Semifinals: Brian Braun-Duin vs. Brad Nelson
Brian knew going into the Top 8 that he might have to play three Sneak and Show mirrors in order to win this event, and Brad’s quarterfinal victory had guaranteed their semifinal showdown.
Brad had the play and started with a pair of Islands, while Brian had Volcanic Island into Brainstorm before playing his second land, a Scalding Tarn. Brad played Ancient Tomb before casting Ponder, clearly offering Brian no freebies on Spell Pierce, and hit solid gold—a pair of Sneak Attacks to go with his already stacked hand.
Fetching, Brian grabbed another Volcanic Island and drew for turn. Playing Lotus Petal and a third land, Brian passed. Brad could play Sneak Attack this turn, but he couldn’t activate without another Lotus Petal. Brainstorming, he found one and a Force of Will... but no blue card to pair with his hard counter. He played both Petals and passed, enough mana available to hardcast Force of Will.
Brian drew and passed on four mana, and both players were now officially engaged in a staring contest. Brad decided to make a move, casting Sneak Attack with Petal and Island available and a second copy of the enchantment in his hand—he couldn’t fight when Brian Forced, pitching Show and Tell.
Brainstorming, Brian hoped to slam Brad with a haymaker of his own, but passed the turn instead. Brad sent turn back as well, neither player willing to pull the trigger. Their kingdoms for a Gitaxian Probe! After the Brainstorm, Brian used Brad’s end step to Intuition for three Show and Tells, clearly representing Sneak Attack into Emrakul.
Untapping, Brian cast the Show and Tell—he put in his enchantment, Brad put in his own, and then Brad lost all of his permanents to a hasty Emrakul.
Brian 1, Brad 0
Brad paid 2 life to Probe Brian, seeing Probe, Spell Pierce, Lotus Petal, Griselbrand, Ancient Tomb, and some normal lands. Following with a fetchland, Brad searched for Volcanic Island and cast Ponder.
Brian’s own Probe revealed Sneak Attack, Emrakul, Force of Will, Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, and Island—a much more potent hand. Brian only had Spell Pierce to defend himself, and Brad could play through that with his available cards or draw Lotus Petal and do so a turn faster.
Brainstorming in the end step, Brad found another Gitaxian Probe and a fetchland—he’d be able to jam Sneak Attack this turn with Force of Will backup assuming that the coast was still clear. Indeed, Brian had drawn Force of Will but had only Spell Pierce for a blue card, so Brad fetched up Volcanic Island and cast Sneak Attack, pitching Brainstorm to resolve it with his Force of Will when Brian Pierced.
Losing all of his permanents when Brad attacked with Emrakul, Brian went to 3 life with a few lands left in hand to potentially help him rebuild from this position if Brad failed to find a creature in time.
A second Emrakul sealed the deal.
Brian 1, Brad 1
Brian took the draw for game 3, an unorthodox maneuver in Legacy. When he found himself mulliganing to six and then five, he knew he’d need the extra card more than ever. Brad started with Island and turn 1 Ponder, considering the three cards before keeping them. Brian probed him on turn 1 to see Swan Song, Ponder, Spell Pierce, Brainstorm, Griselbrand, and City of Traitors—a very stern hand in the mirror!
Burning another Probe, Brian played Lotus Petal and then broke it for Ponder—he had kept a hand with no colored mana sources, but successfully dug to Volcanic Island with the cantrip. Brad played Tarn and passed, while Brian revealed he had no second land at all. He Red Elemental Blasted Brad’s attempt at Brainstorm, but had no reply for the Ponder that followed as Brad continued making land drops and pulling ahead.
On turn 4, Brad went for Sneak Attack with an Island untapped thanks to City of Traitors. He countered Force of Will with Swan Song, and resolved the enchantment before ending his turn. Brian went beats with the Bird, but Brad put in Griselbrand and then drew fourteen cards but couldn’t find an Emrakul—he had to wait until the following turn to finish the job.
Brian 1, Brad 2
Keeps around with Brian still on the draw, and Brad led a fetch for Volcanic Island and cast Ponder. Brian’s Probe spied Ponder, Spell Pierce, Sneak Attack, Griselbrand, and lands, with Brad’s hand a little slow but holding all the pieces he needed for a successful kill. Not what Brian wanted to see with his back against the wall!
Pondering, Brian passed back to Brad, who cast his own Ponder and played a fetchland. Brian played Polluted Delta and passed, Brad fetching Volcanic Island and using Ancient Tomb to jam Sneak Attack on turn 3. He had a redundant copy and could afford to lose this war—he’d be fighting again next turn, and with more Force!
Brian Spell Pierced and fetched Volcanic Island, then untapped and Brainstormed. Casting Lotus Petal, he passed back to Brad. Adding Ancient Tomb to the battlefield, Brad debated on the ramifications of jamming his Sneak Attack this turn. He took 4 damage and went for it with Volcanic Island untapped and either Force of Will or Spell Pierce to defend it—but not both. He had two available mana, so Spell Pierce would buy Brian the turn if he another hard counter.
Beginning with the Pierce, Brad paid it instantly. Brian tanked then, and Brainstormed... before untapping and busting Emrakul Through the Breach into Brad’s face.
Brian 2, Brad 2
Brad started the fifth game off with a bang—Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, City of Traitors, Sneak Attack! Brian tanked for a few moments before dropping Force of Will, exiling Spell Pierce and sending Brad back to the stone age. He lost his City in order to play Volcanic Island on the next turn, while Brian got way ahead on mana.
Sticking Sneak Attack, Brian revealed he was short on creatures when the next turn did not involve Brad’s death. He just passed with the enchantment available, using Red Elemental Blast to thwart an attempt at Intuition on Brad’s end. Brad Pondered to look for another combo enabler, sitting on Griselbrand and Lotus Petal, but had to shuffle the deck. He drew another Ponder, but Brian Spell Pierced that one.
Draw, go continued for a couple turns until Probe revealed that Brian had another Sneak Attack, Force of Will, and Through the Breach. He was actually vulnerable... until he drew a Lotus Petal to now enable hardcast Force of Will. Draw, go resumed... When Brian cast Ponder, Brad hardcast Force of Will—Ponder was the difference-maker in this topdeck war!
Fetching Volcanic Island, Brian hardcast his own Force of Will to get that Ponder through. It didn’t turn up a creature, though Brian kept the cards on top. Brad Probed in hopes of hitting a fatal Sneak Attack off the top, with Brian’s defenses down... but he drew Red Elemental Blast. He put it to good use on the Intuition that Brian had kept on top of the deck, prompting a Brainstorm in reply from Brian to try and get a creature or Swan Song.
Missing both, he at least hit fetchland to avoid getting Brainstorm-locked. Pondering, Brian immediately shuffled. “Sometimes, you brick off a million times...” He hit Brainstorm and drew three more, followed by Ponder and shuffle—this was getting absurd!
The random draw step missed, and it was back to Brad. He failed to hit his five-outer and Brian countered the Brainstorm he drew on the next turn with Red Elemental Blast. When Brian missed one more time, Brad topdecked Sneak Attack... and that was enough to lock up the game.
Brian 2, Brad 3