Finals: Ross Merriam vs. Daryl Ayers
Ross Merriam audibled away from his trusty Elf combo for the weekend, and it paid off, as he has taken Storm all the way to the finals. There was one last bit of monkey business to attend to: Daryl Ayers and his Temur Delver list featuring Kird Ape.
Ross opened up with a Gitaxian Probe, seeing Double Daze, Kird Ape, Volcanic Island, Misty Rainforest, Ponder, and Brainstorm. He quickly completed the “combo” by casting Cabal Therapy, naming Daze, and leaving Daryl without relevant disruption. Daryl gamely plopped his Ape into play and passed, and Ross spent his second turn casting Infernal Tutor, revealing a Dark Ritual from his hand to get another copy. Daryl cast a Brainstorm and a Ponder on his next turn, then attacked for 2 with his Kird Ape.
Ross didn’t have a third land, but he did have more discard effects, casting a Duress to take away Treasure Cruise, and then using Cabal Therapy to get rid of Brainstorm, Daryl’s last non-land card. Daryl drew a more-or-less useless Forked Bolt and attacked with his Kird Ape, then passed and hoped he looked like he had something.
A pair of Dark Rituals to start the turn said Ross wasn’t buying it. He played Lion’s Eye Diamond, then cast Grim Tutor, holding priority to sacrifice the LED making red mana. The tutor found Past in Flames, which allowed Ross to recast both Dark Rituals, then a Duress, and the Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony to finish the job.
Ross Merriam 1, Daryl Ayers 0
Delver of Secrets was the opener for Daryl, while Ross had a one-drop flier of his own to start the proceedings—Xantid Swarm. Figuring he wouldn’t get much use out of it if the Swarm resolved, Daryl pitched Treasure Cruise to cast Force of Will. He untapped and revealed Daze, flipping up his Insectile Aberration, which came swinging in for 3. A second Delver of Secrets came down post-combat, threatening a quick clock.
Ross played his second land and cast Brainstorm, but didn’t find the help he would need to push through a combo kill this turn, and passed. Daryl revealed more bad news on his upkeep, flipping over Spell Pierce to his Delver, and then attacked for 6, dropping Ross to 10. He passed with a Tropical Island Open, threatening Spell Pierce plus Daze to stop Ross’s shenanigans. Ross cast Duress, clearing out Daryl’s Spell Pierce, and leaving him with a hand of Daze, Tarmogoyf, and Ponder. He again decided he wasn’t ready to try going off, and passed the turn. Daryl attacked for 6, dropping Ross to 3, and then passed back.
It was now or never for Ross. He led off with a Brainstorm (1) then played a land and cast Dark Ritual (2), Cabal Ritual (3), Lotus Petal (4), and Lion’s Eye Diamond (5). He then gave Daryl the good news: He didn’t have the win this turn. Instead he cast Tendrils of Agony, draining Daryl for 12 and jumping back up to 15 life. Daryl quickly untapped and attacked for 6 more, then Brainstormed into a Spell Pierce and a second land and passed the turn back.
Ross had Infernal Tutor and Past in Flames as outs to win the game outright. Instead he drew Brainstorm, which didn’t find him the help he needed, as he played a swamp and passed. Daryl fetched on end step, untapped, and drew Grafdigger’s Cage, which was enough to prompt a concession from Ross.
Ross Merriam 1, Daryl Ayers 1
Now on the play, Ross kicked off with a Gitaxian Probe, seeing Kird Ape, Delver of Secrets, Force of Will, Vendilion Clique, and three lands. He then cast a Ponder and passed the turn. Daryl began with a Kird Ape. When Ross tried a Ponder, Daryl revealed that he’d drawn Daze, and bounced the Volcanic Island back to his hand. Ross followed up with an Underground Sea and a Duress, getting rid of the Force of Will.
The Kird Ape came swinging, dropping Ross to 17, and Daryl followed up with Ponder looking for more interaction, but found only another land. Ross cast a Brainstorm on his next turn, then played his third land and passed back, allowing Daryl to get in another attack with the Kird Ape and play a Delver of Secrets. Ross Brainstormed and passed once more. Daryl missed on his Delver check, but passed the turn with Vendilion Clique up.
Having known about the Vendilion Clique since turn 1, Ross spent a moment in the tank trying to decide how to best navigate around it. He led off with a Lotus Petal, then attempted an Infernal Tutor revealing Cabal Ritual. The Tutor resolved, and Daryl now knew that Ross’s three card hand contained two Cabal Rituals. When Ross attempted the first Ritual, Daryl pulled the trigger on his Clique, and saw that the last remaining card was another Infernal Tutor. He sent it to the bottom, and Ross’s card off the top was a dead end.
Daryl untapped, revealed Daze to flip over his Insectile Aberration, and attacked for 8, leaving Ross on a one turn clock. Ross drew, layed two lands and a Cabal Ritual on the table, and extended the hand in defeat.
Daryl Ayers 2, Ross Merriam 1