Quarterfinals are here and England has someone in the top 8 of a European Championships for the first time since Milan in 2001. That time John Ormerod fell to the eventual winner Eivind Nitter. This year the English hope is young up-and-coming player Stuart Wright. Standing in his way is another Norwegian, the highly experienced Nicolai Herzog. Herzog is a former Champion from back in 1999 and also made the finals of Pro Tour Chicago last year, falling to Kai Budde in the final.
The Englishman's task will be a difficult one as the creatures in Herzog's blue-green deck are much bigger and just as fast. Wright's best hope will be to hide behind Ensnaring Bridge after boarding and try and pick his opponent off with burn. Herzog will be counteracting this by bringing in ravenous Baloth to buy him time to clear the artifacts off the board with a big Upheaval.
Wright won the die roll but was immediately forced to send his first hand back. The second hand dropped a Llanowar Elf on turn 1 and followed it with a Grim Lavamancer. Herzog summoned a Wild Mongrel.
Wright went after the Mongrel and the Norwegian gave him a lesson on how degenerate the blue-green deck can be sometimes. Wright tried to Hammer the dog. The dog spat out two Rootwalla's. Wright tried to finish it off with the Lavamancer only for Herzog to pitch Wonder and Deep Analysis to keep it alive amid laughter from the spectators.
Herzog started racing with the lizards and Mongrel. This meant Wright had to try and play control. A Firebolt finally got rid of the annoying hound only for Herzog to replace it with an equally annoying Phantom Centaur. Wright ran a freshly summoned Wild Mongrel into the new threat and made it smaller. Firebolt and Grim Lavamancer finished it off.
Wright was having to extend a lot of resources to deal with Herzog's threats and still the Norwegian was knocking chunks out of his life total with the flying Rootwallas. Another Wild Mongrel appeared on the Norwegian's side and Wright, down to no cards, scooped.
Herzog 1-0 Wright
Wright was forced to mulligan again in the second game but at least had the consolation of Herzog having to do likewise. The Norwegian's hand was less than impressive in the second game. Turn 1 Careful Study lost him a further card as he could only pitch a second Study and a land.
Wright couldn't fully capitalize. His only spell had been a Basking Rootwalla. The Lizard hit for three for three consecutive turns before Herzog hit 4 mana and summoned a Phantom Centaur. Wright replied with a Centaur of his own but he was losing out in the battle of the big creatures.
Herzog cast a third Study and madnessed out an Arrogant Wurm. Wright smashed that threat with a Violent Eruption only for Herzog to follow with Aquamoeba, pitching a Roar and flashing it back.
Centaurs bounced and got smaller as Herzog kept the Roar back for safety. An Elf finished off Herzog's weakened Phantom and then Wright found a Call of the Herd and flashed it back to provide enough bodies to deal with the Wurm.
The life totals stood at 7 to Herzog 10 to Wright. Wurm traded with two elephants to leave Herzog with an Aquamoeba and Wright with a 3/1 Phantom Centaur.
Herzog cast Upheaval, but could only follow it with an Aquamoeba. That knocked Wright down to 1 life before he was able to bring back the Phantom Centaur.
"You're going to look silly if you die to this." – Wright.
Now Herzog was on the back foot. He chumped the Centaur and then cast a second Upheaval, the intention being to madness out a Rootwalla in his end step to finish Wright off. Unfortunately for him Wright sent a Violent Eruption to the head and Lavamancered him to leave him at 1 life also. Wright's Firebolt then proved much quicker than Herzog's Rootwalla from the restart.
Afterwards Herzog admitted he shouldn't have cast the first Upheaval
, that he'd mentally expected Wright to throw the Centaur in the way so that the Upheaval
would kill the tokens.
Herzog 1-1 Wright
Wright had to mulligan for the third time in the match and decided that wasn't enough as the next hand was thrown back again.
"My deck doesn't like very much today. It liked me much better yesterday." – Wright.
If it was any consolation to the Englishmen Herzog had a very good hand anyway. Careful Study pitched a Rootwalla out for free and then Quiet Speculation loaded the graveyard up with 2 Roars and a Deep Analysis.
Wright's 5 card hand was pretty good though: Turn 1 Elf, turn 2 Wild Mongrel and then 3 Call of the Herd.
Herzog hit 4 mana and started cranking out the fatties. A Mongrel took one for the team so the elephant could go through for 3 damage. Then Wright summoned Ensnaring Bridge to make the game interesting.
His plan to burn Herzog out while hiding behind the Bridge took a setback as Herzog summoned Ravenous Baloth and then brought out a second for company along with Aquamoeba, also a beast, to give himself 12 points of life sitting on the table.
What made it worse was that Wright was not drawing land. Herzog chipped away at his life total with a flying Aquamoeba, then a Mongrel and Wright died because he couldn't empty the glut of cards in his hand.
Herzog 2-1 Wright
Game 4 and Wright carefully pondered his hand while Herzog waved to the camera's. Eventually he threw it back, mulliganing for the 5th time in the match.
"Six cards?" – Table Judge Ray Fong.
"Yep, said that quite a lot this match." – Stuart Wright.
Wright had no turn 1 play while Herzog opened with Careful Study, madnessing a Rootwalla into play and putting Deep Analysis in the graveyard.
A Wild Mongrel appeared on the next turn for Wright and he was given hope when Herzog flashed back the Deep Analysis and failed to find a third land. Wright took this cue to be very aggressive, he madnessed Eruption out through the Mongrel to kill the 'Walla and then bash to knock a total of 6 life off Herzog's life total.
Herzog needed a land. He found one, summoned an Aquamoeba and sent the Mongrel back to Wright's hand with an Unsummon.
Wright recovered from the setback with a Call of the Herd, but it started to look bad as Herzog drew his 4th land and brought a 6/6 Wurm token into play. Wright was stuck on 3 land again and brought the Mongrel back into play.
Herzog cast Quiet Speculation and loaded up the graveyard with two more Roar of the Wurms and cast a second Aquamoeba. An Ensnaring Bridge neutralized the Wurm's but Wright as again stuck with a glut of cards in hand. A pitched Wonder sent both Aquamoeba's flying over the top but it was the last attack they made as Wright sent an Eruption to Herzog's head and pitched his remaining cards to the mongrel to hold even the 1 power Aquamoeba's away.
The life totals stood at 7 for Herzog to 15 for Wright. The game had slotted into the expected pattern. Wright had shut out Herzog's attack with the Bridge, but a Baloth and two Aquamoeba's on the Norwegian's side gave him a nice reservoir of life to withstand Wright's direct damage.
They both played draw-play irrelevant card for a while as Wright tried to find a burn spell and Herzog bided his time to set up a big Upheaval.
A Sulfuric Vortex appeared for Wright to make the game a lot more interesting. Herzog sacrificed all his Beasts in response to it coming into play to leave the life totals 19-13 in his favor. As Wright's deck was packing burn this lead really didn't mean anything.
It wasn't relevant anyway as Herzog already had his hand nicely set up. A big Upheaval reset the board in a lopsided fashion that saw Herzog get to restart with two Mongrels and a Rootwalla into play. Wright summoned an Elf and Rootwalla in his turn but Herzog had a Wonder in the graveyard. He untapped, sent his men over the top and pitched enough cards to the Mongrels to take the game and match
Final Result: Nicolai Herzog beat Stuart Wright 3-1