Quarterfinals: Eric Rill vs. Royce Walter
“My friend told me, ‘You can’t play Storm, it’s too hard,’” Eric said as the players shuffled, laughing. His last-minute decision to play the difficult combo deck had paid off with a Top 8 finish! Now he found himself fighting a very dangerous matchup against Royce Walter’s similarly-minded TES.
Eric kept and led with a fetchland for Underground Sea, casting Duress to see Lotus Petal Brainstorm, Rite of Flame, Infernal Tutor, Silence, and Burning Wish in Royce’s hand. Discarding the Brainstorm, Eric would need to worry about that Silence in the future.
Royce played Scalding Tarn and Lotus Petal, likely guarding against Cabal Therapy while keeping the Silence constantly available. Eric made a land and passed, while Royce had no second land and simply sent the turn over to Eric. No land drop for Eric on turn 3, and Royce made his move on the following turn. Breaking Scalding Tarn for Underground Sea, he cast Cabal Therapy targeting Eric.
It resolved, discarding Infernal Tutor from a hand containing Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Cabal Ritual, Tendrils of Agony, and Ad Nauseam. Now both players would be peeling and waiting. Eric played two Lotus Petals on the next turn and fetched for Volcanic Island. He could Cabal Ritual to bait out the Silence by threatening a large Ad Nauseam, but would he want to wait until Royce’s turn to do it?
Doing so on his turn, the Petal popped for Silence. Royce cast Ponder and kept his three cards, playing Gemstone Mine afterward and casting Silence during Eric’s upkeep in order to prevent Eric from drawing a land or Ritual and going for Ad Nauseam. Gitaxian Probe on the following turn revealed Ad Nauseam, Duress, and Tendrils of Agony in Eric’s hand, with Royce still blank. The Duress revealed two more Silence Rite of Flame, Infernal Tutor, and Burning Wish—Eric’s kingdom for a Cabal Therapy!
He took one Silence rather than a kill condition, giving himself more outs to remove the remainder but also giving Royce more sequence to kill him. Ponder for a second Gemstone Mine, and Royce passed the turn. Eric had some options now—he cast Lotus Petal, and waited to see if Royce would Silence him. He declined, and now Eric played Ad Nauseam, earning the silence. Eric went to 11 for two Infernal Tutor, Cabal Therapy, three lands, Ponder, Gitaxian Probe, and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Playing a land, he moved to the cleanup step and discarded two lands, Ponder, and an Infernal Tutor.
Royce needed to make a play here, knowing Eric had all the tools for a kill with his Silences exhausted. Casting Burning Wish, he grabbed Cabal Therapy and cast it naming Infernal Tutor to get rid of Eric’s one in hand, revealing Dark Ritual among Tendrils, Gitaxian Probe, Cabal Therapy, and a pair of Diamonds.
Eric took 2 life for Gitaxian Probe, spotting two Infernal Tutor and a Rite of Flame in Royce’s hand—easy game. Ponder followed, shuffling up the deck and drawing another Ponder, which in turn kept the cards in place. Eric played Dark Ritual then Cabal Therapy, naming Royce’s Infernal Tutors, and fetched Underground Sea in order to Preordain before playing another Therapy to clear Royce’s hand... and passing the turn. Probe, Therapy, and pass turn seemed like it might have been able to set up a more certain win in a couple turns; now he could be genuinely pressured by a quick foursome of Goblins if Royce drew well.
Duress on Duress for Eric, and then he played both Diamonds to protect them from Cabal Therapy. Brainstorming his way into Past in Flames on the next turn, Eric very easily killed his opponent from there.
Eric 1, Royce 0
Royce had the play with both players mulliganing to six, and Royce started by fetching Underground Sea to cast Cabal Therapy, knocking two Lion’s Eye Diamonds out of Eric’s hand. Eric returned the favor with Duress to strip Royce’s Burning Wish and reveal that he was stuck on just Underground Sea for mana!
Ponder for Eric into Cabal Therapy left Royce on Silence, Chrome Mox, and Rite of Flame. Eric drew and cast Dark Confidant to begin pulling ahead, while Royce hit a winner in Brainstorm to hopefully find some mana and combo pieces. He dropped Volcanic Island and then Chrome Mox, exiling Silence and threatening a second copy.
Eric Brainstormed, playing a fetchland and then Duress to take Silence and leave Royce on only Rite of Flame before attacking. Duress off the top revealed Dark Ritual and Ad Nauseam, discarding the big draw spell from Eric’s hand. Dark Confidant revealed a Brainstorm, and Eric continued to attack and played a second Dark Confidant with his Brainstorm find.
An attack put Royce to 15, and the turn quickly came back to Eric. Attacking for 4 damage after finding land and Ponder with Bob, he was assembling quite the position. An attack put Royce to 11, and Eric decided to go for a kill.
Eric 2, Royce 0