Semifinals: Derrick Roper vs. John Milner
Both semifinals are Blitz versus Junk Reanimator matchups, but on this side of the bracket it turns out that Blitz will be on the play! Can Derrick’s Angel of Serenity package keep up with John’s Kessig Malcontents and friends?
John is on the play for game 1, and led with Temple Garden into Experiment One. Derrick took two from Temple Garden as well, and played out Arbor Elf. John’s Cavern of Souls made Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and then Experiment One a 2/2. Derrick fell to 16. The legendary Soldier is rough for any deck, much less one that depends on Mulch and Grisly Salvage, and he passed after a land drop. Derrick took four to fall to 12, and John added Champion of the Parish to his board as well. At end of turn Grisly Salvage garnered Thragtusk.
Derrick untapped, made a Woodland Cemetery drop, and played out another Arbor Elf. Mayor of Avabruck grew Champion to 2/2 then 3/3, and the trio of John’s 3-power attackers swung into Derrick. He decided to chump bloack one of the attackers, the Champ, and he took 6 to go to 6. Derrick untapped and found Cavern of Souls (naming Angel) and Thragtusk to gain some life and add a much needed beefy blocker to his cause.
But John, still on only two lands (and no red for the Searing Spear in hand), cast Lightning Mauler. He made a relationship with Champion of the Parish (now a 4/4) and after attacks the Champion traded with ‘Tusk and Derrick fell to 2. He found another Thragtusk to go back up to 7 to try to keep himself alive, but John had another Lightning Mauler to drop Derrick back down to 1 (blocking both Maulers).
John's Blitzkrieg is Naya unstoppable!
Derrick had been on the ropes all game, a common theme when battling against Naya Blitz, but now at a measly one life point he was almost out of the ring. Avacyn’s Pilgrim was his only play, and when John topdecked Sacred Foundry he was finally able to cast the pseudo-Incinerate he’d been holding for the entire game.
John 1, Derrick 0.
This game showcased the sheer power of Blitz. Even with a less-than-ideal mana situation, only two lands and only a Cavern for red for a long time, the overall speed of the deck is just too much for most Junk Reanimator pilots to handle.
Derrick, now on the play, played out Avacyn’s Pilgrim off Temple Garden. John cast Champion of the Parish off Cavern on his turn one. Derrick used Mulch to grab two lands and, after Inspiration, passed. John cast Thalia, Guardian of Thraben once more on turn two, and attacked with his now 2/2 creature to drop Derrick to 16. The Junksman played Temple Garden tapped and passed. After the Blitz pilot attacked, Putrefy took down the legend and Derrick took three. John kept up Skullcrack mana before passing.
“That’s a pretty good 1-of.”
Boros Elite regrew his board, and he kept Skullcrack mana up still. Derrick only played a land and passed, so Purify the Grave took Sever the Bloodline from Derrick’s options. Land four brought Burning-Tree Emissary and Mayor of Avabruck, and then Elite dropped Derrick to 11… but Angel of Serenity took out all three of John’s creatures. All John could do now was play Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and pass.
Angel dropped John to 8, and another Angel of Serenity simply returned a creature to his hand. Purify took out the Angel’s second target (Restoration Angel), but not finding a 10-point burn spell on top of his deck John moved on to game three.
Derrick 1, John 1.
This game proved that Junk, despite a poor matchup, can beat Blitz without Thragtusk’s life gain given enough time (and enough luck) to land an early Angel to stymie the Naya offensive. A 5/6 is very difficult for Blitz to deal with… as long as it actually comes into play and isn’t stuck in hand!
Derrick is looking to take the 'bad guy' of the format to the top!
“I’ll play and see what happens!” The players had some friendly banter, and began the last game.
Voice of Resurgence came into play for Derrick on the defensive, and John failed to find a second land. He did find Champion number two… but Sever the Bloodline took out both Champions once again! Maybe it should be more than a 1-of!
Land two finally appeared, and Thalia entered play for John. Derrick, now with five mana, cast a three-mana Mulch. That garnered Sunpetal Grove, but binned a dangerous Angel of Serenity. Voice number two also appeared for Derrick. Mayor of Avabruck came down for John on his turn, and he passed right back without attacking. But Derrick’s board continued to clog up, as another 1/1 mana guy entered play and Restoration Angel stayed up. Boros Elite was John’s only follow-up.
Now with mana aplenty, Derrick hardcast Angel of Serenity to wipe John’s board. Mayor of Avabruck off the top was John’s only response, and with the Junk player firing on all cylinders it looked close to over now. Fiend Hunter took out the elected official, and unable to find land number three for Fiend Hunter John offered good luck to Derrick in the finals.
Derrick 2, John 1.
Naya Blitz is extremely powerful and extremely fast… but a little fragile. If you stumble on mana early, even with a double-Champion plus Boros Elite hand like John kept (he topdecked the Cavern turn two) you can give your opponent the window they need to get things going. But let’s not overlook Voice of Resurgence! The 2/2 from Dragon’s Maze proved to be instrumental in the victory, playing both offense and defense with ease in this semifinal match. We’ll see if that trend continues, as Derrick Roper moves on to the finals!