Semifinals: John Cuvelier vs. Sam Williams
It was Jund on Jund in the first Standard semifinal of the weekend, but John’s midrange deck was a very different animal from Sam’s Experiment Jund deck. The pressure would be on John to defend both his life total and his title as reigning Orlando Standard Open champion.
Sam's Experiment Jund remains atop the standings.
Sam kept his hand while John mulliganed to six cards and hung onto a land-light draw with Farseek and Thragtusk alongside a Mizzium Mortars. Each player had tapped lands on turn 1, with Sam first to the board when he cast Flinthoof Boar on turn 2. John had the choice between Mortars, Dreadbore, or Farseek, but would have to take 2 damage for a shockland to do any of those options.
John elected to Farseek, and sent the turn. He knew he’d be going to 16 or 15 if Sam found Mountain, but Sam super-sized the damage with Dreg Mangler and left John at 13 instead. Dreadbore killed the Mangler but John missed his fourth land drop, one he really needed to cast the second Farseek in his hand and set up either Thragtusk or Olivia Voldaren.
Sam drew Blood Crypt and took 2 damage for Hellrider, knocking John to 5 life and leaving him pretty much dead. Mortars removed the lethal Hellrider, but Sam had more than half the deck for lethal outs and dropped another Dreg Mangler on the next turn.
Sam 1, John 0
A land-heavy seven for John on the play this time, including a Wolf Run and an Arbor Elf with Abrupt Decay, and Sam went to six cards in search of something better. Each player once more had tapped lands, with John casting Arbor Elf on turn 2 before Sam attacked him with Strangleroot Geist.
The Geist was a threat to John because he lacked a relevant blocker, so he just chipped in for 1 with Arbor Elf after making a land drop. Sam cast Appetite for Brains on turn 3 and missed, revealing Mizzium Mortars, Abrupt Decay, and lands. That’s a whiff, and he simply attacked before taking 2 for a shockland and playing a hapless Flinthoof Boar.
John declined to Decay in the end step, knowing he’d have Mortars online soon enough, and found Thragtusk waiting to reward him on top of the library. That put John to 21, shut down Sam’s current offense, and put Sam to a decision against the oncoming overload of Mizzium Mortars as well. He attacked with both creatures, his Strangleroot Geist earning the block while John went to 18, but he made no other plays.
Tempted to scoop up the two-for-one on the board, John considered his options. The overload lost a lot of value now that Sam knew it was coming, but John elected to play Kessig Wolf Run and Decay the back end of the Geist before attacking for 6 and entering the race. He would be able to threaten the same Mortars next turn, meaning Sam would want another Strangleroot Geist or his Falkenrath Aristocrat here.
Instead he had Hellrider to attack John down to 10 and force John’s hand. Mortars cleared Sam’s board and John attacked him to 5 life, with Kessig Wolf Run and six more mana available alongside Thragtusk. If Sam tapped out for creatures he wouldn’t be able to Spear the pumped 5/3, but if he didn’t play any he’d be dead anyway. After some thought, Sam conceded.
John's defending his Standard Open win from last year in the Top 4.
Sam 1, John 1
Sam kept his seven while John stared at an awesome hand with one problem—it didn’t have red mana. Sighing, he threw it back for six fresh ones. “It’s a very good hand,” he noted as he shuffled it away. His six cost him 2 life for turn 1 Arbor Elf, while Sam had Strangelroot Geist to knock John to 16.
The Arbor Elf enabled John to Farseek as he played a second Overgrown Tomb, digging up Stomping Ground. He was threatening a potential turn 3 Thragtusk here, which had to have Sam concerned. He cast Appetite for Brains and relieved some of his concerns, seeing Huntmaster of the Fells, Olivia Voldaren, Abrupt Decay, and Woodland Cemetery.
Olivia moved to exile, and Sam cast Golgari Charm for -1/-1 to get in an additional point of damage and kill John’s Arbor Elf. No doubt boarded in as Bonfire insurance, Sam had found another use for the Charm here. That left John tapping out for Huntmaster of the Fells, going to 15, but Sam was quick to get back on the offensive with Falkenrath Aristocrat.
John’s hand was perfect here, filled with Tragic Slips and an Abrupt Decay. He declined to send the Wolf token and passed in an attempt to flip Huntmaster, which succeeded in putting Sam to 18 and forcing Aristocrat to sacrifice Geist. John declined to block, and Sam seized the moment to bloodrush Ghor-Clan Rampager and try 8 damage. The Slip landed then, John’s patience earning him basically a three-for-one, but when Sam didn’t have a creature for him to Abrupt Decay after combat, John couldn’t flip back Huntmaster.
An attack for 6 put Sam to 12, and he passed after playing a tapped land on turn 5. The next swing put him to 6 life and under pressure to find a blocker that couldn’t be killed by the Abrupt Decay he knew John had or a removal spell for Ravager of the Fells. Dreg Mangler failed to qualify for either, but Searing Spear on John’s Wolf token meant he lacked lethal.
The Decay removed the Mangler as Ravager flipped into Huntmaster, leaving John on 13. Sam fell 4 and then John passed, flipping Huntmaster to leave Sam on 2 and in trouble. He failed to find an answer, and that was the match.
Sam 1, John 2