Quarterfinals: Michael Hetrick vs. Shaheen Soorani
These players know the Invitational top 8 stage all too well, but neither have captured the elusive championship trophy. After this match, one of them will be one step closer to glory. Who will win this Esper Stoneblade mirror match?
Shaheen not only has home field advantage, this being his fourth straight Invitational top 8, but he also had the play game one. He used it to lead off with Tundra, and Michael played an Underground+Sea on his turn. Shaheen went for turn two Stoneforge+Mystic, to which Michael responded with Brainstorm to try to find a Force+of+Will. He failed to do so, and after Shaheen found Batterskull he passed.
“You got a Thoughtseize there, cutie pie?”
Instead, Michael cast Swords+to+Plowshares to prevent the Mystic from doing any more damage by AEther Vialing Batterskull into play too early. Shaheen rebuilt with Brainstorm and fetchland for Underground+Sea (“No Wasteland feels soooo good”) before Ponder further sculpted his hand. Michael played Inquisition+of+Kozilek targeting Shaheen, to which Brainstorm was cast in response. When the Rise of the Eldrazi discard spell resolved, Shaheen revealed a hand of Swords+to+Plowshares times two, Brainstorm, Lingering+Souls, Force+of+Will, and another Sea. Shaheen suggested the flashback spell, but Michael decided Brainstorm was probably a better choice so that hit the bin. Michael also added Stoneforge+Mystic for Batterskull before passing.
Stoneforge turned into a farmer thanks to Swords+to+Plowshares, then passed. Stoneforge number two for Hetrick found Umezawa’s Jitte, and Snapcaster Mage from Shaheen reused Brainstorm at end of turn. He untapped and cast Stoneforge+Mystic himself, and grabbed Batterskull before attacking with Tiago Chan and passing back.
Michael’s Mystic was no longer summoning sick, and with two powerful equipment in hand he was in business. He activated Mystic and put in Batterskull before passing back to Shaheen, who was also the happy recipient of his Stoneforge+Mystic losing summoning sickness. Shaheen’s Swords+to+Plowshares took out Michael’s Stoneforge+Mystic now, maybe a bit late but preventing future Batterskull bounce shenanigans. Shaheen passed after that, but not before Michael fetched and attempted to use Swords to get rid of Shaheen’s Mystic. Shaheen brought his Batterskull to the party as well in response before Stoneforge+Mystic joined the farming bureau.
Michael Hetrick has been here before, and wants the trophy this time.
Michael cast and resolved Umezawa’s Jitte before equipping it to his Germ token. Large virus and Snapcaster blocked the large virus to trade, and Jitte got two counters for its trouble. Stoneforge+Mystic from Shaheen searched out Jitte as well, and after casting it (and Michael going up to 22) the legend rule applied and both copies died. Snapcaster+Mage cast as Ambush+Viper flashed in at e.o.t., and picked up the Batterskull to start dealing six at a time to Shaheen, setting life totals at 32-19. Shaheen cast Lingering+Souls to try to maintain his high life total. Again 6/5 lifelinking vigilance Mage attacked, and this time no blocks put life at 13-38.
A Spirit token picked up Shaheen’s ‘Skull and the lifelink trading game began, though with four bodies attached the Souls has the advantage there. Michael used Preordain the next turn to dig up some answers. He put both cards on the bottom before trading Snapcaster+Mage for Spirit token, and life blasted up to 38-23. Michael cast Stoneforge+Mystic and failed to find a third equipment before passing.
Shaheen searched out another dual land before flashing back Lingering+Souls and equipping the Batterskull to the one that could attack, dropping Michael all the way to a low low 33… okay, maybe not that low.
“Draw a Jace and kill me.”
Preordain had failed to find the Jace Michael was looking for, and his next draw step wasn’t much help either. Thoughtseize took one of Shaheen’s two Force+of+Wills before Michael decided to fetch out basic Island and Preordain again to try to find the planeswalker he so desperately wanted. Shaheen bashed Michael down to 23 (Shaheen at 32) and just passed. But Michael’s Batterskull was reequipped to Stoneforge+Mystic. Life totals bounced back and forth like this for a little while, with Shaheen netting two damage a turn thanks to his extra 1/1s.
Let’s fast forward a bit.
The next major fight came with life totals at 15-27 on Michael’s turn. Michael went for Vindicate on Shaheen’s Batterskull. Shaheen paid three to return it to his hand, and then Michael passed. On Shaheen’s next turn he cast Stoneforge+Mystic (that’s his fourth and the game’s seventh so far) as a summoning sick artifact AEther+Vial before passing right back to Michael (after attacks of course, which left the players at 12-27).
Michael went for Snapcaster+Mage, which Shaheen responded to with Counterspell. Michael hardcast Force+of+Will, which resolved, and then Shaheen flashed back Counterspell with Snapcaster Mage… or he would have had it resolved, since Force+of+Will (removing Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor of all things) countered it. That resolved, and Batterskull was robbed out of Michael’s hand thanks to the flashed back Thoughtseize.
Shaheen blamed grabbing the wrong land with his very first Marsh+Flats, leaving his white mana bottlenecked early. Had he been able to cast Lingering+Souls on turn four or so it would’ve been a much different game. As it was, Shaheen was all in on the Souls plan now, making Spirits four through seven with a cast and flashback. Michael attempted to reequip Batterskull to Snapcaster+Mage, but that too joined the farming community and gained Michael some life. Totals sat at 17 apiece now, but with one of the Batterskulls now dealt with it looked tough.
But Intuition found three Jaces, and that meant Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor landed for Shaheen. He used the 0 ability to Brainstorm and dig his way out, to try to turn this game from a Batterskull fight into a Jace fight, something he has shown he is very adept at. Souls came in with the beats to keep Michael at an honest life total. Michael swung at Jace with his three creatures (Mishra’s Factory included) and Stoneforge chump blocked the 5/6 StoneSkull and Spirit traded with Snapcaster+Mage. Shaheen tried to Swords the Factory, but Force countered it. Shaheen Brainstormed with Jace (now on one loyalty) and hiding behind his wall of Spirits (a full half dozen of them) he passed.
Up went Michael’s life total, but also up went Shaheen’s Jace’s loyalty (after a few turns of the 0 ability to make sure shields were up). Michael returned Batterskull and returned it to the battlefield to be able to attack with three creatures to knock out Jace, but three tokens blocked leaving one Spirit and one Batterskull’d Germ on the battlefield alongside Jace. Shaheen had to dig to find counterspells, using Jace’s Brainstorm, shuffle, Brainstorm.
“There you are. Where you been all my life?”
Vindicate took out Batterskull, finally, for Shaheen. Up ticked Jace, fatesealing Michael. Shaheen needed Michael to whiff for a few turns, backed up by a Counterspell in hand and Jace’s fatesealing ability. Michael found Mishra’s Factory to give Shaheen some fits. He decided to Brainstorm and passed back to Michael.
Could Shaheen pull it out with only 6 in his library now? Shaheen raced his own clock, drawing a card and adding to Jace while also throwing the last Lingering+Souls on the table. All he could hope to do was hope for Jace to get there… but it was not to be, as Michael had built up enough cards in his hand to make sure that Shaheen would deck first even if Jace ultimate.
That was a very long game 1.
Michael 1, Shaheen 0.
In fact one of the other quarterfinal matches was already over by the time sideboarding had gotten under way. Phew!
Shaheen was on the play and kept, while Michael mulliganed. Shaheen was pretty ready for a break already.
“I might have to go to the bathroom.”
“Where’s your water bottle?”
Shaheen led with Scrubland and Inquisition+of+Kozilek, revealing Vindicate, Geist+of+Saint+Traft, Swords+to+Plowshares, Jace, the Mindsculptor, and lands. Shaheen took out the hexproof legend and passed. Michael’s only play was Polluted+Delta, and Cabal+Therapy from Shaheen followed, robbing Michael of Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor and also revealing Snapcaster+Mage. Again, all Michael could do was draw and pass. But Shaheen’s hand disruption wasn’t done yet, and Snapcaster+Mage targeted Inquisition+of+Kozilek. Spell+Pierce took out the Inquisition, but Cabal+Therapy flashed back and took out Michael’s Mage before he could do anything else.
Quite the disruption plan from Shaheen!
“Operation ‘tear your hand apart’ is in effect.”
Shaheen Soorani is facing an equally deft opponent in the mirror.
Michael did not find a third land either to add to the troubles, and when Shaheen cast Stoneforge+Mystic for Batterskull and Michael’s Swords+to+Plowshares was met by Spell+Pierce it looked a lot like this one would be over quick. Michael cast Preordain to dig for a third land and also an answer to the Rise from the Eldrazi Kor Artificer, and after tanking for a bit reordered his cards and passed. Shaheen was in the catbird seat for sure now, and he resolved Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor in order to Brainstorm on his turn.
Michael had Vindicate of course, but with both the current Jace and the follow up Batterskull it was still an Uphill+Battle. Jace got what was coming to him from the Apocalypse rare, but was quickly replaced by another Jace Clone. Jace’s Brainstorm again happened, and Thoughtseize on the stack got Michael to scoop his cards.
Michael 1, Shaheen 1.
“I felt like I was playing against a combo deck there. Ya ya ya ya! That’s the sound I make when I do that to people.”
Okay Shaheen, let’s not get too loopy here.
Michael led the game with Polluted+Delta, while Shaheen played basic Island. End of turn Brainstorm from Michael resolved, and when he untapped he played the second Tundra and cast Stoneforge+Mystic for Batterskull. Shaheen also Brainstormed at end of turn. AJ Sacher would be so proud!
“Hmm, blue-white Stoneblade?”
Shaheen played Flooded+Strand and passed, and when Michael Vialed in Batterskull Disenchant from Shaheen took care of the troublesome artifact. Michael then cast Brainstorm at end of turn as well to search for plan B. He found it in the form of Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor, but Spell+Pierce killed that action. Glacial+Fortress joined Shaheen’s side, as did Stoneforge+Mystic. Michael wasn’t done yet though, casting Preordain and Swords+to+Plowshares on the Stoneforge+Mystic. Michael got fancy, activating Mishra’s Factory and attacking for three to set life totals at 19-15 in favor of Michael.
Michael attempted Inquisition+of+Kozilek the next time he got a chance, finally finding black mana, but Counterspell prevented that from resolving. After Stoneforge beat Shaheen to 14, Shaheen attempted an end of turn Intuition. Snapcaster+Mage Brainstorm was Michael’s play, and after that failed to find a way to counter the Tempest rare it resolved. When it did, Shaheen searched out Cabal Theray, Cabal+Therapy, and Lingering+Souls. Michael gave Shaheen the Lingering+Souls, and he untapped.
When he did, Inquisition+of+Kozilek revealed Preordain, Snapcaster+Mage, and Lingering+Souls. Shaheen flashed back a Cabal+Therapy, and then all Michael was left with was Lingering+Souls when Shaheen passed. But Michael’s top deck was Umezawa’s Jitte, and he cast and equipt it immediately. In came Stoneforge+Mystic, on came two counters to the Jitte, and out went two Spirit tokens. What a draw step!
Shaheen made some more tokens, two of them to be exact, with another Lingering+Souls and then Vindicate took out the troublesome equipment. Michael’s deck continued to be kind, giving him Geist+of+Saint+Traft. Shaheen cast Batterskull from hand and flashed back Lingering+Souls, raising his army to four creatures and seven power total to try to hold off the Spirit Cleric. And it worked, as Michael’s deck wasn’t kind to him any longer and he had to just pass.
Shaheen, meanwhile, found Phantasmal+Image and legend ruled the Geist on his next turn. This turned up the potency of his attacks, and life totals sat at a basically even 13-14, but Shaheen had the more enviable board state. With both of Michael’s artifacts in his graveyard thanks to Disenchant and Vindicate and one of his Geists gone, all that was left was to cast Jace to try to hold off Shaheen… but Swords+to+Plowshares took out Michael’s lonely blocker and Germ token dealt with the planeswalker better than all in easy fashion.
Michael tried to get out of the hole, casting Brainstorm to dig for answers. He cast Stoneforge+Mystic (getting nothing but a shuffle) to stem the bleeding, but that’s not how you win games. Snapcaster+Mage flashback Ponder for Shaheen stepped on Michael’s neck even more, finding him Jace, the Mind Sculptor.Michael set up Karakas with Geist+of+Saint+Traft to endlessly block, but Shaheen had the legend rule ready in hand yet again. Shaheen crashed into the red zone and dropped Michael to 4, then Lingering+Souls with flashback made a foursome of tokens. After some information gathering with Thoughtseize, Michael scooped up his cards.
Shaheen 2, Michael 1.
Now under the lights, as the other quarterfinal matches had finished and the rest of the top 4 already set with Ross, Gerry, and BBD, the competitors had to fight for the last slot. Hertick started his road back from the 2-1 deficit by leading off with a mulligan… and Shaheen joined along on the trip for two to Paris (mulligan). When they kept their sixes, Michael led with Tundra. Shaheen parried back with Polluted+Delta and Underground+Sea into Inquisition+of+Kozilek. Brainstorm in response elicited a, “blech,” from Shaheen, as Michael hid his more important targets with the Mercadian Masques common from Shaheen’s prying eyes. Michael left Shaheen with not but a Preordain to choose, along with revealing four lands.
Michael did not have Stoneforge+Mystic on top, so Shaheen wasn’t super punished, but turn three he went for Geist+of+Saint+Traft. Counterspell took care of that potential problem, and Michael passed. Shaheen simply played lands until Thoughtseize revealed Batterskull, Swords+to+Plowshares, and Spell+Pierce, and Michael chose the ‘Skull.
Then big papa Jace came to the party.
Right of the top and right on cue for Shaheen, Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor was cast and resolved, much to Team Soorani’s delight. Jace used Brainstorm (it’s super effective) and Shaheen passed. Michael used the opportunity to resolve Batterskull. Germ token 4/4 threatened to ruin Jace’s day, so Shaheen had to scramble if he wanted to keep his best buddy alive (with Michael having Mishra’s Factory among his lands). He used the -1 Unsummon ability on Jace to bounce the token and put Jace in Factory range, but Lingering+Souls with flashback made a fearsome foursome of tokens to stand in Mishra’s path.
Michael did not have a way to force through that.
Shaheen pressed his advantage, attacking for three with his Spirits and dropping Michael to 14. In Michael’s draw step he played Vendilion+Clique to add to his air force, and in response Michael cast Swords+to+Plowshares to leave the legendary Faerie with no legal choices (only Tundra in hand for Michael). Mishra’s Factory was also on the butt end of Swords+to+Plowshares during Michael’s combat step. Not looking good for Team Ship It.
Shaheen cast Intuition in his upkeep and searched out three Snapcaster+Mages, from which Michael chose Snapcaster+Mage. Jace Brainstorm, land drop, firing on all cylinders, Shaheen continued to attack. Michael returned his Batterskull on the end of turn step, and then played Mishra’s Factory for turn before passing. Thoughtseize from Shaheen on the next turn got the scoop from Michael, and that was that for an eventful quarterfinal Esper Stoneblade mirror.
Shaheen 3, Michael 1.