Finals: Alex Etsel vs. Han Kyu
A Delver and Zombies final had seemed inevitable after watching the Swiss rounds, with these two archetypes dueling the rising tide if green decks successfully for most of Saturday. Now, they’d be playing each other, for all the marbles.
Han quickly kept seven cards on the play, while Alex found himself falling to five once again in this Top 8. He’d escaped unscathed before... could he do it again? Han’s deck would likely punish him, but no one-drop was a good thing for Alex. He cast Delver of Secrets and lost it immediately to a turn 1 Dismember from Han. Clearly, Han wasn’t interested in letting Alex “get there” this time!
Highborn Ghoul gave Han a slightly inefficient threat, and Alex Pondered. He’d want a Gut Shot here, but appeared to lack one as he paid 2 life for Gitaxian Probe. That revealed lands, Brimstone Volley, and Falkenrath Aristocrat, before a Gut Shot did indeed dispatch the Ghoul! Adding island and Thought Scouring himself, Alex was on a stable board as he missed his third land drop on turn 3.
Han's Zombies escaped a mirror in the semifinals.
Tapping out, Han tried to make Aristocrat stick, but Mana Leak countered. No land for Alex again, and Han cast Gravecrawler before playing a fifth land. Alex passed quickly back, taking 2 damage and dropping to 14. Another Highborn Ghoul on Han’s side was threatening, and he appeared to debate doing something else... did he have another spell to go with his Volley? Indeed—Phyrexian Metamorph, which met Mana Leak.
Still on two lands and no permanents, Alex defended himself from Ghoul with another Gut Shot. He was on 10 life despite all these plays, and he knew Han still had Brimstone Volley. Snagging the Gravecrawler, he bought a turn of reprieve while Han took advantage of the opening to morbid his Brimstone Volley.
Han 1, Alex 0
After mulliganing to six, Han started Diregraf Ghoul on turn 1. Alex Pondered on turn 2, playing a land and nothing else before falling to 18. Han had a second land but no two-drop, and Alex seized the advantage with Timely Reinforcements on his next turn, going up to 24 life. Han drew Mortarpod and played it before trading his Ghoul for two Soldiers and playing a tapped Dragonskull Summit.
Talrand, Sky Summoner for Alex gave him a very dangerous threat, but he had no Gitaxian Probe to follow it. Han paid 2 life for Phyrexian Metamorph to try and legend rule the Talrand (or maybe copy Mortarpod?) but Gut Shot in response gave Alex a Drake token. Alex attacked for 3, Han declining to pop Mortarpod on the Soldier.
Snapcaster Mage on Ponder kept the top three in place for Alex, and he Probed to see three Messengers and Falkenrath Aristocrat—slow, but powerful cards for Han. At this point, the Drake appeared favored in the race, however. Vapor Snag bounced the first Messenger, and Han’s life total continued to drain. He used Mortarpod on the Snapcaster this time, and fell to 10 life.
Blade Splicer for Alex gave him 7 on the board, and Han had no defenses left. Another Vapor Snag in Alex’s hand made it all but over, and when Han used Mortarpod to buy a turn he wound up dying slightly slower.
Han 1, Alex 1
Alex's Delvers have served him well.
Turn 1 Duress from Han revealed Ponder, Probe, Delver, Restoration Angel, and lands, discarding Ponder. Duress is an interesting sideboard card in this matchup, as it’s not usually going to remove one of Delver’s high-impact cards in a matchup all about the board. Here, it did serve to clear the way for turn 2 Blood Artist, with Gut Shot nowhere in sight.
Thought Scour and an attack for 1 damage before Gitaxian Probe revealed Geralf’s Messenger, Brimstone Volley, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and a Swamp. He cast the Messenger on the next turn, and Alex missed a badly-needed Delver flip. Playing Snapcaster Mage for Ponder, Alex dug into the deck. With Blood Artist on the field he’d want a Gut Shot to handle the 0/1 and make this a real race!
No Gut Shot draw, but he kept his Ponder in place. A fourth land let Han swing for 7 damage, and he fell to 11 life—Aristocrat and Messenger plus Blood Artist could threaten way more than that, though! Revealing Gut Shot—he’d hidden it with Ponder, it appeared—he flipped his Aberration. He couldn’t use it on Han’s turn due to Brimstone Volley, so he needed to figure out how to sequence these plays.
Awkwardly, he decided to pass the turn.
Han attacked, an Alex blocked with his Snapcaster on Messenger and Aberration on Aristocrat. Before damage, Han sacrificed Messenger to Aristocrat and got in 3 damage, protecting his Vampire. That put Alex to 8, and Han was a single damage short of killing him as Restoration Angel saved the Aberration—Han used the Volley while Alex was tapped out to put him on 3 life.
Drawing for turn, Alex couldn’t find a way to live and conceded.
Han 2, Alex 1