Semifinals: Nils Tolpingrud vs. Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson was excited about this semifinal, confessing to a tough night's sleep on the eve of battle, but Nils appeared more subdued. Nils certainly had the advantage in the matchup, with Tempered Steel often cited among Delver-Blade's toughest pairings. After sideboarding it often improved significantly, so the question became how much percentage Charles could gain!
Nils rallied after going to five cards in game 1.
Winning the die roll was a start for Charles, and Nils' mulligan following his own quick keep caught him up even further. When Nils went to five, things appeared downright favorable. Seachrome Coast and Delver of Secrets gave Charles an ideal start, trumping Nils' Origin Spellbomb. Delver flipped blind on Mutagenic Growth, and Charles attacked for 3 damage before playing another Coast and passing the turn.
Nils had another Plains, but nothing else. Charles added an Island to the board and attacked for 3 damage, nodding as Nils made a Myr token and drew a card during the end step. Charles took 1 when Nils attacked, and a post-combat Signal Pest threatened to make combat more complex, if Nils could handle that Aberration.
Charles continued to attack and pass, making land drops and holding a variety of spells. Nils played Gavony Township and then attacked, losing his token to Vapor Snag from Charles and dealing no damage. He played Mox Opal and then Etched Champion, but Mana Leak from Charles countered the 2/2.
…and animated it for Dispatch during the upkeep, removing Aberration from the game. Charles drew an awkward second Mana Leak, exactly what he'd needed to have during the upkeep to save his 3/2. He played a sixth land and passed, remarkably out of gas for the time being. Now it was Nils' turn. He cast Memnite, animated Inkmoth Nexus, and used his Opal to activate Gavony Township, attacking for 3 poison damage and 1 damage with Signal Pest.
Drawing another land, Charles appeared to have fallen irreparably behind at this point. Nils cast Tempered Steel, but two Mana Leaks countered it and saved Charles both some damage and some poison—for now.
Another land for Charles, and he passed—just Mutagenic Growth in his hand. Going to 7 poison and 12 life, Charles was dead by Nexus next turn and dead for real on the turn after that. Drawing one more card, Charles revealed yet another land, and conceded the game.
Nils 1, Charles 0
Despite a mulligan to five, Nils had won the first game on the back of his deck's edge and a stream of lands from Charles. Now, Charles looked to rally over the course of the remaining games. A turn 1 Delver of Secrets was a strong start, but Mental Misstep from Nils countered the 1/1, and his own Vault Skirge gave him a beastly fighter.
Turn 2 Ponder for Charles kept the top three, and he fired Vapor Snag before passing the turn. Nils replaced the Skirge with Glint Hawk Idol after playing an Inkmoth Nexus, and Charles jammed land and Geist of Saint Traft into play. The 2/2 Spirit was a big mover for Charles—a couple connections might put this game away early, if he had the Snags to back him up.
Nils replayed Skirge to animate Idol, attacking for 2 and playing two more Signal Pest once Gavony Township hit the board—that threatened a potential Township activation if Nils had land and Mox Opal. Charles attacked for 6, putting Nils to 7, and passed the turn. Nils left his Idol back and swung, but Snapcaster Mage on Vapor Snag bounced the Skirge and Charles just took 2 damage. Playing Origin Spellbomb post-combat, Nils passed.
Nils 1, Charles 1
Charles is fighting one of the few decks in the room more aggressive than his own.
Each player fell to six cards in the second game, the tension rising. Nils kept his six, and Charles hung on as well. Starting with Razorverge Thicket and Signal Pest, this time Charles had the Mental Misstep. He played Island and passed. Nils tried Glint Hawk Idol, and had his own misstep for the Steel Sabotage Charles cast.
Ponder from Charles found a land, and he passed the turn with a handful of Snapcaster Mages—did he have the third land to make them live? Signal Pest turned on the Idol, and Nils attacked for 2, sitting on 3 lands. Charles played his third Island and passed, hoping to turn his Mages into live ones.
He declined to Steel Sabotage Nils' Mox Opal, using Snapcaster Mage to Unsummon the Glint Hawk Idol instead. Nils recast it, and passed the turn. Charles dropped Ratchet Bomb and attacked for 2, but knew Nils would now be able to start firing Gavony Township activations, even if he stopped drawing spells—that would be problematic.
Nils hit Etched Champion and cast it, animating Nexus and Idol to enable a swing for 3 damage and 2 poison, putting Charles on 13. Ratchet Bomb gained a counter and popped for 1 on the next turn, an Oblivion Ring on Glint Hawk Idol ensuing to make the race more even. Charles attacked for 2, putting Nils to 14, and passed the turn.
Drawing, Nils knew he had to keep his Etched Champion at least able to threaten metalcraft. He animated Inkmoth Nexus, swung for 2 damage and 1 poison, and cast Glint Hawk post-combat, returning Mox Opal and replaying it. Charles used his turn to Snapcaster Mage Ponder, seeing three spells—including Sword of War and Peace, a big one. He only had four lands, but he decided to keep the three because one of them was Ponder—if he could hit the fifth land on the fourth card down, it would be huge. He attacked for 2 damage, but had declined to draw the Ponder, seeking more value later and grabbing Geist for now.
Nils would threaten lethal very soon—he swung for 1 poison and 2 damage with Glint Hawk before casting Signal Pest, his Etched Champion on defense—he may have smelled that Sword! Charles cast his Ponder now, seeing Seachrome Coast and Divine Offering, drawing the latter. On 10 life and 4 poison, choosing his targets was no easy matter. Divine Offering on Pest gave Charles some breathing room, and he bluffed in 2 damage with Snapcaster Mage, representing a Vapor Snag that Nils didn't quite buy—why wouldn't both Snapcasters attack if he had the Snag? That would actually reverse the race. He called the bluff, and Charles binned his Mage.
Swinging for 4 damage and a poison, Nils put Charles to 6 life and Dispatched his remaining Mage. Even Snapcaster Mage on Divine Offering was not going to be enough this time—it killed Mox Opal, disabling metalcraft and Gavony Township temporarily. Drawing an apparent blank, Nils attacked for 2 and a poison before casting Glint Hawk to replay Inkmoth Nexus.
Peeling the last card he knew from his Ponder—Seachrome Coast—Charles conceded.
Nils 2, Charles 1