Finals: Joseph Herrera vs. Brian Braun-Duin
“You’re the only person that’s beaten me in this tournament,” Brian commented as the players sat down to shuffle. Joseph couldn’t say those words to anyone—he was undefeated in the event over the course of 12 rounds. “That ends now!” Brian added with a laugh.
Despite being third seed, Brian was entering his second match in a row on the draw. Joseph mulliganed a land-light seven as Brian kept quickly. Joseph needed aggressive starts in order to pressure Brian to the max, meaning a one-drop and ideally a Thalia, perhaps with Searing Spear tossed in for the ability to disrupt Brian’s combo-kill. Joseph’s six were also rough, featuring two Silverblade Paladins and three lands that didn’t make white—he mulliganed again.
Clifftop Retreat and nothing for Joseph, while Brian started with a Farseek before Joseph had found a second land. Cavern of Souls enabled Nearheath Pilgrim to start the beats, but Brian fired back on turn 4 with Fiend Hunter, taking things nice and slow. Joseph had the option to Searing Spear the 1/3 or to add Avacyn’s Pilgrim to the board, lacking a land to play—he chose the latter.
Brian Mulched into a land and put Cartel Aristocrat into the graveyard, playing a copy from his hand. Joseph drew Stomping Ground and shocked himself to cast another Pilgrim, using Searing Spear on Fiend Hunter when Brian tried to cast a second Aristocrat.
Silverblade Paladin followed, and Brian traded a Cartel Aristocrat for the double-striking Pilgrim by sacrificing the non-blocking one for ptotection from white. Hardcasting Unburial Rites on the Fiend Hunter to exile the Paladin, Brian continued to defend his life total as he waited for a strong mill effect to dig him into an Angel.
Joseph drew another shockland and took two damage, casting attacking with both creatures. Before damage, he Selesnya Charmed the Nearheath Pilgrim to force through 1 damage, losing his Avacyn’s Pilgrim. That unpaired the Nearheath Pilgrim and allowed it to resume a relationship with Silverblade Paladin, entering play after Fiend Hunter died.
Brian cast another Unburial Rites to get back Fiend Hunter then attacked with Cartel Aristocrat, but a second Searing Spear left him vulnerable. Joseph swung for 8 damage to put Brian on 11, but was on one card left with Brian packing plenty of Rites in the graveyard. He used one to exile Silverblade Paladin forever, sacrificing to Cartel Aristocrat with the trigger on the stack, and used the second Rites to just normally exile the remaining Nearheath Pilgrim.
Joseph drew and passed, vulnerable to getting ground out the long way, now. Brian found Grisly Salvage on top in timely fashion, digging into Huntmaster of the Fells and casting it before attacking Joseph to 21. He drew his own Huntmaster, just too late to matter, and passed. That made Brian’s turn automatic—anything that wasn’t a combo turn probably wasn’t worth doing, and he passed after trading Wolves to flip and kill Joseph’s Huntmaster.
Facing seven power, Joseph passed after drawing Restoration Angel. Brian had the nuts on the next turn though, casting Angel of Glory’s Rise to combo for infinite life and infinite Wolf tokens, earning the concession from Joseph.
Brian 1, Joseph 0
Joseph hasn't lost a match all tournament!
That mulligan to five had looked all right for Joseph toward the middle of the game, but Brian’s deck had surged into the last turns convincingly. His opening seven were a keep this time around, and it was Brian’s turn to go fishing. Turn 1 tapped G/W lands for both players, with Joseph starting Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn 2.
That removed the spring from Brian’s step, and he cast Cathedral Sanctifier on the second turn after playing another Sunpetal Grove. Silverblade Paladin on the third turn made Joseph’s position all the more threatening, with Brian now under the gun to defend himself. Fiend Hunter would be ideal, but he played Blood Crypt untapped and ended the turn, representing Grisly Salvage.
Joseph attacked for 8 damage to leave Brian on 13, facing potential lethal damage on the following turn due to the potential for Searing Spear and Selesnya Charm. All Joseph added to the board was Avacyn’s Pilgrim, while Brian’s Salvage binned two Huntmasters and a Cartel Aristocrat. Brian cast a third Huntmaster from the hand, going to 15.
Mayor of Avabruck boosted Joseph’s damage potential even higher, forcing Brian to block Silverblade Paladin with the Wolf and to at least consider doing the same with Huntmaster. He didn’t, and took 8 damage to drop to 7 life. Drawing his card, Brian sighed and passed without making a land drop. Searing Spear on his Huntmaster convinced him to scoop before Joseph had even untapped.
Brian 1, Joseph 1
Brian knows the list that defeated him very well, by now.
Brian had his first game on the play, and needed it to be a good one. “Game 3, for all the marbles,” he declared after they shook hands. Each player kept their starting seven, and Brian began with Temple Garden. Joseph started Stomping Ground, and Brian passed turn 2 after playing Woodland Cemetery.
Responding to Thalia with Grisly Salvage, Brian had to take Huntmaster while binning Unburial Rites and multiple copies of Faithless Looting. He would’ve liked to see a land there, especially a red source. Playing Woodland Cemetery on turn 3, Brian cast Cartel Aristocrat. Joseph attacked, playing Cavern of Souls to cast two Champion of the Parish afterward.
Brian had his third Cemetery and cast Cathedral Sanctifier, ending his turn afterward. Joseph played Frontline Medic to grow his Champions, and attacked with just the 3/3, wary of Cartel Aristocrat using the Sanctifier as protective food. Brian dropped to 18, then, cast another Aristocrat prior to passing the turn with no land drop. That was horrible news for him...
Frontline Medic bashed in with the rest of the team, triggering indestructible. Brian blocked to prevent the Medic and the largest Champion, but Joseph used Restoration Angel to grow them in combat and force through 5 damage. With Brian on 13 and facing 15 power, it looked grim—he missed a land again.
“Not like this,” Brian had to be thinking to himself. Not after a whiffed Grisly Salvage for lands! Joseph sent his creatures in, dealing Brian 8 damage and using Searing Spear to make sure Aristocrat’s days were done.
Brian drew a Stomping Ground, and sighed. “Too little, too late.”
Brian 1, Joseph 2