Semifinals: Todd Anderson vs. Justin McPherson
Having packed up his beloved Phantasmal Bears and joined forces with Porcelain Legionnaire, Todd entered the Top 8 with a tweaked variant of the popular Delver strategy. His opponent, Justin McPherson, had an entire Human army operating alongside the popular one-drop, and it promised to be a challenging match for both players.
Justin's Champions fell just shy in game 1.
Seachrome Coast and Delver of Secrets began the game for Todd, while Justin had his own Coast for Champion of the Parish. Todd failed to flip his way into a 3/2 for turn 2, but he did go to 18 life to probe Justin. Spotting Mana Leak, Midnight Haunting, Snapcaster Mage, Moorland Haunt, and two basic lands, Todd would be looking to make a play on turn 2…but had none beyond a land. Justin attacked for 1 and played a land.
The top card was no Delver trigger, and Todd jammed Geist into Mana Leak before quickly passing the turn. Justin drew and cast a fresh Champion, attacking for 2 damage, and passed after playing Glacial Fortress, inadvertently revealing his first draw step.
Ponder flipped Delver for Todd, and he cast the Ponder to rearrange his top three cards before casting Sword of War and Peace. Attacking for 3 damage, Todd had seized a decisive lead now; all he had to do was untap with that Aberration in play. Doomed Traveler boosted each of Justin's Champions, and Todd dropped to 10 life.
When Todd attacked, Midnight Haunting from Justin saved him a point of damage but left him tapped out when Todd added Geist of Saint Traft to the board. With Todd on 14, this game appeared tough for Justin—that Geist would bring some hefty beats in conjunction with the Sword unless he generated some defense. Justin attacked with everything except Doomed Traveler, and Todd took 7 to fall to 7. After damage, Justin decided to Snapcaster Mage Midnight Haunting, missing out on the couple points his Champions would have given him.
His Geist stymied, Todd could not swing for the kill this turn due to that Haunting. He decided to ship the Geist into combat anyway; quite odd considering it could prevent more damage on defense than Justin's blocks would generate. Justin binned just Doomed Traveler and Spirit, preserving his damage potential. Todd went to 10 life, and added Porcelain Legionnaire to the board before passing. If he had Vapor Snag, he was in good shape—if not…
Todd 1, Justin 0
A quick keep from Justin and an equally speedy mulligan from Todd began the second game. Justin started Glacial Fortress, while Todd began on Seachrome Coast and Delver of Secrets, getting a quick start. Justin spent his first turn Pondering rather than playing a creature, digging for a colored land that wasn't there, even after he shuffled—Moorland Haunt concluded his turn.
Todd swung for 1 damage and dropped Glacial Fortress, passing afterward. Delver of Secrets for Justin gave him a potential defender, but Todd attacked anyway and got his point in before tapping out for Geist of Saint Traft.
"Do you mind if we pause for a chocolate milk break?"
Justin had Phantasmal Image to trade and drew Glacial Fortress for turn, developing pretty well at this rate. He attacked Todd for 1, and passed the turn. Todd jammed Sword of War and Peace and attacked, quickly ending his fourth turn. Justin had an answer for that too, using Divine Offering to destroy the Sword now and adding Doomed Traveler to the field. Todd's Delver remained a 1/1, but the two Porcelain Legionnaires he paid 4 life to cast were serious business.
Justin tapped out to cast his own Sword and passed, changing the scape of the game considerably. Todd evaluated his position carefully once his Delver again missed an instant or sorcery, likely evaluating how quickly he'd need to chuck the 1/1 into the bin for that Sword's trigger. He decided to attack with both Legionnaires, earning a chump from the Traveler that would play into Todd's hands—he had Ratchet Bomb after combat!
As Justin untapped, Todd had two lands untapped. Justin kept his Delver a 1/1 and sent it in with Sword equipped, earning the chump from Todd's Delver. Mana Leak countered Justin's Doomed Traveler, and Todd untapped with a pretty clean hit available. Gut Shot tried to kill a Legionnaire, but Mental Misstep countered that and Justin dropped to 9 life. Todd's Phantasmal Image on Delver of Secrets was a tenuous blocker, but all he could manage.
Snapcaster Mage on Gut Shot removed the Phantasmal Image, and Justin gained 2 life from Sword's trigger to offset the spell's cost. He passed with two mana up, and used it to land Snapcaster Mage after Todd attacked for 6 and cast Geist of Saint Traft. Choosing to block none of that Legionnaire damage was a bit chancy—would Geist punish Justin for the decision?
Trading off his own Geist, the answer appeared to be no. Still, he was perilously low at this point, and gaining 1 off the Sword put him at 4 life after attacking, with Todd at 7. He declined to shift the Sword to one of his defenders, and lost both of them to a Legionnaire assault on the following turn.
Sending just the Spirit and putting Todd on 6 life, Justin left his Delver on defense and thus forced Todd to charge up his Ratchet Bomb to one counter. Justin had Moorland Haunt mana available and used the token to defend his life total, stabilizing at a bare 1 life. Todd followed that attack with an Oblivion Ring, waffling on whether to exile the Spirit and leave Justin without creatures, or to exile the Sword and likely preserve the game state. He eventually decided to send the Ring at the token, leaving Justin peeling at the top for help—none came.
Todd 2, Justin 0