Quarterfinals: Stephen Berrios (Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact) vs. Paul Jackson (Green-red Devotion)

Posted in Event Coverage on August 2, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

For Australia native Paul Jackson, there's more riding on the line in this Top 8 than just the prestige. Hailing from a community far removed from the more common Australia, Perth—secluded on the western shore—this Top 8 could mean travelling more for a game he loves, and participating more frequently in the international community. Though he'd teamed up with New Zealander Jason Chung for a few Pro Tours to go abroad to various Pro Tours, winning here could mean much more flying in his future. He said before the match, after this great weekend, "All that's left is winning the Pro Tour."

Chicagoan Stephen Berrios seemed a little more blasé, but he was pumped. A bit precocious and more aggressive in his younger days, Berrios has become much more focused. Berrios is a man so regimented that he purposely limits his Magic intake specifically to make sure he doesn't burn out on the game. After each Pro Tour, he stops playing for the next month to recoup. This methodical, pragmatic approach to the game could make him appear even tempered, but his eyebrow flares, and mouth sputters betray his emotion and that anxiousness from years ago.

The match-up can be a very swingy one. Both decks rely on engine-like cards to start doing their unfair things. If Berrios can get his little artifacts going, with an Ensoul Artifact and a Shrapnel Blast early enough, he can scoop the win right out from under Jackson. As Jackson's deck requires that the first turns are spent accelerating his mana, fast assaults from the skies is a weak point.


Stephen Berrios found a regimen that allowed him to maximize his enjoyment of the game. His opponent this round is Australia's Paul Jackson, who sought to improve his already stellar weekend.

But on the other side, if Berrios gives the mana ramp too much time, Dragonlord Atarka will obliterate any potential offense and let Jackson cruise to a win with a board full of green dudes.

The Games

Though Jackson kept his opening seven, Berrios had to take a mulligan, shipping his Vancouver Mulligan scry to the bottom. He wasn't happy with his six cards, but knew it was probably best to keep it, rather than going down to five. His start was slower than he wanted. He sat despondently with his head resting on his hand, and silently chewing his gum. He had a Phyrexian Revoker equipped with a Ghostfire Blade, but it wasn't holding a candle to Jackson's explosive beginnings.

Jackson used multiple Rattleclaw Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, to ramp into Xenagos, the Reveler—which, of course begat more ramping with Courser of Kruphix and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. This would be a hard wall to penetrate. Especially for someone stuck on two lands. This game looked like it had been decided in the first three turns, even though it might take a little longer to actually close it out.

"A day late and a dollar short," Berrios remarked as he drew his third land. He kept playing out the game, but his heart wasn't quite in it. Looking across the table at the veritable Big Green Monster of ramp creatures, he knew it was only a matter of time before he got blown out completely.


Berrios's deck is explosive, but it still needs the right combination of lands and spells to put on the early pressure.

After Dragonlord Atarka's appearance, Berrios shook his head and picked up his cards.

"I'm going to try playing again; we'll see how it works out this time," Berrios said as he shuffled up for the second game.

All of Jackson's Whisperwood Elementals came out for Jackson, streamlining his deck for the match-up. The slow inevitability of the 4/4 wasn't going to help against Berrios's Thopters; he needed something more immediately impactful.

In the second game, it was Jackson who became frustrated early. Berrios had a turn two 5/5 with flying and pseudo-haste, thanks to the combination of Ornithopter and Ensoul Artifact. As too many players this weekend found out, if you don't answer that threat immediately, it will kill you. The Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact deck wasn't the closest kept secret, but many were still caught unaware.

Jackson went backwards in his chair, and like Berrios in the first game, just did the best he could. He cast some mana ramp and even got down a Xenagos, the Reveler. But after taking Jackson to 5 life on the next attack step, Berrios cast a Shrapnel Blast taking the final 5 for the win.

Just as quickly as he was knocked down, Berrios got a rebound swing in.

"Well, we got that draw out of the way," Jackson laughed.

"Turn four kill? I'll take it."

The two shuffled up and hoped for a more even final game. Both decks showed off their grandiose capabilities in the first two games—netting lopsided victories each time—and both players said that a more even-handed last game would be nice.


From Perth, Australia, Jackson will be going to many more Pro Tours thanks to hitting Gold in the Pro Tour Players Club.

The even-handedness began when both players went to six cards, then both players shipped their Vancouver scry to the bottom of their decks. But mulligans likely favored the Aussie, as his deck was built of more consistent parts.

However, it looked like the mulligan had been kind to the American, as Berrios dropped much of his hand on the first turn—looking like the Modern Affinity deck. But the next turn showed his hand lacked the power to back it up. Two 0/2 Ornithopter and a Springleaf Drum aren't going to close a game without help, and help was nowhere to be seen.

Jackson's deck did exactly what it's done throughout the weekend, ramping into an early Xenagos, ramping more, and then hoping for the big guys. On the next few turns the Chicagoan dropped the rest of his hand on the battlefield—but by this time, he had drawn into some help in the form of two Shrapnel Blast.

"All right, attack step," Berrios finally said, showcasing more interactivity than the first two games combined. The players traded off some creatures as Berrios tried to kill the Xenagos, finishing off the Planeswalker with a Shrapnel Blast before passing the turn.

Though Jackson had a back-up copy, Berrios net a Ghostfire Blade on his draw step and swung away sending the second one to the bin as well.

But Jackson wasn't finished. He cast Genesis Hydra for four, hoping for the best.

"Brick brick brick brick brick," Berrios chanted. But Jackson didn't brick. Berrios sighed. "A third Xenegos." Berrios untapped. "So the last card [in your hand] is Atarka?"

Jackson was coy. "Well, I mean, it makes sense." Though Berrios had been looking in strong shape considering the mulligan, three Xenagos, the Reveler put a strong damper on his assault.

Berrios struggled to find a way out if it the last card was indeed the big daddy dragon. Jackson was still at 17 life, because his opponent had to spend so much time going to the multicolor Planeswalker. If it was the dragon, the game was all but lost for Berrios. But was it even the dragon? If it wasn't, Jackson was all ramp and no payoff, and Berrios would have the chance to fly over in the air and get himself back in the game.

The next turn we found out that Jackson wasn't bluffing, and even did us one better in the process. He cast Polukranos, World Eater first, then added seven mana with a Xenagos, the Reveler to cast the last-card Dragonlord Atarka.

Berrios could see it was over. He gave the turn back to Jackson who started doing the classic Devotion Morse code—tapping the potential mana out on the table with his fingers. The rapping sound denoting each mana that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx would add.

"So you have sixteen mana floating?" Berrios asked almost in jest, as his opponent put a very large monstrosity trigger on the stack, targetting most of the remaining artifact creatures. "There's basically no way I can win this game."

He was right, but that didn't stop him from playing optimally, looking for any potential out. It wasn't enough, and Berrios dropped too low on the attack.

Jackson just kept turning all his creatures sideways, and the green beats advanced Perth resident Paul Jackson to the Pro Tour Magic Origins semifinals.

Paul Jackson defeats Stephen Berrios 2-1 and advances to the semifinals!

Stephen Berrios's Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Paul Jackson's Green-red Devotion - Pro Tour Magic Origins

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