Round 8: Brad Taulbee (Esper Control) vs. Wes Wise (Naya Aggro)
Maryland native Brad Taulbee has experienced a recent rekindling of “the fire” and is proving it with a strong performance this weekend, sitting on just one loss through seven rounds with his Esper Control deck. His opponent, StarCityGames’ own Wes Wise, is having his own bit of success with Naya Aggro, and the two sat down to battle for favorable odds at a Top 8 spot.
Brad slowed things down with a Mana Leak on an early Strangleroot Geist, leaving Wes a little stunted as Lingering Souls and Liliana of the Veil made their way onto the board. Wes forced Brad to blow a Day of Judgment with Huntmaster of the Fells in order to keep Liliana of the Veil around, but Wes was ready with a Hellrider to eat the planeswalker and deal a free point to Brad’s face.
A second Liliana of the Veil killed the Hellrider and Lingering Souls flashed back to give Brad the lead again, but Wes fired back with Acidic Slime on Darkslick Shores, leaving Brad on two Seachrome Coasts and a Swamp for mana, plus a Liliana of the Veil with just one loyalty. The spirit tokens traded with the slime when Wes attacked, and Wes went over the top again with a six-point Green Sun’s Zenith fetching Primeval Titan, Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run from his library to set up.
It was going to be tough for Brad to kick out of this mess, and things got even tougher when Inkmoth Nexus got to finish off Liliana of the Veil with the help of Kessig Wolf Run while Primeval Titan smashed Brad down to 13. The subsequent all-in attack with Primeval Titan was good enough to take it as a Brad dejectedly gathered up his cards.
Wes 1, Brad 0
They sat in silence as the importance of the match weighed heavily on their sideboarding decisions and shuffling procedures, but good lucks were wished as Wes started things off with an Avacyn’s Pilgrim against Brad’s Evolving Wilds.
The pilgrim sipped tragically and the game again slowed down as Wes was without action on turns two and three, letting and end of turn Forbidden Alchemy give Brad the initiative. He took advantage of it with Liliana of the Veil forcing discards, and Brad pitched Day of Judgment while Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite met a premature death on Wes’ side.
Oblivion Ring took care of the planeswalker, but things went back to draw-go until Wes tried Acidic Slime on his fifth turn. It arrived safely after Brad cycled Think Twice and an Island hit the bin, but another Liliana of the Veil took care of the 2/2 and it was back on Wes.
Hellrider tried to go after Liliana of the Veil for the second straight game, but this time Brad was ready with Doom Blade, keeping his planeswalker alive. Sorin, Lord of Innistrad joined his team and made a vampire, but a huge Inferno Titan took care of it as well as the Liliana of the Veil.
Day of Judgment landed with a thud, leaving Wes with just one card in hand against Sorin and a fresh vampire token, but Wes dug in with Viridian Emissary and Birds of Paradise, giving him a fighting chance with the Gavony Township hanging out amongst his lands, but he was falling behind in a hurry as Sorin kept pumping out vampire tokens.
The Birds of Paradise questioning Sorin’s loyalty, but Ratchet Bomb took care of it as Brad went rapid-fire on Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy. A second Birds of Paradise took up the mantle, and was soon joined by Huntmaster of the Fells, but Brad had found Day of Judgment to keep his Sorin, Lord of Innistrad lording over the board.
Thrun, the Last Troll made it almost a fair fight, but Brad’s Gideon Jura put him right back in control, forcing Thrun to attack it and letting the vampire tokens run wild. Wes recommitted his efforts with Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Birds of Paradise, needing to let Sorin’s ultimate punish him in order to have a shot at a topdeck out of trouble.
Brad took control of the untapped green creatures and sent his team, including Gideon in a brutal attack on Wes’ life total, dropping him to 11 and forcing a concession when the top of Wes’ deck lacked a way out.
Wes 1, Brad 1
Wes was on the play for the final game and kept his opener while Brad had to lose a card and watch as Thalia, Guardian of Thraben took up office on turn two, with Blade Splicer following close behind. Brad had a lot of slow mana thanks to Glacial Fortress and Isolated Chapel, but he was able to buy some time with a Ratchet Bomb on turn three. He fell to 15 after blowing away the golem token, but a second Blade Splicer took its place and kept the heat on.
Lingering Souls looked to purchase some more time, but the board turned into a very sticky situation when Hellrider showed up. Wes smashed his team sideways, dealing a whopping five damage off of Hellrider alone, and he fell to just four after he put his tokens in the way of Hellrider and a Blade Splicer.
Timely Reinforcements shot Brad back up to 10 and gave him a bit more leeway, but he fell right back to 4 when Wes dove back into the red zone. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was screwing up Brad’s plans of digging back into the game as he was stuck unable to cast anything of value off of just five lands. He extended the hand, gracious in defeat.
Wes 2, Brad 1