Finals: Michael Swailes vs. James Nguyen
Two blue control decks had emerged from the combo-heavy field here in Portland. Would it be James Nguyen’s Shardless BUG deck or Michael Swailes and his U/W/R Miracles that hoisted a trophy?
Michael hopes the last card in his hand is a good one.
James Nguyen led off with a Deathrite Shaman, which attacked for one on the next turn and was followed by a Tarmogoyf. Michael had an end step Brainstorm to set up a miracle Terminus on his second turn. James tried to Force of Will pitching Shardless Agent, but Michael Forced back pitching a second Force of Will, and the board was clear, at least for a turn.
Michael played a Sensei’s Divining Top and passed, but had no response when James played Liliana of the Veil, ticking it up. Within a turn cycle both players were handless thanks to Liliana, although Michael kept on spinning his top to find land drops. James suspended Ancestral Visions, and ticked his Liliana up to 6 loyalty. Michael had a creative solution in response to the activation, drawing a card with Sensei’s Divining Top then casting Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce the Liliana back to James’s hand, where it was promptly discarded to the Liliana activation that was still on the stack.
The very next card off the top for Michael was a miracle Entreat the Angels, which made a pair of 4/4 Angels. They made quick work of James in conjuction with the Venser, and it was on to game 2.
Michael Swailes 1, James Nguyen 0
James sings a Hymn to Tourach.
Michael led off with a Sensei’s Divining Top, and James’s first play was a turn 2 Hymn to Tourach, which knocked Karakas and Jace, the Mind Sculptor out of Michael’s hand. Unfazed, Michael utapped and cast Rest in Peace, which looked to neutralize any Tarmogoyfs or Deathrite Shamans that James might find. James Brainstormed, and found Abrupt Decay to get rid of the troublesome enchantment.
Ancestral Visions showed up for James, although it would stay suspended for a few turns before it officially joined the party. Michael drew and cast Counterbalance, but James was ready with an Abrupt Decay on Michael’s end step, then untapped and cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It resolved, and he juiced up his hand before passing the turn. Michael spun his top, fetched, and spun again before passing back, and James Wastelanded away his untapped land before casting Thoughtseize. Michael’s last cards in hand were Misdirection and Brainstorm, so he used the Misdirection to send the Thoughtseize back at James. James was forced to discard his own Tarmogoyf, but was still in a commanding position with an active Jace and a looming Ancestral Vision.
Michael had some tricks left up his sleeve, however, as he activated Sensei’s Divining Top at James’s end step to flip over an Entreat the Angels for one 4/4, then untapped and attacked away the Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He next found Swords to Plowshares for the Tarmogoyf, and seemed to have stabilized. The Ancestral Visions resolved, however, and it found James a Shardless Agent, which cascaded into Abrupt Decay to kill the 4/4 Angel token.
When Michael again had no play, James cast Liliana of the Veil and ticked it up, dumping a Polluted Delta. Michael used his Top at the end step to draw a Vendilion Clique, but James killed it off with Abrupt Decay in response to its trigger. Michael simply untapped and replayed his Top, and James suspended another Ancestral Visions and cast a Deathrite Shaman.
Council’s Judgment arrived next for Michael, exiling the Liliana of the Veil. James’s growing army continued to be a problem, however, as Shardless Agent and Creeping Tar Pit dropped Michael to 7, and an end step Deathrite Shaman dropped him to 5. James untapped and attempted a lethal attack. Michael spun his top looking for a way out, but found nothing and picked up his cards for game 3.
James Nguyen 1, Michael Swailes 1
Michael had the dreaded turn 1 Sensei’s Divining Top in the decider, while James opened up with a turn 1 Thoughtseize, seeing Spell Pierce, Vendilion Clique, Terminus, and two lands. He sniped the Vendilion Clique, and followed up on his next turn with a 3/4 Tarmogoyf. It didn’t last a single turn, however, as Michael spun his Top and found a Terminus to send it to the bottom.
After considering his options, James’s next threat was a Deathrite Shaman. Michael solved the problem with a Rest in Peace, although Deathrite Shaman still managed to rumble in for 1 damage on James’s next turn. He then cast a Baleful Strix and passed the turn. When Michael again had no play on his own turn, James used Abrupt Decay to clear away the Rest in Peace and turn his Deathrite Shaman back on.
James untapped and cast Shardless Agent, which cascaded into Brainstorm. The Baleful Strix attacked Michael down to 17, and James suspended Ancestral Vision before passing the turn. Michael spun the Top to set up another Terminus, which send James’s three creatures to the bottom. Thoughtseize came off the top for James, and he used Force of Will to stop Vendilion Clique in response. The Thoughtseize resolved, and James cleared away the Red Elemental Blast from Michael’s hand, leaving him with only a Spell Pierce.
When James attempted to attack with his Creeping Tar Pit, Michael activated Sensei’s Divining Top to find another Red Elemental Blast to destroy it. The Ancestral Vision was still looming, however, and Michael cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor and used its Brainstorm to go digging for an answer. He didn’t find one, and the Ancestral Vision found James a Tarmogoyf along with some other goodies. Michael had no choice but to use Jace’s -1 ability to bounce the Tarmogoyf. He also cast a Counterbalance, but James was ready with Abrupt Decay to destroy it, as well as with a Deathrite Shaman activation at Michael’s end step to drop him to 7.
James unloaded on his turn, casting a Jace, the Mind Sculptor of his own, using its Brainstorm ability in conjunction with a fetchland to shuffle away some excess lands, then casting Tarmogoyf and attacking with his Deathrite Shaman, knocking Michael down to 6. Michael untapped and went digging with his Jace. He found Rest in Peace, which effectively shut down both of James’s creatures. Now it was James’s turn to dig, as he Brainstormed with Jace, then Brainstormed with a proper Brainstorm, finding Abrupt Decay for the Rest in Peace on the second try. Tarmogoyf attacked, dropping Michael to 4, and threatening a lethal swing next turn.
With his back against the wall, Michael spun his Sensei’s Divining Top. He found only useless countermagic, and succumbed to the Tarmogoyf beat down.
James Nguyen 2, Michael Swailes 1