Brian Davis has been on a tear lately, culminating with his top four finish at PT Nice last weekend. He faced off against the creator of the most popular variant of the most popular deck at the tournament today, Zevatog's Zev Gurwitz. Both players came into the competition with three byes, so this was their first round of actual play.
Brian won the die roll and played first. Unfortunately for him, he had to take a mulligan. While shuffling, I commented that I hoped this match didn't take the full hour. Brian simply turned to me and said, "sorry."
Zev stood focused on his opponent, not having taken a look at his own cards. Brian pile shuffled his deck a few times, as we all stood by waiting for the game to begin. To break the silence, we started a small conversation.
Me: Brian, did you drive or fly here?
Brian: I flew.
Me: I guess with all the money you're winning lately, you don't need to drive anywhere.
Brian: (smiling his toothy grin) I never drove anywhere, I've always flown.
Me: Unlike our group, who used to drive up to Tennessee. Remember the PTQ's there?
Brian: Yeah, Memphis is famous for its 17 person PTQ's.
Me: (to Zev) If you ever need to qualify again, just go to Memphis. You can't lose.
Zev: When I qualified, it was in Edison (New Jersey). We had over 150 people in the qualifier, and six of the people in the top 8 were in the gravy train. The other two were me and a random.
Brian: So you mean there were two randoms.
Zev: (smiles) I'm trying not to be a random.
By now Brian had gotten his six card hand, and kept it, and Zev kept his hand as well. The game progressed fairly slowly, as both players were horribly short on mana. Brian's Goblin Trenches deck stalled and had only five lands in play by turn eight, while Zev played six lands and virtually no spells in the same time period. Brian kept tapping Zev's lands with the Ice half of Fire/Ice, hoping to draw into lands. It didn't really work well, but Zev failed to capitalize on Brian's bad draw. Finally, around the 12th turn of this not-quite-thrilling game, Brian and Zev traded end of turn effects. Brian resolved a Prophetic Bolt at the end of Zev's turn, but Zev responded by playing a Fact or Fiction, netting him a Counterspell (and losing him two Aether Bursts and a Repulse, which were useless against the creatureless deck). This allowed Brian to play a Compulsion his following turn.
Slowly Brian began throwing burn straight at Zev's head. He burned the Tog player down with a second Prophetic Bolt, dropping Zev to a precarious 9 life (Zev had taken some earlier damage from pain lands). Gurwitz played his third Fact or Fiction of the game (his first had been Syncopated), untapped, and summoned forth his favorite creature in Magic, Psychatog. Brian Davis hesitated a second.
Brian: Hold on a second, I'm really bad at Psychatog math.
Zev: (oblivious) I have a formula you could use if you'd like.
(Brian Davis failed to block Bram Snepvanger's Psychatog in the top four of the Pro Tour last weekend, even though Bram had lethal damage between his hand and graveyard and Brian had no cards in hand and no flashback cards in his graveyard).
Brian: (doing a lot of math) Ok, he resolves.
The Tog wouldn't stay around for very long, as the Wrath of God descended from Brian's divine hand in an attempt to smote the mighty atog. Zev attempted to Circular Logic the sorcery, which caused Brian to count Zev's graveyard.
Zev: There's more than four cards in there (the amount of mana Brian had left untapped)
Kurt Hahn (in the crowd): What if there was a Gauntlet of Might in play?
Zev: (stares at Kurt) Can I have him removed?
Kurt: Oh, I see how it is.
Zev: I just want to see James Lee (the head judge) come here and pull Kurt Hahn away.
It didn't matter, as there was a (Memory) Lapse of (Circular) Logic, just in time for the other feature match table to collapse. Play halted momentarily as Chris Benefel and Andrew Nishioka were picked up off the floor. This would prove to be the most exciting part of the rest of this game, as Zev took advantage of Davis's mana situation by casting Upheaval, effectively resetting the game. Brian enchanted his territory with a Compulsion again on turn eighteen, and followed it some turns later with a Goblin Trenches. Zev couldn't draw a creature to save his life, with his Psychatogs and Nightscape Familiars running to the bottom of his deck. Brian started making goblins (which he represented with his now-famous naked baby tokens-don't worry, they aren't anatomically correct!), and quickly ended the game with a combination of weenies and Urza's Rage.
Brian Davis 1 - Zev Gurwitz 0.
Game one had taken 32 minutes, so there were only 25 minutes by the time both players were done shuffling for game two. Zev finished his sideboarding and shuffling after about one minute, as he knew exactly which cards he wanted to bring in and out against Brian's deck. Brian took a little longer, which gave Zev time to play around with the remaining baby counters on the table.
Kurt: Oh for the love of God, what are you doing with those babies?
Zev: They're having tea.
Kurt: (sheepishly) Oh.
Zev: Get your mind out of the gutter! What do you think when you see two naked babies together?
Random person in the crowd: Benaton commercials!
Zev came screaming out of the gates with a turn four Nightscape Familiar. Brian answered with a Memory Lapse, which was Gainsayed. This opened Brian up for a Deep Analysis. Even with the card advantage, Zev seemed poised for a perfect draw, dropping a Psychatog next turn with Counterspell back-up still in hand. He came one turn away from winning by trying to resolve a Mana Short at the end of Brian's 6th turn, but Brian Absorbed it safely. Zev decided to try to reset the game with an Upheaval, but Brian Syncopated it for two, which Zev had to Circular Logic, using his one floating Blue mana by discarding it to Psychatog. Although Zev played his Familiar the next turn, the loss of that one mana set him back on getting his Psychatog out, allowing Brian enough time to set up his counter magic again.
Each player traded lands back and forth, the zombie chipping away at Davis's life total turn by turn. On the 13th turn, the game picked back up in pace as Brian flashed back his Analysis, bringing him down to eleven life. Zev tried to FoF, but it was countered. Lastly, Brian thought a while, and then dropped a Meddling Mage into play, naming Psychatog.
Zev's turn consisted of a 2nd Fact or Fiction. This one yielded two piles: one with Lobotomy plus a land, and one with three Counterspells. Zev thought a good long while about which one to take, and eventually took the three pile. Unfortunately for him, Davis dropped a Goblin Trenches the following turn, and Zev only had enough mana to counter once. Quickly, a horde of babies came on board, first eight and then twelve. Within two turns, Zev was dead holding a hand full of counter magic and Togs.
Brian Davis 2 - Zev Gurwitz 0.
GP Milwaukee: Trenches
GP Milwaukee: Zevatog