Alex Bertoncini fired back at Gerry Thompson's Standard Open win with a run straight into the Top 8 but Gerry also managed to make the elimination rounds. They were both racing for Level 7 with Gerry needing a Top 4 and Alex needing a finals finish to make it. If he wanted to keep up Gerry's pace he'd first have to go through James Lance and his Ad Nauseam combo deck. They'd battled before but even in victory Alex had respect for the skill he'd seen James demonstrate.
James won the die roll making a thoughtful mulligan while Alex kept a hand featuring lands Force of Will Lord of Atlantis and Daze. It wasn't a powerful hand but it presented the appropriate speed bumps against the fast starts that Ad Nauseam could have. James cracked a Verdant Catacombs for an Underground Sea and cast Preordain. Alex opened on just an Island bummed to see a Thoughtseize from James on the second turn. “I was hoping you didn't have that card” Alex admitted.
He lost his Force and James ended the turn. Alex played an Island and cast Silvergill Adept to draw a card. Brainstorm for James resolved on the following turn Alex incredibly vulnerable at the moment. A Duress met a Daze from Alex and James passed the turn without a third land. Alex attacked James to 14 after casting Lord of Atlantis crossing his fingers that James would stumble long enough to get in range of the fishes while he also found a Force of Will in short order.
That did not appear to be the case as James began to go for it. Dark Ritual off a Swamp followed by a Lion's Eye Diamond paved the way for an Infernal Tutor revealing Cabal Ritual and fetching another. James tapped his Underground Sea to make enough for Cabal Ritual floating 5 black mana. A second Ritual put him to 8 and he cast Infernal Tutor sacrificing his Lion's Eye Diamond in response to go to 9 black and search his deck for an Ill-Gotten Gains. “If I'd played Cursecatcher could you have gone off?” Alex wondered and James asserted that he believed he could have.
James selected Duress Cabal Ritual and Infernal Tutor while Alex grabbed Cursecatcher Daze and Force of Will. Duress on Force followed by a Ritual and the Tutor found Tendrils of Agony for the kill. “Poor little fishies” Alex lamented.
James 1 Alex 0
Alex mulliganed an opening hand devoid of Islands but rich in Force of Wills wincing as he shipped it away. James had a keep which was bad news for everyone's favorite fish (player). Alex couldn't find an Island in his next hand either but he hung on dropping a Wasteland and passing the turn on six cards. James played Underground Sea and Ponder keeping the cards and passing. Alex whiffed on land and on Aether Vial prompting him to pop the Wasteland.
James cast Xantid Swarm via Tropical Island and Alex cast Force of Will pitching a Sovereign. He drew a Spell Pierce and ended his second turn in a row without permanents. James cast a Brainstorm followed by a fetchland for an Island shuffling away the clunkers. A Ponder followed and James kept the cards. AN Island off the top gave Alex some play and he passed the turn. James cast a Duress but Alex Spell Pierced it which James declined to pay. He cast a Ponder and kept the cards passing with no other plays on three lands.
Alex hit another Island and played Silvergill Adept revealing Coralhelm. Thoughtseize began the turn for James and he paid for Alex's attempt to Daze. Alex lost his Jitte and James played Lotus Petal. A pair of Cabal Rituals followed and James cast Ad Nauseam on 16 life with 3 black mana the life loss due to his fetchlands. He revealed Tendrils of Agony Polluted Delta Lion's Eye Diamond Grim Tutor Polluted Delta Xantid Swarm Infernal Tutor and finally a Cabal Ritual. As James began to go off Alex scooped up his cards content with death but lamenting his missed opportunity.
James 2 Alex 0