Finals: Tom Ross vs. Brian Braun-Duin
Two titans of the StarCityGames Open Series sat down to battle here in the finals with a Grand Prix trophy on the line. Brian Braun-Duin was hoping to add a second Grand Prix title to his resume with Jeskai Stoneblade, while Tom Ross was hoping to improve on his second place finish at last year’s Grand Prix Houston to earn the title with his patented U/G Infect deck.
Brian is the very image of intensity.
Tom kicked off proceeding with a Tropical Island and passed to Brian, who took a peek at Tom’s hand with a Gitaxian Probe. Tom layed ‘em on the table: Become Immense, Brainstorm, Crop Rotation, Verdant Catacombs, and Tropical Island. Brian fetched up a Volcanic Island and cast a Ponder, then shipped back. Tom considered for a moment before attempting an end step Crop Rotation, sacrificing his Tropical Island, and Brian said no with a Force of Will, pitching a Ponder from his hand. Tom shrugged and took his turn, replacing the Tropical Island with another from his hand, and sent the turn back to Brian.
A few turns passed, as each player simply cantripped and developed their mana bases. On Brian’s fourth turn, he used another Gitaxian Probe to take a look at Tom’s hand: double Brainstorm, Become Immense, and a fetchland. The Gitaxian Probe gave him the fuel he needed to go on a Treasure Cruise, restocking his hand. He passed to Tom who drew his first infect threat of the turn, an Inkmoth Nexus, which went straight into play.
Stoneforge Mystic came down the following turn for Brian, retrieving Umezawa’s Jitte. An end step Brainstorm and fetch from Tom allowed him to untap with a hand of Berserk, Crop Rotation, Become Immense, and Pendelhaven. He had enough damage to swing for the win with his Inkmoth Nexus out of nowhere if he wanted to go for it. He thought for a moment before casting a main phase Brainstorm, which drew Pyroblast from Brian. He was content after that to just attack for 1, leaving him with 9 Infect damage still to go to finish the game.
Brian cast Ponder on his own turn, but passed the turn back after that, sitting with a full hand and three untapped lands. Tom drew a Daze for his turn, and then sent in with his Inkmoth Nexus. He used Pendelhaven to attempt to grow it to a 2/3, and Brian responded with a Lightning Bolt. Tom attempted to use Crop Rotation to switch his Inkmoth Nexus into another from his library, but Brian had Spell Pierce at the ready, and Tom was left without a threat.
BBD swiftly cast his Umezawa’s Jitte on his next turn. He had two lands untapped, and Tom used his Daze to prevent him from equipping the Jitte to his Stoneforge Mystic that turn. He found only another land on his next draw step, and could only pass it back with useless pump spells in hand. Brian drew and cast Young Pyromancer, then used Gitaxian Probe to check Tom’s hand. With the Pyromancer threatening to run wild and Stoneforge Mystic about to pick up Umezawa’s Jitte and go to town, Tom decided he’d seen enough and conceded the first game.
Tom has seen better hands.
Again it was “Tropical Island, Go” to start things off for Tom. Brian matched him without a play on his first turn, and Tom attempted Blighted Agent on his turn two. It resolved, but Brian fetched up a Volcanic Island at Tom’s end step to try and shoot it down with a Lightning Bolt. Tom bounced his Tropical Island to cast Daze, and the 1/1 unblockable Infecter remained in play.
Gitaxian Probe from Brian on his second turn revealed what Tom was working with: Brainstorm, Spell Pierce, Verdant Catacombs, Inkmoth Nexus, and Tropical Island. He passed it to Tom, who simply replayed his Tropical Island, attacked in for 1 poison damage, and passed right back. Brian sculpted his hand with a Brainstorm, but had no further play, and Tom again got to untap and attack.
Tom: “Priority’s all yours.”
Brian thought for a moment and decided he had no effects, and took another poison damage. Tom passed, and Brian attempted a Pyroblast at his end step to kill off the Blighted Agent. Tom used Vines of Vastwood to prevent it from being targeted. Brian untapped and used another Gitaxian Probe. Tom’s hand hadn’t changed much: Brainstorm, Spell Pierce, Inkmoth Nexus, and Forest. Seeing the coast was clear, he cast a Treasure Cruise with two lands untapped. He found and cast Swords to Plowshares on the Blighted Agent, with only a Volcanic Island untapped. Tom thought for a moment about using his Spell Pierce, but decided to pick another battle, and let the Blighted Agent get sent to the farm.
Tom untapped and fired off a Gitaxian Probe of his own, seeing a monster hand from Brian: Two Meddling Mages, two Flusterstorms, Electrickery, Force of Will, and Spell Pierce. He laughed about the Electrickery.
Tom: “I KNEW you had this card.”
Brian: “Yeah… you played around it last turn like a master.”
Tom activated and came poking with his Inkmoth Nexus, tagging Brian for the third poison counter. He played a second Inkmoth Nexus from his hand and passed the turn. Brian untapped and cast one of his Meddling Mages, naming Invigorate. He shipped back to Tom who, unfazed, came swinging again with one Inkmoth Nexus, giving Brian the fourth poison counter. He played his third Inkmoth Nexus and shipped back.
Meddling Mage got the offensive started for Brian, and Tom fell to 16. Brian passed with four lands untapped, sitting on his disruption. Tom attempted a Blighted Agent, which drew Force of Will pitching Spell Pierce from Brian, then activated one of his three Inkmoths and brought the poison count up to 5. Brian Brainstormed on his own turn, and attacked for another two with Meddling Mage, but still didn’t make any other moves.
When Tom attacked with one Inkmoth Nexus again, Brian pulled the trigger on his Electrickery. Tom crunched some numbers before deciding not to fight over it. He played the fourth Inkmoth Nexus from his hand then attempted a Treasure Cruise. Brian cast Flusterstorm, gaining two additional copies, which Tom tapped all of his mana to pay for. The second copy of Flusterstorm came next, and the Treasure Cruise was countered.
Brian untapped and used a Gitaxian Probe to see what Tom had left: Spell Pierce, Blue Elemental Blast, and Vines of Vastwood. He decided it was safe to tap out to cast and equip an Umezawa’s Jitte, netting two charge counters. Tom’s draw step found an immediate solution to the perilous equipment in the form of Spellskite, which allowed him to attack with one Inkmoth Nexus to bring Brian to six poison counters.
Wear/Tear from Brian threatened to get the pesky Spellskite off the board. Tom fought back with Vines of Vastwood in an attempt to counter it, but Brian pitched Treasure Cruise to cast Force of Will, and now Tom’s trio of Inkmoth Nexuses were defenseless against Brian’s Umezawa’s Jitte, which was now up to four charge counters. Brian passed the turn, then used Vendilion Clique in Tom’s draw step to check his hand. He found Berserk, Spell Pierce, and Blue Elemental Blast, and allowed Tom to keep all three.
Tom passed, and Brian went on the offensive, swinging with both creatures. Tom attempted to activate each of his three Inkmoths in turn to block, but Brian mowed down each with his Umezawa’s Jitte. Tom fell to 10 with nothing but a pair of lands in play, looked at the pair of attackers on Brian’s side of the board, and extended the hand in defeat.