands to play the Elspeth, but it was only turn four. Syncopate dealt with a second copy of Underworld Connections. Sphinx's Revelation for two from Floch was followed up by Elspeth for three tokens. Friedman had Bile Blight for the Elspeth Tokens and was able to kill the Planeswalker with his Demon.
Floch's Planar Cleansing cleaned up the board, though, and they started from scratch once more. They traded cards for a bit, but Floch found Sphinx's Revelation on the top of his deck and was able to cast it for six. More threats and answers were traded for a bit before Friedman's Sin Collector came down. Floch chained some draw spells and then used Supreme Verdict with the trigger on the stack, then revealed a hand of five lands. Once again, Floch was relying on the top of his deck. With this knowledge, Friedman went all in on a Pack Rat, assuming the coast was clear, but Floch chained Quicken into Planar Cleansing the following turn and Friedman was finally out of gas.
Like clockwork, Floch found Sphinx's Revelation on the top of his deck and drew thirteen extra cards. With only five minutes remaining on the clock, he started playing lightning fast to try and finish the game. From here, Friedman couldn't resolve another relevant spell. Floch had countermagic for everything as he attacked with his Mutavault. The spells that Friedman did resolve were answered immediately and he eventually died when Floch found another copy of Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
Ivan Floch found himself in the first Pro Tour Top 8 of his career! Ben Friedman could potentially still make something happen if he wins the following round and the breakers work out perfectly, but his incredible sportsmanship, quick play, and positive attitude throughout this tense match are a shining example for all Magic players in the world.
Ivan Floch 2 - 1 Ben Friedman