Finals: Michael Hetrick (RUG Pod) vs. Lauren Nolen (U/W Delver)
Copperline+Gorge. Lauren drew to eight cards before Pondering into a strong three, and Michael topdecked Birds+of+Paradise a turn too late, landing it on turn 2 alongside his second Copperline+Gorge. Lauren’s second Ponder was weaker, shuffling the deck, but he had Delver+of+Secrets and Gut+Shot to remain ahead.
Michael cast Daybreak+Ranger to threaten the Delver, but Lauren couldn’t flip it anyway. He had a third land and decided to tap out for Geist+of+Saint+Traft, sending the turn to Michael. Another Werewolf for the Pod player, in Huntmaster+of+the+Fells, strengthened his position and floated him a couple points of life. Gitaxian+Probe for Lauren revealed Forest and another Huntmaster.
Dismember on Huntmaster and Vapor+Snag on the Wolf let Lauren attack, Michael declining to block the Geist with Daybreak+Ranger and going to 15 life, his Delver+of+Secrets still untapped and hoping to dodge that Daybreak. Michael, naturally, challenged Lauren again with Huntmaster+of+the+Fells.
Revealing Ponder, Lauren flipped his Delver—perhaps too hastily, considering the Daybreak+Ranger. He cast the Ponder, and Michael responded by killing the new Aberration with Daybreak. Lauren kept his Ponder and attacked, prompting Michael to think over his choices. He could likely trade Huntmaster if he wanted to, and eventually decided to go for the double-block on Geist, falling to 13 life.
Lauren replaced his Geist and passed the turn. Michael played Birthing+Pod, then Llanowar+Elves, Podding it into Phantasmal+Image for the Geist and claiming control of the board in a very big way! He swung for 4 damage, and sent the turn over to Lauren with life totals 10 to 9, Michael having paid 4 life for the Pod.
Snapcasting Dismember, Lauren passed the turn on 6 life—Michael miracled Bonfire to put him to 2 life and into The+Abyss against that Wolf token. Moorland+Haunt chumped once, but when Michael found Strangleroot+Geist on the next turn, it looked to be all but over. Podding the Strangleroot into Borderland+Ranger, Michael attacked into the pair of Moorland+Haunts only once before Lauren was out of defenses.
Michael 1, Lauren 0
Lauren mulliganed while Michael kept this time, eager to even the score. He cast Ponder on turn 1, seeing three lands that included white sources he really needed for Geist+of+Saint+Traft—he kept them. Michael had Birds+of+Paradise through Copperline+Gorge, and Lauren passed after playing a land. No three-drop for Michael, just a nod when his Birds met Vapor+Snag in the end step.
Geist+of+Saint+Traft on turn 3 tapped Lauren out, but Michael had Phyrexian+Metamorph to kill the legend. Lauren needed a beater, and Snapcaster+Mage on Ponder gave him a man while his Ponder looked up Delver+of+Secrets, which he also cast. Michael’s fourth turn offered Birds+of+Paradise and Daybreak+Ranger, Lauren fine with flipping against the Werewolf.
Dismember killed Daybreak+Ranger and Gut+Shot slew the Birds, letting Lauren attack for 5 damage and put Michael to 12. Green Sun’s Zenith for four against no hand on Lauren’s side threatened to clear most of his board if he failed to draw a spell, but he knew Thought+Scour was still on top. He played it, drawing Restoration+Angel, and attacked for 4 thanks to a Moorland+Haunt Spirit.
Michael knew it was really unlikely Lauren had drawn Angel... but could he afford to try and flip his Huntmaster? Could he even afford to attack? It would be very bad for him if he did. Eventually, he decided to go with Birthing+Pod on the Huntmaster into Stingerfling+Spider on the Aberration, another option being Conscripts to grab Inferno+Titan at the cost of some life.
Lauren Nolen goes all out in the finals of the Invitational.
Lauren binned the 3/2 and made a Spirit token in the end step. Casting Restoration+Angel to blink his Snapcaster and use Dismember once more, Lauren attacked for 2 more damage, putting Michael on 8 to his 10 life but facing down a Birthing+Pod with his two-turn clock.
Michael only had another Pod, grabbing Phantasmal+Image to defend himself but going to 6 life in the process. If that fake 3/4 died, it was all over. Lauren drew, and attacked with everyone. Michael made the safe play by blocking the Angel and falling to 2 life. He needed a really good one on top, though.
Lauren was on 10 life, so it’s possible for Michael to sneak in lethal if Lauren has no spells. He Podded his Angel into Conscripts on Lauren’s Snapcaster+Mage, turning the Snapcaster+Mage into... nothing as he realized he didn’t have an available play that would work. Snapcaster into Deceiver+Exarch into Hellrider was only 8 damage, which was just not enough.
Michael 1, Lauren 1
Michael started on Birds+of+Paradise to Lauren’s Delver+of+Secrets, and cast turn 3 Birthing+Pod—his ideal start. Lauren naturally flipped Delver on turn 2 and then cast Thought+Scour on himself before swinging for 3 and putting Michael to 16 with a Snag on Birds and an attack. Michael replayed the Birds with an Elves and went to 12 for Birthing+Pod on the Elves, sending Strangleroot+Geist into the red zone.
Lauren copied Strangleroot+Geist and attacked for 5 damage before using Vapor+Snag to bounce Birds+of+Paradise, leaving Michael mono-green and on 6 life. Podding his Geist into Deceiver+Exarch, he went for Huntmaster next to gain back the 2 life he paid, attacking for 3 and passing the turn in an attempt to flip his Huntmaster.
Snapcaster+Mage on Vapor+Snag during the upkeep kept Huntmaster from flipping, and Lauren attacked with his Aberration and Image, copying Aberration when the Image entered play once more. He played Moorland+Haunt, and passed the turn.
Michael sighed, staring at a large hand and three lands that had kept his ideal start from progressing in time. He didn’t have a way out, and conceded.
Michael 1, Lauren 2
Only Copperline+Gorge from Michael, and Lauren played Delver+of+Secrets. Another Gorge for Michael, the Delver transforming via Celestial+Purge before being copied by Phantasmal+Image. Crushing+Vines killed the original copy, and Michael ended his third turn.
Lauren attacked for 3 damage and cast Geist+of+Saint+Traft, but Michael had Huntmaster+of+the+Fells for defense. Purge ended the Huntmaster and Snag killed the Wolf, giving Lauren free range to smash in with Geist and his Imaged Aberration, leaving Michael on 7 life. Green Sun’s Zenith for three following Birds+of+Paradise put Borderland+Ranger into play, but Lauren’s immediate Dismember gave him a lethal attack.
Michael 1, Lauren 3