"I'm not taking this off until Jon pulls it off me with his own hands," Tom Martell said of the scarf he had worn through his improbable semifinals victory over the favored Melissa DeTora.
The scarf, naturally, belongs to Jonny Magic himself, Jon Finkel. And in winning what even Martell thought was an unwinnable matchup against Wolf RunBant, surely something a little special had to be on Tom Martell's side. Why not a scarf imbued with the essence of possibly the greatest Magic player of all time?
Eric Froehlich had no such totem. What he did have was Loxodon Smiter, the 4/4 whose little-noticed discard clause helped run over Owen Turtenwald and his Liliana of the Veils in the quarterfinals. His bevy of beasts were tough to handle for opponents all weekend and even tougher on their life totals. But against Martell's bevy of sacrificial Doomed Travelers and Lingering Souls tokens, they might have a hard time breaking through.
Eric Froehlich's Saito Zoo deck has been serving him well, but Tom Martell had plenty of tricks up his sleeve with The Aristocrats.
Martell, on the play, hit the ground running early with Doomed Traveler and Cartel Aristocrat. But, as would be the theme of this match, Froehlich quickly outclassed Martell's creatures in size with a Burning-Tree Emissary and Flinthoof Boar on turn two.
Martell's response to Froehlich's beef wasn't bad. Silverblade Paladin entered the battlefield and paired with Cartel Aristocrat to form a formidable blocking pair.
But while Silverblade Paladin was the old hotness in the world of three-drops, Boros Reckoner was certainly the new hotness, and Froehlich cast two copies of the Gatecrash rare on turns three and four. The board became even more clogged when Martell added his fourth creature with another (unpaired) copy of Silverblade Paladin.
Froehlich fires off with a fast start in the first game.
Martell had almost no good way to deal with the Reckoners through combat and only a very few ways to kill them outright, making Froehlich's next attack with both 3/3s tough to parse. All Martell could do at this juncture was stall for a little bit of time, but when he failed to find a fourth land and found himself unable to interact with the Boros Reckoners, he conceded and reached for his sideboard.
The sideboard did offer help with the Reckoner problem, supplying additional removal spells in the form of Tragic Slip, plus a few gems that could help turn the tide in subsequent games.
Froehlich 1, Martell 0
Both players started on six cards for the second game.
Martell drew a Champion of the Parish a turn too late, casting it on turn two before upgrading it to a 2/2 on turn three with a Cartel Aristocrat.
The pair of 2/2s were quickly outclassed by a Gyre Sage and a Flinthoof Boar, though both were dispatched immediately with an Orzhov Charm and a now morbid Tragic Slip.
Losing the Sage was a blow to Froehlich, who was now missing his third land with a hand full of three drops. The only play he could muster was a Mizzium Mortars on Champion of the Parish as he fell to 4 life.
Martell is 100% focused on getting through to the Finals.
He did finally get a Boros Reckoner into play, but some tricks with an Orzhov Charm, returning Champion of the Parish, and a morbid Tragic Slip let Martell swing for the win.
Froehlich 1, Martell 1
Just like last match, Martell was beaten with relative ease in the first game. Just like last match, he came back to win the second game on the back of his opponent's mana screw. And just like last match, he was still wearing Jon Finkel's scarf.
Martell led with Doomed Traveler into Skirsdag High Priest, but was quickly under the gun as a pair of Flinthoof Boars crashed in on Froehlich's third turn, already putting Martell to just 12 life.
That 12 became 10 with a Sacred Foundry, but Martell's third turn was a good one. Champion of the Parish and Cartel Aristocrat joined his board, giving him a bevy of options plus an easy way to make a 5/5 demon token immediately. Suddenly, Froehlich's formerly formidable attack force looked positively flaccid by comparison.
Hellrider was still small by Demon standards, but it gave Froehlich incentive to attack. A 5/5 Demon jumped into play and Cartel Aristocrats blocked a boar, letting Martell win combat, but he dropped to just 4 life in the process. He was well ahead on the table, but well behind on life totals.
And, it turned out, ahead on options. Froehlich had drawn poorly since his opener and had only lands in hand. While he could cagily hold them in hand to make Martell think, there was nothing he could do to stop himself from falling behind if Martell played his cards right.
When Jon's Scarf...er, I mean, when Martell did in fact play his cards right, Martell took the lead in the best of three match.
Froehlich 1, Martell 2
Froehlich's hand had plenty of lands this time around, plus an excellent assortment of creatures. And by creatures I mean Boros Reckoners. That might be important.
Martell began with a Champion of the Parish, but had no follow-up. It was a pretty weak start that looked even weaker when Froehlich curved a Gyre Sage into Boros Reckoner.
Martell had his own copy of the 3/3 Reckoner, but a tech Pacifism kept it sitting idly off to the side while Froehlich swung right at Martell's face.
His response? Clearly, a second Boros Reckoner.
Meanwhile, Froehlich had a hand full of action that gave him plenty of possibilities. Before casting anything, he chose to attack his Boros Reckoner into Martell's with both players having access to white mana.
Martell, unsure of what to make of the attack, simply chump blocked with his Champion of the Parish. That, however, turned on Tragic Slip and let Martell kill the follow-up Boros Reckoner, preventing Gyre Sage from evolving.
After Martell passed with no play, Froehlich finally upgraded his Gyre Sage to a 3/4 and attacked to trade off Boros Reckoners. That, again, enabled a Tragic Slip that let Martell deal with Gyre Sage.
But things just kept getting worse for Martell. Froehlich's third Boros Reckoner was quickly joined by Domri Rade, and from that point, Martell's smaller creatures just couldn't match up.
Froehlich 2, Martell 2
Another mulligan for Martell was greeted by a reluctant keep by Froehlich. He had plenty of gas, but saw only two lands and no two drop creatures, plus an Aurelia, the Warleader that wouldn't be cast any time soon. It was a risk, but any third mana source would be gas.
Plus, Martell was now going to just five cards.
"Oh Magic," Martell sighed, still wrapped in the scarf he had hoped would bring him luck.
Froehlich, however, looked to have all the luck. While he didn't draw any two drops, he did immediately find his third land. He just didn't cast anything until turn three, and even then it was a Mizzium Mortars on Skirsdag High Priest. Froehlich had clearly learned he could never let the 1/2 live.
Froehlic has only a few forms of removal, but he knows what cards need to point them at.
And it was a good thing he did, as Martell had both Cartel Aristocrat and Doomed Traveler to follow up, as well as a Boros Reckoner to make combat pretty miserably complicated for both players.
And, of course, Froehlich had his own Reckoner as well. As you do.
But what he also had was a Gyre Sage and Loxodon Smiter, giving him the real possibility of upgrading his whole team with Aurelia, the Warleader the next turn.
And, while this has gotten repetitive, we should note that Martell played a second Boros Reckoner. Again, as you do.
But the turning point of the game came on Froehlich's next turn when he drew the land for Aurelia. As Martell looked on and arched his eyebrows, acknowledging the Boros guild leader's power, Froehlich threw caution to the win and attacked with everything: Aurelia, Boros Reckoner, Gyre Sage and Loxodon Smiter.
The combat was complicated, to say the least. Martell had two Boros Reckoners of his own, and two combat phases meant intricate and interesting blocking scenarios.
When the dust cleared, Martell fell to 8, Froehlich lost his Reckoner, and Martell was reduced to two Spirit Tokens, a Boros Reckoner and a Cartel Aristocrat. It looked like it was pretty clearly the end for Tom Martell and Jon Finkel's scarf.
Never underestimate the power of Jon Finkel's scarf.
Untapping, with Froehlich seemingly safe on 14 life, Martell announced...Blasphemous Act. With Froehlich's own Boros Reckoner out of the way, Martell could safely cast the sweeping sorcery and pave the way to victory. Giving his Cartel Aristocrat protection from Red, Martell cleared the board, sent 13 damage from Boros Reckoner to Froehlich's face, and attacked for the last few points.
Never underestimate 13 damage to the face.
And seriously. Never underestimate Jon Finkel's Scarf.
Tom Martell wins 3-2 and advances to the finals!
Pro Tour Gatecrash Montreal 2013
Tom Martell - The Aristocrats
Pro Tour Gatecrash Montreal 2013