Finals: Josh Wagener (Zombies) vs. Conor Moran (Delver)
Conor Moran has been flipping Delvers all weekend.
Great Magic play had led these friends to the finals, but now it was time for the gloves to come off as the Standard Open trophy sat sparkling next to them. Josh Wagener, armed with U/B Zombies, had the greater resume that included a U.S. National championship, but Conor Moran had earned the right to play first by finishing higher in the Swiss. Good lucks were wished and the final match began.
Conor had an early decision to make with his Seachrome Coast. Did he want to Thought Scour himself, tap the land for Gitaxian Probe, or do both at the cost of two life? He decided on just Gitaxian Probe, revealing two Gravecrawlers, Drowned Catacomb, Swamp, Tragic Slip, Phyrexian Metamorph and Mortarpod. One of the Gravecrawlers wormed its way onto the field, and Josh was stuck shaking his head when Conor felt it was right to spend a Gut Shot on it. He put the Gravecrawler directly into the bin and Conor accommodated him with Mana Leak.
That left Josh in an ugly spot drawing no land and no zombies to get his lost ones back as Conor set about working his Moorland Haunt. Mortarpod took care of a token, but his draw was getting heavy on land instead of a way to actually kill Josh. He cleared out the Tragic Slip he knew about by playing Phantasmal Image onto an empty board and then turning it into a spirit, but he failed to find a way to capitalize on his big lead before Josh found a third land.
Suddenly Josh was in command as Conor’s hand had a temporarily useless Sword of War and Peace, a Vapor Snag and two lands, while Josh, who had discarded Phyrexian Obliterator a turn prior to finding his third land, was stocked up on spells. Liliana of the Veil got in without a fight and started working on the hands. Josh discarded a Tragic Slip and Conor lost an excess Island, and again Conor failed to find any kind of help from his deck.
Geralf’s Messenger joined the black squad and again Liliana made them discard. This time Josh threw away a Phyrexian Obliterator while Conor lost just another Island. It was starting to turn into a landslide the wrong way, but Invisible Stalker gave him some hope of turning things around through Liliana of the Veil. Indeed, the Gravecrawler’s returned and the Geralf’s Messenger attacked as Liliana ate the hexproof human that quickly turned into a spirit.
Sword of War and Peace turned it into a real threat, crunching in for three in the air and killing Liliana of the Veil with the sword’s trigger. Now, even with Josh able to cast all of his spells, Conor was in a commanding spot as Josh had chosen to pitch that much-needed Tragic Slip to his Liliana of the Veil and his creatures were unable to race the sword-wielding spirit with the pair of Vapor Snags sitting in Conor’s grip.
One of the Vapor Snags ruined Josh’s try at Phantasmal Image on his Geralf’s Messenger, and he had to make it an underwhelming copy of Gravecrawler. The little zombies attacked, but they were negated immediately when the spirit cracked back, and when Geist of Saint Traft joined the team, Josh’s 7 life was nowhere near sufficient.
Conor 1, Josh 0
The friends spent a good deal of time chatting about the crazy first game in which Josh had no lands and Conor seemed to have nothing but lands. It certainly seemed like Josh was the favorite as soon as he hit his third land, but Conor’s Moorland Haunt and Sword of War and Peace turned his supbar draw into just enough to get the job done. Now it was Josh’s turn to play first with his aggressive deck, but a mulligan from both sides put a slower tilt on the game.
Conor got on board first with Delver of Secrets but Mortarpod took care of it. Conor declined to play a replacement Delver of Secrets on his next turn and revealed it to Josh’s Distress after he cracked the Mortarpod with Divine Offering. His hand also contained Snapcaster Mage, Batterskull and Celestial Purge and the instant hit the bin.
Josh took advantage of the clear path, getting Sword of War and Peace and Phyrexian Obliterator into play, stopping Conor from pecking away with his Delver of Secrets. Sword of War and Peace on Conor’s side prompted a second Mortarpod to off the little wizard and cleared the way for a huge hit from Phyrexian Obliterator holding Sword of War and Peace.
Josh Wagener tanks on his next move.
Phantasmal Image gave Conor his own copy of the big beast, but he was in for a savage beating when Josh moved all-in on a pair of his own Phantasmal Images, tapping low to make two more copies of the 5/5 before sending his equipped one into the red zone. Conor was caught between a rock and a hard place, as taking a hit would mean almost certain death, but blocking would send his entire board to the bin while Josh would be able to sacrifice all of his lands and keep his massive army around.
Either outcome was a beatdown that Conor couldn’t come back from and we were off to game three.
Conor 1, Josh 1
Another mulligan portended another rough start for Conor, and Josh got on the board first with a pair of Diregraf Ghouls on turn two even though he lost the first to Mana Leak. Conor missed his third land drop, but was able to Mana Leak a Distress to keep Josh from learning off of his secrets.
Phantasmal Image copying Diregraf Ghoul would eventually give Conor a blocker, but it was just a consolation prize as Conor’s Glacial Fortress came into play tapped, leaving him unable to play the Geist of Saint Traft he was holding. Diregraf Ghoul got in for a couple of points and the spent Phantasmal Image meant there was nothing holding back Josh’s army of Geralf’s Messengers. The first one walked in the door and was matched by Geist of Saint Traft as Conor looked to race with the pair of Vapor Snags in his hand.
The second Geralf’s Messenger was joined by a Gravecrawler as Josh got in for a bunch of damage. That allowed Conor to crack back with his Geist of Saint Traft, and the race was on after a loaded attack step on Josh’s turn. The fake Diregraf Ghoul blocked the real one and a pair of Vapor Snags sent both Geralf’s Messengers back to their holes, leaving just Gravecrawler to connect with Conor’s life total, which was down to 10. Josh chose to throw out Phyrexian Obliterator after combat, letting him block if Conor chose to send his Geist of Saint Traft in and still giving him a beefy threat if not.
It turned out that Conor was left holding a useless Divine Offering and an Island after his draw step, and when Josh sent his guys in and replayed his deadly zombies, Conor had no choice but to give it up and let the former U.S. National champion add a Standard Open trophy to his mantle.
Josh wins the match 2-1