Quarterfinals: Steve Rubin (Green-White Tokens) vs (23) Brad Nelson (Red-Green Goggle Ramp)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 24, 2016

By Josh Bennett

When you make a Pro Tour Sunday, you get about twelve hours to bask in the glory of your accomplishment before it's time to see what you can make of the opportunity. The past is prologue.

For the 23rd Ranked Brad Nelson, this Pro Tour Top 8 is the vindication of years of hard work. After his meteoric rise to the Player of the Year title in 2010, he saw his sophomore slump stretch out into a real drought. No longer able to rely solely on his talents to carry him, Nelson rededicated himself to the game, and worked to become a more complete player. He bounced from team to team, looking for the group that would push him to improve. He founded it in Team EUreka. This weekend he is playing their Red-Green Goggle Ramp deck.

Steve Rubin has been the Pro Tour's best-kept secret for over a year. With no fanfare, he stacked up quality finishes and wound up in the Platinum club. In fact, it wasn't until this weekend that he enjoyed his first Pro Tour feature match! The cat's out of the bag now. Working alongside Team Face-to-Face Games with the likes of Player of the Year Mike Sigrist, he came to this event armed with their Green-White Tokens deck.

Brad Nelson and Steve Rubin, friends and former teammates of Blitz, now faced off against each other on different teams in this Pro Tour quarterfinals.

The Games

Rubin had gone to six cards for the opening game. He led out with a pair of Thraben Inspectors, while Nelson dug with Magmatic Insight. Rubin added Nissa, Voice of Zendikar to the board and made a Plant, but lost all his creatures to Kozilek's Return. He was a little tight on mana, and the two passed a couple of turns where Nelson hit his land drops and Rubin upped Nissa's loyalty making Plants.

Nelson played his sixth land and passed without action. Rubin brought out Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and made a Knight and a plant. Before he could grow his army further, Nelson set him back with World Breaker, triggering the Kozilek's Return in his graveyard. However, Rubin was ready for this eventuality. He untapped, made Gideon into a creature, gave him a +1/+1 counter from Nissa, and then played Dromoka's Command, fighting away the World Breaker. He hit Nelson to 10.

Nelson had no play. Gideon crashed in again. Nelson took it, and regrew his World Breaker in hopes that it would buy him the time to get him out of this jam. He played it and passed back, but Rubin was holding a second Dromoka's Command to clear a path for a lethal attack.

Steve Rubin quietly made a name for himself last year, and he's cementing his name in this Pro Tour.

It was another slow start in Game 2. Nelson churned through his deck with Magmatic Insight and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Rubin got on the board with Sylvan Advocate, and Nelson played Nissa's Pilgrimage with spell mastery. Rubin added Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and her plant friend, then hit for two. Nelson tapped five for Pyromancer's Goggles and doubled a Fiery Impulse, leaving just the Planeswalker.

Rubin got the rebuilding process started with a 2/2 Hangarback Walker and another Plant from Nissa. Nelson passed a turn on six lands. Rubin hit for 2, got another Plant, and played Westvale Abbey to give him even more inevitability. Nelson had four cards in hand, but still made no play. Rubin hit again and passed.

Finally, Nelson found action: Dragonlord Atarka. He played it and aimed to gun down all of Rubin's Plants. Rubin flashed in Archangel Avacyn, but Nelson mitigated the damage with a surged Fall of the Titans for two, copied, to kill of the angel and two of the plants before her invulnerability blessing could apply.

Rubin untapped. He considered his options, then charged up his Walker, and distributed some counters with Nissa. Nelson drew four with a copied Magmatic Insight, but could only hit for 8 and play a Hedron Archive. Rubin played an eighth land, letting him use Dromoka's Command to throw his Hangarback Walker at Atarka, getting five Thopters for his trouble. Nelson cracked his Hedron Archive in desperation, but came up empty. The Thopters were immediately fed to Westvale Abbey, which transformed into Ormendahl, Profane Prince, and savaged Nelson's life total. Nelson tried to hold on for one more turn, but Stasis Snare took Atarka off the board and cleared the path for the demon.

Nelson trudges along in a match-up that has not proven to be easy.

Rubin had the early pressure in Game 3, starting with Thraben Inspector into Hangarback Walker, forcing an early Kozilek's Return from Nelson. Next up was Nissa and her plant while Nelson played his fourth land and passed. Rubin tapped four for a second Hangarback Walker, and went to grow his team with Nissa. Nelson responded with Draconic Roar on the Walker, then a surged Fall of the Titans to kill off two tokens. It took the sting off, but Rubin was still in the driver's seat.

Nelson played out Pyromancer's Goggles and passed. Rubin just attacked and made a plant token. Nelson was short on action to take advantage. He played Nissa's Pilgrimage and passed. Rubin considered a few options before deciding to wait on his mana, instead just hitting for four and getting yet another Plant token.

Nelson clearly didn't care for his options. After some deliberation, he tapped seven for World Breaker, triggering his Kozilek's Return. Rubin's response was as expected as it was disheartening: Archangel Avacyn. A Declaration in Stone exiled the World Breaker, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar showed up to help. With his emblem and Nissa's Counters, Rubin's army charged to victory

Nelson congratulated Rubin on his victory and headed off. I asked Rubin if the match-up was as lopsided as it appeared. "It's not quite that bad, but it was definitely a bad draw for him to run into me," he said. Interestingly, Nelson had called out Face-To-Face's Green-White Tokens deck as a threat when I asked him about the state of Standard on Day 2. In this case, being right is cold comfort.

Steve Rubin defeats Brad Nelson 3-0 and advances to the semifinals!


Brad Nelson: Goggles Ramp

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Steve Rubin: Green-White Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

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