Feature Match Round 8: Ari Lax vs. Phillip Fortner
Among the players piloting Esper Midrange, Ari Lax has begun to distinguish himself. On seven wins, he needed two more to have a shot at drawing for Top 8. Phillip Fortner was in the same position with Zombies, an archetype he has championed for months.
Phillip's Zombies continue to serve him well..
Turn 1 Gitaxian+Probe revealed Tragic+Slip, Fume+Spitter, Diregraf+Ghoul, and Geth’s Verdict alongside three Swamps. Ari followed with Darkslick+Shores and Ponder, immediately keeping the top three cards. Ghouls for Phillip, and Ari started another Darkslick+Shores and passed. Phillip added Fume+Spitter to the board, and Ari Thought Scoured himself before playing Plains and Blade+Splicer. Notable is that Ari milled a Blade+Splicer during the end step, indicating he had plenty of action.
Phillip played his third Swamp and decided to Verdict, which killed the Blade+Splicer, before a Tragic+Slip killed the Golem and he knocked Ari to 12. Lingering+Souls for two Spirits gave Ari more defense, while Phillip still just had little guys. He lost Fume+Spitter to a blocking Spirit and fell to 10, Phillip casting another Ghoul.
Cavern on Giant for Ari put him to five lands, and he played Lingering+Souls and then flashbacked it for five Spirits total. A formidable defense! Those all traded away to the Diregraf+Ghouls except for one, and Phillip cast Gravecrawler afterward. Ari flashbacked Souls, and had Mana+Leak for the Skirsdag High Priest Phillip tried. Attacking with Gravecrawler, he ate a Spirit.
Ari’s two Spirits attacked Phillip to 17, and he played Restoration+Angel and then Phantasmal+Image to copy it, fielding plenty of beatdown now. Phillip tapped out for Phyrexian+Obliterator—big game—and Ari dug with Ponder, finding a keeper. Gideon+Jura! He ticked up, and then attacked for 8 damage to put Phillip on 9.
Phillip played Blood+Artist and attacked Gideon to three loyalty. Ari cracked back for 8 again, and Geth’s Verdict put Ari to 10 and Phillip to 3 after damage, leaving Ari with two Angels and a Spirit. Snapcaster+Mage on Ponder kept, Gideon slew the Obliterator, and Ari passed the turn.
Another Blood+Artist did not secure the game.
Ari 1, Phillip 0
Ari Michael Lax is advancing rapidly through the field!
Beginning game 2 with a mulligan, Phillip sought a strong six against Ari’s kept seven. “I only keep one-landers when I’m up a game,” Phillip admitted. After all, it’s basically a freeroll! Gravecrawler on turn 1 for Phillip while Ari played Plains, and the 21 attacked alone with no turn 2 plays except for Swamp. Ari only had Vault on turn 2, indicating no other lands, and Phillip tapped out for Liliana+of+the+Veil. “Discard,” he announced, pitching Swamp while Ari binned Forbidden+Alchemy and then Purged the Liliana.
Ari played Drowned+Catacomb and passed, falling to 12 as Gravecrawler attacked and Geralf’s Messenger joined him. Ari played Blade+Splicer and went to 9, blocking Gravecrawler while Phillip played Fume+Spitter and the Gravecrawler. Ari cast another Blade+Splicer, and passed.
“Am I dead?” he asked. “I think it’s possible for me to be dead...” He lost everything but a Golem when Phillip Slipped and Spittered, forcing Phillip to recast Gravecrawler and also to get a 4/3 Messenger, Ari on 7 life. He played Darkslick+Shores, only three mana available, and ended the turn with his lonely Golem out.
The Golem blocked Gravecrawler as Messenger lost its throat, but another Messenger gave the Gravecrawler new life. Snapcaster+Mage on Celestial+Purge removed the 3/2, and now the Golem held off the Gravecrawler with Ari at a precarious 5 life. He Thought Scoured himself, attacked for 5 with Snapcaster+Mage and Golem, and cast Lingering+Souls.
Phillip had to fear that Vault being online next turn as Ari finally hit five mana, so he attacked with Gravecrawler to trade for a Spirit before Slipping the Golem token. That meant Ari would play spells, and he cast and flashbacked Souls after attacking for 3 damage.
Liliana from Phillip pitched Ari’s Image from the hand, but it died to four Spirits and Phillip took 3, Vault gaining 7 life for Ari. Phillip drew another card, shrugged, and conceded on 9 life.
Ari 2, Phillip 0