Finals: Jeremy Stowe vs. Zach Stern
Jeremy’s more traditional Mono-Red Aggro list had entered the Top 8 as the top seed, but could he stay there for one more round? Standing in his way was Zach Stern on G/R Monsters, a deck filled with larger creatures and explosive potential.
Zach's monsters delivered game 1.
Mountain and Rakdos Cackler for Jeremy began the beatdown, but Zach actually drew first blood via Stomping Ground for Elvish Mystic. Shock handled the mana guy, and Jeremy attacked for 2 damage. Zach upgraded to Sylvan Caryatid, halting Jeremy’s aggression.
Boros Reckoner was a mighty good man, but Zach was going to four mana this turn if he wanted to—that was monster territory. He wound up playing a tapped Stomping Ground, another Caryatid, and Elvish Mystic instead. That gave Jeremy a window, and he used a hasty Ash Zealot and Shock for the Mystic to jam in 5 damage.
On 11 life, Zach had six mana available when he played his fourth land. He’d likely avoid tapping all of his Caryatids this turn, and in fact did just that by casting Polukranos. Jeremy debated what to do before just sending in the Reckoner, offering a trade with Polukranos—but Zach elected to chump with Caryatid, correctly. Hammer of Purphoros for Jeremy gave him a significant threat even in the face of the potentially monstrous Polukranos, with five Mountains in play already.
Zach tapped out for Xenagos and Scavenging Ooze instead of growing the Hydra and killing Jeremy’s bears, and Jeremy peeled Lightning Strike to nab the Ooze before it got out of hand, making a Golem and sending in the squad. He lost the 3/3 to the Hydra but got in 5 damage, and Zach untapped on 6 life. Casting another Caryatid and then using Xenagos to play Ember Swallower, he ended the turn in tenuous shape but with a nearly one-sided Armageddon available.
Jeremy played a fifth land, but wasn’t excited about an alpha this turn—he’d probably hold onto the Hammer for now. He elected to attack with just the Reckoner, sending the 4 damage from Ember Swallower into Zach’s dome and leaving Jeremy with any Shock or Lightning Strike to kill the opponent, and Chandra’s Phoenix plus land available as a runner runner.
An immediate monstrous of Ember Swallower via Xenagos put Jeremy to decision time—if he made a Golem, he’d eliminate a lot of his winning outs, so he let three Mountains go. Zach attacked Jeremy and he declined to block, a potentially disastrous slip as now Polukranos could eliminate his defenses and kill him on the spot—he’d taken away one of his own draw steps!
Zach saw the line once Jeremy drew and dropped another Cackler, ending the game immediately.
For once, Jeremy's Hammer of Purphoros had failed him.
Zach 1, Jeremy 0
A keep from Jeremy, while Zach went down to five cards to start. Rakdos Cackler times two over the first two turns for Jeremy, but Zach’s Sylvan Caryatid laid down big blocks before the second one could attack. A turn 3 Hammer of Purphoros promised big things from Jeremy, but would it deliver?
No third land for Zach but he did have a second Caryatid, creating some awkward tension—he didn’t want to tap them for mana to cast spells, but he would get slowly picked to death if he continued to hold them up and miss land drops. Jeremy decided to activate Hammer and get in 3 damage, knocking Zach to 13, but when Zach drew a land he had to be a little concerned... it enabled an Ember Swallower with one Caryatid still around.
Could Jeremy dive into chump attacking here? He’d lose a Golem but get in 5 damage, yet 8 life wasn’t much of a sweet spot. He could trade Golem and Shock or Mizzium Mortars and Shock to clear the Swallower, eventually landing on the latter. His attack once more got in 5 damage, and Zach was on 8 life with three lands and two Caryatids online.
Now that tension on his mana was even more severe. He played Scavenging Ooze, which could become a very important 3/3, but Jeremy had a Lightning Strike ready and waiting for the Ooze. Zach tanked, and then tapped two more mana for Mizzium Mortars on the Golem. Finding Burning-Tree Emissary on top, Jeremy cast the Emissary and then used the mana to play Lightning Strike on the Ooze before it could get out of hand.
With just one Caryatid on defense, Jeremy got in 4 damage and put Zach down to 4, an intimidating life total considering the Hammer. Drawing for turn, Zach needed help to avoid death by the trio of 2/2s... and Jeremy no longer even had blanks in his deck with Hammer online. Playing Elvish Mystic, Zach used Mortars on the Emissary and ended the turn.
Drawing Lightning Strike, Jeremy made a Golem and battled for 7 damage, the Caryatids blocking Cacklers and Zach taking 3 damage. On 1 life, he was dead if he couldn’t get to 4 before Jeremy’s upkeep—and even then this board was intimidating. Ghor-Clan Rampager left him dead to the board, but Jeremy flashed the Strike for the kill to be safe.
Zach 1, Jeremy 1
It was Jeremy’s turn to mulligan in the final game of the Standard Open, but his six cards saw him falling to five in the face of Zach’s snap-keep on seven. Intimidating! His third one-lander in a row earned the keep signal from Jeremy, and they began the game. Zach had a big start, with turn 1 Mystic into turn 2 Mystic and Caryatid, falling to 18.
Jeremy made turn 2 Frostburn Weird on his own side, but had to fear what was coming—and Polukranos was something to fear! Burning-Tree Emissary into Chandra’s Phoenix knocked Zach to 16, but an overloaded Mizzium Mortars this turn could knock Jeremy out of the game! Even without Mortars, Polukranos already had the mana necessary to go Monstrous and eat up one of Jeremy’s creatures, reducing his Fanatic of Mogis potential.
Zach cast Ember Swallower and ended the turn, while Jeremy bricked the fourth land he needed for Fanatic and simply attacked with Chandra’s Phoenix. With Zach on 14, Jeremy had lethal potential with Fanatic of Mogis... assuming Zach never did anything relevant. Domri Rade pitted Ember Swallower against the Phoenix, and Polukranos swung for 5 damage afterward.
If Jeremy couldn’t kill that Ember Swallower soon, it would likely take him out of the game! Zach complicated matters further with Scavenging Ooze, which began growing after Jeremy cast one of his Fanatics on his own turn. A land for Zach gave him access to monstrous, and he attacked with just Polukranos before using its ability to eat Fanatic of Mogis, putting Jeremy to 8 life.
Another Fanatic knocked Zach to 5 life, and Jeremy ended the turn as Ooze boosted Zach back up to 6. Zach could lock this up here and now with Ember Swallower—Jeremy’s only card in hand was Fanatic of Mogis, and he’d never be able to cast it if he lost three lands in this spot. Another option reared its head and Stormbreath Dragon came down instead, and Domri’s fight eliminated the Fanatic—that also did the trick, as now Zach’s attack was unbeatable.
Zach 2, Jeremy 1