Ben Swartz had put together a strong start in the Invitational but both he and Jim Davis found themselves fighting for Top 8 contention in the later rounds. Jim had feared a pairing against Ben's Legacy Dredge deck when he found out they shared a bracket but dodging him until Standard suited Jim just fine. Ben's Exarch-Twin list was a reasonable pairing for Jim's Darkblade.
Ben barely glanced at his first hand before opting to mulligan while Jim's wasn't perfect but had a lot of play on the draw. “The exact same hand with one less card” Ben sighed sending his six back as well before standing on five. Island for Ben saw Arid Mesa from Jim and the game was underfoot.
Adding Scalding Tarn to the field Ben ended his turn but Jim cracked his Arid Mesa during the end step for a Plains. He drew Marsh Flats which he popped for a Swamp prior to casting Stoneforge Mystic which resolved to find a Batterskull although he heavily considered Sword of Feast and Famine. Jim knew Ben was on Deceiver Exarch but many Stoneforge players had different opinions on how to fight the matchup.
An Island and a pass of the turn for Ben appeared unfortunate but he wasn't doing so bad. Jim found Darkslick Shores atop the deck casting a Preordain and then a Duress—forgoing his ability to land Batterskull this turn in order to strip one of two Into the Roil from Ben's hand and spot Deceiver plus Scalding Tarn.
Ben did play Deceiver Exarch during the end step but he failed to find Splinter Twin on top—just Jace Beleren which began to draw up a storm before he played Scalding Tarn. Jim ended the turn after a tapped Seachrome Coast passing to Ben's Jace.
He drew played Mountain and ended the turn with three cards in his hand as Jim dropped down the Batterskull during Ben's end step. Into the Roil with kicker bounced Batterskull rather than the Germ token and kept Jace safe from the attack. A second Stoneforge after combat searched for Sword of Feast and Famine and Jim ended the turn with three mana up and a Mystic untapped.
Ben 1 Jim 0
Jim took the play in the second game and decided to keep but Ben's hand was real heavy on lands and he couldn't see his lone Preordain doing a whole lot. “Worked fine for you last game” Jim noted. Creeping Tar Pit met Scalding Tarn over the first two turns and Jim started the second with Inquisition of Kozilek and Creeping Tar Pit. He took Jace Beleren from a hand featuring two Mana Leaks and Jace the Mind Sculptor alongside a pair of Mountains choosing not to gamble on mana screw. Ben just dropped a Mountain on the second turn.
An Arid Mesa and Preordain put Jim's development on schedule but a second Preordain was required to find a keeper—he passed with just the Mesa untapped. Ben played a second Mountain rather than the Island he'd drawn keeping his mana situation concealed from Jim—maybe Jim would assume he couldn't cast Jace and tap out.
It didn't work out that way as Jim played a third Tar Pit and ended his turn. Checking the coast Ben paid 2 life for Gitaxian Probe to see Squadron Hawk Go for the Throat Spell Pierce Batterskull and a pair of lands before ending his turn with an Island.
Searching for Plains with Arid Mesa Jim played Glacial Fortress and cast Squadron Hawk to find a trio of Hawks casting the second afterward and passing with just Tar Pit untapped. Ben couldn't seize the opportunity with Deceiver Exarch and ended his fifth turn after playing a third Mountain.
The third Hawk met a Mana Leak from Ben interestingly enough although he fell to 14 and then 13 from Scalding Tarn after the attack. Ben cast Jace the Mind Sculptor without a sixth land using Mental Misstep to counter the Spell Pierce but losing the war to Mana Leak from Jim.
With Ben vulnerable Jim cast Jace the Mind Sculptor to brainstorm and then played Stoneforge Mystic to dig for Sword of Feast and Famine turning up the heat. Ben was forced to trade Jaces on the following turn but it was all for naught.
Jim chuckled as he topdecked a second Mind Sculptor putting this game in very dire shape for Ben. Jim didn't chose to go for Sword of Feast and Famine with Ben on untapped Mountain however instead simply casting Jace the Mind Sculptor before he attacked and leaving open some mana. Ben drew played a sixth land and ended the turn as Jim Stoneforged down the Sword of Feast and Famine.
Untapping Jim brainstormed for cards before equipping the Sword and sending for 5 damage dropping Ben to 4. Ben checked the top card of the deck conceded.
Ben 1 Jim 1
With the play back on his side Ben examined another suboptimal starting hand and mulliganed while Jim stayed pat. On six Ben played an Island and Preordain to keep some cards before ending the turn. Jim's Preordain off Seachrome Coast sent two to the bottom and ended his turn. Just a Mountain for Ben's second turn while Jim played a second Seachrome Coast and Squadron Hawk for a single Bird.
Ben drew and then drew again after paying 2 life for a Probe to see Arid Mesa Swamp Plains Stoneforge Mystic Batterskull and Inquisition of Kozilek in addition to Squadron Hawk. No Exarch during the upkeep was good news for Jim but his Inquisition forced out the Exarch. That fanned a hand of Tectonic Edge Spell Pierce Mana Leak and Splinter Twin—if Ben hit a second red source off the top of the deck it was all over. Spell Pierce hit the graveyard and then Stoneforge entered play for Sword of Feast and Famine before Hawk attacked.
Missing again Ben drew and immediately ended the turn as he struggled to ride out the Sword and find a second red. Jim cast Preordain to dig for counters but found just Duress. It stripped Dispel from ben's hand leaving him on a pair of Splinter Twins and then took one of those when Sword of Feast and Famine landed on his face. A post-combat Go for the Throat for Exarch left Ben drawing all but dead where before he'd been so very close!
Ben drew and passed Stoneforge dropping in Batterskull. Jim untapped and attacked giving Ben one last draw step—he failed to find what he needed.
Ben 1 Jim 2