Quarterfinals: Steve Kaufmann vs. Ben Ragan
Steve took the first seed in the Top 8 with R/G Aggro, while Ben had slid into eighth with Naya Blitz. That made Steve the favorite, due to the aggressive nature of the matchup, but all it would take is a single stumble to leave one player on the wrong side of a beatdown.
Steve awaits his final match of Saturday.
Steve began with Rakdos Cackler while Ben fired back with Cavern of Souls on Human and Experiment One. Playing Temple Garden tapped, Steve sent in his Cackler before playing a second one. Lightning Mauler for Ben off a shockland gave him four power, and the soulbond enabled him to tie the score.
Lacking a third land, Steve attacked for 4 damage and played a 3/3 Flinthoof Board on defense. Ben had a third land to enable Lightning Mauler and Boros Elite, sending in an attack for 9 damage. Steve blocked the Mauler paired with Experiment One and took 7 damage, dropping to 9 life.
The Cacklers could take Ben to 8, with the Boar available to make it 5—but he just sent the 2/2s, lacking a kill for this turn. Passing with three mana up, Steve was representing a burn spell as a safety net. Ben played Temple Garden, agonizing over the choice to take 2 damage or not. He decided to do so, going to 6 life and playing Flinthoof Boar before a third Lightning Mauler. Pairing them up, he moved to attack.
Steve allowed him to enter combat, then blocked Boar on Boar and cast Searing Spear on Boros Elite, taking 7 damage and going to 2 life. Revealing Pillar, Steve locked up the game with exact damage on the following turn.
Ben considers his opening hand in game 2.
Steve 1, Ben 0
A tight race had ended in Steve’s favor during game 1 with a timely Searing Spear. Ben hoped to use the edge of the play to his advantage in this game, but knew he’d be back on the draw in game 3 even if he succeeded.
A tapped shockland for Ben to start, while Steve played Stromkirk Noble. Ben played FLinthoof Boar on turn 2, while Steve took 2 life to Searing Spear the Boar off a shockland and attack for 1 damage, growing his Noble. Ben had Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck to get back on the board, but no blockers for Stromkirk Noble.
Falling to 16 for another land, Steve played Burning Tree Emissary and then a fasted Flinthoof Boar, attacking Ben to 14 life. Ben spent turn 4 reversing the disparity with Unflinching Courage on Champion of the Parish, making him a 5/5 trampling lifelinker. Steve took it, going to 11 while Ben rocketed back up to 19.
Just the Noble attacked, putting Ben back to 16 with Steve clearly planning to make some kind of trade for the Champion. He followed with Boros Reckoner and Stromkirk Noble, tapped out with five creatures on the board. Ben went into the tank, emerging with Lightning Mauler to grow his Champion and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben—no attacks, no pair.
Steve was content to get in for 5 damage with his two Stromkirk Nobles, putting Ben to 11. He played Ghor-Clan Rampager afterward, giving up a sure kill on the next turn by emptying his hand here but no doubt concerned about Ben’s potential to squeeze damage past his blockers.
It didn’t matter—Ben had Spare from Evil to enable an alpha for the kill. “Sweet cad,” he admitted. “Yes,” Ben agreed.
Steve 1, Ben 1
Steve started with Mountain and Stromkirk Noble, while Ben fired Cavern of Souls and Experiment One. Stomping Ground cost Steve 2 life but gave him Burning-Tree Emissary and Volcanic Strength, leading to an attack for 3 damage with a growing Stromkirk Noble.
Ben’s start was even more impressive—Temple Garden for two Burning-Tree Emissaries and Mayor of Avabruck let Experiment One attack for 3 damage, turning the race in Ben’s favor. The Noble put Ben to 11 on Steve’s turn, Pillar of Flame killing Mayor of Avabruck and Steve missing his third land drop—or an additional one-drop.
Continuing the beats, Ben played Champion of the Parish and then Boros Elite before attacking for 6 with his Emissaries and Experiment One, getting in 4 damage and leaving Steve also on 11. Ben was only threatening 9 damage—he wasn’t dead to this position and had little to fear beyond two more Humans or a Mayor—he passed with no play, no attack, and no land.
Ben played Experiment One to grow his Champion up to 3/3, and then attacked with everyone. That was 10 power against Steve’s defending Stromkirk Noble, but he had Searing Spear for Champion of the Parish and a block on Boros Elite to fall to just 7 life. Now Ben’s board was 2 damage shy with an unblocked alpha, and Steve had a chance to get back in the game.
Rakdos Cackler without unleash and a pass of the turn were all he mustered. Ben drew, played Champion of the Parish, and passed right back. Steve tapped out for Flinthoof Boar and ended the turn, while Ben drew a second copy of Spare No Evil. Burning one, he got an attack for 4 damage in and left back his 1/1 creatures. That put Steve to 3 life, and gave him the win if he had Ghor-Clan Rampager and attacked with everyone.
He drew, evaluated the board, and sent all three of his creatures into the red zone. Ben blocked Cackler and Boar each with a 1/1, and the Rampager sent in lethal damage.
Steve 2, Ben 1