James Pogue, an occasional Legacy battler, came into this round in need of a win for Top 8 with his Stoneforge Bant deck. Merfolk opponent Jeff Darran was in an identical position, and both players knew the matchup tended to favor James. Jeff had come prepared for these green decks with his sideboard, however, so it was anyone's match with the elimination rounds on the line.
James kept his opening hand, and Jeff followed suit. Just Windswept Heath for James on the first turn, while Jeff played an Island and passed. Breaking Heath on the second turn, James searched for Tundra and played Brainstorm. That play implied he was a bit strapped on mana, but he did manage Savannah afterward. Jeff drew, played Mutavault, and cast Silvergill Adept revealing Lord of Atlantis. Daze from James returned Tundra to hand and countered the Adept.
Replaying his land, James tapped out to cast Tarmogoyf. Jeff Dazed the big guy, but James bounced Tundra once again to Daze it back. Jeff decided to make a point, using Force of Will to counter back by removing Lord of Atlantis. On the next turn, he replayed Island and attacked with Mutavault for two.
James played Tundra again and this time ended the turn. When Jeff played a second Mutavault and again attacked with the original, James used Swords to Plowshares to kill it. His Mental misstep countered Jeff's Aether Vial at the cost of 2 life, playing it safe, and the game continued. No land drop for James, and he ended the turn—Jeff took advantage with Wasteland on the Tundra. The replacement Mutavault attacked James to 11 as he found Flooded Strand, and Jeff played his second Island.
Breaking Strand, James searched up a new Tundra and cast a big one—Stoneforge Mystic. That fetched the predictable Batterskull and put Jeff in a bit of a bind. He sent Mutavault in again, taking James to 8 life, and then cast Cursecatcher prior to playing another Island.
Still lacking a land drop, James drew and passed with Mystic ready to go. Jeff played out Aether Vial and passed the turn without attacks, failing to respond with anything relevant to Batterskull entering play. Ponder for James shuffled the deck on his own turn, drawing a random card and finding Flooded Strand. Batterskull put life totals at 18 to 12, still in Jeff's favor, but that would reverse itself soon enough. Jeff drew, made a land, and ended the turn.
Batterskull swung again for four, and James cast a second Stoneforge Mystic. Spellstutter Sprite threatened to counter, but James used Force of Will removing Jace to counter. Another Spellstutter sealed the deal, Mutavault animating to make the trigger work. Jeff added Coralhelm Commander to the field after boosting up his Aether Vial, leveling it to three counters.
Breaking his Flooded Strand for Tropical Island, James cast Knight of the Reliquary and attacked with Batterskull once again. Jeff needed to mount a defense soon, or he'd be unable to race the beastly Germ and his Knight counterpart. Aether Vial ticked up, giving Jeff a way to play Silvergill Adept and draw Cursecatcher. He leveled his Coralhelm Commander the rest of the way and then attacked with just the Commander and the Sprite.
Contemplating a variety of attacks, James decided to just send Batterskull—Jeff chumped with Cursecatcher. A second Knight of the Reliquary looked bad for Jeff, and James passed behind a formidable wall of creatures. Jeff repeated his air assault for five, and tried to Stifle a Knight of the Reliquary activation during the end step, to no avail—another Mental Misstep did him in, and James found Wasteland.
Flooded Strand joined the board next, and James burned Mutavault with the Wasteland before attacking with everything. Jeff was on 14, and each Knight was an 8/8 that could become 9/9 thanks to Flooded Strand. Even blocking a Knight with Silvergill Adept gave James exactly lethal with that attack, and Jeff scooped them up.
James 1, Jeff 0
Island, Aether Vial started the game for Jeff, while James played just Windswept Heath. When Jeff popped up his Aether Vial to one on the next turn, he still chose to cast Cursecatcher during his turn. James fired Mental Misstep, and Jeff decided to use his own mental Misstep for protection—what an odd exchange! James played Tarmogoyf after fetching Tropical Island and playing Horizon Canopy, but Force of Will removing Merrow Reejerey countered it.
No Vial activation during the end step made this all the more confusing, but Vial did tick up to two and give Jeff Silvergill Adept. Wasteland then eliminated the Tropical Island, and that put James in a bind. He took a point, played Wasteland, and passed the turn.
Keeping Vial on two, Jeff attacked and ended the turn—James had nothing more to do himself, ending the turn with no plays. When Jeff tried another attack after playing an Island, James decided to Swords the Adept and buy himself some time, falling to 8 life.
Jeff added a new Aether Vial to the board and attacked James to 7, passing the turn. When James tried to play and break Flooded Strand, Stifle jumped in the way—Mental Misstep from James saved him the mana, and gave him what he needed to play Knight of the Reliquary on 3 life, thanks to Horizon Canopy.
No plays from Jeff, but James was hardly out of the woods. He played a second Knight of the Reliquary after hitting a land and ended the turn. Jeff set one Vial to two and the original to three, ready to draw some gas off the top. James began thinning the deck of lands with his Knight, not quite safe enough to attack. He then Brainstormed his way to a Sword of Body and Mind and cast it, going to 2 life in the process from Canopy. During the end step, a surprising Hibernation put both of those creatures back in the hand, and even the Maze of Ith he grabbed in response looked like it wouldn't be enough.
James 1, Jeff 1
James took a mulligan on the play in the third game, clearly a little annoyed about it. Jeff kept seven, and James began with Tropical Island. Jeff played Island and then Cursecatcher, but James paid the mana for a Mental Misstep on the Merfolk. He played Savannah on his second turn, and passed. Jeff played Mutavault and cast Silvergill Adept, revealing Coralhelm Commander, and James tried casting Daze for two mana. Force pitching the same Commander forced the 2/1 into play.
Hitting three mana on turn 3 (for the first time) James broke Windswept Heath for Tundra and cast Knight of the Reliquary, confident it would resolve. Upgrading his Adept with merrow Reejerey, Jeff attacked James to 16 and ended the turn.
Brainstorm drew James a few cards as he looked for help, no doubt keeping in mind the unexpected Stifle he'd experienced during the previous game. Casting Tarmogoyf, James was surprised to see Force of Will removing Stifle snag his creature—Jeff had likely just drawn the counterspell this turn. Contemplating his attacks, Jeff eventually decided that he lacked any profitable ones, and ended the turn with no plays beyond Island.
Content to sit on breathing room, James drew and passed the turn right back. Jeff played draw, go once again, and James tapped out to cast a second Knight on his own turn. Activating the other Knight, he grabbed a Wasteland for Mutavault and used it. Jeff played Silvergill Adept revealing Cursecatcher, using Reejerey to tap the defending Knight and attacking James to 11, keeping Cursecatcher in his hand and a single mana untapped.
James Brainstormed again, now on two lands but also with two Knights. He added Flooded Strand, falling to 10 breaking it and finding his second Savannah. He then cast Stoneforge Mystic, tapping out to do so and finding Batterskull. Jeff untapped, aware he needed to start making waves, and contemplated his choices. He started with Echoing Truth on Knight of the Reliquary, another surprising card. James used Force of Will, pitching Mental Misstep, to counter—no doubt Jeff wished he'd led Cursecatcher first! Now he was stuck passing the turn, and James fell to 8 using Knight of the Reliquary to chain out Flooded Strand for Tropical Island, followed by another Knight for Windswept Heath.
Time was called during shuffling, and that put James on turn 1 of the additional turns. He started with Swords to Plowshares, but Mental Misstep protected Jeff's Merrow Reejerey. One Knight attacked, currently a 9/9 but threatening to become 10/10. Jeff decided to take the damage and drop to 8 life, as James did go to 7 for a fetch before damage. Jeff needed some pretty specific things to happen here, but none of them involved an Island. He couldn't get past the Batterskull in his opponent's hand! He ended the turn, and Batterskull landed.
James drew for turn and examined the board for ways to exert maximum pressure. He decided to send one Knight and the Batterskull, knowing he had one more attack step after this one to try and clinch the win. Declaring no blocks, Jeff cast Hibernation before damage to send the Knight home and take just four damage—risky, as there's really no reason not to cast it before blockers. James responded by using his other Knight to grab Horizon Canopy after floating a white, breaking it to draw a card—how odd, considering Maze of Ith probably locks this game up for him. Hibernation resolved, and James ended the turn on 11 life.
Taking his own turn now, Jeff drew and played Island. Cursecatcher tapped Batterskull, and Jeff lamented his failure to draw a Lord this turn. Sending his remaining Merfolk, Jeff gave James an out to kill him by not leaving back an additional blocker. Stoneforge Mystic chumped, and Path to Exile—crucially not the Swords to Plowshares that would gain Jeff enough life to survive Batterskull's attack—removed Cursecatcher from the board.
Batterskull swings for the win!
James 2, Jeff 1