In this final round of the first pod, last year’s runner up Tom Harle faces double GP-T8er Neil Rigby. Both players have multiple Pro Tours under their respective belts and have the abilities to win the whole event and they’ve armed themselves with two mighty decks from their draft. Neil is running a powerful UR build with triple Skill, Quicksilver Dragon being the star-players. Tom ran the “Cleric Gambit” and pieced together a good collection of white and black spells featuring three Revivals, Skinthinners and more. Both players are Hungry Mists at 6-2, looking for a win to put them up within striking distance of the top 8, and leaving them with a perfect record for their first draft this Nationals.
But all this is just chitter-chatter. The important thing is the tasteful headwear both competitors were sporting. Neil has been wearing an impressive balloon hat, which at the very least has made him one of the easier competitors to locate in the venue. Tom is understated in comparison, but the baseball cap and hoodie look is still some savage headgear in any man’s book.
So how do you choose who plays or draws when you’re such fashion gurus? Neil Rigby took the initiative and pulled out his mobile, asking Tom “Is my phone on or off?”
Tom was unwilling to use such an eclectic method of randomisation, and instead opted to play “odds or evens” on a random card from his sideboard. Neil played against the odds, and picked evens…but Goblin Firebug was the mystery card and the ballooned wonder got to play.
The first play is Harle’s Battlefield Medic, followed by a Flamewave Invoker from Rigby. Tom answers this with a sneaky Severed Legion to attempt to start getting through the damage. Both players are building up their mana and creature bases respectably. Neil creates a Mystery Morph, but Tom tops this with the mighty Nantuko Husk. With attacking looking bleak against Husk + Medic, Neil sends both the Zombies back to his opponent’s grip with a turn five Essence Fracture, and serves for 4 points putting Tom to 16. The tempo-loss looks like it will be compounded by his 4-land draw with a hand where nothing costs less than three, but he rips a Festering Goblin and drops it onto the board with his Husky friend.
Neil has now gotten stuck in a dilemma. His previously attractive Ridgetop Raptor now looks a lot more fragile in the face of the pesky goblin. He makes it regardless and passes the turn back. Tom drops a morphed Skinthinner but is still stalled at four mana with two Revivals in his grip. Meanwhile Severed Legion is constantly plugging away for two each go. Neil has run out of steam and can only make an Imagecrafter before passing again. A Daru Healer doubles the cleric army. The fifth land hits the table for Tom, and things are looking more than a little fragile for Rigby. The Nantuko insect and the army of hands and legs march towards Neil. Crunch time. He declares his block as Raptor and morph on the Husk. Festering Goblin is sacrificed to crunch the Imagecrafter, and ‘Thinner gets turned face up, removing the morph. Neil continues to fight out the match, with a Mistform Mask on the Husk, but all he musters from the top of his deck are lands to help get his Invoker to a critical level. Unfortunately it proves far too slow, as the B/W deck steam-rolls him in the next couple of turns.
Harle 1-Rigby 0
Tom adds a Gravel Slinger to the main, and removes a Severed Legion. Neil makes no changes to his deck.
Medic is again the first creature to grace the table. Neil’s reply is a morph and Daru Healer face up is Tom’s own turn 3 play. Sage Aven reveals a Quicksilver Dragon is getting ready to play, along with the necessary mana to get it active on the board. Tom makes a facedown gray ogre and passes. A fifth land hits the table for Rigby and his morph enters the red-zone for two damage, before he summons his trusty x/1s – Imagecrafter and Ridgetop Raptor. Tom makes a fifth land and sends the turn straight back, obviously planning on performing a terror-effect on one of Neil’s men. Tom’s morph turns out to be a Skinthinner that takes down Imagecrafter and Ridgetop Raptor, but Neil Skills up his trusty Aven and pokes the Daru Healer that got involved in the earlier combat phase. The bird doesn’t last too long though, as a Cruel Revival snuffs out any chance of shooting the rest of Tom’s monsters. Tom makes a face-down Skinthinner and face-up Wingbeat Warrior as Neil formulates his game plan for getting the Quicksilver face up and attacking. Neil carries on attacking with his morph, makes a Flamewave Invoker and a second morph (guess who). Meanwhile Tom has drawn into a Pacifism. Wingbeat comes across, leaving the life-totals standing at Tom 12-Neil 17. The first morph has another go at Tom, and when no blocks are declared, it flips over to deal 4 as it is revealed to be a Charging Slateback. Tom Pacifies it, unmorphs his Skinthinner, and hits for 4 pts (8-13). Neil jumps on his chance and unmorphs the Dragon. Tom struggles on for two turns, but the 5/5 is too much to handle.
Harle 1 – Rigby 1
No medic for Tom this time – the players make do with morphs on each side on their respective third turns. Neil chooses to not block Tom’s creature and takes two before making an Aven Redeemer, which lets through Neil’s own morph swing to even the scores at 18 each. Neil passes with nothing else done during his turn. Tom strikes for 4 but a cycled Choking Tethers interrupts him. He creates another morph and passes. All Neil is able to do is unmorph an Ascending Aven and hit for three. Tom hits back again and the totals stand at 15-10. He increases his forces even more with a Smokespew Invoker and Daru Healer. Neil has nothing to do during his turn. Skinthinner shreds the Aven and the game is totally over. Neil reveals his draw of lands, Skill, Aven Fateshaper, and a Pinpoint Avalanche.
Harle 2 – Rigby 1