Feature Match Round 1: David Caplan vs Mike Arenson
by Josh Bennett
David Caplan last touched high-level success with a Top 8 at Grand Prix - Chicago. Today, he’s battling with an updated version of Esper control. His opponent, Mike Arenson, is still looking for a spotlight moment, and to that end sleeved up the former boogeyman: Jund.
It was a slow start for both players, which favored Caplan. While they both played out lands, Caplan drew two with Esper Charm and then another off Wall of Omens . Still, by turn six he didn’t have a sixth, and so tried to Path to Exile his own Wall. Arenson cracked his fetch and tapped five for Bituminous Blast . He cascaded into Sprouting Thrinax and Caplan frowned. Mana Leak kept the Thrinax off the table and he put his Wall in the bin.
Arenson began to test the waters with threats. His Putrid Leech got locked under Oblivion Ring . A Bloodbraid into a second Leech drew out a Day of Judgment . He animated his Raging Ravine and swung only to downgrade it with Path to Exile . Caplan threw down Baneslayer Angel , but Arenson still wasn’t out of gas. He played Grave Titan .
Caplan took a moment to think. He swung and drained Arenson for five and passed the turn. Arenson’s undead team hit back for ten. Caplan swung in again. Arenson aimed two Lightning Bolt s at the Angel, but Caplan had Negate for the save. Even with the lifegain from the Angel, though, he wasn’t out of the woods. Arenson Bloodbraided into a redundant Leech and swung for near-lethal. Creeping Tar Pit saved Caplan for a turn, but unable to sweep the board of Arenson’s undead army, he succumbed.
Mike Arenson 1 - David Caplan 0
Both players mulliganed for Game 2, and Arenson had to go back for seconds. His two lander hit a crucial swamp on the third turn, giving him all his colors. He led out with Leech and then Thrinax, forcing a Day of Judgment . Without a fourth land, Arenson had to hit for three with his saprolings and pass the turn.
Caplan drew with Esper Charm . Areson found land number four and played Obstinate Baloth . Another Day cleaned the board. Arenson’s Bloodbraid Elf hit a blank Malestrom Pulse, but now Caplan was hiding behind a wall of mana and man-lands.
They played draw-go for a bit, with Caplan cheating the numbers thanks to Esper Charm . Eventually Caplan broke the silence with Baneslayer, but Arenson had Doom Blade . A topdecked Thought Hemorrhage met Flashfreeze . Caplan, totally stocked on lands, was free to start attacking with Creeping Tar Pit .
Arenson drew and played Duress , seeing a hand of Flashfreeze , three Path to Exile , Mana Leak , Agony Warp and Martial Coup . He cleared out the Flashfreeze , having more than enough mana to deal with Mana Leak . His deck served him a second Hemmorhage, but Caplan had plucked another Flashfreeze . With two Tar Pits on the offensive, he wrapped the game in short order.
Mike Arenson 1 - David Caplan 1
The clock was winding down and both players picked up their pace. Arenson stumbled on his mana thanks to Savage Lands on turn three, then played out Sprouting Thrinax . With a little help from Bloodbraid into another Thrinax, he started to bring the beats. Path to Exile and Wall of Omens kept it to three a turn, but having cracked three fetches, Caplan’s total was dwindling.
Attacks and Thought Hemmorhage for 3 took him down to just two, but he had Baneslayer in hand. He played it and crossed his fingers. Arenson had to pass the turn without attacking.
Caplan gained five but things were still dicey. Arenson’s counterattack brought him low again, but he had neither removal for the angel nor a Lightning Bolt to go to the face. Another draw got Caplan the counter backup he needed, and the angel sailed to victory.
David Caplan defeats Mike Arenson 2-1
Feature Match Round 2: James Vance vs Marcel Zafra
by Josh Bennett
James Vance is looking to improve on last year’s Nationals performance, trading his Top 8 for a place on the team. He’s started out on the right foot, pocketing a win with Bant. His opponent, the ever-methodical Marcel Zafra, is playing Turboland, and is one of the players to watch this weekend. His last major finish was 17th at Pro Tour Austin.
The first game was swift and brutal. Zafra mulliganed, and then kept on mulliganing until he had just four cards in hand. He had active turns, considering, but Vance dropped Baneslayer Angel and then a pair of Rhox War Monk s. Avenger of Zendikar came down with seven plants in tow, but Zafra had no land to boost them. Meanwhile the Angel went overhead along with a Celestial Colonnade . Another turn, and it was over.
Vance 1 - Zafra 0
Zafra got to keep a full hand for the second game and opened strong with Lotus Cobra , then Explore , fetchland, Halimar Depths and Oracle of Mul Daya . Vance had Mana Leak to stop that nonsense, and an Oblivion Ring to remove the Cobra, but that just cleared the way for Jace, the Mind Sculptor .
Zafra Brainstormed and passed the turn. Vance had his own for the kill, and then another to recoup his loss. Zafra cleared the board with All is Dust.
Vance was all stocked up on goodies. His Baneslayer Angel connected for five and he added a second. Zafra drew and tapped seven: The second All is Dust. Vance hit for four with Colonnade. Zafra drew and played out Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tectonic Edge for the Colonnade. Vance was stymied, and when Zafra brainstormed into Oracle of Mul Daya , he scooped up his cards to head to Game 3.
Vance 1 - Zafra 1
Vance kept a two land, Ponder hand on the play but his deck was unkind. For three turns he drew, discarding uncastables while Zafra built his mana. Zafra played Jace, the Mind Sculptor and sent away Vance’s top card. A land was waiting for Vance underneath, but his attempt to send Jace to Oblivion fell to Deprive .
Zafra added Oracle of Mul Daya to the board and began to get brutal. A second Cobra and a bunch of land, then Time Warp to do it all again. That was enough to convince Vance to pack it in.
Marcel Zafra defeats James Vance 2-1
Feature Match Round 3: Francis Toussaint vs John Wasson
by Josh Bennett
If you had to bet on a player to Top 8, you could do a lot worse than Francis Toussaint. He’s sitting on back-to-back Nationals Top 8’s, and Doug Potter (yes, THE Doug Potter) says he’s going to make it three thanks to his newly-brewed green-white control. Standing in his way at 1-1 is John Wasson, playing mono-red.
In the first game, Wasson was firing on all cylinders. He got in some early damage before Toussaint could hide behind Gideon Jura , and then when Toussaint tried to get on the board with Wall of Omens and Overgrown Battlement he had a pair of Searing Blaze s to drop him even lower. A pair of Bolts and an Earthquake sealed the deal.
Wasson 1 - Toussaint 0
Toussaint accelerated into Primeval Titan for Game 2, but Wasson had boarded in Brittle Effigy to cut it down before it could get crazy-go-nuts. It had done enough, though, hauling up a Mystifying Maze to take the edge off Wasson’s suite of Ball Lightning s, Hell’s Thunder s, and assorted what-have-yous.
While Wasson struggled to find burn, Toussaint brought himself out of range with Pelakka Wurm . Wasson had another Effigy, but no answer for the pair of Stirring Wildwood that began rumbling into the Red Zone. Soon they were on to Game 3.
Wasson 1 - Toussaint 1
Wasson was on the play for the deciding game, but Toussaint was the first to make a play: Leyline of Sanctity . Wasson’s deck was at least skewed away from targetted burn, but it would be an uphill battle.
His hasty creatures took Toussaint down to eight while he built resources, and Primeval Titan had to soak a Ball Lightning , but then Pelakka Wurm came to the rescue and somewhere Jamie Wakefield found himself smiling for what seemed to him like no reason. From there it was a short journey for Toussaint to the win.
Francis Toussaint defeats John Wasson 2-1
Saturday, 2:30p.m. - Day 1 at Can Nats
by Josh Bennett
The calm before the storm.
The dealers give some clues about what to expect.
Fauna Naya is out this weekened
Temple Bell AND Howling Mine... my stars!
Our Aeons have been Torn.
Whatever the other Nationals may have, we at least have a mustachioed impresario!
Feature Match Round 4: Jon Stern vs Jay Elarar
The madding crowd. The players in orange are all under the banner of Jeux Face-a-Face.
by Josh Bennett
It was a clash of the greybeards as Jon Stern faced Jay Elarar in the first round of Magic 2011 draft. Stern had put together an aggressive red-white, while Elarar had a removal-heavy red-black.
Stern had to send back his first seven on the play, and kept an unexciting six. He led off with War Priest of Thune and then Manic Vandal . Elarar showed him Pyroclasm . He tried Chandra’s Spitfire but lost it to Necrotic Plague . With just three land, all he could manage was an Infantry Veteran .
Elarar decided he’d like to be in the Spitfire business and cast Rise from the Grave . Stern caught a fourth land for Assault Griffin , but Elarar untapped and completed a mondo combo with Chandra’s Outrage . Stern hit for one and played a second Veteran.
Elarar tried to race to the finish with Ancient Hellkite , but Stern had Pacifism at the ready, as well as a Silvercoat Lion , trying to assemble the Little Army that Could. Elarar outdid him with Prodigal Pyromancer and Howling Banshee . Stern played his second Pacifism on the Banshee and swung in for four.
Elarar shot Stern with his Pyromancer, boosting his stolen Spitfire, and attacked. He cast a second Rise from the Grave and, forgetting about the War Priest, picked up the dead Griffin. Stern attacked again and this time Elarar traded the zombie griffin for the Lion, taking two down to six. He went for the kill on his turn, but Stern had drawn Chandra’s Outrage to shoot down the Spitfire. Elarar grimaced, and, fearing losing to Mighty Leap , cast another Pyroclasm .
Stern had a Sorcerer’s Strongbox but only five land in play. Elarar drew a blank, and so did Stern, missing on his attempt to spring the box. Elarar didn’t miss a second time, however, and played Nightwing Shade . Stern missed on his box again, and played Stormfront Pegasus to chump. He never got the chance, because Elarar plucked Act of Treason .
Elarar 1 - Stern 0
Stern got on the board quickly with Elite Vanguard and then Honor of the Pure to hit for three. Elarar put out a Child of Night and Stern refused to offer a trade. Elarar swung for two and Stern declined to block. Elarar made a second Child, and passed.
Stern gummed up the ground with a Canyon Minotaur . Elarar played out Black Knight and Bloodthrone Vampire . Stern summoned Assault Griffin , and after Pacifying Elarar’s Berserkers of Blood Ridge , began flying over for four. He also added another Minotaur.
Stern hit again, and Elarar played Nightwing Shade . Stern offered the trade, but Elarar refused. He had Act of Treason to smash for six and get rid of the only thorn in his side. Another Pacifism put them back into a stalemate.
Elarar was finally drawing mountains, enabling his Ancient Hellkite . Stern bluffed an instant answer, but Elarar wasn’t about to hold back, and soon the match was his.
Jay Elarar defeats Jon Stern 2-0
Saturday, 4:45 p.m. - Draft No. 1 with Noah Long
by Josh Bennett
Noah Long is hot off a Top 32 finish at Pro Tour-San Diego and is off to a 3-0 start this weekend at Nationals. In preparation for the event he knew one thing for certain in M11 draft: He wanted to be blue. Between scry, fliers, and some of the best uncommons, Long believes it is the color that can dominate a draft. Ideally, he’d pair it with white, but he’s open to any pairing.
Things started off just fine for Long with Jace’s Ingenuity . He kept his options open with Gargoyle Sentinel over Spined Wurm , but when pack three still had Spined Wurm and Awakener Druid , he took the plunge into green. While both colors seemed open, the picks dried up quickly. So short on playables, he wasn’t tempted to dip into some kind of Jace’s Erasure deck, taking late Plummet and Armored Cancrix over them.
Pack two was kinder. He hedged early. After taking Giant Spider and Whispersilk Cloak , he took Sylvan Ranger over Warlord’s Axe , thinking he might well need to branch out into additional colors. He dabbled in white for Roc Egg s, and got late Harbor Serpent , Wall of Frost , and Unsummon .
Still short on removal going into pack three, he couldn’t take the Ice Cage s presented to him, choosing instead to flesh out his offense with Assault Griffin and Giant Spider . He picked up Foresee fourth and then Augury Owl , and an eighth-pick Duskdale Wurm gave him a much-needed fatty.
As he built his deck, Noah said it was slightly underpowered. He expected nothing more than a 2-1 out of it.
Feature Match Round 5: Vincent Thibeault vs Yan Robert
by Josh Bennett
It was a quick and brutal affair for the two 4-0 players. It was over so quickly, they almost wound up with the dreaded fake Feature Match.
This is all you need to know about game 1: At one point, Robert had both Conundrum Sphinx AND Frost Titan in play. Two turns later he had neither, and two turns after that he had lost the game. Thibeault’s black removal squashed his bombs.
Thibeault 1 - Robert 0
The second game was somehow worse. Robert mulliganed into a two-lander. He discarded Stormtide Leviathan to Liliana’s Specter , and though he caught Thibeault’s Nantuko Shade with Fireball , Thibeault had lands. Lands, in turn, enabled spells, and spells to victory.
Vincent Thibeault defeats Yan Robert 2-0
Feature Match Round 6: Noah Long vs Phil Samms
by Josh Bennett
Noah Long had already gotten the two wins he expected out of his draft deck, but he was hoping to eke out a third. This round he was paired against 4-1 part-time Wonka security guard Phil Samms.
Samms won the die roll and led with Royal Assassin , a brutal play against blue-green. He followed up with Juggernaut , but Long sent it back with Unsummon . Long untapped and played Azure Drake , and then answered the Juggernaut with Sacred Wolf . The expected trade occurred. Samms added Black Knight and passed.
Long cast Foresee , keeping two and sending two away, then played Sylvan Ranger and fetched a plains for his splash.
Duskdale Wurm was no threat thanks to the active Assassin, and Samms was free to drop Shiv’s Embrace on his Black Knight and swing. Unfortunately for him, Long was just waiting to suit up his Wurm with Whispersilk Cloak . Suddenly, Samms was on a three-turn clock. Worse, Long had Giant Spider to soak up a hit from the flying Knight.
Samms made a game attempt at bashing through, but a second Spider put Long well out of reach of the firebreather. Without a Corrupt to boost his life, Samms soon fell.
Long 1 - Samms 0
Samms went for an early Prodigal Pyromancer , but Long had Flashfreeze ready. He untapped and played Giant Spider . Samms made no play, and Long further locked up the ground with Sylvan Ranger and Roc Egg . Samms made a Juggernaut , and Long was happy to set him back with Unsummon , hitting for three.
Long refueled with Foresee . Samms replayed his Juggernaut . Long added Harbor Serpent to his team. Samms took to the air with Shiv’s Embrace , and suddenly things were well in his favor. Long tried Duskdale Wurm to bring the pain, but Samms had a Blade of Doom put the kibosh on that. Long again had Spider to soak for a turn, but without a force of his own, Samms just bashed until he was dead.
Long 1 - Samms 1
Long got on the board quick with Augury Owl and Sylvan Ranger , but a Pyromancer from Samms cut their time on stage short. Long made and Azure Drake , and Samms went one better with Royal Assassin .
Long frowned, then sent his team in, losing his Owl and hitting for three. Samms untapped and dispatched the Drake. He added a Canyon Minotaur to his team and passed the turn. Long played Sacred Wolf .
Samms decided to press his advantage, attacking with his Minotaur for three, but had no follow-up. Long hit back for three of his own and played Giant Spider . Samms took care of that with Lightning Bolt and an assist from the Pyromancer. Samms untapped and refused to go lower. He cast Diabolic Tutor .
“What’d you get?” asked Long
“I don’t have to show,” said Samms
“Oh well,” said Long, “it was worth a try.”
Samms laughed. “It’s 50/50 with me. You might’ve got me.”
Long passed the turn back, and Samms went for it: Ancient Hellkite . Long turned over Flashfreeze .
Still, with the Assassin online he was safe. Long played Duskdale Wurm and passed. They were both out of gas, for the time being.
Long drew, and wasted no time throwing down Aether Adept . Suddenly, Samms’s board was unprotected, and Long was free to crash in. Samms defended and dropped lower, but found nothing waiting for him on top. Another attack and he was forced to throw away the Pyromancer and Assassin to stay alive. And then there was nothing to do but offer the hand.
Noah Long defeats Phil Samms 2-1