Semifinals: Michael Svien vs. Joe Lossett
Combo against control in the semifinals of the Legacy Open—Joe’s Miracle Counterbalance deck would have its work cut out for it against Michael’s Cabal Therapy/Academy Rector Omni-Tell build, an archetype freshly imported from Japan.
Joe’s opening seven were fine, and Michael’s were as well. He started with Island and Top, but Michael burned Force of Will pitching Brainstorm to counter successfully. Ponder and a Lotus Bloom for Michael via Tropical Island, while Joe just played Karakas. On the next turn, Michael’s Swamp enabled Cabal Therapy on Force of Will, revealing Jace, Vendilion Clique, and Moat.
Ponder followed for Michael, and he kept his three once again. Joe played Top off Plains and passed the turn, lacking double blue for Clique or Jace. Michael knew the way was clear—he dropped Tundra, then another Petal, then cast Academy Rector. Replying with an activation of Top, Joe would need to hit Force right here, right now... or cross his fingers than Michael couldn’t Emrakul him.
Michael's Academy Rectors underwent some uncomfortable Extractions.
He didn’t find Force—but he did find Terminus! Now, he looked to be in reasonable shape. The Therapy named Jace after Omniscience entered play, but Michael made no other moves beyond Brainstorming. Joe Topped into a fetchland during the end step and shuffled his Terminus away on his own turn, casting Vendilion Clique in the draw step with Karakas untapped.
Brainstorm from Michael found Force of Will for the Clique, and Michael played Verdant Catacombs to shuffle his dismal library. Joe played Counterbalance on the next turn, and had somehow assumed significant control of the game, in spite of Omniscience! Michael fetched for another dual, passing the turn after drawing.
Now, Joe had a one and a two on top and decided to keep it that way, playing lands. He fetched in the end step once Michael again did nothing, looking for a win condition himself. When his next Top activation found only a fetchland, he was slightly more vulnerable. Indeed, Michael seized the advantage with Living Wish, and Joe had to break his fetch if he wanted to find a two, which failed.
That shuffle had cost him. Michael grabbed Emrakul to kill Joe through his Karakas, taking an extra turn defeating the land’s defensive capability.
Michael 1, Joe 0
Fetching Tundra and casting Portent, Joe left his top three in place and ended the turn. Tundra, Lotus Petal, and Ponder for Michael gave him some selection on his side of the board, and he kept the top three cards as well. Joe cast Meddling Mage after fetching another Tundra, and named Show and Tell, with Surgical Extraction in his hand for a Rector.
Michael had proved he could best this line through casting Rector with Cavern, but it was a start. He Brainstormed during his first main, laid Verdant Catacombs, and then cracked Catacombs for Tropical Island while breaking the Petal to cast Living Wish. The Wish grabbed Phyrexian Tower.
Joe got here with the support of his friends.
Joe sent his little Pikula in for 2 damage, then used Snapcaster Mage for Portent. Taking Counterspell while leaving Force of Will and Surgical Extraction on top, Joe was clearly playing a little CounterSliver game with his Invitational two-drops. Michael played Phyrexian Tower and passed, taking 4 more and falling to 13. Joe had nothing else, just sitting on four lands, Counterspell, and two Forces.
Underground Sea from Michael but nothing else. He went to 9 as Joe attacked and passed once more. Cavern of Souls on Cleric allowed Michael to cast Academy Rector with Tower killing the creature. Two Surgical Extractions jammed past Michael’s Force of Will removing Omniscience, and he lost all of his Academy Rectors. He was also on 8, meaning he needed to remove Meddling Mage and topdeck Show and Tell to avoid dying quickly.
That was a tall order, and it was no surprise when Michael failed to fulfill it.
Michael 1, Joe 1
Island, Lotus Petal, and Ponder began the game for Michael, with Joe on a mulligan to six. The Ponder remained in place, and Joe led with Island but declined to cast Sensei’s Divining Top. Perhaps he feared it getting Forced, a la game 1?
Fetching up Underground Sea, he led Cabal Therapy—Joe paid off his Top hold by Brainstorming to hide his Force of Will and a Counterbalance on top of the deck. Michael named Meddling Mage, hitting past this maneuver and revealing Brainstorm, Misty Rainforest, Top, Karakas, and Counterbalance.
Surgical Extraction on Brainstorm followed, shuffling away Joe’s hidden goodies and leaving him heavily leaning upon Counterbalance and the top of his deck in this game. Would that be enough? Another Ponder for Michael that resulted in no shuffle implied that Joe was in very bad shape. He drew Force of Will—not bad—and played Top after dropping Karakas, hoping to snag an unwary Academy Rector or Show and Tell.
Another Petal, Misty Rainforest, and a Cabal Therapy from the hand stripped Joe of his Counterbalance, and Michael passed the turn. Drawing a second Counterbalance, Joe fetched for Tundra and cast it—now, the game was afoot! Michael fetched Tropical Island then broke his Petal to cast Academy Rector.
No Jace on top for Joe, but he did dig up Surgical Extraction! After showboating with Top for a while, he plopped down the top three and allowed the Rector to resolve. When Cabal Therapy tried to flashback on him, he popped that Top for the Extraction and exiled the three Rectors, leaving Michael on just Force of Will “I’ve got to work for this!” he admitted.
Top began to build a board position for Joe as Michael drew at the top of his deck for help, with just enough mana to hardcast Force of Will. Vendilion Clique was a threat, but Joe decided to hold it and play for a slightly longer game from this favorable position. As long as he could dig up lands and keep a stacked top three, he was in great shape.
Michael had only Force, and Joe took the opportunity to miracle Entreat the Angels for two with Force of Will backup, which he used when Michael countered. Michael drew and ended the turn, Joe Topping in his upkeep to find another Force and blue card staring at him—perfect, although he chose to draw the Counterbalance rather than the Force! He attacked Michael to 8 and was only moments from locking up the game.
Living Wish meant he really wished that Counterbalance was on top of the deck rather than in his hand, and he decided to let the Wish resolve. The last living Rector made it to Michael’s hand, but he had no Cavern and that made Joe’s Force of Will via popping the Top game over.
Michael 1, Joe 2