At the end of the second day of the English Nationals are always a handful of the same players at the top, as you’d expect. Over the last couple of years two of the most well known are Oliver Schneider and Neil Rigby. Both players have played on the Pro Tour, and attended any number of top level events. Oliver has won the English Nationals a couple of times and it’s often said that the Nationals always brings the best performances out of him – both as a player and a performer in front of the inevitable crowd.
Both players shuffled up and passed their decks to their opponents. Ollie counted Neil’s deck and was surprised when he found 41 cards. “41?” Pete Norris, sitting nearby piped up “He always does this. He did this in the top eight of the PTQ.” “And you beat him?” asked Ollie, “Yes,” Pete answered. Neil was oblivious to all of this as he shuffled Ollie’s deck. They passed the decks back and both kept their opening seven cards.
Ollie started with a Plains but Neil played out the first creature on his second turn: A Stoic Champion. Ollie played out a Mistform Wall to slow down the Champion and so Neil played out a Wingbeat Warrior to give him a ten-turn clock. A few turns later, Ollie unmorphed his own flier, in the form of a Mistform Seaswift and dropped a second wall to make sure any ground forces would be kept in check. A few turns, attacks and creatures later Neil killed the Swift, giving him the only fliers but Ollie dropped a Riptide Mangler and managed to give it four power. “If you’re gonna have a 4/3 on the table you might as well attack with it,” he said, and sent it into the Red Zone.
It was looking pretty even at this point but Neil swung the game around with a Dragon Roost, capable of making a dragon every turn if Neil could find enough land. Ollie dropped a Lavamancer’s Skill on his wall and started killing Neil’s smaller creatures, knowing he would have to find a way to win quickly. It wasn’t fast enough though as Neil found the land he was looking for and started making Dragon tokens. Ollie found his 6/6 Mistform Skyreaver but it was too late for him as Neil’s Dragon’s flew in for the win.
Ollie boarded in a Covert Operatvie, taking out a Slipstream Eel but later questioned whether it was a good idea. Neil was unlucky in his draft and only had 23 playable Red and White cards so he had no real boarding options.
Both players drew and played morph creatures in game two, and both drew plenty of land too. Ollie’s walls again gave him the time he needed, and the Lavamancer’s Skill once more started to deal with Neil’s smaller creatures. This time though Ollie saw his Skyreaver before Neil saw his Dragon Roost and, with no way to block it, the game was over three attack phases later.
Game three was “the most one sided game of magic” I’ve seen in a long while, as Ollie himself said. Neil drew land after land after land as Ollie played out morph creatures, unmorphing them to fly across and other fliers to cement his path to victory. Neil managed to deal with one or two creatures but only drawing five spells and a further twelve land while your opponent draws a 50/50 mix means they have to be really good spells. Unfortunately for Neil, Ollie’s were better and he had more of them. “I’m never playing a deck with 19 land in it again,” Neil said as he scooped leaving Ollie, once more, with a good chance of making top eight.
Oliver wins 2-1.