Quarterfinals: Ari Lax vs. Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan made it into the Top 8 with a unique Grixis list, packing plenty of Titans and Olivia Voldarens in conjunction with a lot of removal. He faced Ari Lax, one of the more seasoned members of this Top 8, whose Esper Midrange deck was the toast of the tournament.
Ari's Purges were key to defeating his opponent's Titans.
An immediate mulligan began the match for Chris. “This looks good,” Ari said, before noticing Chris had already begun to shuffle once more. Darkslick Shores and nothing else for Chris, while Ari began with the same. Mountain completed all of his colors, and Chris ended the turn. Ari dropped Seachrome Coast and nodded as Chris cast Desperate Ravings during the end step, pitching Phantasmal Image.
Sulfur Falls, pass for Chris, with Ari Scouring Lingering Souls away in the end step and fanning himself off. He Probed to see Mana Leak, Pillar of Flame, Go for the Throat, Slagstorm, and Island in his opponent's hand. He tapped out for Blade Splicer in order to bait the Slagstorm, but Chris was willing to risk losing it with Desperate Ravings in the end step, but he discarded only Mana Leak.
Slagstorm cleared and Chris added Darkslick Shores to the board. Ari Pondered over his top three cards for some time, the longest he'd taken on a decision all game. He kept, then Snapcaster Maged Gitaxian Probe to see a Ravings and Whipflare had been added to the hand, playing Evolving Wilds and ending the turn.
Pillar slew the 2/1, and Wilds fetched Plains for Ari. So far he was tossing up softballs for Chris—what was his plan for the endgame? Cavern of Souls on Angel put him to five lands, and Ari flashbacked Lingering Souls before passing. Chris cast Desperate Ravings again, hitting Whipflare out of the hand. “Scoreboard!”
Making his sixth land drop, Chris passed. Snapcaster Mage during the end step hit Thought Scour for Ari, and he attacked Chris for 4 damage on his own turn. Cavern of Souls for Giant on the next turn gave him the potential for an uncounterable Sun Titan, and he checked the graveyard before passing—it seemed more likely he was representing the Titan than holding it, especially considering his decision to confirm Sun Titan's creature type with the judge!
Another Ravings for Chris hit his Go for the Throat this time, but he untapped into a different answer: Despise. Three Restoration Angels, Phantasmal Image, Mana Leak, and Seachrome Coast were revealed. Pitching Image, Chris made a land and passed. Restoration Angel targeted Snapcaster Mage during the end step, and Chris decided to Mana Leak the flashbacked Thought Scour.
Swinging for 7 damage, Ari put Chris to 9 and cast Restoration Angel during his own turn, hitting Snapcaster Mage and flashbacking Ponder. He shuffled, and ended the turn. Chris made an eighth land, facing down ten power on a low life total—he passed. Ari smelled blood and attacked, but Chris had Doom Blade for a Restoration Angel followed by Snapcaster Mage for Go for the Throat, but Ari Leaked the removal spell and had Gut Shot for the Snapcaster Mage.
Chris drew, and Olivia Voldaren was just not enough. Ari had his third Angel, and could easily swing for lethal on the next turn.
Ari 1, Chris 0
A keep for Chris and for Ari, with Darkslich Shores starting the game for Chris. Ari had Evolving Wilds for Island, Chris playing Blackcleave Cliffs and nothing else on turn 2. Ari drew and agonized over how to spend his single blue mana before Ponder left his top three in place. He played Coast, and Chris cast Ravings to lose Go for the Throat.
Island for Chris concluded his turn, with Ari casting Thought Scour. He tapped out for Blade Splicer, and Chris nodded, casting Desperate Ravings again and losing a Swamp. He added Sulfur Falls to the board and cast Image for Blade Splicer, moving ahead on the board. Ari sent his Golem in, and Chris took 3 damage. When Ari passed, Chris cast another Ravings and lost Snapcaster Mage.
Despise hit Phantasmal Image and revealed Negate, Dissipate, Thought Scour, and two lands. Chris attacked for 4 damage, knowing Ari would likely not block due to the potential impact of Restoration Angel in the future. Taking 4, Ari Thought Scoured on 16 as Chris passed with three mana up.
He swung back to put Chris on 13, played a land, and ended the turn. Desperate Ravings during the end step flashbacked and resolved, binning a land—Ari seemed to sense that was good for Chris! His hand filled with land, Chris tried Olivia with two up, but Ari did not believe the Leak and Dissipated. Chris traded Golems when Ari attacked, and played a new Desperate Ravings to lose another land.
Now with a healthier contingent of spells, Chris passed content with the status quo. He flashbacked Ravings and binned Whipflare as Ari sat on seven mana. Forbidden Alchemy for Ari from the hand, digging for hope. He drew, and passed—hope might be an Angel!
Another Phantasmal Image for Chris, but Ari had Restoration Angel when the original Image attacked. “Sucks,” Chris said, and Ari got a new Golem that he used to block. Untapping, he immediately attacked. Chris used Doom Blade on the Angel and then traded Golems, Ari playing a tapped land and passing.
More land for Chris, and he Mana Leaked Ari's flashbacked Forbidden Alchemy. Mind Rot targeting Ari was a surprise, and he discarded two very useless Mana Leaks. Phantasmal Image for Ari made a Blade Splicer, and he attacked with his actual Splicer and traded. Another Image from Chris gave Chris a Splicer as well.
Golem for Ari attacked, trading with Golem from Chris. The Splicers traded when Chris attacked, and Ari tried to cast another one. Forbidden Alchemy in response from Chris, and Ari added Cavern of Souls on Giant. Flashbacking his Alchemy, Chris pulled far ahead on cards. Pillar of Flame for Blade Splicer gave him twenty cards, and he Nihil Spellbombed Ari to go to twenty-one, passing with Visions of Beyond in his hand.
Ari knocked Chris to ten and cast his Sun Titan on an empty graveyard, no doubt a bit salty. Visions drew three in response, and Alchemy looked for an answer as well, That left Chris on 12 cards in his deck, and Sun Titan resolved. Chris fired back with Grave Titan, a man very capable of winning the race as long as Sun Titan died.
He just needed to watch out for Vault of the Archangel!
Passing, Ari waited to see how Chris would try to attack. Snapcaster Mage for Doom Blade met Negate, but Chris had his own Negate. Ari cast Snapcaster Mage after it resolved to grab that Negate back, keeping his Sun Titan. When Chris attacked, Ari chumped with Snapcaster Mage. A second Spellbomb from Chris, and he passed. Celestial Purge on Grave Titan earned a response from Chris—he popped Spellbomb to draw a card, going to ten in his deck. On defense, Ari shipped turn.
Inferno Titan for Chris was oddly not especially great—Ari had another Snapcaster Mage to flashback Celestial Purge and kill it. With Chris on four Zombies and Snapcaster, Ari, swung with his Sun Titan, Golem, and Snapcaster.
Did Ari think the eight cards remaining in his opponent's deck included no ways to win the game? This mopped the board of everything but Ari's Golem and a Zombie for Chris, and put him to 24 life. Chris chanced Alchemy, going to three cards in the deck on his own turn.
Ari 1, Chris 1
Chris shuffles up for a tough fight in the third game.
On the play, Ari kept while Chris contemplated a land-heavy hand without draw spells. The players jammed lands, with Ari first to the board via Blade Splicer. Chris had nothing during the end step on turn 3, and passed his own turn.
Taking 4 damage, he fell to 16. Ari played Phantasmal Image, hoping for another Splicer, and Chris had no response. He did Doom Blade the new Golem, however. Ari was representing Leak or Negate to protect from Slagstorm, but Chris lacked the sweeper anyway.
Swinging for 5, Ari put Chris to 11. Snapcaster Mage for Doom Blade got rid of the Golem and turned Ari's swing into an attack for 2 damage, putting Chris to 9 life. Ari decided to just jam his Sun Titan with Cavern of Souls as a 6/6 beater, and pass. Cycling Visions of Beyond, Chris was in trouble!
Grave Titan gave Chris a defense, but Ari had Purge. He attacked with his two Blade Splicers (one an Image) in order to get a Sun Titan target in the yard, but Chris took 2 and went to 7 life. He had Slagstorm now, but that was no help. Ari continued forcing in damage with his two 1/1s, keeping back Sun Titan on defense.
On 5 life, Chris drew Grave Titan to threaten some fresh game. He resolved the big man, but another Purge removed it from the game. Chris blocked Blade Splicer this time, going to 4 life and apparently willing to trade some Zombies if the best Ari got was Blade Splicer back. He swung for 2 damage, and ended the turn.
Ari sent in his Sun Titan, returning Splicer and losing the 6/6 to several Zombies. Chris played his own Phantasmal Image now, copying Snapcaster Mage to flashback Visions. Ari Thought Scoured himself, and then sent the Golem into a chump by the Imaged Snapcaster. Forbidden Alchemy for Chris, then Desperate Ravings and flashback to bin Swamp and Nihil Spellbomb.
With only Snapcaster on defense, Chris had one last chump for the Golem. He changed that with Phantasmal Image on Blade Splicer, and then attacked with Snapcaster Mage. Ari blocked with Image, and traded. Ghost Quarter on Cavern of Souls made Ari's Sun Titans mortal once more— Chris had two Leaks he'd like to use one day.
Playing Oblivion Ring, Ari threatened to start attacking again. He could pay for two Leaks, so Chris would have to burn a Negate I he wanted to stop it... and he likely expected Ari to have a Negate of his own. Indeed, they did trade Negates, and Chris spent both his Mana Leaks to win the fight for Oblivion Ring. Ari traded Golems in an attack shortly after.
Just land for Chris, Ari having exhausted many of his resources there. When Chris tried to flashback Alchemy, Ari Mana Leaked successfully. Another land for Chris, and Ari cast Restoration Angel in the end step with four up. He targeted Blade Splicer, and got a Golem.
Attacking with everyone, Ari had no reply for the Snapcaster Mage from Chris. It gave Negate flashback, and he chumped to survive on 1 life. Drawing one more card, Slagstorm from Chris lacked the reach to end Restoration Angel.
Ari 2, Chris 1