Finals: Greg Hatch vs. Max Brown
In a rematch of their Swiss showdown, Greg and Max were squaring off for the trophy. Greg had lost the first bout, but he hoped having first seed in the Top 8 would reward him with the advantage he needed.
Greg started with Cloudfin Raptor, and Max began with Thoughtseize to reveal Judge’s Familiar, Frostburn Weird, and three more Islands. Not an exciting hand for Greg by any stretch, and especially weak to Thoughteize. Losing the Weird, Greg untapped into a second Raptor and then Judge’s Familiar, attacking for 1 damage.
Max cast Pack Rat to start his own offense, and Greg could only swing for 3 damage on the next turn—he would lose this race without help. Max attacked for 2 damage, making a Rat, and put the question to Greg: could he overcome the Pack?
Head in hands, Greg considered his options. Attacking with everyone, Greg decided to upsize his Raptors with Rapid Hybridization in order to put Max to 10 life, losing his own Familiar. This also gave him a potentially very important chump blocker for a big Rat later on. Greg in turn fell to 10 when a new Rat and Mutavault pumped the two in play, and now Greg was facing lethal on the board if he drew nothing to help.
Casting Bident, Greg appeared all but out from here. He could attack with one creature, lose the remaining two blocking, and nothing short of a Master could get him through the next turn—and even that would likely die to a removal spell. He did play another Island, but the single untapped blue was likely just not enough.
Greg gave Max a sweat by tapping an Island when Hero’s Downfall aimed at the untapped Raptor, but there was nothing there and Greg fell to an attack for 15.
Max 1, Greg 0
Opening with Mutavault, Greg followed with Island and an attack for 2 damage. Max lacked a turn 1 and held mana on turn 2, keeping Mutavault off his back while Greg played Thassa, God of the Sea. Max debated his options, landing on Temple of Deceit in order to hold open removal, vs. the Nightveil Specter he could’ve cast.
Playing another Mutavault, Greg followed with Master of Waves but lost it to Pharika’s Cure immediately. Thoughtseize snagged Greg’s Domestication, leaving him on just Rapid Hybridization, and now Max jammed in that Nightveil Specter. Keeping his top card, Greg had an answer available for Specter, but it wasn’t a thrilling one. He played Frostburn Weird and passed, using the Hybridization when Max attacked.
Casting Desecration Demon, Max ended his turn. Greg shipped his top card to the bottom, now needing an answer to the Demon, but had none. He cast Nightveil Specter and played a third Mutavault, debating throwing one away to get in 5 damage right now by tapping down Demon. Hero’s Downfall from Max slew the Specter, and the Demon knocked Greg to 14.
Thassa continued to dig, Greg’s army now held off by the Frog Lizard with Demon racing him down. He hoped that Max was out of removal as he cast Master of Waves, but that wasn’t the case—Pharika’s Cure took out the Merfolk, and Max remained in control of the game. The Demon put Greg to 8, and Max added Gray Merchant to the board, giving himself some offense.
Topdecking Nightveil Specter, Greg got Thassa back online and attacked for 5 damage. On the next turn, Greg tried to use a Mutavault to tap the Demon, but Max made him use two by casting Devour Flesh after the first Mutavault was activated. Greg could bin the Weird to go to 8, but he decided that position would be more tenuous.
Thassa and the Specter chugged in for 7, Max demonstrating a willingness to throw Mutavault under the bus when Greg declined to go unblockable... but he ultimately did not. That motion implied Greg had a spell to follow this attack, making Max quite curious. He fell to 12 life, giving Greg a Swamp.
Greg’s last Mutavault turned off the Demon one more time, and Max debated how to attack. He’d be dead to another land from Greg on the next turn, so it was a close state. Greg blocked the Frog Lizard and took two from the Merchant, and then had Nightveil Specter to keep Greg 2 short of lethal damage, land or no land.
It was on Greg’s deck. The top card earned a keep—Greg went unblockable with Specter and attacked, earning another Swamp for his trouble before instead playing Island and a second Frostburn Weird. Max went to the top of the deck, and found Doom Blade to lock things up.
Max 2, Greg 0
With his back against the wall, Greg shuffled up. This would be his last game of the Invitational on the play, whether he won or lost. Even a win here would leave him needing two more from the draw to earn the trophy.
An immediate mulligan wasn’t the ideal way to start such an important game, and Max’s snap keep couldn’t have been more discouraging. The six was no good either, and Greg found himself falling to five cards. The five were revealed when Thoughtseize stole Greg’s Specter and left him on a naked Cloudfin Raptor and Island, with two Domestications.
Pharika’s Cure killed the Raptor, and Duress afterward took a Domestication before Max played turn 3 Pack Rat. Greg shrugged and killed it with Rapid Hybridization, knowing he’d otherwise fall impossibly far behind on the next turn, but Max had a second pack Rat ready to go after Duress stripped a second Domestication.
Greg drew one more card, and conceded the decidedly anti-climactic third game.
Max 3, Greg 0