Adam Cai entered the Semifinals in his second StarCityGames.com Open Top 8 in as many days. After earning a spot in the single elimination rounds playing Standard, he returned and repeated with a second run on Sunday. Zack Strait hadn't been so fortunate Saturday, but his Vengevine Survival deck had served him well on Sunday.
Winning the die roll Adam opened on Mother of Runes. He followed that up with Tarmogoyf, his green-white Survival deck one of two in the Top 8. Strait cast his first spell of the game in the form of Survival of the Fittest. The powerful enchantment defined both player's decks, and had been one of the most popular cards in the Top 8 in Nashville.
A Qasali Pridemage from Adam was stopped with Daze giving Zack time to work with his Survival. Cai continued working the red zone with his Tarmogoyf, leaving Mother of Runes back to protect his threat or potentially provide a permanent blocker. A second Tarmogoyf joined Adam's team, and Zack pulled the trigger on his Survival. He pitched a Vengevine to fetch up a second copy, then discarded that one to find a Wonder during his opponent's end of turn.
"Is that enough?" Adam asked his opponent, looking at his life total.
"It's 16," Zack replied, and Adam conceded.
Zack Strait 1, Adam Cai 0
"I didn't have the Wonder in my graveyard," Strait said as they moved to their sideboards for the second game. Cai thought back to the situation and realized he could have blocked with his opponent's team not having evasion. At one point during Zack's Survival activations he had tutored for the 2/2, but had never been able to get it to the graveyard. Nonetheless, Adam reasoned, he was unlikely to get out from underneath his opponent's massive card advantage from Survival.
Tarmogoyf on the second turn was again how Adam Cai kicked the game off for the second. Unlike the first, however, his opponent had a Daze to counter the powerful green creature. That did set Strait back on mana, however, and when Adam tried a second copy of Tarmogoyf on the next turn Strait had to counter with Force of Will.
Wild Mongrel made its way to the battlefield for Zack, the first creature to successfully resolve on the table. Confident he had cleared his opponent's hand of counters, Adam cast Survival of the Fittest. The enchantment resolved, and he followed it up with Ethersworn Canonist. Zack discarded a Basking Rootwalla to pump his Wild Mongrel, then attacked on his turn. The combat step left Cai at 14 after a series of pumps were said and done, and Adam untapped with an active Survival and creatures in his hand.
Rather than attempt to go off, however, he simply cast a Noble Hierarch and passed the turn. Zack continued pressuring in the red zone, dropping his opponent to 8 and adding an extra Basking Rootwalla to the battlefield. Adam discarded a Vengevine to his Survival, hunting up a second copy and pitching that as well.
On his turn, Adam stocked his graveyard full of Vengevines, then used a Basking Rootwalla and a second Ethersworn Canonist to return them to the battlefield. His opponent didn't have anything to stop the play and Cai got into the red zone for the first time with all three of his Vengevines.
Zack tried to fight through by casting a Memnite and Wild Mongrel on his turn, but his army wasn't big enough to contain his opponent's and the players were soon on to the third game.
Zack Strait 1, Adam Cai 1
Both players had to take a mulligan for the third game, but Adam wasted no time in running out a Survival of the Fittest on his second turn. Zack was ready with a Force of Will, then used Wasteland on his turn to blow up his opponent's Savannah. Meanwhile across the table Zack was able to resolve his own Survival and began using it to hunt up Vengevines.
Cai tried a second effort at Survival of the Fittest and was pleased to see it resolve. What he didn't have, however, was extra mana to start using it right away. Instead he watched as his opponent went through the motions of returning four Vengevines from his graveyard to the battlefield via Survival and a Basking Rootwalla/Memnite combo. The combat step left Adam at 4 and he was a long shot to pull out of it. He drew for the turn and went into the tank.
"Draw a Fog?" His opponent needled him.
After considering his options Cai accepted the fact he was dead and conceded.
Zack Strait 2, Adam Cai 1