Semifinals: Max Tietze (Punishing Maverick) vs. Javier Arevalo (BUG Delver)
Javier Arevalo on camera for the Semifinals.
“Being eighth seed… not cool,” Max said. “I’m not going to lie, I was rooting for you,” Javier said—he wouldn’t have automatically received the play against Ben Friedman, but his seed order was a strong advantage now. He considered being on the play against Maverick very important, after all.
Javier’s opener was good, as was Max’s, and Javier began by fetching Island and casting Delver of Secrets. Max played just Windswept Heath on turn 1 and passed, taking 1 damage when Javier failed to flip. Javier did have Verdant Catacombs for Forest and Tarmogoyf on turn 2, continuing the beatdown.
Karakas on turn 2 for Max, but he passed the turn after that. Javier revealed a very awkward Hymn to Tourach to Delver of Secrets and attacked, but his 3/2 flier was threatened by Punishing Fire—hardcast Daze countered it, and Max dropped to 13. Still with answers, Max played Grove of the Burnwillows and ended the turn.
Wasteland for Javier pointed at the Grove, and Max decided to rebuy his Punishing Fire in response. Javier attacked, and Max declared no blocks, pointing Swords to Plowshares at the Tarmogoyf before damage and dropping Max to 10. He followed by casting Umezawa’s Jitte and passing. Max played a second Grove and ended his turn, earning a sigh from Javier.
Brainstorming, Javier lost his Delver in response to Punishing Fire. He didn’t find another land, and ended the turn. Max had Misty Rainforest prior to casting Stoneforge Mystic on his own turn, Punishing Fire already safely tucked back into his hand. Javier fetched Swamp in response, but the Mystic resolved for Jitte. Rather than cast it now, Max passed patiently, sitting on his Punishing Fire.
Javier Brainstormed and played Polluted Delta before casting Tarmogoyf as a 3/4. An end step Scryb Ranger for Max after he fetched Savannah threatened to flood the board with equipment, as Max already had Sword of Light and Shadow in his hand. He played Heath and swung in the Ranger before casting Knight of the Reliquary—now Javier had real problems.
Ghastly Demise for the Knight took care of that, and Tarmogoyf attacked Max to 6 life. During the end step, Max dropped to 5 for Sword of Light and Shadow after fetching Taiga, no doubt intent upon connecting with the blade. Equipping Scryb Ranger required a reply from Javier, who fetched Underground Sea for Snapcaster Mage on Ghastly Demise. Max considered putting Jitte into play, destroying Javier’s Jitte, and then bouncing a Forest to untap his Stoneforge Mystic, but decided to let the 1/1 die without incident before playing Forest and casting the Jitte instead, followed by casting Gaddock Teeg and tapping out with just Punishing Fire left in his hand.
Javier sent the team in, forcing blocks from Max. He threw away Teeg on the Tarmogoyf and took 2, falling to 3 life and hoping his Sword on Stoneforge would get him through this. Maelstrom Pulse post-combat destroyed the Sword though, and that put a massive dent in Max’s plans for the game. Reduced to Stoneforge and Punishing Fire, he topdecked Green Sun’s Zenith to find Scavenging Ooze, which could outgrow Tarmogoyf relatively quickly.
Just Tarmogoyf attacked now, and Stoneforge Mystic chumped it. Javier passed, and Max removed Delver and Stoneforge during the end step, declining to tap pit completely and going to 5. Max drew another tutor, Stoneforge Mystic, but this one didn’t find anything.
Scryb Ranger, Gaddock Teeg, and Knight of the Reliquary put Max to 8 life and his Ooze to 6/6, taking over the game officially. He attacked, prompting Javier to wonder what the card he’d drawn was. “Another good one?” he wondered, chumping with Snapcaster Mage. Maze of Ith proved it was so, and Javier needed the help now.
Max Tietze is on to the finals of the Invitational!
Ponder gave him a new three cards to think over, and the one he drew was Wasteland. Attacking with Tarmogoyf after destroying the Maze, Max removed Snapcaster from the game to go to 9 and then removed Ponder, Maelstrom Pulse to reduce the Tarmogoyf to 3/4. Max got rid of Brainstorm during the end step as well, and then untapped and used Punishing Fire to try and kill the Tarmogoyf, but two Dazes stopped him cold—no attacks from the Ooze.
Javier needed to kill the Ooze in order to win at this point, and he started the turn with a fetch for Tropical Island. Casting Snapcaster Mage to Brainstorm, he drew three cards and had just Swamp untapped. Max hit Zenith again, searching up Knight of the Reliquary.
Maelstrom Pulse slew the Ooze at last, but now Knight of the Reliquary had the board dominated—Javier had traded one master for another. Casting Delver of Secrets, he passed and Max recurred Punishing Fire. He drew a land and ended the turn, casting Aven Mindcensor when Javier tried to fetch in the end step. It was probably incorrect to fetch here; using Delver to check on whether he even wanted to draw his top card was probably a higher value play.
Missing a land due to the Mindcensor, Javier questioned his earlier decision to Wasteland Maze over Grove now. Flipping Delver of Secrets due to Daze, he attacked with Delver of Secrets and lost it to Punishing Fire. Max fetched during Javier’s end step, dropping to 5 life for Savannah and then using Knight to turn his Forest into another Grove of the Burnwillows, bringing back Punishing Fire and using it to kill Snapcaster Mage.
Max attacked with Aven Mindcensor to put Javier on 19 life, and played Birds of Paradise. Javier passed, and Knight turned Savannah into Horizon Canopy, drawing a card. He got back Punishing Fire and shot Javier, then got it back, leaving Javier on 19. He attacked again, this time with Aven and Knight—an 11/11. Javier took 13 and went to 6, and Max added two Mother of Runes to the board.
Javier Brainstormed, and conceded.
Max 1, Javier 0
Javier took the play again, throwing away his seven as Max kept. Swamp and Thoughtseize started the game, seeing two fetches, Savannah, Punishing Fire, Swords to Plowshares, Birds of Paradise, and discarding Stoneforge Mystic. Savannah and Birds for Max started turn 1, and he shipped to Javier.
Polluted Delta landed for Javier, and he passed the turn. Max made a land drop and passed right back, holding onto his Choke for later. Javier fetched Island and then cast Brainstorm. He followed with another fetchland, this time for Underground Sea—oddly not Bayou or even Top—and then cast Delver of Secrets. That earned a fetch from Max, who found Taiga and tried to Punishing Fire the Delver, succeeding.
Max played Misty Rainforest and decided to try his Choke now, with two Islands already tapped. Javier had to let it resolve, and drew for turn tight on mana. He played Misty Rainforest and sent the turn to Max, who lacked much aggro. He did have Green Sun’s Zenith, and he cast it for three to get Knight of the Reliquary at 3/3, but with a fetch in play and plenty to threaten.
Ghastly Demise handled the Knight, and Javier passed without a land. Max cast Scavenging Ooze for an on-board threat, and passed the turn afterward. Javier fetched Forest and cast his own Ooze, tapping out to do so. He couldn’t realistically fight Oozes here, however—Max seized the advantage by fetching Savannah during the end step and removing two creatures.
When he drew Grove of the Burnwillows, the game was very nearly over. Returning Punishing Fire, Max killed the Ooze and attacked for 5 after removing the dead Ooze from Javier’s graveyard, putting Javier on 11 life. Javier did draw Wasteland to let him Maelstrom Pulse Choke, but he was still stuck under the Grove and the Ooze. Max removed his Knight, the last creature, and drew.
Attacking Javier down to 5 life, he Wastelanded Javier’s Wasteland and settled in for death by Punishing Fire, assuming Javier could beat the Ooze. When Javier tried Jace to bounce, Red Elemental Blast sealed the deal.
Max 2, Javier 0