Semifinals: Markus Thibeau vs. Neil Hartman
Neil Hartman was the lone dissenter in the Top 4, with every other competitor bringing a Godless Shrine strategy to the table. Could his R/W Burn deck prevail against Markus Thibeau’s Blood Barons?
Markus sent back his first hand of seven, while Neil deliberated for a while but ultimately decided to keep his. Markus liked his six a bit better.
Markus had the first play of the game, casting Thoughtseize targeting Neil, who revealed a hand of Mountain, Boros Charm, Warleader’s Helix, Lightning Strike, Magma Jet, Ash Zealot, and Chandra’s Phoenix to go with his Mutavault in play. Neil lost his Magma Jet, but got to scry anyway, as he drew Temple of Triumph and played it. Markus had only a land on turn 3, and Neil took the first initiative with Chandra’s Phoenix, which immediately met Devour Flesh.
Markus took the opportunity on his fourth turn to slam Desecration Demon, a big play on an empty board. Neil untapped and drew, but didn’t immediately find an answer. He took a moment to consider his options before passing the turn with mana up. Markus wasted no time swinging for six, knocking Neil down to 16. His post-combat follow up was the bogeyman of the matchup, Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Neil took the opportunity at Markus’s end step to fire off a Warleader’s Helix. He untapped at 20 life, with Markus sitting at 14 life but well ahead on board.
Chandra’s Phoenix was the play for Neil, taking 2 damage from a Sacred Foundry to leave up 2 mana as he passed the turn. When Markus attacked with both creatures the following turn, Neil pushed the Phoenix in front of the Blood Baron and cast Lightning Strike to finish it off, but fell to 12 from Desecration Demon. Neil was unfazed, simply replacing the Blood Baron with another copy from his hand.
Knowing he was in trouble, Neil took a moment in the tank before casting Ash Zealot and passing with 2 untapped Mutavaults and 2 other lands open to activate them. When Markus again moved to attack, Neil activated one Mutavault and fed it to the Demon, and Markus decided to hold back his Blood Baron.
Neil’s draw was a big one: Stormbreath Dragon came down, and its protection from white provided a semi-permanent solution to the threatening Blood Baron. Markus still had Desecration Demon, though, and it ate the Ash Zealot on his attack step. Markus followed up with Underworld Connections, taking a free card and falling to 14.
Neil couldn’t attack, but cast his freshly drawn Boros Reckoner. Markus thought for a bit at the end step and decided to use Bile Blight to clear it away. Desecration Demon still had to wait before attacking, as Neil activated and sacrificed his last remaining Mutavault, leaving him with just the Stormbreath Dragon in play. Neil took the opportunity at end step to cast Boros Charm, dealing 4 damage to Markus and regrowing his Chandra’s Phoenix. He untapped, cast it, and passed without attacking.
Unconcerned with taking a little extra damage, Markus drew a card off of Underworld Connections, falling to 8. While Neil opted not to sacrifice a creature to the Demon at Markus’s attack step, Markus didn’t feel safe attacking, and passed after playing a post-combat Mutavault.
Stormbreath Dragon #2 was the draw from Neil! He cast it, sacrificed Chandra’s Phoenix to tap down Markus’s flying blocker, and crashed in for 8, knocking Markus to exactly 0.
Neil Hartman 1, Markus Thibeau 0
Both players sideboarded and shuffled in silence, and happily kept their sevens.
Neil had the first play this time, with a turn 1 Firedrinker Satyr. He attacked and pumped the following turn, but Markus had Doom Blade. Markus next cast Duress, seeing Chandra Pyromaster, two Chandra’s Phoenixes, Boros Charm, Mountain, and Boros Guildgate. After some consideration, he sniped the planeswalker, and dropped Pack Rat before passing the turn .
Neil played Chandra’s Phoenix the following turn but opted not to attack with it. Markus simply attacked with his Pack Rat, making another Rat after it went unblocked. Neil responded with Chandra’s Phoenix number two, this time choosing to crash in with both. Markus fell to 14, and Neil passed the turn sitting at 17 life, but facing down an ever-growing army of Rats.
Markus knew this next turn would be crucial, and deliberated for a moment before making a play. He played a Temple of Silence, left the card on top of his deck, and stuck with the Rat plan, making a third Rat and attacking for 6. Neil fell to 11.
With a grip of Lightning Strike, Skullcrack, Boros Charm, and another Chandra’s Phoenix, Neil had plenty of options on his own turn. He crunched some numbers and chose to attack with his two Phoenixes, sending Markus to 10. After combat, he cast Lightning Strike on a Rat token, passing with two mana open for another burn spell.
Markus could sense danger, but kept the pressure up, attacking with his two Rat tokens and casting Blood Baron of Vizkopa. It wouldn’t be enough to save him; Markus cast Boros Charm at end step, knocking Markus to 6, then untapped and cast the third Chandra’s Phoenix, sending them all over to finish things off.
Markus 2, Neil 0