Semifinals: Shaheen Soorani vs. Ross Merriam
After a marathon mirror match, Shaheen was looking forward to a fast-paced match against Ross, who was playing Elves. That said, he knew Elves had the potential to come out of the gates faster than he could handle.
Underground+Sea, Shaheen cast Inquisition+of+Kozilek on turn 1. “I had the turn 1 win,” Ross joked, revealing Bayou, Quirion+Ranger, Heritage+Druid, Llanowar+Elves, Glimpse+of+Nature, Nettle+Sentinel, and Natural+Order. No turn 1, of course... but not bad!
Debating over the possibility of Llanowar or Ranger, he decided on the former and to chance Ross performing a small burst play on turn 2 or 3. Nettle+Sentinel started things for Ross, while Shaheen cast Brainstorm prior to playing Scrubland and ending the turn. Sentinel knocked him to 17, and Ross played Dryad+Arbor and Deathrite+Shaman, revealing the cards he’d drawn over the last two turns.
Snapcaster+Mage for Inquisition revealed the four cards Shaheen still knew, and this time he took Glimpse+of+Nature. Ross was fine with that; he could Natural+Order for a kill this turn, and only had to sweat Force+of+Will. Heritage+Druid untapped Nettle+Sentinel then made three mana, Quirion+Ranger following with two floating. That “untapped” Bayou by bouncing it and also readied Deathrite+Shaman before Natural+Order turned Heritage+Druid into Craterhoof+Behemoth.
“I didn’t think you’d go for it,” Shaheen admitted. “I thought you had enough pressure on the board that you’d just draw some cards,” he said, referring to the potential for Regal+Force. “Not go for it?” Ross asked, laughing. “You do not know who I am!”
Ross 1, Shaheen 0
A keep for Shaheen and a mulligan for Ross. Underground+Sea and Inquisition+of+Kozilek snapped off Heritage+Druid, leaving Ross on two duals, Natural+Order, and two Wirewood+Symbiotes. One resolved, and Ross ended his first turn. Shaheen fetched Tundra and cast Stoneforge+Mystic to get Umezawa’s Jitte, his best threat against Elves.
Casting a second Symbiote, Ross passed he turn. He needed to find an Elf in his next draw step, or that Jitte would be coming online and putting this game beyond his reach in a hurry. Shaheen Pondered, shuffling the top three cards away in search of more. Afterward, he played a land and ended the turn.
Deathrite+Shaman was one of the better Elves he could draw, but Shaheen was prepared. He Forged in the Jitte, then untapped and used Swords to bounce Deathrite+Shaman, attacking with Stoneforge+Mystic and trading the Mystic plus a Jitte counter for both Symbiotes. Ross had drawn his Viridian+Shaman, however, and destroyed the legendary equipment once he found a third land!
Shaheen burned Swords+to+Plowshares on the Shaman and then cast Brainstorm, knowing Ross had access to Natural+Order if he had a fourth land. Instead, Ross played another Symbiote and his Deathrite+Shaman. Shaheen had the trump, however—Jace%2C+the+Mind+Sculptor bounced Deathrite+Shaman.
Ross recast it and added Llanowar+Elves to the board prior to attacking Jace for a point of damage. Fetching for his fifth land, Shaheen was back down to 20 life with Jace in play on one loyalty. He cast Supreme+Verdict and Ross bounced the Shaman, but Inquisition+of+Kozilek discarded it before Ross could recast it, revealing two Natural+Orders.
Elvish+Visionary into Wirewood+Symbiote number four was an ideal runner-runner for Ross, putting him back into the game from a single draw step. “Not bad,” he admitted. Shaheen used Jace to brainstorm, and followed up with Intuition for three copies of Lingering+Souls. He flashbacked one of them for a pair of Spirits, defending his Jace.
Ross dropped Visionary again after bouncing it during the end step, and played Quirion+Ranger then Gaea’s Cradle to draw another card with the Visionary and Symbiote. Shaheen earned himself another brainstorm, and attacked for 2 before casting Supreme+Verdict. Ross bounced the Visionary, but Shaheen made two more Spirits and appeared to be in a commanding position from here.
Glimpse+of+Nature from Ross met Force+of+Will, and Elvish+Visionary failed to draw him any gas on its own. With all four Symbiotes gone, Ross would be leaning heavily on those Natural+Orders. He cast Natural+Order, sacrificing Visionary, but Shaheen hardcast Force+of+Will to stop him. Thoughtseize took care of the last one, and all Ross had was a handful of Gaea’s Cradles and Dryad+Arbor, as Stoneforge+Mystic searched for Batterskull.
A few more turns of this, and Ross was ready for game 3. A last-ditch effort to use Quirion+Ranger to turn Dryad+Arbor into a blocker was stymied when Shaheen shifted the Batterskull onto a Spirit token, soaring to victory.
Shaheen's discard spells weren't always effective...
Ross 1, Shaheen 1
Bayou into Nettle+Sentinel got the beats going on the Elves side, while Shaheen failed to play a turn 1 discard spell for the first time. Ross followed up his attack with Elvish+Visionary to untap the Sentinel and draw a card. Shaheen had just Swords on turn 2 for the Sentinel, taking 1 damage from Visionary before Wirewood+Symbiote perhaps made him regret his choice of target.
Deathrite+Shaman followed, and now Shaheen was in a bind. All three creatures were very good against him here, and Shaheen had to Snapcaster+Mage Swords to kill the Symbiote on his own turn. Ross bounced the Visionary, then replayed it on his turn. Fetching, Ross found Bayou and Nettle+Sentinel.
Shaheen had made it to turn four, but found himself Brainstorming rather than casting Jace or Verdict. He played a fourth land, and passed. “Snapcaster Mage is diesel against your army,” Shaheen threatened, intent on blocking, but Ross didn’t really need to attack unless he wanted to. Birchlore+Rangers led Ross into Natural+Order, but Force+of+Will pitching Force countered that play.
Shaheen did trade with Sentinel, and Ross squeezed in a point via Elvish+Visionary afterward. Now Supreme+Verdict mopped things up, but Ross had some gas in the tank. Qasali+Pridemage and Fyndhorn+Elves gave him a new offense, while Shaheen tapped out to Lingering+Souls and flashback.
Ross tried to Natural+Order again, but Shaheen pitched his Ponder to Force again, protecting himself from Craterhoof Behmoth. Behind 14 to 21, he debated how to distribute his Spirit attacks before casting Stoneforge+Mystic for Batterskull. In the end, he attacked with two. Ross drew, played Visionary, and ended the turn after finding a third Natural+Order.
Shaheen attacked for 4 damage to put Ross on 15, and shipped with Batterskull ready to come in. Ross cast his third Natural+Order, sacrificing a Dryad+Arbor he fetched up, and Shaheen replied with Intuition. He grabbed Snapcaster+Mage, Perish, and Supreme+Verdict, receiving the latter—the fact that Shaheen cast Intuition before allowing the Order to resolve seemed to indicate he was making a bait play, to influence the search Ross made.
Ross did go for the Craterhoof, getting through 12 damage as Batterskull chumped to absorb a total of 8 damage thanks to lifelink. Verdict cleared the board, and Shaheen passed to Ross, who passed right back. Stoneforge+Mystic landed to grab Jitte, and cast another Mystic for no value. Ross just made a land drop, ending the turn.
Shaheen put Batterskull onto one Mystic and swung. That gave Ross a single draw step, and he failed to find anything of merit.
Ross Merriam took it to the house with Craterhoof+Behemoth in game 1.
Ross 1, Shaheen 2
Ross kicked things off with Deathrite+Shaman, losing a second copy of the 1/2 when Shaheen cast Inquisition+of+Kozilek on turn 1. Fyndhorn+Elves joined the Shaman for Ross, and the Shaman exiled Inquisition. Brainstorming, Shaheen shuffled away two of the cards with a fetchland before searching up Scrubland and Thoughtseizing.
Revealing Glimpse, Craterhoof, and Birchlore+Rangers, Shaheen binned the Glimpse. On 15, he ended the turn. Ross drew the worst card he could draw—his second Craterhoof+Behemoth. He swung Shaheen to 14 with the Fyndhorn and passed, holding onto his Birchlore+Rangers and leaning on Shaman for most of his pressure.
Exiling Brainstorm in Shaheen’s end step after a Ponder, Ross untapped and attacked again. Quirion+Ranger let Ross double up his Shaman activations, using it on his turn before replaying Bayou to untap Shaman. Fortunately for Shaheen, he had Supreme+Verdict to mop up all that nonsense, even as he fell to 7 life.
Ross cast Elvish+Visionary to recoup a card, while Shaheen simply Brainstormed and passed—he was locked up, and likely sitting on removal. Swords+to+Plowshares proved that accurate when Ross fetched for Dryad+Arbor, and now he committed his Birchlore to the field after attacking Shaheen to 6.
Snapcaster+Mage for Swords slew the Rangers, and Ross played a land prior to passing the turn back afterward. He had those two Behemoths still sitting in his grip, and badly needed to peel Symbiote or Zenith in short order. The more time he gave Shaheen, the greater the risk of him assuming total control with Jace or an active piece of equipment.
He cast Natural+Order after drawing a land, sacrificing Visionary—Shaheen Forced, pitching Jace and revealing his issue had been a lack of double blue rather than strong spells. He cast another Jace after draw a fetchland, and brainstormed. Shaheen followed up with an attack from Snapcaster+Mage, and ended the turn.
Ross cast Zenith for two, and Shaheen nodded as Elvish+Visionary joined the party once again. Stoneforge+Mystic for Jitte was exactly what the doctor ordered on the next turn, and Shaheen complicated things with an end step Intuition after Ross passed the turn, finding Perish, Snapcaster+Mage, Snapcaster+Mage.
Debating the dangers of Snapcaster+Mage, Ross gave Shaheen the Perish—at least he knew what would happen there. Meanwhile, Shaheen cast the Jitte and equipped to Mystic, attacking for 1 damage and gaining two counters. He used one on the Visionary immediately, then brainstormed and ended his turn.
Ross had to try Viridian+Shaman here, and Shaheen responded by fetching for Tundra and casting Counterspell. Now the Jitte was active... Shaheen swung for 3 damage and earned three more counters, putting Ross to 12 life before Stoneforging for Batterskull after combat. Ross drew and passed, his hand filled with Behemoths and creatures that were already dead.
Doing some quick math, Shaheen Brainstormed in the end step, finding the seventh land he needed to create a lethal attack on the next turn thanks to Batterskull.
Ross 1, Shaheen 3