ou never feature me! complained Ben Stark. The reality is there is little need to feature him on Day One based on his recent performances. He has been on fire of late and a good bet to make Day Two. After his Top 8 at Grand Prix: Kansas City he followed it with a high finish at Pro Tour New Orleans. Both he and Mike Abraham were the only two 8-0 players after the first day of competition. It was Ben's second straight 8-0 run at a GP. Ben was taking full advantage of his broken cards while he could and was playing a Tinker
His opponent was something of a character. Mike Abraham is basically stream of consciousness with a hat. He will often say things out of nowhere like, "Do you want to be in a rock band? I was watching Full House last night-it is cool that you guys still get Full House here-and like Jesse was playing with Jesse and the Rippers. Jesse's cool. I'd like to be in a rock band."
Mike is from Minnesota and he has been making a pretty decent run at the GPs himself. He has made a Top 8 in the past and was in contention all throughout Kansas City despite having zero byes. He had only one bye this weekend and was still 8-0 with his Hermit Druid deck. "I don't run the byes…its free rating points. If it weren't for the tiebreakers they would be worthless!"
Most of the room was moving in slow motion. Everyone was trying to adjust to the idea of playing Magic at 8am and both competitors were cold and tired. "Did you get some good sleep there, Ben?"
"If you can call six hours good…"
Mike nodded in agreement, "I usually run about 12 hours every night."
Both players kept their opening hands and Ben led off with a hand that featured its fair share of banned cards. He played a Grim Monolith off of an Ancient Tomb and then played Voltaic Key, which he used to power out a Chalice of the Void set to two.
Mike led off his turn with Duress-he took Tinker over Gilded Lotus and an untouchable City of Traitors. Ben slumped visibly. Mike took the Tinker. Ben played out his hand with his new card remaining secret for now.
Mike sheepishly played a Darigaaz's Caldera and returned his Llanowar wastes to hand with no other play. Ben played a Thran Dyanamo and shipped the turn back to Mike who Vampiric Tutored EOT for a City of Traitors. On his turn he cast Buried Alive for two Krosan Cloudscrapers and Sutured Ghoul and confidently sent the turn back to Ben who pleaded with his cards. "All right deck, something good…"
He had nothing and passed the turn back hoping that Mike did not have a Corpse Dance in hand. Mike did have the Corpse Dance and was able to finish Ben off with a hasty Sutured Ghoul removing the two Cloudscrapers. Ben shook his head at what could have been if not for the Duress, "What a good opening grip wasted."
While they were shuffling for Game 2 Mike told a story about how he came to stay at someone's house while he was here. "He's a nice kid…this Marshall kid. I got to LA on Wednesday and I met him at this store. They didn't have the cards I needed so he offered to take to some better store. Now I'm staying at his house and playing Dreamcast all night."
Ben wanted to clarify, "Let me get this straight…you flew to LA and met some kid you never saw before and you're staying at his house?
Ben nodded appreciatively, "That's pretty cool."
Mike was already changing lanes, "Are you excited about Lord of the Rings movie?"
"I'll see it…"
It was Mike's turn to nod, "I know what you mean. I'm much more excited about the Cat in the Hat. Dr. Seuss is the man! I am all about the Cat in the Hat."
Ben couldn't suppress a smirk, "Have you seen it already?"
Mike was confused, "When does it open?"
Ben was really laughing now, "It's been out for a while. Maybe it hasn't hit Minnesota yet but I'm pretty sure it came out everywhere else."
Mike thought this over for a minute, "I guess I'm not as excited as I thought. But who doesn't like Dr. Seuss-angry people?"
Ben kept his opening hand while Mike sent his back for six more and kept those. Ben decided that he did not want to lose another Tinker and led off with a Chalice for one off of an Ancient Tomb. On his second turn he played a Grim Monolith and Tinkered it away for a Platinum Angel
Mike's second turn was pretty good when he cast Buried Alive on turn two for Sutured Ghoul, Cloudscraper and Woodripper. He put the Sutured Ghoul on top meaning that he could not Corpse Dance the Woodripper without getting past the Sutured Ghoul first.
Ben double-checked to make sure the Woodripper was not going to be a pressing threat and sent in the Angel for four damage and played a Tangle Wire. On Mike's turn he tapped out and played a Darigaaz's Caldera and stacked it so he could return a City of Traitors to his hand. Ben seemed startled and checked with the table judge who confirmed that it did work.
He eventually got Mike down to six and he was able to play a Hermit Druid. Mike had to decide if he was going activate his Hermit Druid on his next turn when he fell to two or hope for something off the top. "Let me think about this."
Ben was literally shivering, "Brrr…I'm freezing. I'm a little bit nervous. A little bit tired. It doesn't add up well."
Mike decided to see what his deck offered and when he looked at his top card he threw it down in disgust, "Gah…I'm awful!"
"You're not awful. 8-0 with only one bye is not awful."
Mike quickly recovered from his momentary downturn and was smiling again, "I Top 8'd a GP with no byes once."
The two players talked about actual game play and deck theory while shuffling this time. Ben had been complaining about how many times he had been Rack and Ruined all weekend. Neither player thought the format was too broken as long as you could hate out the good decks. (Easy for them to say at 8-0 with banned cards!)
Mike laughed at Ben's plight, "There is much more hate for you than for me. I didn't see one Coffin Purge all day."
Mike had to mulligan again but was unconcerned, "I don't mind mulliganing with this deck."
Ben agreed, "It's meaningless. You just play a turn one Hermit Druid and say go."
Mike did not have that play and put out two City of Brass while Ben put out a Monolith and an Ancient Tomb in between. Ben laid another Tomb and hard cast a Platinum Angel on turn two-who needs Tinker!
Mike also had a spell to hard cast and laid a City of traitors and cast Mox Diamond. He played a turn three Woodripper, "This is old school."
Ben got in for four and played a Metalworker. Mike put Fading on the stack and killed all three artifacts. Ben's next turn saw him hardcast Mindslaver and pass the turn. Mike cast Buried Alive for his combo but could not go off that turn as he did not have a Corpse Dance.
Ben went to eight to activate the Slaver. He then played a Chalice for zero and Tinkered it away for a Myr Incubator. Mike's hand was pretty bad and he still had a chance as long as he did not draw anything good.
He drew Vampiric Tutor, "How lucky. Show me a land and I will concede." Ben showed him the City of Traitors he was holding to activate the Incubator and Ben kept his promise
Final result: Ben Stark - 2 Mike Abraham - 1