Semifinals: Joseph Herrera vs. Jack Fogle
Joseph is representing Natural Order Bant in this top 4, while Jack is more of an Esper sort of fellow. Which Shard will take the cake and move on to the finals?
Jack was the higher seed and elected to take the play, so the match began with the Esper pilot casting Deathrite Shaman, using a fetchland to grab Underground Sea. Noble Hierarch was Joseph’s opening play. Liliana of the Veil turn two made the Druid hit the bin on Jack’s turn two. Gitaxian Probe revealed the hand of double Thoughtseize, Brainstorm, and a dual land from Jack’s hand, and Joseph followed that play up with Tarmogoyf.
Jack cast Brainstorm to sculpt his hand and cast Thoughtseize. The Lorwyn rare snagged Green Sun’s Zenith from a hand that also included Dryad Arbor, two Natural Order, and Spell Pierce. A third land of the game allowed Jack to also cast a second Thoughtseize to take out a Natural Order as well. Liliana meant both players discarded, with Spell Pierce and Deathrite Shaman going away. A land in the bin allowed Deathrite Shaman to cast Swords to Plowshares to rid the ‘Goyf from the board.
Quite the turn!
Swords took out Joseph’s follow-up Qasali Pridemage, and Rhox War Monk off the top the next turn met its end to Liliana of the Veil’s Diabolic Edict effect... or would have, had Dryad Arbor not been in play! Double Deathrite Shaman did not impede the 4/5 War Monk (thanks to Noble Hierarch) and life totals sat at 23-14 in favor of Joseph. Jack found Batterskull on top of his deck and added it to his board.
4/5 War Monk set life totals at 10 to 27, then Knight of the Reliquary (with no pump from his bin) joined the fray. Batterskull brought life totals back in the opposite direction, and Jack passed with all of his mana available. Joseph pondered the board state before ultimately deciding to just pass. Deathrite Shamans dropped Joseph down to 19 at end of turn. We’re in for a long haul.
Batterskull put Jack into the lead 15-18, and Karakas came down before he passed right back to Joseph. Rhox War Monk attacked, and Batterskull and Deathrite attacked. The Shaman traded with the Monk, and both players gained four before the remaining Shaman removed another sorcery from Joseph’s bin. Batterskull set life totals at 13-26, and at end of turn Joseph used Knight of the Reliquary to search out a fetchland and a basic Plains. Joseph had no further action on his turn, and Jack’s Shaman once more dropped Joseph down ever lower and lower.
When Jack untapped, Snapcaster Mage elicited a Knight activation to add two lands to his bin. Then Tiago Chan’s Invitational card was countered by a hardcast Force of Will… but a second Snapcaster Mage in Jack’s hand meant Swords to Plowshares took out the Knight anyway. Noble Hierarch was the only play Joseph could muster at that point, and both Germ token and Snapcaster Mage attacked. 34-8 were the life totals after the ‘Skull was chump blocked, and Joseph cast Brainstorm to try to pull his way back into the game on his next turn.
Jack Fogle's hoping his Shamans can get there!
Things were looking grim though. After a long pause, Gitaxian Probe revealed a discard spell from Jack’s hand and Joseph only passed after that. Inquisition of Kozilek got Swords to target the Germ token, but the attacks continued. Hierarch was forced to block the Snapcaster Mage. Joseph found Jace, the Mind Sculptor on top, but it wasn’t good enough and he scooped.
Joseph 1, Jack 0.
Showcasing the power of Deathrite Shaman that game, Jack’s Deathblade proved to be potent thanks to accelerated Liliana early and echoes of Grim Lavamancer late. The Return to Ravnica rare has proven to be one of the best one-drops ever printed these past six months.
Joseph led with Windswept Heath into Tropical Island and Noble Hierarch. Jack’s turn one consisted of Polluted Delta, basic Swamp, and Inquisition of Kozilek. The Rise of the Eldrazi discard spell snagged Kight of the Reliquary and left Wasteland, Jace, and two Path to Exile unscathed. Joseph, without Knight on turn two, could only attack with Hierarch and pass. Jack searched out basic Island turn two to cast Dark Confidant. Joseph found a fetchland and cast turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor… which resolved! Jace used Unsummon on Dark Confidant, and Bob left the battlefield.
Jack played Brainstorm on his third turn to try to combat the mythic planeswalker, then fetched to shuffle away two lands. Unfortunately, he still had way too many in hand and not enough business spells. Dark Confidant rejoined play, and Jack passed. Jace used Brainstorm on Joseph’s side of the board and then Path to Exile made Bob take a walk out of the battlefield and replace him with Plains. Wasteland took down Jack’s one nonbasic, and he passed.
Thoughtseize revealed Vendilion Clique, Spell Pierce, and Krosan Grip from Joseph’s hand, and Jack chose to make Joseph discard the legendary Faerie. Dryad Arbor became a 2/2 thanks to Hierarch, and Jack dropped to 12 life. Two mana meant Tarmogoyf came into play for the Bantman as well, and Joseph passed.
Supreme Verdict took out all of those creatures though, and Joseph had a follow up Noble Hierarch to support his Jace. After +0 Brainstorm, Green Sun’s Zenith found yet another Invitational winner card, Olle Rade aka Sylvan Safekeeper. But Jack had Supreme Verdict to stymie those plans, leaving Joseph with… well, he still had his Jace, so it was okay. +0 Brainstorm again buried Jack under more card advantage, but still without a true wincon. Green Sun’s Zenith for two found that threat, a 4/5 Tarmogoyf. Life totals sat at 12-18.
“I’ve been using Jace this whole time, and I still feel like I’m behind.”
“Yeah, that’s… not true.”
Joseph's Bant deck utilizes the power of Shards of Alara block!
Tarmogoyf swung into the red zone, and Swords to Plowshares attempted to turn it into a farmer. Force of Will countered the spell though, so it remained in combat and dropped Jack to 8. Sowrds to Plowshares took out the Mystic, and Joseph passed. At end of the turn, Jack searched out another land with Polluted Delta and cast Snapcaster Mage to rid the board of Llurgoyfs once more. 21-8 were life totals at the moment, but Snapcaster Mage met Path to Exile.
Once more, the lone permanent was Jace.
That was short lived though, as Jace of his own went on to the stack for Jack. The planeswalkers legend ruled, and now Jack’s fresh Bob was the only permanent in play once he passed. Despite all of the hard work put in by the Mind Sculptor, Joseph was now behind the eightball. Brainstorm (the spell this time, not the ability) found Karakas to kill off Jack’s, then Knight of the Reliquary entered play. After a quick count, the verdict was that Knight was an 8/8. Batterskull was Jack’s play on his next turn.
Krosan Grip took down the New Phyrexian Living Artifact, and Knight entered the red zone to force a chump block. A draw step later, and Joseph had won the second game.
Joseph 1, Jack 1.
I can count on one hand the number of games I’ve seen where the player who activated Jace’s Brainstorm three times in one game lost… and that trend did not deviate in this game. Jace, the Mind Sculptor: better than all.
Jack, on the play once again, kept his opener while Joseph mulliganed to six. Jack opened on just a fetchland, while Joseph played turn one Noble Hierarch. Jack cast Deathrite Shaman turn two, and Wastelanded Joseph’s Tropical Island. Another Trop allowed Hierarch numero dos to enter play, ans Swords to Plowshares took out Jack’s 1/2. Fetchland into basic Island and Dark Confidant was Jack’s play, and Joseph followed that up as he cast Knight of the Reliquary as well as Noble Heirarch three!
Swords to Plowshares took down the Knight, and Dark Confidant attacked. Noble Hierarch got three Exalted triggers and, after taking one from Dark Confidant, 14-20 life totals were where things sat when Vendilion Clique came to play. Jack revealed two Jaces, Ponder, Vendilion Clique, and some lands. Joseph took Jack’s Clique, but his draw was Supreme Verdict and he cleared the board of all that nonsense right quick. What a draw!
Joseph only had Sylvan Safekeeper to lean on now (“He’s going to keep me safe”), and Jack used Liliana of the Veil to get rid of Mr. Rade. Ponder further pressed Jack’s advantage (card advantage, that is), and he passed. Joseph had no play and only passed right back to Jack. Jace, the Mind Sculptor resolved and +2 ability fatesealed himself to tick up to five counters. Wasteland also took down Tropical Island and left Joseph with only one remaining land. Not too shabby.
Liliana and Jace tag teamed to prevent Joshua from casting most anything, and in concert with Creeping Tar Pit finished the game very quickly, as Jack Fogle moves on to the finals.
Jack 2, Joseph 1.
This game proved that, sometimes, topdecks happen… but you have to put yourself in a position to take advantage of them. That was quite the timely Supreme Verdict in game 3, but Jack was quickly able to recover once he found the Wrath of God and never looked back after that.