Semifinals: Michael Alakayleh vs. Lance Behrens
Michael Alakayleh and Lance Behrens are both making their very first StarCityGames.com Open Top 8 appearances, although Lance was quick to add that he finished in the Top 64 in the most recent Invitational. In spite of relative inexperience, both players are on the verge of a finals appearance.
Michael noticed a pair of Sword of Feast and Famine in addition to a Sword of Body and Mind in Lance’s deck, which he was unhappy with when reading Lance’s decklist. Then he noticed the full playset of Bonfire of the Damned, and was even less enthused! Lance was also displeased, laboring over Michael’s Predator Oozes and Rancors. Surely this match wouldn’t be a terribly slow one.
The players shook hands and they were off. Lance, on the play by virtue of the top overall seed, opened with Birds of Paradise off of Copperline Gorge. Michael responded with a Bird of his own off of one of his many basic Forests. On turn 2, Lance cast a Bonfire for 1 from his hand to clear Michael’s Bird from the table and take Michael to 19. Michael played Strangleroot Geist on his second turn and attacked Lance to 18.
Lance played Thalia, Guardian of Thraben off of a Cavern of Souls naming Human, and passed on his next turn. Michael added the indestructible mono-green all-star Predator Ooze on his next turn and passed. Lance played another Cavern, this time naming Angel, before dropping the Beastie Boys, Thragtusk, onto the battlefield, gaining 5 and passing the turn.
Michael, who appeared to be stuck on three lands, added a 3/3 Dungrove Elder to the board, further mucking up the board. Birds of Paradise added black and saved some life for Lance in order to Dismember the Ooze, at which point the 5/3 M13 Beast came over for some beats. Strangleroot Geist blocked, then Undied back into play as a 3/2. Michael played a fourth Forest, growing his Dungrove to Durkwood Boar size in the process, and attacked with the 4/4. Thalia bit the dust as a chump block, after which Michael played another Dungrove Elder and passed.
Lance, in the midst of a grueling match.
Thragtusk swung in yet again, this time trading with one of the Elders, giving Lance a 3/3 Beast in the process. After combat, Lance played another Thragtusk, setting life totals at Lance 26, Michael 19.
Dismember from Michael took out the freshly minted Thragtusk, leaving Lance with a pair of 3/3 tokens and a Bird of Paradise on his team. Michael played Rancor on a Dungrove Elder, attacked Lance to 20, and played another Predator Ooze before passing. Lance could only manage to top deck another Thalia, and while she is quite impressive in many matchups… this isn’t one of them.
Now Michael really started to bring the lumber, swinging with his whole team, which included a trio of Dungrove Elders (one with +2/+0 and trample) and a 3/3 Predator Ooze. The Beast tokens teamed up on the Rancored Treefolk, while Bird and Thalia each stood tall in the face of the other 5/5s. Restoration Angel blinked a Bird, taking Lance to 9. Michael replayed Rancor on the Ooze after combat, added Ulvenwald Tracker and passed. When Lance’s prayers for a miracle went unanswered he scooped up his cards and reached for the sideboard.
Michael 1, Lance 0.
“I guess that’s one way to win; you just don’t draw anything!”
Both players kept (Michael with some trepidation) and Lance started this game with Copperline Gorge into Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Michael matched the 1/1 for 1 with an Ulvenwald Tracker. Lance started out quick, adding Blade Splicer to the board on turn 2. Michael played Green Sun’s Zenith for one on his second turn, searching out Llanowar Elves. Lance brought the hellfire on the next turn, Bonfire of the Damned-ing Michael’s team (from his hand) and swinging in for 4. Michael, with three mana, had no play and passed the turn. As a deck the prides itself on powerful three-mana creatures, this looked grim for the green team.
Once again, the Human Artificer and his Golem swung in for 4, and Mirran Crusader, protection from green and all, joined Lance’s cause. Predator Ooze off of Green Sun’s Zenith for Michael was nice but likely not enough. Cavern of Souls on Human for Lance precombat, followed by a big swing from everything but the Pilgrim. Predator Ooze blocked the Golem and took Michael to 6.
Michael was running low on options now, and could only muster a pair of Rancors on his Predator Ooze. He attempted to use his lonely trampling indestructible monster to Prey Upon the Blade Splicer, but Restoration Angel put a stop to those shenanigans and they were quickly headed for game 3.
Michael 1, Lance 1.
The last game was relocated under the lights of the feature match and gathered a small crowd, adding some more pressure to the already strenuous situation for these two Top 8 competitors.
Michael, finally on the play for the first time in this match, kept his opener while Lance mulliganed. Michael led with Forest, but did not have a turn 1 play. Lance did however, an Avacyn’s Pilgrim off of Copperline Gorge. Michael had a turn 2 Bird of Paradise and no further action, and Lance then dropped a Bird of his own and attacked for 1 with his Pilgrim.
On Michael’s third turn he cast Green Sun ‘s Zenith for Predator Ooze. Michael, whose board was joined by Kessig Wolf Run on his third turn, added Huntmaster of the Fells, gaining 2 life and adding a Wolf token to his board. Michael swung in with the Predator Ooze and took Lance back down to 20 before adding Thragtusk to the board, taking life totals to Lance 20, Michael 24.
Lance found the miracle he’d been looking for on top of his library and cast his Bonfire of the Damned for five, taking out the Thragtusk and the Bird, but not the Ooze and not the 3/3 Thragtusk leaves behind. An underwhelming miracle to say the least, and Lance passed. On Michael’s turn, Predator Ooze got a little bit bigger and took Lance to 17 before he supplemented his board position by casting Strangleroot Geist and Green Sun’s Zenith for 1 to go get Ulvenwald Tracker.
Mike's on Mono-Green Aggro in the semifinals, facing Naya.
Another Bonfire off the top for Lance for 5 cleared away the troublesome fight starter, but the Strangleroot Geist and Ooze remained. Michael life total stood at 14. Predator Ooze once again squirmed across and took Lance to 13, and after combat he dropped Dungrove Elder, now a 4/4, on the table. Thragtusk from Lance put him back up to 18, and he passed.
Michael cast Crushing Vines on Birds of Paradise before passing sans attack. Cavern of Souls naming Human for Lance, who had many options now. He came in with the Wolf token, and after it was blocked by Predator Ooze he trampled in for 1. The Huntmaster became Ravager of the Fells on Michael’s upkeep, taking out the Strangleroot Geist and dropping Michael to 11. Another Dungrove joined the fray, now 5/5s thanks to another land drop, but he did not attack once again thanks to Lance’s possible lethal swingback courtesy of the Kessig Wolf Run. Lance pondered his decision, facing the trio of 5/5s on the opponent’s side of the board. He decided to attack for 2 in the air with a Kessig Wolf Run activation.
But now it was Michael’s turn for a miracle: Revenge of the Hunted!
Michael made his Predator Ooze a 12/12 (after adding a counter for attacks) and dropped Lance all the way down to 1 measly life point and nearly wiped Lance’s board. One would think he’d be all but dead…
But Zealous Conscripts, which had hidden in Lance’s hand all game, stole the now 8/8 Ooze to steal the win!
Lance 2, Michael 1