Quarterfinals: Greg Hatch vs. Erik Smith
New Jersey Invitational will have a tough road to hoe to get his second Invitational win, and it starts with the top overall seed Greg Hatch. In the classic matchup of Red vs. Blue, which of these Open Series all-stars will make the grade?
Erik knows he's an underdog, but he's hoping to turn the tide.
Greg led with Cloudfin Raptor into Tidebinder Mage while Erik began with Sacred Foundry and Mountain to drop Frostburn Weird. Greg continued to curve out with Thassa, God of the Sea which unfortunately did not evolve his 1/2 Cloudfin. Ash Zealot and another tapped Boros land for Erik meant life totals sat at 18 apiece on turn three.
Greg did not find a fourth land nor did he have a follow-up three drop, so Erik went ahead with his turn. That turn was to cast Hammer of Purphoros and play a fourth land before only attacking with Frostburn Weird. Greg decided this was a good opportunity to use Rapid Hybridization on his own Tidebonder Mage to make a 3/3 Frog Lizard to block the Frostburn alongside the now 2/3 Cloudfin Raptor, which Erik had to let happen. The 3/3 rumbled into the red zone (or is it the blue zone?), and still without more plays Greg passed.
Stormbreath Dragon soon became king of the skies… for a moment, before also becoming froglike and lizardy. Greg finally found the fourth land after some scrying with Thassa, deciding to use his quartet of Islands to drop Jace, Architect of Thought and use the +1 ability. Another copy of the 4/4 dragon was Erik’s response, and he swung into Greg’s life total with the 3/4 (thanks to Jace!) to drop Greg to 15 to be tied with Erik.
Land number five, a Mutavault, meant Master of Waves plus five 1/0 Elemental water horses. Feeling relatively secure behind his oceanic defenses, Thassa brought the boom. Jace used the Cumber Stone ability again before Greg passed. Erik dropped Frostburn Weird, used a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to make eight mana, and then cast Fanatic of Mogis to fell Greg to 6. He used the remaining mana to make a 3/3 enchantment artifact Golem creature but ended up not attacking for danger of a swingback.
Greg spend a long time on his turn deciding the best way to end the game as quicly as possible, and ended up scrying to the bottom and using Jace’s -2 Fact or Fiction ability to dig up… not much. Greg took the pile with one single Cloudfin Raptor instead of two lands. He played the 0/1 and then dropped another copy of Master of Waves, making six new tokens and making both Cloudfin Raptors 3/4s thanks to both of the lord-style pumps on the Masters. He then brought in 3/3 Frog Lizard and five 3/2 Elementals, electing to leave Thassa at home on the defensive front. Erik blocked thusly: Stormbreath on 3/3, Frostburn on 3/2, Ash Zealot on 3/2, and taking six to fall to 9.
Erik swung with only his 4/4 on his turn, and when Greg chump blocked with one of his Raptors the Red Devotion pilot scooped.
Greg 1, Erik 0.
Erik was on the play for the first post-sideboard game and led things with Temple of Triumph while Greg began with Island. Burning-Tree Emissary was not joined by a friend for Erik on turn two, while Frostburn Weird from Greg stymied any attacks. Ash Zealot meant Erik could at least get in two damage, but that and a tapped land was all. Thassa, God of the Sea was Greg’s turn three play, and while it was not currently able to attack or block it was quite the impending road block.
Purphoros, God of the Forge came down for Erik, and Frostburn Weird prevented two more damage by blocking to make Greg only at 16. Greg’s fourth land allowed for Domestication on Ash Zealot, which not only shut off Purphoros but also gave Greg a pretty good attacker as well. Thassa beat in for five to drop Erik to 13 after that, and Greg looked to be in pretty good control. Hammer of Purphoros allowed both the red God and Burning-Tree Emissary to attack, and Greg blocked the 2/2. After combat, Chained to the Rocks removed Thassa from Greg’s board, leaving him with just a 2/2 and a 1/4.
Another Domestication allowed Greg to steal Erik’s tapped Burning-Tree Emissary, but Erik was once again able to get up to the requisite devotion thanks to Stormbreath Dragon. Erik attacked with both the 5/6 and the 4/4, and Greg had to throw his Domesticated Ash Zealot under the tires to not die. When Greg untapped, he dropped Ratchet Bomb and a pair of Cloudfin Raptors before passing, but Fanatic of Mogis gave Erik plenty of reach to finish off Greg.
Greg 1, Erik 1.
Greg adds to the board, capitalizing on Erik's stall.
After Erik mulled to six, Greg’s early game was Ratchet Bomb while Erik had a turn two Frostburn Weird. Greg left the Bomb on zero, then dropped Tidebinder Mage to chill out the Frostburn. Boros Reckoner was Erik’s follow up though, so the pressure was still on. Three Islands tapped to get Nightveil Specter into play, and Erik fell to 17 from a Minotaur goring, after which Hammer of Purphoros entered play. Greg went to work with the Mage and Specter, garnering Stormbreath Dragon off the top of Erik’s deck. Four mana allowed him to cast Domestication on Boros Reckoner as well.
Erik kept on coming in, and Greg fell to 14 and after adding Boros Reckoner and Chained to the Rocks on his own Boros Reckoner that was under a Domestic spell, Erik passed. Greg activated two Mutavaults and , unfased, swung all out to drop Erik to 8. Before passing right back. The Ratchet Bomb kept the potential Elemental Golems in check, but Fanatic of Mogis still threatened a ton of damage. In response, Greg cast Rapid Hybridization on Erik’s remaining Reckoner and Fanatic, so Greg took four to fall to 10. When Greg activated his Ratchet Bomb to clear out the pair of Frog Lizards he had so graciously given to Erik, the former Invitational champion conceded.
Greg 2, Erik 1.
Erik had the benefit of the play here, but one more loss and that would spell the end of his dream of a second Invitational win. He pondered for a bit before mulliganing once more, while Greg elected to keep. Once the action got underway, Erik had a fairly good start with turn two Ash Zealot and turn three Boros Reckoner. Greg’s start was pretty poor, failing to find a second land until much later and only dropping two Cloudfin Raptors in the meantime. Erik’s red dudes made short work of Greg’s life total, even when Rapid Hybridization took down the Boros Reckoner. A turn four Chandra, Pyromaster was even worse news for Greg, as one of his two 0/1s hit the bin before it had a chance to grow.
Greg finally got to cast Frostburn Weird on turn six or so, and on turn after that Nightveil Specter also joined the party. But it was too late for that, as Mizzium Mortars and Stormbreath Dragon combined to make Greg scoop up his cards. Off to game 5!
Greg 2, Erik 2.
The most exciting two words in Magic: game five!
Greg got to be on the play for this exciting final game of the match, and used that advantage to begin with turn two Frostburn Weird, but Erik had Burning-Tree Emissary into Mizzium Mortars. Greg had turn three Nightveil Specter, and Erik kept pace with Hammer of Purphoros. The 2/3 hit Erik, and then Greg dropped Frostburn Weird before passing without a fourth land.
Boros Reckoner and no fourth land for Erik was the play, and the 3/3 gained haste thanks to the Hammer. Greg decided to turn it into a Frog Lizard with Rapid Hybridization instead of dealing with it, and on his next turn Nightveil Specter dealt two and got Purphoros, God of the Forge. But the headlining play of the turn was Master of Waves with devotion equal to six, putting out a massive fourteen power!
Erik didn’t have much to say after that. Greg’s Tidebinder Mage tapped the 3/3 token, and then his Mono-Blue onslaught brought the thunder. A Golem token blocked alongside an Ash Zealot, and though Chained to the Rocks wasn’t what Greg was looking for it didn’t matter, as Erik was too far behind to recover from such a huge start. Greg Hatch moves on!
Greg 3, Erik 2.