Semifinals: Jim Davis vs. Dan Jessup
16th-ranked Dan Jessup Is on the outside looking in for an at-large Players’ Championship invite. His only way in is to win the Invitational itself, and he’s made good on that plan, taking Abzan Midrange all the way to the semifinals. The gatekeeper? His friend and travelmate Jim Davis, championing U/W Control.
Jim goes digging with a Divination.
Both players were slow and steady to develop, as the first action came from Jim with a turn 3 Divination. Dan didn’t make a play until his fourth turn, when he tried a Sorin, Solemn Visitor, but Jim shut it down with a Disdainful Stroke. Jim had no counter for the Siege Rhino that came next, and fell to 15, but he fired off an end-step Dig Through Time to refuel, netting himself a Nullify and a Devouring Light. He passed with mana up, and got to use both spells, as he Devouring Lighted the Siege Rhino in combat then Nullified Dan’s post-combat Siege Rhino.
Jim untapped with six mana on an empty board, but declined to cast the Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in his hand, choosing instead to leave up mana for a Dig Through Time. Dan cast an Elspeth of his own on his turn, prompting the Dig from Jim, but he found no countermagic, only a pair of Jace’s Ingenuity, and Dan’s Elspeth resolved and began cranking out soldiers. Jim had Banishing Light in hand, but took a gamble and cast Jace’s Ingenuity first, leaving him with two untapped lands. He didn’t find a third land in the three fresh cards, and passed the turn with Dan’s Elspeth still uncontested.
After Reading the Bones to dig a little deeper into his deck, Dan sent his three tokens in at Jim, knocking him to 13, then made 3 more and passed. Jim found an Evolving Wilds on his draw step, which could tap for mana immediately thanks to Dan’s Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This gave him the 8 mana he needed to cast End Hostilities, clearing the board of Soldier tokens, and Banishing Light to exile the planeswalker. Dan untapped and cast Thoughtseize, seeing a grip full of power hitters on Jim’s side: Jace’s Ingenuity, Pearl Lake Ancient, End Hostilities, and a pair of Elspeth, Sun’s Champions. Knowing he would have no plan against a Pearl Lake Ancient going long, he sent it to the graveyard, then replaced his exiled Elspeth with another from his hand and began re-assembling his army of Soldiers.
Looking for an answer to Elspeth, Jim cast his Jace’s Ingenuity, and was rewarded with another Banishing Light. He fell to 12 on Dan’s turn from the trio of 1/1s, but Dan had no follow up other than an Abzan Charm to draw two more cards. Jim untapped with exactly enough mana to cast an Elspeth with Dissolve backup, so that’s what he did, and he needed to use the Dissolve immediately to protect his planeswalker from a Hero’s Downfall. This left his shields down for Dan to stick a Siege Rhino, jumping up to 18 and draining Jim down to 10. He attacked with his Soldiers, and Jim was happy to trade with his own.
An End Hostilities solved Jim’s rhinoceros problem, and Elspeth cranked out some more tokens. Courser of Kruphix came off the top for Dan, but it was an anemic offense against Jim’s Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, which remained uncontested. He found only Sylvan Caryatid on his next turn, and by then Jim was ultimating his Elspeth to attack for 18 in the air to close out the game.
Jim Davis 1, Dan Jessup 0
Again the game’s first action was a three mana card-drawing spell, but this time it was Dan who led with a Read the Bones. The next action took place two turns later, when Dan led off his turn 5 with a Thoughtseize, prompting a Negate from Jim. He tried Sorin, Solemn Visitor next, but that too was countered thanks to Disdainful Stroke. Dan cast Read the Bones into another Thoughtseize, but Jim Dissolved it. Now out of countermagic, Jim had no reason to leave mana up and cast Brimaz, King of Oreskos, looking to take the offensive.
A third Read the Bones from Dan found Courser of Kruphix, revealing an Abzan Charm lurking on top of his library. Jim cast a Divination then swung in with his Cats. Dan blocked the Brimaz, and his Courser was exiled with Devouring Light. Dan’s first attempt to kill the Brimaz on his own turn, with Abzan Charm, was countered with Negate, but his second try with Hero’s Downfall was successful, and Jim was left with only a 1/1 Cat Soldier Token. Jim was quick to rebuild, however, casting Jace’s Ingenuity into a second copy of Brimaz, which he tapped out to cast.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion showed up for Dan in a bid to stabilize the ground. Jim attacked with Brimaz and two Cat Soldiers, which prompted three blocks from Dan’s Soldiers. Jim exiled the Elspeth with a Banishing Light and passed, but it came right back into the battlefield at his end step thanks to Dan’s Erase. Dan added Courser of Kruphix to his board and began accumulating Soldier Tokens in preparation for a big attack, but Jim still had a trick up his sleeve, and cast Fated Retribution to clean everything up.
Dan had been stockpiling a few threats in his hand, and quickly redeveloped with a Courser of Kruphix and a Siege Rhino. The second drew a Dissolve from Jim, who untapped and found Jace’s Ingenuity. Among the three new cards was a Dig Through Time, and suddenly Jim had plenty of gas in the tank. Dan had plenty of fuel of his own, as he cast an Abzan Charm to draw 2 cards, found a second Abzan Charm, and cast it as well. Jim’s end-step Dig found him a pair of Dissolves, but the rest of his cards were land, so he had no immediate way to stop Dan’s Courser of Kruphix from generating cards and poking away 2 life points at a time.
Thoughtseize from Dan drew one of the Dissolves, and an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion drew the other. Jim was out of gas again, but the Courser of Kruphix had a long way to go, as Jim fell to 24 thanks to his Radiant Fountains and Tranquil Coves. When Dan attacked again, Jim revealed that he had drawn Pearl Lake Ancient. It came into play, but Dan pointed Hero’s Downfall at it before it could block, and Jim picked up two Radiant Fountains and a Temple of Enlightenment to send it back to his hand, then fell to 22 from the Courser. After combat, Dan had Liliana Vess to go searching, and the Courser of Kruphix played spoiler, revealing Elspeth, Sun’s Champion freshly placed on top.
A Brimaz, King of Oreskos off the top for Jim looked to hold off any further attacks on the ground, but Liliana Vess began ticking up to attack Jim’s hand, and the Elspeth arrived to start generating Soldier Tokens. Jim flashed in his Pearl Lake Ancient again, then untapped and cast Glare of Heresy to solve the Elspeth problem. Dan chump-blocked the Ancient with a Soldier Token, then used Utter End at end step to dispose of Jim’s Brimaz. He untapped and ticked up with his Liliana again, then cast Read the Bones to find a and cast a Siege Rhino, draining Jim down to 18 after his attacks. Jim took the opportunity to bounce and recast his Pearl Lake Ancient at Dan’s end step, giving him some lands in hand to discard to Liliana.
Jim found an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion of his own on his next turn, casting it and making three tokens before passing back with the Pearl Lake Ancient still on defense. Dan used Utter End to force it back into Jim’s hand, then untapped and came swinging with everything. Jim traded off two tokens for two of Dan’s, fell to 12 from the other attackers, then sunk into his chair when Dan revealed the third Utter End, which he had been holding the entire game, to exile Jim’s Elspeth. Dan turned the screws even further with a Thoughtseize, clearing the Pearl Lake Ancient out of Jim’s hand.
Jim passed the turn with a freshly drawn Disdainful Stroke at the ready. He countered Dan’s Siege Rhino with it, but fell to 6 from his attackers, and Dan looked to close things out by tutoring up a Nissa, Worldwaker with his Liliana Vess. Jim’s draw step was a Jace’s Ingenuity, but it didn’t find him any countermagic, and the Nissa entered play on Jim’s next turn to animate a Llanowar Wastes and close things out.
Jim Davis 1, Dan Jessup 1
Dan attacks with everyone's favorite rhinoceros.
This time Dan’s turn 3 Read the Bones was shut down by Jim’s Negate, and Jim wasted no time untapping and slamming Brimaz, King of Oreskos into play on his third turn. An Abzan Charm off the top for Dan solved the Cat King problem, then resolved a Courser of Kruphix on his following turn. He was able to draw out a Negate on his next turn with Thoughtseize before resolving Read the Bones, revealing a Nissa Worldwaker and an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in the process. Jim didn’t have any more countermagic in hand, so he could only watch as Dan resolved Elspeth and made some tokens. He DID have Dig through Time, however, and found himself a Divination and a Disdainful Stroke at Dan’s end step.
Jim fired off the Divination and passed the turn with mana up for his Disdainful Stroke, but Dan declined to give him a target for it, simply attacking for five, making some more Soldiers, and passing the turn rather than playing into Fated Retribution. Jim used Glare of Heresy to dispose of the Elspeth, and passed back with mana untapped rather than use his End Hostilities, wanting to leave up a counter for a potential Nissa. Dan knocked him down to 6 life with his Soldiers and again passed without a play, content with his current board presence. Jim had just enough mana untapped and cards in graveyard to cast an end step Dig Through Time, acquiring Negate and Jace’s Ingenuity for his troubles. He untapped and cast his End Hostilities to clear the board, then passed back with two lands untapped.
When Dan tried Nissa, Worldwaker on his next turn, Jim couldn’t Negate it fast enough. Dan had enough mana left over to sneak another Courser of Kruphix into play while Jim was tapped out, and he resolved Abzan Charm to draw 2 cards on his next turn after Jim untapped and passed. His next attempt was a Liliana Vess, and Jim cast Jace’s Ingenuity in response before countering it with Disdainful Stroke. He untapped and cast Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, generating some tokens to stabilize the ground at 4 life.
Dan had an Elspeth of his own, which resolved, and an Utter End in a bid to exile Jim’s Elspeth, but that one was countered with Dissolve. Jim used Banishing Light to answer the opposing Elspeth, and cranked out another trio of tokens. He had Disdainful Stroke to stop Dan’s Nissa, Worldwaker, but that cleared the way for another Utter End to get Jim’s Elspeth off the board. Dan attacked with his team, and Jim chose to single block everything with a token, leaving him with one Soldier Token and Dan with a Courser of Kruphix in the aftermath.
A Radiant Fountain off the top brought Jim back up to 6 life, crucially out of Siege Rhino range even if he took a hit from Dan’s Courser. A main-phase Jace’s Ingenuity found him a Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which entered play to further cement his board position, but Dan had some bad news for him at the end step: Erase unlocked the Elspeth from beneath Jim’s Banishing Light. He had Abzan Charm on his own turn to exile the Brimaz, then made three more tokens and attacked with his Courser, drawing a chump block from Jim, and passed with two cards in hand, declining to further develop his board.
Jim wasn’t done just yet, however, as he had another Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to reestablish the stalemate. He took 2 from Courser of Kruphix on Dan’s next attack, falling to 5 thanks to a Tranquil Cove on the previous turn, and traded off soldiers. When Dan tried it again next turn, Jim sprang into action with a Pearl Lake Ancient to ambush the Courser of Kruphix. Sensing that this might be his best window to close things out, Dan emptied his hand, casting Sorin, Solemn Visitor to make a 2/2 Vampire and Siege Rhino to drain Jim down to 2, then made three mokre tokens and passed.
Jace’s Ingenuity was Jim’s last card, and he used it hoping to draw into a miracle. He found pair of Banishing Lights, which kept him alive for at least another turn, as he exiled the 2/2 Vampire and Dan’s Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, which was at 7 loyalty and threatening a lethal ultimate. He made three tokens and passed, ready with a token for each token and a Pearl Lake Ancient on defense against Dan’s Siege Rhino.
Hero’s Downfall off the top for Dan got that Pearl Lake Ancient out of the way, and cleared a path for him to attack for the win.
Dan Jessup 2, Jim Davis 1
After a marathon three games, Jim Davis unfortunately took several trips back to the well in game 4, mulliganing to just 4 cards on the draw. A turn 3 Divination went a long way toward getting him back to card parity, although he had no answer for Dan’s Courser of Kruphix on turn 4. Jim had another Divination on his next turn, and suddenly had a full grip and was right back in it. He passed the turn with two mana up, and got to maximize his mana with a Disdainful Stroke for Dan’s Siege Rhino.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos came down on Jim’s next turn, with two mana still untapped representing more countermagic. He held a Negate, but declined to use it when Dan cast Hero’s Downfall on his Brimaz. Jim was bottlenecked on mana, so he used Dig Through Time on his own turn to find a land drop, taking Temple of Enlightenment and Banishing Light. He played the Temple and passed with two mana up again. Dan opened up his turn with a Thoughtseize, seeing the bad news: Devouring Light, Disdainful Stroke, two Negates, and two Jace’s Ingenuity. He settled in for the long game by sniping one Jace’s Ingenuity, but chose not to play into the rest of Jim’s countermagic, simply passing the turn. Jim put Polluted Delta into play directly from the top of his library, then passed it right back.
A Read the Bones found more action for Dan, who decided to draw out the Devouring Light by attacking with his Courser of Kruphix. Jim obliged him, but Dan had a replacement Courser at the ready, conveniently dodging Jim’s hand of Negate and Disdainful Stroke. He drew out Negate with a Thoughtseize and passed to Jim, who untapped but had no plays, at least not at sorcery speed. Dan’s Abzan Charm to draw two cards resolved on his next turn, and Courser bonked Jim down to 12, but Dan’s Thoughtseize was again negated, and Jim was able to fire off an end-step Jace’s Ingenuity for three fresh cards.
Among those cards was a Brimaz, King of Oreskos, which Jim cast, but it met a Hero’s Downfall from Dan. Dan’s Siege Rhino prompted a Disdainful Stroke from Jim, and he hoped that was the last of Jim’s countermagic, but he quickly found otherwise when his attempted follow-up, a Liliana Vess, was countered with Dissolve. Both players were properly out of gas at this point, but Dan’s Courser of Kruphix kept on doing work, and he attacked Jim down 10, then 8, as both players simply drew and played lands. Jim found Dissolve next, and was given a fine target for it immediately as Dan drew Nissa, Worldwaker. He scryed and saw another Dissolve, but after some deliberation concluded that he needed to find a solution to his onboard problem.
Jim fell to 6 from the Courser, took his draw step and found a Flooded Strand. He passed and fell to 4, and Dan cast Sorin, Solemn Visitor, making a 2/2 Vampire Token to threaten lethal. Jim took a peek at his top card and found… Disdainful Stroke. He laughed and congratulated his friend on his seat in the finals.
Dan Jessup 3, Jim Davis 1