While waiting for the match to begin Ben and Jon talked about the decks of the rest of the Top 8. The consensus top three decks belong to Kibler, Heiss and De Rosa.
Both players were happy with their opening seven cards and in a hurry to get things started.
Cassidy played a turn one Bonesplitter, meaning that his first creature could be big in a hurry. Ben played out two mana Myrs and followed them up with Nim Replica and Serum Tank. Cassidy did finally find a creature to play, the Tel-Jilad Exile, and he equipped it with the Bonesplitter.
Ben played out a Nim Replica and a Welding Jar to put more counters on the Serum Tank and used them to draw some more cards. Card advantage clearly belonged to Ben at this point, but board position was something of a toss-up. Ben had more creatures on the table, but the regenerating Exile with its Bonesplitter was clearly the one putting on the pressure.
Jon played out a Nim Shambler, finally getting himself a second creature on the table. Ben had his Iron Myr from early in the game and a Leonin Den-Guard that he had found on top of his library, but he appeared to be running out of gas...until Loxodon Punisher hit the table.
The Punisher just sat around as a 2/2 while Ben looked for some equipment for it. In the meantime though Jon continued to put his Exile in the red zone with its Bonesplitter.
A flurry of combat effects occurred. Bone Splitter was destroyed by Ben, then the Exile was blocked by the Den-Guard. The Den-Guard acquired pro green when Ben cast Razor Barrier to save it from death.
Ben found himself holding nothing but land and dealing with two creatures from Jon. Jon could do nothing but slowly knock his creatures off by sending the Exile into the red zone turn after turn after turn. Finally Ben was able to find some artifacts, which put counters on his Serum Tank and allowed him to find more artifacts. Stuck at only one life though, Ben had gone into a complete holding pattern.
Jon played a Fireshrieker, attached it to his Nim Shambler and swung him into the red zone. Ben blocked the now double-striking monster but when Jon cast his second Predator's Strike the game was all over.
Ben Stark 0 - Jon Cassidy 1
Ben elected to play first again, the same choice he made before losing game one. He kept his opening seven and got ready to play. Cassidy, on the other hand, decided his opening seven weren't up to the task of winning this game and threw them back into the ocean of cards.
The six cards Cassidy ripped off the mulligan appeared to be better, as he muttered "I'm good," under his breath and started things off with some land.
Ben came flying out of the gates with a turn two and turn three Leonin Den-Guard, while Cassidy had to wait for turn four before he could play his Tel-Jilad Exile again. Ben just dropped artifact after artifact, and thanks to the Leonin Elder, started gaining life.
Ben tapped seven mana to play his Myr Enforcer, tapping three more mana then he needed in this case and burned when he went to end his turn. Nasty mana burn. He got the life back quickly though, gaining them from his Elder as Jon played first Bonesplitter and then Alpha Myr.
With life totals 21 to 9 in Ben's favor he cast Detonate on Jon's Alpha Myr and then swung with his team. Jon's life total fell to one after the attack and the Detonate, and with no help coming from the top of the deck he scooped up his cards.
Ben Stark 1 - Jon Cassidy 1
The pressure appeared to be squarely on Ben as the two players shuffled up for game three. He still didn't feel like his deck was very good and thought that the only reason he won that game was that Jon didn't draw anything at all.
Ben's been here, Stark is a longtime member of the Pro Tour and he was surrounded by his friends who were pulling for them. Jon recently attended Pro Tour Chicago, his first, before placing in the Top 25 at US Nationals. If Vegas were setting odds, Ben would have been the heavy favorite.
Jon decided to go ahead and play to start game three, and after looking at his cards decided they were good enough to give it a go.
Ben played out three permanents on turn one, a rare thing in this day and age, and then used all those artifacts to play Myr Enforcer on turn three. Jon was clearly on the ropes when all he could come up with was Wizard Replica and Dross Prowler. Dross Prowler?
Dross Prowler? Widely considered unplayable by the pros surrounding the table it was the best that Jon could do at that moment.
The game spiraled quickly out of hand for Jon, left with nothing on the table but Nim Shambler against the army that Ben had assembled.
Ben Stark 2 - Jon Cassidy 1