Finals: Dan Musser vs. Ross Merriam
Both of these seasoned veterans of the Open Series knew their decks inside and out. Ross was in the hunt for Trophy #3 with Combo Elves, while Dan hopes to rain on his parade with Miracles and Counterbalance locks.
Ross senses weakness and goes for the kill.
Dan had the best of all starts: turn 1 Sensei’s Divining Top. Ross led with Deathrite Shaman, then attempted to develop further with Quirion Ranger and Gaea’s Cradle into Green Sun’s Zenith for two on his next turn, but Dan slowed him down a bit with a Spell Pierce. Dan had no play on his third turn either, simply spinning his Top playing a land, and passing it back.
Ross didn’t want to give Dan any more time to set up, and sprang into action on his third turn. He dropped another Quirion Ranger into play, fetched up Dryad Arbor, then tapped his Gaea’s Cradle for four mana and Natural Ordered up a Craterhoof Behemoth. Dan cracked his fetchland to serve up a fresh top 3, and spun his Top looking for an answer. He found Terminus! Ross, deflated, picked his Dryad Arbor back up with Quirion Ranger, and sent everything else back to the bottom.
With a little more room to breathe, Dan went about his business Topping up some lands and putting them into play. Ross fired off a Glimpse of Nature to rebuild, putting Deathrite Shaman and Elvish Visionary into play and netting three new cards. They didn’t stick around for long, however, as Ross had a second copy of Terminus waiting on top of his library. Ross was reduced to just Bayou and Cradle in play.
Hoping to close things out, Dan played Jace, the Mind Sculptor and fatesealed Ross, leaving him with a Heritage Druid. Ross drew it, cast it, and then Green Sun’s Zenithed for 0, retrieving his Dryad Arbor. Dan saw that the +2 plan might be a bit too slow, and instead used Jace’s Brainstorm ability to go digging, and was rewarded with a Counterbalance.
Dan had tucked a one drop on top of his library in preparation for some further board development from Ross, but Ross had other plans. He tapped out for another Natural Order, converting the Dryad Arbor into Craterhoof Behemoth. The Craterhoof attacked Jace away, and the leftover Heritage Druid got through for some damage, dropping Dan to 13. Dan drew and cast Sensei’s Divining Top, but didn’t immediately find an answer to Ross’s Elf and dinosaur.
When Ross attacked again, Dan flashed in Vendilion Clique, and was disheartened to find backup copies of Natural Order and Craterhoof Behemoth in Ross’s hand. He let Ross keep them, then cast Snapcaster Mage as well, giving him five power’s worth of blockers to get the Craterhoof off the table. He fell to 12, and Ross replayed Dryad Arbor and shipped it back.
The Counterbalance/Sensei’s Divining Top lock was in full effect, so Ross knew it was useless to attempt to resolve any more small creatures, but Dan was stuck with excess lands and a Red Elemental Blast in his hand, and had no way to stop Ross from poking away with his Heritage Druid and Dryad Arbor. Dan fell to 10, then to 8, then to 7 as he cracked a Flooded Strand for a fresh peek at 3 cards. When Ross attacked for a third time, Dan Brainstormed into Vendilion Clique, seeing Craterhoof, Natural Order, Elvish Visionary, and Heritage Druid in Ross’s hand, and shipping the Visionary along. The Clique jumped in front of Ross’s Heritage Druid, and Dryad Arbor dropped Dan to 6.
Dan found another Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and used its Brainstorm ability, finding a doozie—Entreat the Angels, which he tucked back on top of his library. Ross got in one more attack with Dryad Arbor, but a tapped Sensei’s Divining Top in his end step delivered the bad news. Nine 4/4 Angels jumped into play, and Dan rode them to victory.
Dan Musser: International Man of Mystery
Ross’s one drop of choice was Nettle Sentinel, while Dan led with a different one mana artifact this time around, as he stuck a sideboarded Grafdigger’s Cage into play, shutting down any potential Natural Orders or Green Sun’s Zeniths. Ross concluded he would just have to beat Dan down the traditional way, and unloaded his hand on turn 2, playing a second Nettle Sentinel and two Wirewood Symbiotes off of a Gaea’s Cradle.
The army of little green men came crashing in on Ross’s next turn, and Dan sent one of the Wirewood Symbiotes farming with a Swords to Plowshares, but fell to 12 from the others. Dryad Arbor joined the party, and Ross passed the turn to Dan, who had no play other than to lay his land and pass the turn right back. Ross used his last Symbiote to get double usage out of a Dryad Arbor, giving him the mana he needed to cast Craterhoof Behemoth from his hand. Dan pitched Counterbalance to cast Force of Will, and then flashed in Vendilion Clique to block Nettle Sentinel when Ross swung in for 3.
With the board relatively stable and seeing that Ross’s hand contained only unusable Natural Orders, Dan dropped Jace, the Mind Sculptor into play and began generating some card advantage. He Brainstormed and Entreat the Angels to the top of his library, took two damage from Wirewood Symbiote and Dryad Arbor on Ross’s next attack, then flipped the Entreat over and made two 4/4 Angels in his draw step.
With the Angels holding off his attacks, Ross had no play, and Dan got aggressive, attacking with one Angel and leaving the other back as a blocker. He Brainstormed with Jace and shipped the turn back. Ross found Glimpse of Nature on his draw step, and went to work, chaining Heritage Druid into Elvish Visionary into Quirion Ranger. He ran out of steam at that point, and concluded he still couldn’t afford an attack, but ended his turn with four cards in hand and a sizable collection of elves in play.
Dan cracked a fetchland to shuffle his library, and the follow-up Jace activation found a trove of action spells, including a Terminus and the Sensei’s Divining Top he’d need to cast it on Ross’s turn. He tucked Terminus on top of his library, dropped Top and Counterbalance into play, swung for 8 with his Angels, and passed it back to Ross.
Since the Angels had attacked rather than staying back to prevent a lethal attack, Ross knew that something fishy was going on. He bounced Elvish Visionary to his hand at Dan’s end step with Wirewood Symbiote, then untapped and recast it, followed by another Visionary, followed by another Symbiote, which threatened to bounce them both. Dan pulled the trigger on Terminus in response to the Symbiote, which swept away Ross’s board and left him with a Sensei’s Divining Top in place to shut out Ross’s one drops with Counterbalance. Ross replayed Elvish Visionary, but couldn’t do anything else.
Dan used Jace to set up Swords to Plowshares on top of his library on his own turn, leaving the Counterbalance ban on one-drops in place. He passed the turn, and was ready with a Venser, Shaper Savant when Ross attacked with his Elvish Visionary and Dryad Arbor. With the 2/2 Legend now holding the fort with Karakas, Ross’s chances were growing ever slimmer. A Vendilion Clique the following turn revealed Ross’s hand: Lands, Natural Orders, and one-drop Elves, none of which he could actually cast through the Counterbalance Lock.
Dan began swinging for five with his duo of legends, and Ross saw the writing on the wall. Within a few turns, he was extending the hand.