Quarterfinals: Aaron Barich vs. Stephen Dupal
Aaron Barich had traveled all the way from the gulf coast to battle with his innovative take on Abzan Aggro. Standing between him and a semifinal berth was Stephen Dupal, who represented the Mardu Horde.
Fleecemane Lion was the first action of the game, showing up on turn 2 for Aaron. Stephen had a Lighting Strike, which he was careful to play on Aaron’s upkeep to play around the Gather Courages that he knew were lurking in Aaron’s deck. Aaron lost his Lion, but followed up with Heir of the Wilds. When Stephen had no play on his next turn, Aaron kept up the pressure, casting Siege Rhino and swinging in for 3, dropping Stephen to 13.
Stephen used Chain to the Rocks to deal with the troublesome pachyderm, but Aaron’s threats kept coming, as he untapped and cast Soldier of the Pantheon and a main phase Boon Satyr to trigger the Ferocious ability on his Heir of the Wilds. Stephen had Murderous Cut to kill the Boon Satyr, and took another 2 from the Heir. He untapped and cast Sorin, Solemn Visitor, creating a 2/2 Token in a bid to stabilize.
Another Siege Rhino from Aaron dropped Stephen down to 8, and Aaron sent his Soldier of the Pantheon at Stephen’s Sorin and his 3/3 Heir of the Wilds at Stephen himself. The 2/2 Vampire jumped in front of the Soldier, preserving the Sorin, but Stephen fell to 5. Stephen cashed in his planeswalker for another 2/2 Vampire token, then passed the turn with Stoke the Flames up. Aaron added Anafenza, the Foremost to his board and moved to attackers. The Stoke the Flames killed off Heir of the Wilds, and Stephen fell to 2 from the Siege Rhino. Stephen drew and cast Goblin Rabblemaster on his next turn, but had no answer to Aaron’s attackers, and had no blocks that could save him on Aaron’s next attack.
Aaron Barich 1, Stephen Dupal 0
Stephen was first to the board with a turn 2 Seeker of the Way, while Aaron matched him with a Rakshasa Deathdealer. Stephen killed it off with a Lightning Strike and swung in for 3 with his Seeker, but Aaron followed up with Anafenza, the Foremost. After some deliberation, Stephen had Sorin, Solemn Visitor on his turn 4, ticking up and attacking through the Anafenza with a 4/3 Seeker of the Way, dropping him to 11.
Siege Rhino looked to stabilize for Aaron, and the Anafenza was sent at Sorin, dropping it to just 1 loyalty. Stephen just ticked up the Sorin and passed the turn back, sitting on open mana. When Aaron attacked, the Anafenza trigger made Siege Rhino a 5/6, exposing it to Crackling Doom from Stephen. Stephen blocked Anafenza with his Seeker of the Way, which was a 4/3 thanks to the Sorin activation, but Aaron kept it alive using two +1/+1 counters from an Abzan Charm. He followed up with a Fleecemane Lion after combat.
Deciding the board looked a little to precarious, Stephen cast End Hostilities, sending Aaron’s two creatures to the bin. Stephen was able to rebuild quickly with a Hordeling Outburst. Aaron had Banishing Light to get rid of the Stephen’s Sorin and prevent the Goblin tokens from growing out of control, but still fell to 4 from the ensuing attack for 3. He cast Anafenza to block, but Stephen drew and cast Butcher of the Horde to swing over the top and close things out.
Aaron Barich 1, Stephen Dupal 1
Aaron’s turn 2 Fleecemane Lion met a Lightning Strike in the decider, but he was quick to replace it with bigger, scarier threats, adding Anafenza, the Foremost to his board on turn 3 and a Siege Rhino on turn 4. Stephen had Seeker of the Way on his third turn, but was missing a third land. He was able to cast Chained the Rocks on his next turn to exile the Siege Rhino, but Aaron had a big play on his next turn using Banishing Light to exile the Chained to the Rocks and get his Siege Rhino right back, draining Stephen for another 3, then adding Heir of the Wilds to his board.
Stephen found a Battlefield Forge, and spent a moment in the tank trying to figure out how he could get back into this game. He settled on Hordeling Outburst, making three 1/1 tokens. Aaron attacked with his three creatures, and Aaron blocked the two non-trampling threats and fell to 3. He checked his top card, saw no help, and extended the hand in defeat.
Aaron Barich 2, Stephen Dupal 1