Quarterfinals: Kiyan Nourain vs. Robert Brown
The first round of the Top 8 would be a harrowing one for Kiyan, with the dangerous and explosive Bant Hexproof sitting across from him in the hands of Robert Brown. Kiyan had the play courtesy of his higher seed, but would the tempo be enough to slow Robert down?
A mulligan to six for Kiyan, while Robert kept his seven cards. Woodland Cemetery for Kiyan implied a weak hand for mana, but Robert also failed to come out of the gates with just Hallowed Fountain. Drawing Stomping Ground, Kiyan took 2 damage for Farseek. Robert played just Avacyn’s Pilgrim on turn 2, but Kiyan cleared it with Bonfire of the Damned for 1 damage.
Geist of Saint Traft for Robert, but Kiyan was quick to answer with Liliana of the Veil. He lacked a fourth land, but with two creatures down Robert might have already been reeling. A fresh Invisible Stalker gained two Rancors on the turn, giving Robert a threat, but Kiyan was ready for it.
Boosting Liliana, Kiyan pitched Garruk while Robert binned Silverblade Paladin. The Golgari Charm that followed left Robert without a threat, and Liliana being on two loyalty meant he was in trouble on that count. She continued to grow, with Kiyan deploying Scavenging Ooze to create a clock. Avacyn’s Pilgrim threatened to trade with some of Liliana’s loyalty, but Bonfire of the Damned miracled for 1 damage took out the Pilgrim while the Ooze grew to 4/4.
Robert was on 11 with no cards in his hand, and the Ooze continued to grow. Invisible Stalker at the last minute was not enough to salvage the board state.
Kiyan mulliganed into a removal-dense hand to take game 1.
Kiyan 1, Robert 0
Another mulligan for Kiyan, while Robert failed to make a turn 1 threat once more. Invisible Stalker with no green mana showed up on turn 2, but Kiyan cast Golgari Charm to clear the 1/1 out safely, declining to chance Robert having a save when he tried for a more profitable exchange.
Robert to have pinned no small number of hopes on that Stalker, staring at his hand on turn 3 before finally taking 2 from Temple Garden and casting Loxodon Smiter. Kiyan took his second shock of the game before ending the turn, representing Putrefy and a confusing sequence, considering how carefully he’d played around a defensive spell for Stalker just a turn before. Sure enough, Robert had the Simic Charm to enable an attack for 4 damage through the removal spell, and now Kiyan was in trouble—he missed his fourth land once more.
Going to 8 from Robert’s attack, the Geist of Saint Traft that followed left him likely facing down lethal on Robert’s turn. Huntmaster of the Fells gave him some hope, but a couple pairs of pants from Robert would be enough to put him back on the defensive—or just one copy of Spectral Flight, which sent the Smiter to the skies with an Angel token finishing the job.
Robert's mulligans caught up to him quickly in game 3.
Kiyan 1, Robert 1
Robert fell on hard times in game 3, mulliganing to five cards while Kiyan kept his hand and each player began opening with lands and nothing else until Kiyan’s third turn rolled around. Boosting Liliana to four loyalty, Kiyan was dismayed to see his planeswalker punished by Loxodon Smiter!
The Elephant ate Liliana before being joined by Geist of Saint Traft, and suddenly Kiyan’s favorable position was eroding beneath his feet! A timely Barter in Blood gave him an effective countermeasure, and Robert spent his fourth turn casting Silverblade Paladin and enchanting it with Rancor, a sizable threat if he could find another creature.
Failing to do so, Robert found his Paladin stymied by Thragtusk. He had Ethereal Armor though, and the first strike it granted gave him a way through the Beast. Kiyan declined to block and fell to 17. Attacking back for 5 damage, Kiyan put Robert to 11 and cast Putrefy during Robert’s upkeep, leaving him without a threat and dead in two turns.
Robert drew and passed, effectively dead in the water with nothing to stop Kiyan’s attacks from landing. Two turns later, it was over.
Kiyan 2, Robert 1