Round 9: Brandon Nelson vs. Joe Bernal
Brandon played many Huntmasters--Fell and Furious!
Joe has been close but without cigars a number of times on the Open Series—he’d need one more win against US Nationals alternate Brandon Nelson, playing the popular R/G Aggro deck. It’s a tough fight on both sides, but Brandon probably has the edge.
Winning the die roll, Joe began the match by selecting the play and keeping his seven, but Brandon was more reluctant. Glacial Fortress for Joe wasn’t an insane start, while Brandon began with Llanowar Elves and Forest. Darkslick Shores from Joe concluded turn 2, clearly a defensive hand.
Brandon had Rootbound Crag and attacked for 1 with the Elf before casting another Elf—Joe decided to Mana Leak that one, and Brandon played Birds of Paradise. Ponder from Joe checked the top three cards and left them in their place before Joe played Moorland Haunt and passed.
Would Brandon respect a second Leak? He dropped Wolf Run and ran out Sword of War and Peace, lacking the necessary mana to equip it and attack. He swung 1 damage, and passed to Joe before casting another Birds. Joe Thought Scoured himself, hitting Vapor Snag.
He untapped and drew, staring at a board that continued to spiral for him. Ponder shuffled the deck, and a second Moorland Haunt preceded Joe tapping low for Invisible Stalker, with no blue up to bluff Snag. Brandon decided to cast Huntmaster of the Fells during this opening rather than get in with his Sword, and sent 1 via Llanowar Elves before casting another mana dork.
On 17, Joe knew that was probably going to change real fast. He Piked up his Stalker and passed the turn, relying on the 6/1 to deter Brandon’s offense. Brandon equipped Birds of Paradise and attacked for 2, triggering 4 damage with the Sword to put Joe on a two-turn clock. He followed with Phyrexian Metamorph copying Sword of War and Peace—that was lethal on the board.
Joe Thought Scoured himself, hitting Lingering Souls but without more colored mana he couldn’t make any plays to bring back this game.
Brandon 1, Joe 0
Joe struggled with mana and a tempo disadvantage in both games.
Seachrome Coast and Ponder on Joe’s side following a mulligan to six, while Copperline Gorge and Llanowar Elves began the game for Brandon. Joe untapped into Delver and Vapor Snag on the Elves, leaving Brandon stuck casting two of them on turn 2.
Revealing Mana Leak to his Delver, Joe attacked for 3 and played Evolving Wilds. Brandon cast Avacyn’s Pilgrim and attacked for 2 damage, Joe fetching Swamp during the end step. He attacked Brandon to 13, and passed with three mana up—not much against Brandon’s six!
With three dorks, Brandon could resolve almost anything if he had a fourth land, and he did. Tapping his lands for Garruk Relentless, Brandon shot down the Aberration before attacking for 3. Joe tapped out to play Geist of Saint Traft, and passed the turn over to Brandon.
Daybreak Ranger from Brandon and a pass of the turn before Joe immediately sent in his Geist. Brandon took 4 and blocked all three mana-producers on the Geist, putting Brandon to 9. Post-combat, Joe played another Geist. Brandon had plenty of mana, but likely wasn’t eager to play any spells this turn. Flipping over Daybreak Ranger, he ended the turn.
Joe drew and considered his choices before casting Lingering Souls and passing. Brandon ate a token during the end step, untapping with a hungry Nightfall Predator. He tried to Sword of War and Peace his Pilgrim, but Gut Shot handled that and left Joe on 13. Passing with his Predator at the ready, Brandon was vulnerable.
Sending his Spirit and Geist, Brandon ate Geist blocking and took 5, falling to 4. Post-combat, Joe cast a third Geist of Saint Traft and lost his token to the Predator. Brandon was on 4, but his Sword put him to 7 and Huntmaster of the Fells made that 9. Joe fell from 13 to 4, and now he was the one facing lethal.
Thought Scour put two dudes in the bin, and Joe cast Phantasmal Image on Huntmaster, going to 6 life. With Brandon’s Predator flip trigger on the stack, Brandon decided to fight the Image and kill it, missing an opportunity to leave Joe on nothing but red and white creatures. Sending just his Wolf token, Brandon appeared to have something up his sleeve. Joe traded Wolves, and nodded as Brandon cast Green Sun’s Zenith for another Huntmaster.
With Brandon on 11, lethal seemed very far away to Joe Bernal. Flashbacking Lingering Souls and casting Delver of Secrets, he passed tapped out. Brandon would likely do the same, blowing him out with triggers... and if he didn’t, then Brandon would likely have something far worse in store. He attacked with his Wolf token and Joe took 2 damage, now dead to a pass of the turn from those Huntmasters unless he could Scour his way into a Vapor Snag or similar.
Blanking, he conceded the game.
Brandon 1, Joe 0