Quarterfinals: Jake Humphries vs. Graham Lanceford
This matchup of middle seeds pits some middle of the road decks up against each other: Esper and Jund. Which Alara shard can make it to tomorrow morning? The players were cordial and friendly, with a hearty handshake before the start of their quarterfinal tilt.
Jake has converted Augur of Bolas into a Top 8 finish.
Graham had the play and the players played lands and developed their manabases, including turn 2 Farseek from Graham. On turn three, Graham cast Olivia Voldaren, which resolved, and Jake cast Think Twice at end of turn. He played out another shockland on his turn 3 and passed. This allowed Olivia to start with the beats, and after combat Graham landed Garruk, Primal Hunter. Bad news for Esper Control! Graham added a 3/3 Beast and passed.
Jake started the long road back with Supreme Verdict to clear away the pair of 3/3s, both legendary and otherwise. Olivia made her return to the board from Graham’s hand on the next turn, and Garruk’s -3 allowed Graham to Ancestral Recall. He then paid two life for a land and passed the turn. Augur of Bolas dug deeper for Jake to try to get out of the hole he found himself in, finding Sphinx’s Revelation. But Olivia became a 4/4 at end of turn as a result, and Augur got bitten. Bonfire of the Damned with X=3 resolved for Graham as well, and attacks dropped him down to 14 (with Graham on 16, thanks to land damage). Graham also added a Beast token to his team
Jake drew with Azorius Charm on his turn and after playing a land he passed right back. Beast dealt damage and after that was joined by Thragtusk and another of Garruk’s legion joined the fray as well. Sitting on 11 life and facing down eleven power, Jake pondered long and hard before deciding on Terminus, as he isn’t running Planar Cleansing as so many Esper decks are want to do these days. This allowed Graham to Jace’s Ingenuity again, drawing three, then casting another Garruk, Primal Hunter from hand. Beast number two (and number bazillion of the game) also joined the fray for Graham.
“Cards in hand… a million?”
In fact, Graham still had five in hand, so Jake had to proceed cautiously. He ended up just playing land number eight and passing, so when Beast tokens dropped him to 2 and Graham cast Thragtusk as well he wasn’t in great shape. Garruk drew five this time thanks to the M13 Beast, and after Ground Seal drew Graham a card and Arbor Elf also came into play he passed. Before discarding down to seven cards and ridding himself of a somewhat useless Sever the Bloodline, Jake drew five off of Sphinx’s Revelation and went back up to 7.
Augur of Bolas revealed Azorius Charm for Jake on the next turn, but it was still a big Uphill Battle from here, if the hill was surmountable at all. Turns out it wasn’t, at least not this time around. Detention Sphere removed Garruk from temptation’s path… but only for a moment, because Abrupt Decay destroyed the Detention Sphere at end of turn. Syncopate for one was the response, done in jest of course, and they were off to sideboarding.
Graham's Jund deck has to take an aggressive stance in this matchup.
Graham 1, Jake 0
Jake led the second game with a… revealed seven-land hand. He then kept his six, and the first spell of the game came from Graham, who cast Duress and revealed double Nephalia Drownyard, Azorius Charm, Witchbane Orb, and Sphinx’s Revelation. The Orb hit the bricks, and Graham passed. The players played pass-the-turn until Farseek for Graham pulled out a land (in response Jake cycled the Charm).
Graham went for Huntmaster of the Fells, and the human werewolf created a Gerry Thompson Wolf token after it resolved. It may be wearing a Wolf pelt in the art, but it certainly makes a very alive one in practice! Think Twice for Jake garnered new options, and when he untapped he flashed it back to hit a land drop and prevent Huntmaster from flipping. Huntmaster went to the top of Graham’s library with Azorius Charm on attacks, and Graham used the opportunity to resolve Thragtusk.
Jake untapped and milled Graham with Drownyard to get rid of future Huntmaster capability, but Thragtusk numero dos joined instead. All the while, various green animals pecked away at Jake’s life total. Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere on the Beasts cleared the board though, and the best Graham could muster after the dust settled was Vampire Nighthawk. Even after Nighthawk dropped Jake to 4, Sphinx’s Revelation for four threatened to bring him back in the game. Supreme Verdict on the next turn cleared out the lonely 2/3, and Graham had no follow up on his turn. It was now Esper’s time to shine!
Augur of Bolas dug up Devour Flesh, and second Augur whiffed. Huntmaster of the Fells is a decent top deck out of Jund, but in response to the Wolf Devour Flesh devoured the Dark Ascension mythic. Then Graham went for Rakdos’s Return… but Dissipate exiled it instead. With Esper running on all cylinders now it didn’t look easy for Graham to pull this one out, but Jund has some incredible top decks to pull game out of nowhere. Unfortunately for the midrange player, Farseek isn’t one of them. Graham searched out Overgrown Tomb and passed.
Then the milling began.
Nephalia Drownyard activation after Nephalia Drownyard activation, two a turn, slowly emptied Graham’s deck and simultaneously filled Graham’s graveyard like sand in an hourglass. Garruk, Primal Hunter a few turns later though was one of those great topdecks, and Graham added Brad Nelson to his team (although with Brad in this Top 8, perhaps that isn’t wise!). The milling continued though, dropping Graham down to thirteen cards in his library.
Augur number three missed again, but being a Lumengrid Warden is actually more important here than finding a spell more likely than not, as having three power and nine toughness is more relevant at this late stage. Indeed, Thragtusk tried to attack but was stonewalled by the trio of Merfolk Wizards. After another quick count of the library and Graham conceded.
Graham 1, Jake 1
Both players labored over their mulligan decisions, with Graham painfully keeping and Jake mulliganing in similar fashion. Game three got underway with Jake sitting on six, the first spell of the game came courtesy of Graham with a turn two Farseek. Jake simply played land and passed. Unfortunately for Graham, he did not find a fourth land and only cast Vampire Nighthawk. Jake played another land and passed.
Graham whiffed on land yet again, sitting on three Huntmaster of the Fells should he find one, but first Duress revealed Slaughter Games, Rakdos’s Return, and Acidic Slime in addition to the aforementioned werewolves. Slaughter Games hit the bin, and Vampire Nighthawk was joined by Ground Seal post combat. The extra card still failed to reward Graham with a land, and Jake kept playing lands. Azorius Charm further punished the unluck, putting Nighthawk on top and effectively Time Walking Graham. Think Twice drew and drew again for good measure.
Augur of Bolas came down, revealing to him multiple spells. From his bounty Jake selected Supreme Verdict, and after playing a land he passed. Vampire Nighthawk resumed beatdown duties, and finally Graham found the fourth land. The first Huntmaster came down and set life totals at 28-14. At end of turn, Restoration Angel blinked Augur of Bolas and Sphinx’s Revelation was added to the Esper pilot’s ample grip.
Land eight was the second Nephalia Drownyard, and he used it to cast Snapcaster Mage, and even in spitte of Ground Seal’s effectiveness it prevented Huntmaster of the Fells from flipping. Nighthawk traded with Angel in combat, and after a hand check (four in hand) Graham cast Acidic Slime. Slimer resolved and Drownyard was activated in response to it getting drowned itself.
Jake pondered his next play. With Graham finally able to cast his spells (at least his four cost ones) he posed a much bigger threat. Add to this the damage that Nighthawk had accumulated and he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Think Twice prevented Huntmaster from flipping, and he passed. A top decked Slaughter Games elicited a Sphinx’s for two, and in spite of that Graham named the draw spell. Another copy was snagged from his hand, and also showed off two Supreme Verdict, Azorius Charm, Dissipate, and Hallowed Fountain. Graham also added a fifth land in the last few turns.
Supreme Verdict and Hallowed Fountain were cast and played respectively for Jake, and Huntmaster came back to the party. Azorius Charm cycled, and Jake passed. The pair of 2/2s dropped Jake to 12, and he Drownyarded himself… milling a Witchbane Orb. Oops! Huntmaster flipped, dealing two damage, but Supreme Verdict cleared out Ravager of the Fells before it could do too much damage. Gerry the Huntsman and his red-green sidekick Huntmaster number three was Graham’s play… and Jake was ready with the third Wrath of God effect.
Thragtusk was met with Dissipate on Graham’s next turn, and Jake needed Graham to brick for a few turns while he drew. Acidic Slime took down another Drownyard, to which Jake milled himself. What’s his game here? I’m sure we’ll find out. Acidic Slime got its Flesh Devoured, and Staff of Nin got Dissipated, and once more we were at parity. And now we are back to what Esper Control’s best at: draw-go.
Jace, Memory Adept landed for Jake, which got +1 and allowed Jake to draw the card Graham was angling for with the Staff a few turns earlier. Rakdos’s Return for five was the haymaker Graham needed, but Syncopate for four (one more than Graham’s available) countered it. Then Jace got to millin’ and thrillin’, using his 0 ability to Glimpse the Unthinkable Graham. But Graham then found a five mana ‘Walker of his own in Garruk, Primal Hunter. Would it be enough? Could Garruk outrace Jace?
A quick count of the library (nine cards left) and a pass from Jake later, and we had our answer: Duress from Graham got Murder to take down Beast, and Supreme Verdict was taken out of Jake’s hand. Seeing no further way to win the game, Graham extended his hand in defeat.
Jake 2, Graham 1