Semifinals: Brad Nelson vs. Reid Duke
Brad and Reid need no introduction, and their deck of choice, Sultai Reanimator, hardly needs one either. Which of these titans of the game would earn their seat in the finals?
Brad ciphers out which card to take.
Reid was on the play, and he got things started with the infamous Standard duo of green creatures: Turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid, turn 3 Courser of Kruphix, with a Temple of Deceit coming off the top immediately for a little extra value. Brad had no play until his third turn, when he found the supposed “trump” of the matchup, Pharika, God of Affliction. Reid had no play to provide any additional pressure on his fourth turn, only adding a land and passing, which gave Brad pause. He held Sidisi, Blood Tyrant, but suspected a removal spell out of Reid, so he just played his land and shipped the turn right back.
Courser of Kruphix attacked for another two damage, but Brad shot it down with a Sultai Charm before it connected. Reid followed up with a Commune of the Gods, finding a Hornet Queen. Reid passed, and Brad decided the waiting game had gone on long enough. He cast Sidisi, Blood Tyrant, flipping over a Sylvan Caryatid to net him a 2/2 Zombie Token. Reid cast Thoughtseize on his own turn, seeing Llanowar Wastes, Doomwake Giant, and a pair of Hornet Queens in Brad’s hand. He took the Doomwake Giant out of Brad’s hand, then tapped out for a Doomwake Giant of his own. Brad took his turn and played the Llanowar Wastes, but had no other play, still a land short of unleashing the hornets.
Reid wasted no time unleashing said Hornets, however, as he hit his seventh mana source and cast a Hornet Queen, but declined to attack due to Brad’s Pharika, which threatened to produce deathtouch Snake Tokens. Brad deliberated for a moment after untapping, concerned about Reid’s Doomwake Giant, but ultimately decided to pull the trigger on his own Hornet Queen. He passed the turn with trepidation. Reid drew, played an Opulent Palace, and passed the turn. Brad breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Courser of Kruphix showed up for Brad, finding him a free Island, and a Murderous Cut solved the Doomwake Giant problem. Brad decided it was time to turn up the heat, and he came swinging with Sidisi, Pharika, and all of his tokens. Reid cashed in some of his Insect tokens on defense, killing off Sidisi, trading with an insect, and falling to 13. He untapped, found a Thoughtseize, and used it to clean out the last card in Brad’s hand, the second Hornet Queen, but he was still in trouble on board.
Brad attacked again with his tokens and his Pharika, and Reid blocked with the last of his Insect Tokens, falling to 8. Reid had just his Caryatid and his Hornet Queen back on defense, and found only another land in his draw step. He passed the turn, and Brad cranked out four 1/1 Snake tokens, then untapped and turned everything sideways. Reid counted up the damage, offered a quick “Good Game,” and scooped up his cards.
A Thoughtseize on turn 2 fom Reid saw what Brad had in store for him: Murderous Cut, Reclamation Sage, Satyr Wayfinder, Whip of Erebos, and a pair of lands. Reid sniped the Whip, and Brad just played a Temple of Malady and passed right back. Reid got on board with a Courser of Kruphix, revealing Treasure Cruise on top of his library. Brad had a Polluted Delta on his third turn, which allowed him the sequence of Satyr Wayfinder into Murderous Cut, killing off the Courser before it could generate any card advantage.
Courser #2, however, netted Reid an Opulent Palace immediately. Reid tapped out on his next turn for a second Murderous Cut, sending the second Courser of Kruphix to the bin, and poked for 1 with his Wayfinder. A Read the Bones from Reid netted him two cards, and Brad had no way to capitalize on the empty board, simply attacking again with the Wayfinder. When Reid cast Courser of Kruphix #3, Brad was ready with a Reclamation Sage, keeping the board clear for yet another turn, but Reid was quick to replace the card drawing engine with another, dropping Eidolon of Blossoms into play.
It was Brad now who was out of action, and he passed the turn back to Reid, who followed his Eidolon with a second copy, drawing two cards. Those two cards were Nykthos, Shrine, which gave Reid a burst of green mana, and Pharika, God of Affliction, which jumped into play and provided a recurring card-advantage engine. He passed in a commanding position. Brad drew another land and chuckled.
Brad: “I’m not gonna make you go through the motions here.”
Brad was first to the board in game 3, casting Satyr Wayfinder and netting a Llanowar Waste. Sylvan Caryatid was the 2-drop of choice for Reid, and both players kept on curve with a Courser of Kruphix on turn 3. Brad went one better, casting Sidisi, Blood Tyrant on his fourth turn and netting a 2/2 Zombie. Reid didn’t have a creature to cast for turn 4, but he did have a pair of Thoughtseizes, clearing Brad’s hand of Hornet Queen and Courser of Kruphix and leaving him with just three lands.
Sidisi and Courser of Kruphix came swinging on Brad’s turn, only getting through for two damage total, but gaining Brad another 2/2 Zombie. Reid cast Read the Bones on his own turn, going down to 12, but not finding a fourth land. Murderous Cut came off the top for Brad to clear Reid’s Courser of Kruphix out of the way, and Brad swung out, bringing Reid down to 4. Reid drew and cast another Sylvan Caryatid, but it wasn’t enough to keep him above 0 when Brad attacked with all of his Zombies again.
Reid spots a Forest on top.
Thoughtseize was the first play, on Reid’s second turn, and it saw three lands along with a Thoughtseize, a Doomwake Giant, a Satyr Wayfinder, and a Soul of Innistrad. Reid got rid of Brad’s Thoughtseize, leaving him with a Satyr Wayfinder to play on his own turn 2. Reid had Courser of Kruphix on turn 3, but Reid didn’t get to keep it, as Brad had drawn Reclamation Sage in the meantime, and quickly sent it to the yard. Reid replaced it with a different engine, an Eidolon of Blossoms, and had another Thoughtseize that turn as well, getting rid of Brad’s Doomwake Giant and leaving him with Soul of Innistrad and some lands.
A Thoughtseize off the top from Brad got rid of Reid’s last card, a Hero’s Downfall, but Reid found Courser of Kruphix on his next draw step, and quickly began accumulating cards again. Brad hit his sixth land drop and promptly put his Soul of Innistrad into play. It didn’t stick; Reid drew Doomwake Giant, and found Hero’s Downfall of the Eidolon of Blossoms constellation trigger it provided, using it to destroy the Soul before it could cause any trouble.
Brad untapped and passed the turn right back, planning to use his Soul of Innistrad from the graveyard on Reid’s end step. Reid swung for 7 with his enchantment creatures while the board was empty, dropping Brad to 5. Brad pulled Courser of Kruphix, Reclamation Sage, and Doomwake Giant out of his graveyard at end step with the Soul of Innistrad, then untapped and added Courser and Sage to his board, destroying Reid’s own Courser in the process.
Reid’s Doomwake Giant rumbled in, drawing a chump block from the Reclamation Sage. Brad had a plan on his own turn to get the troublesome Eidolon off the board. He cast Doomwake Giant, then attempted Courser of Kruphix as a follow up. Reid used Hero’s Downfall in response to kill the Doomwake Giant, preventing it from causing a second -1/-1 trigger. Reid untapped and hit a terrific sequence—Courser of Kruphix off the top drew into a second Eidolon of Blossoms, giving Reid another card advantage engine. He attacked with his Doomwake Giant, and Brad deliberated for a moment before taking the damage, falling to 2.
Brad emptied his hand out in hopes of stabilizing. First came Reclamation Sage, destroying Reid’s Doomwake Giant. Next was an Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, which ticked up to exile three of Reid’s cards, including another Eidolon of Blossoms. He passed the turn in a precarious position. Reid’s double Eidolon of Blossoms provided plenty of gas to close things out, as he cast Pharika, God of Affliction followed by another Doomwake Giant. With each Pharika activation yielding Reid two drawn cards and -1/-1 to Brad’s team, Brad knew he was beat and picked up his cards.
Brad led off with just a pair of lands, and Reid opened with Opulent Palace before casting a turn 2 Thoughtseize. Brad’s hand was strong: Murderous Cut, Pharika, God of Affliction, Sidisi, Blood Tyrant, Reclamation Sage, Courser of Kruphix, and Polluted Delta. Reid took the Pharika, seeing that Brad was missing the second green source to cast his turn 3 Courser of Kruphix. Brad took his draw step, immediately found and played forest, and the Courser came down.
Brad: “That was a really good Forest.”
Brad didn’t get to keep the Courser, however, as Reid’s Reclamation Sage destroyed it, but Sidisi, Blood Tyrant showed up next for Brad, although it turned over 3 lands and missed on making a Zombie token. Reid had only Sylvan Caryatid as a response on his own turn, failing to make a land drop, and Brad added a replacement Courser to the board and came swinging with his Sidisi, this time turning over Hornet Queen to earn himself a 2/2.
Reid had a second Sylvan Caryatid, but it wasn’t doing much good to hold the fort, as Brad came knocking with Sidisi again, dropping Reid to 10. Reid’s next turn gave him a window to cast Pharika, God of Affliction, although he was currently without and creatures in his graveyard to feed it. He passed with two mana open, and when Brad led off his next turn with Kiora, the Crashing Wave, Reid quickly tapped out for Disdainful Stroke. Brad saw his window, and attacked with everything, using Murderous Cut to get rid of Reid’s last untapped creature, a Reclamation Sage, before blockers could be declared. Reid fell to 3, and Sidisi served up Brad a second 2/2 Zombie token.
Now with his back against the wall, Reid could only untap and pass the turn back, needing his mana for Pharika activations. Brad began the turn with a Whip of Erebos, then swung in with his team: Sidisi, Courser of Kruphix, and a pair of Zombies. Reid blocked the Zombies with his two Sylvan Caraytids, and tapped them to cast Silence the Believers on the Sidisi, but fell to 1. Brad had a second Courser of Kruphix post-combat, and Reid was in no better a spot than he had been before. He played a Courser of Kruphix of his own, went back up to 2 with a land drop, and passed the turn back.
Now Brad was looking at five lethal attackers versus four blockers on Reid’s end. Just to be safe, he used Whip of Erebos to fish a Reclamation Sage out of his graveyard, clearing away the Courser, then turned everything sideways. Reid smiled and extended the hand.