The action is hotting up as the competition reaches the last round of the Swiss section. Four players can draw safely in, while another ten fight for the four remaining slots. Matt Henstra is one of the many good players that the Netherlands seem to be producing lately. He reached the Top 8 at Grand Prix-London last year and is looking to reach the Top 8 on home soil. Kevin O'Connor is one of a rising crop of English players looking to score their first mark on the Pro Tour circuit. Unfortunately as his tiebreakers are the lowest of the chasing pack even a win might not be enough to make Top 8 although it would virtually guarantee him an invite to the World Championships.
There was a brief delay for a deck check and O'Connor was entertained by Olivier Ruel's ninja hamster on the next table.
Henstra won the die roll and opted to play first. He started by summoning a Grim Lavamancer and followed it with a Basking Rootwalla. A Wild Mongrel slowed down the Dutch offensive. Henstra ran the Rootwalla into the Mongrel. He was on the receiving end of a monster hand from O'Connor as the Englishman pitched first a Rootwalla and a Roar to keep the Mongrel alive and then a second Roar and Counterspell to keep the Mongrel standing as the Dutchman aimed a Firebolt at its head.
O'Connor started hitting back and Henstra was forced to throw a Call of the Herd token and second Lavamancer to finally deal with the Mongrel. The Englishman reached four mana without any problem and then the Wurm tokens came to party.
Henstra managed to kill one monster Wurm with two Firebolts and a Lavamancer but he was forced to start chumping the second while expending most of his graveyard to deal with supporting Rootwallas.
A Deep Analysis looked superfluous but suddenly the game changed as Henstra ripped a Flametongue Kavu off the top and was able to kill the Wurm with the help of the Lavamancer. When O'Connor didn't cast anything the next turn it looked suddenly dangerous for the Englishman.
The next turn he reached seven mana however, and a hard-cast Roar of the Wurm changed the complexion of the game again. Its brother appeared and Meteor Storm combined with Fiery Temper could only drop the Englishman to one life before the Wurms crashed through.
O'Connor 1-0 Henstra
Henstra went first and again started with a Lavamancer. O'Connor managed the abusive Careful Study start discarding Rootwalla and Roar of the Wurm. He then matched Henstra's Mongrel with one of his own.
Not to be outdone the Dutchman discarded a Violent Eruption to his Mongrel next turn and aimed it at the head of O'Connor's. O'Connor chose not to pitch the three cards required to save it. Next turn an Aquamoeba appeared to replace it.
Henstra ran the Mongrel into a trade with the Aquamoeba and a Looter from O'Connor's hand and began to turn the screw as Call of the Herd summoned an Elephant to his side.
Critically O'Connor missed the all-important fourth land and although he was able to Circuar Logic the flashed back Call, the other Elephant and Lavamacer were hitting for four a turn.
O'Connor tried to put out a Looter to soak up some burn but a Fiery Temper and Firebolt finished off the mana-screwed Englishman.
O'Connor 1-1 Henstra
O'Connor opted go first. Neither player had a turn one play and the action started on turn two as O'Connor dropped first one Mongrel and then a second, but again the screw struck as he couldn't find a third land. Henstra dropped an ordinary looking Yavimaya Barbarian, but then followed it with a sideboard card—Fires of Yavimaya—to try and tip the race in his favour.
Another draw step didn't find O'Connor a land but coughed up another Mongrel. A Flametongue Kavu from Henstra savaged one of the dogs and a brawl in the red zone during O'Connor's attack step saw the board cleared of the Kavu, Fires and another Mongrel, as well as a lot of cards from O'Connor's hand.
Henstra looked in control as Call of the herd put two 3/3 Elephants on the table.
O'Connor finally found a third land—a Centaur Garden—and could drop an Arrogant Wurm. Next turn a Temporal Spring took care of the last Call token and the game was poised.
As they went into extra turns Henstra's Barbarian was facing down O'Connor's Arrogant Wurm with the life totals 13 to 7 in the Englishman's favour. More importantly Henstra had a fist of cards to O'Connor's one.
An extra Yavimaya Barbarian and a Meteor Storm put enough blockers to force O'Connor to use the Garden. Henstra removed the Arrogant Wurm next turn with the Meteor Shower and the game ran out of time.
Final Result: Kevin O'Connor drew 1-1 with Matt Henstra.
A draw puts both players out of the top 8 but should guarantee both a place in the World Championships.