Semifinals: Matt Costa vs. Shawn Herr
Matt Costa hasn’t stopped sleeving up Delver of Secrets this year it seems, but Shawn Herr is no stranger to the archetype, either. Both players were familiar with the mirror, and it promised to be complicated matchup between two different builds of Standard’s biggest player.
Each player dropped to six cards quickly to start the match, with Matt on the play for the first game. He began with Seachrome Coast and Gitaxian Probe, seeing Geist of Saint Traft, Delver of Secrets, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Vapor Snag. The Delver resolved on turn 1, and Matt had no turn 2 beyond an Island.
Shawn missed his flip and played Plains, declining to attack for 1—Snapcaster blocks would have removed his best threat. Matt tapped out to toss Blade Splicer in the path of that Vapor Snag, but the Splicer itself was still there. Matt declined to block with it when Delver attacked, and Shawn made his land drop for Geist afterward.
Restoration Angel blinked the Splicer to make a new Golem, ending Matt’s turn. Shawn revealed Gut Shot to the Delver, flipping it into a flier... but he couldn’t quite break through. He decided to send his Insectile Aberration anyway, and Matt let the 3 damage through, preferring to keep his Angel in play. Post-combat, Shawn used Snapcaster Mage to Snag the Golem and Gut Shot the Splicer. Now he had all the creatures!
With a fifth land—Moorland Haunt—Matt passed, but Probe revealed what he was working with: land, Mana Leak, and Dismember. Shawn Thought Scoured himself with two up, binning some lands and drawing a second Delver. He played Island and cast the 1/1, passing turn. Matt Dismembered the Delver and made a Spirit.
Casting his own Delver, he passed the turn. Shawn made no reveal, playing his fifth land and ending the turn. No flip for Matt either—just a second Delver of Secrets. Gitaxian Probe for Shawn flipped his Delver into Aberration, but he still did not have an attack. He tried to Probe for help, but wound up deciding to just upkeep the Gut Shot he drew on one of Matt’s Delvers.
Now the Restoration Angel attacked, and Matt played Blade Splicer to keep himself defended. Shawn continued to inch for ground, casting Snapcaster Mage to flashback Gut Shot on Matt’s Delver of Secrets. Matt turned it into a Spirit token, and then attacked with Restoration Angel and Golem—that put Shawn on 4 life after chumping the Golem with a Snapcaster.
Matt 1, Shawn 0
Matt sideboards after taking the first game.
Shawn kept to start the second game, and Matt did as well. Ponder on turn 1 from Shawn left the top three in place, and Matt did the same with his Ponder on the following turn. Casting another copy of the cantrip, Shawn dug further into his library. Glacial Fortress and pass revealed that he did not have Delver at the ready.
Matt was content to sit on Mana Leak after playing his own Fortress, and Shawn shipped turn right back after a third land. Matt made his land and passed, and Shawn added Moorland Haunt to the board. Matt did the same on the next turn, but neither player had any creatures. On turn 5, Shawn played a land and then Geist of Saint Traft, but Mana Leak from Matt countered it.
Falling to 13 for Gitaxian Probe, Matt saw two Snapcaster Mage, Mana Leak, and Amass the Components alongside an Island. Matt then cast his own Snapcaster Mage, trying to Ponder, and Shawn countered the Ponder with Mana Leak—not Leaking Snapcaster kept Matt from being able to Haunt a Spirit, but left him with two mana up and a 2/1.
Shawn passed after playing his sixth land, and Matt played Phantasmal Image as Snapcaster Mage to Probe again. He attacked Shawn to 18, and Shawn made a Spirit token during the end step with Haunt. Attacking for 1, Shawn put Matt on 15 thanks to those Probes. He cast his own Snapcaster Mage to Ponder afterward, leaving three mana up to dodge Matt’s Mana Leak.
Matt attacked again, this time with both Mages, and Shawn decided to block the “real” one and take 2. Matt played his sixth land and passed with six up, while Shawn created another Spirit during the end step. Pondering, Shawn searched for ways to break open the race and wound up keeping his top three on top.
He cast Gitaxian Probe to see two Vapor Snag, Timely Reinforcements, Dismember, Mana Leak, and Phantasmal Image—Matt had quite the defense lined up! Shawn attacked for 2 damage, and Matt declined to make a Spirit in order to keep Timely Reinforcements live. He cast it immediately upon the following turn, and when Shawn Snagged a Spirit Matt responded by Snagging his own Image to guarantee he got the creatures, with Mana Leak in back for the safety. Matt went to 19, and made his Soldiers.
The race reversed, now it was Shawn’s turn to make a play for the board. Wary of Mana Leak and Dismember, he decided to go with Snapcaster Mage for another Ponder, leaving Moorland Haunt mana up. He attacked, and Matt fell to 18. Post-combat, Shawn cast Delver of Secrets, which met Mana Leak, but a second copy resolved.
Matt faced a lot of potential pressure, but he got aggressive with his Soldiers to put Shawn on 12. Delver of Secrets revealed Ponder for Shawn, flipping, and Shawn cast the Ponder before attacking. That was the sixth Ponder Shawn had resolved! Phantasmal Image for Shawn flashbacked Gitaxian Probe, revealing Image, Vapor Snag, Plains, and Dismember. Smelling blood, Shawn knew he was ahead. He attacked with Aberration, Snapcaster, and his Spirit token, prompting a Haunt from Matt to trade with Snapcaster and the Dismember on Aberration. That dropped Matt to 13, and Shawn passed with three up.
Now Matt attacked with his Soldiers, earning a trade from Phantasmal Image before taking 2 damage. Attempting Gideon Jura with three mana up, Matt was dismayed to see Dissipate take down the planeswalker. That said, he had the on-board token advantage and life total advantage, so the race on the board favored him. However, with no creatures in the graveyard, it was a dangerous situation.
Shawn cast Delver of Secrets and passed the turn, putting some potential into the mix, but he could not afford an attack. Matt created a Spirit token and then attacked with everyone—two Soldiers and the Spirit. Shawn created a Spirit in order to trade with two of the tokens. Matt nodded, got in 1 point of damage, and passed.
Drawing Snapcaster Mage, Shawn cast it to flashback another Ponder, shuffling the deck quickly afterward. He attacked Matt with his 1/1 Delver, and passed. Matt sent 1 damage in via Soldier, Shawn going to 6 life. He made a Spirit during Matt’s end step, and revealed Vapor Snag to his Delver on the following turn.
Shawn attacked with Aberration and Snapcaster, keeping back Spirit, and Matt Snagged the 3/2 before taking 2 damage. Delver of Secrets and another Phantasmal Image on Snapcaster resolved, flashbacking... another Ponder! Matt, sitting on Day of Judgment, dropped Phantasmal Image in an attempt to flashback Timely Reinforcements, and resolved it for the three Soldiers with no life. He sent his one Soldier into combat afterward, and Shawn fell to 4.
Revealing Gitaxian Probe to Delver, Shawn cast it and saw Vapor Snag, Restoration Angel, Day of Judgment—those earned a frown. He Vapor Snagged one Soldier, then another, and finally Snapcaster Maged Vapor Snag on the last untapped Soldier, leaving Matt on 7 life. He had Faith’s Shield as well, and managed an alpha with it in the grip, sending in eight power. Matt Snagged an Image, blocked a Snapcaster, and went to 4 life.
An alternative line here was to start with Faith’s Shield—if Matt did not Vapor Snag in response, naming blue and then making the sequence of Snags would’ve locked it up. If Matt did Snag in response, then naming white and Snagging the Image would’ve been able to force through a ton of damage, with two more Snags still back.
He immediately attacked with his Spirit, earning a trade from Snapcaster Mage, and Gitaxian Probe revealed Amass the Components, Geist of Saint Traft, and Faith’s Shield in the hand. Day of Judgment followed, and Matt passed with Angel mana available to him. Shawn played Geist and Delver, and Matt landed the 3/4 flier. He untapped into Gideon Jura, boosted its loyalty, and was dead to the Angel being sent at him, not Gideon, with Faith’s Shield protection before blockers, assuming Shawn made the play. Also, as an interesting quirk, Faith’s Shield can actually protect rom Gideon’s boost thanks to fateful hour!
Shawn began with Amass the Components instead, and then attacked everything into Gideon, his Angel chumped by a Spirit in the process. Matt boosted Gideon once more and then played Blade Splicer, passing with his Angel on defense. Shawn again sent everyone at Gideon, and Matt blocked to kill Geist and a Spirit token, leaving the Delver and Angel token alone. Shawn’s own Restoration Angel saved Geist, and he passed after reducing Gideon to two.
Matt boosted Gideon to four and sent the turn, Shawn immediately attacking after his Delver missed its flip. Matt blocked to keep both of his three-power men alive, keeping the option available to force lethal past Moorland Haunt at the cost of his Gideon’s life, since he couldn’t make that play if he traded Blade Splicer.
Shawn's found himself liking Amass the Components today, to his own surprise.
Just sending Golem, Matt earned a chump block from one Moorland Haunt, while the other made a different token. Then Shawn untapped, played Faith’s Shield on white, and attacked for lethal.
Matt 1, Shawn 1
Paying mana, Matt’s Gitaxian Probe revealed Gut Shot, Snapcaster Mage, Ponder, and four lands—including Moorland Haunt. Shawn drew and played Delver of Secrets on turn 1, flipping it on Dissipate after Matt passed turn 2. This game looked grim already for Matt! Shawn attacked, and cast Ponder, keeping the cards.
Blade Splicer got Matt onto the board, but Gut Shot removed the Splicer and Snag the Golem, putting Matt to 16. An attack made that 13, and Shawn played Geist of Saint Traft. No Day for Matt—just Phantasmal Image, and he fell to 10 as Shawn attacked again before playing Seachrome Coast tapped.
Matt played a fifth land—he did have a Haunt—and decided to go with Phantasmal Image on the Insectile Aberration. Shawn played the Snapcaster Mage during the end step, but Matt had Mana Leak to keep his blocking hopes alive. Shawn wasn’t eager to trade as he added another land to the board, but he did it anyway. He had a Haunt of his own, after all.
Matt passed on six lands, and Shawn made a Spirit. He then paid 2 life for Gitaxian Probe, spotting both Angel and Consecrated Sphinx in Matt’s hand—good Probe! Knowing he had to beat Sphinx, Shawn decided to try and weather the storm, declining to attack. Matt made a Spirit and passed, keeping both threats in his hand and hoping he’d able able to utilize his mana advantage to eventually resolve one or both of them.
Shawn played Geist of Saint Traft, and with only two up could Dissipate nothing. Matt flashed in Restoration Angel and made a Spirit, no doubt certain his opponent had Mana Leak or Vapor Snag—he decided to thus hold the Sphinx in favor of options with Moorland Haunt. Shawn played Sun Titan to bring back Snapcaster Mage.
Tapping out for Sphinx, Matt nodded as it was returned to his hand. Now Shawn sent in all his men, the Titan grabbing nothing. Matt blocked the Geist and Sun Titan with Angel and a Spirit, then took 7 damage and fell to 2 life. He tried Blade Splicer, and Shawn decided to Dissipate the three-drop. Matt didn’t have a ninth land for Sphinx, and passed the turn. When Shawn entered combat, he tried to Vapor Snag Sun Titan—but two Mana Leaks countered that, and he sent everyone, returning Geist to play.
Matt chumped Titan and ate everything else, leaving him on just Angel. Matt had a few outs—he drew, hit the ninth land, and landed Consecrated Sphinx with enough mana to Moorland Haunt for another turn of life if Shawn whiffed.
Matt 1, Shawn 2