Semifinals: Valentin Mackl vs. Josh McClain
While the opposite side of the bracket has the two headlining stars of the event, Josh McClain and Valentin Mackl have more than proven their worth. Which of these underdogs, running Hexblade and Junk Rites respectively, can secure a birth in the semifinals?
Valentin's Hexproof creatures have been putting in overtime today!
As the number two overall seed, Josh had the choice of whether to play or draw and decided to take the play. After keeping their opening hands, Josh led with Temple Garden and Arbor Elf and Valentin led with Temple Garden and Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Josh’s accelerator allowed him to cast a second Arbor Elf and set up a turn three five-drop, while Valentin’s allowed him to drop Geist of Saint Traft. End of turn Grisly Salvage grabbed Sunpetal Grove and binned, among others, Unburial Rites. Josh then added Thragtusk to his board turn three to stonewall the Geist… until Spectral Flight and Ethereal Armor made the Geist a 6/6 with flying! A 4/4 Angel also joined the attack, and Valentin passed.
Thragtusk looked to keep things close, attacking Valentin to 35 with Josh at 13. A post combat Restoration Angel brought Josh up to 18 though, and also the blinked Thragtusk brought a baby Beast along for the ride. That didn’t stop Valentin from coming into the red zone with his legendary Cleric, although the speedbump provided by Josh in the form of Abrupt Decay targeting Spectral Flight was a bit of a downer.
Speaking of Down, the Geist now lived on the ground and as only a 3/3 could be eaten by the trio of Thragtusk, Angel, and Beast token. The 3/3’s first strike damage took out the Thragtusk, and Valentin then added a pair of Geists, of Saint Traft and Wurgewurzelgeist (apparently German for Strangleroot Geist) after that. Usually an impressive pair, but not facing down the life gaining and powerful army presented by his Reanimator opponent this game.
Restoration Angel continued to do Junk’s work, while Unburial Rites on Thragtusk created even more problems for the Bant Pants pilot. Another Spectral Flight might do the trick though, and in came the (newly minted) 6/6 flyer. Josh still sat at a relatively comfortable life total though, and after Grisly Salvage found Angel of Serenity to remove Valentin’s potential blockers (thanks to another Unburial Rites) Josh attacked in for the win.
Josh 1, Valentin 0.
Valentin was now on the play and, with the distinct advantage of Josh’s mulligan to four in game two, had a tapped tand trn one while Josh started things off with Arbor Elf. Valentin continued his slow start with just another tapped land, while Josh added a second Temple Garden. Geist of Saint Traft was Valentin’s first play of the game, and with Josh on naught but green and white mana just passed.
Geist picked up some nondescript nouns in Rancor and Courage (of the Unflinching variety) before swinging for the fences. Acidic Slime was able to keep the Courage from getting out of hand, but a second Rancor made short work of the Junk Reanimator player.
Josh's Reanimator is doing work!
Such is life when you start things off on only four cards!
Josh 1, Valentin 1.
Josh, once more on the play, was able to keep a six card hand this time, so was already in a better spot than in game two… though still not ideal. He began with Temple Garden and Arbor Elf, while Valentin led with Hinterland Harbor. Arbor Elf number one drew first blood, and was quickly joined by a compatriot after combat. Sunpetal Grove and Avacyn’s Pilgrim entered play for Valentin, but Acidic Slime turn three took down Valentin’s only blue source. Valentin, now choked on mana, only added his second Avacyn’s Pilgrim before passing the turn.
Mulch from Josh drew no lands but did add a pair of Unburial Rites to Josh’s bin, and Slime took Valentin to 17. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice entered the battlefield for Josh, which threatened to gain back all of the unblockable and hexproof damage Valentin could put out… that is, of course, assuming any ould enter play! But with no blue mana, Loxodon Smiter was the best he could manage.
Not good enough though, as Josh’s next turn was a doosie.
Unflinching Courage was attached to the Smiter to try to keep pace, and the 6/6 attacked. Voice blocked, created a 6/6, gained six life from Trostani, and all of the attackers came at Valentin. After adding up the potential damage, Valentin scooped and congratulated his opponent on a match well played and good luck in the finals.
Josh 2, Valentin 1.