Morgan Douglass's fast red/black deck made quick work of Nick Eisel in the quarter finals. Now that he has made his first top 8 of a premiere event, Morgan is looking for his first win.
Jeff Cunningham is no stranger to the spotlight. He has competed in many Pro Tours, Grand Prix, and Masters series matches. The last round was important to him, as it secured a place in the Masters Series. Now he is looking to take the title.
Morgan won the die roll and elected to play. He led with the simply amazing turn two Sparksmith, while Jeff started slowly with two come into play tapped lands. Morgan drew first blood on turn three with the Sparksmith and summoned a Nantuko Husk.
Jeff came back with a turn three swat of Morgan's Sparksmith and a turn four Leery Fogbeast. While a horrible attacker, the leery one here turned out to be incredible, as its four power was enough to force Morgan to sacrifice three creatures to not trade his Nantuko Husk in combat if it were to attack.
With the Fogbeast holding down the ground, Morgan went to the air with a Screeching Buzzard and Jeff tried for some offense by summoning a Frightshroud Courier and Shepherd of Rot.
Morgan, though, cast Erratic Explosion targeting the all important Leery Fogbeast, destroying it, and sending the team. Frightshroud Courier traded with Morgan's morphed Skittish Valesk while the other two creatures brought Jeff down to 13. Shepherd of Rot nipped in for Jeff's first damage and was joined by Aphetto Vulture.
Again Morgan sent the team. Jeff traded his Aphetto Vulture with Morgan's Screeching Buzzard and chose to use its ability to return it to the top of his library. Morgan's remaining Morph brought Jeff down to 11 and he summoned another.
Jeff resummoned the vulture, only to have it meet Pinpoint Avalanche when Morgan untapped. Jeff chose to not return it to the top of his library. Again, Morgan called for the all out charge, reducing Jeff to 7.
Trying to defend his dwindling life total in a different way, Jeff summoned a Frightshroud Courier and a Spined Basher. The Shepherd of Rot slipped through for a second point of damage.
Morgan summoned a Severed Legion and attacked with his Nantuko Husk and Morph. The Spined Basher jumped in front of the Nantuko, and the Morph was allowed through. The Severed Legion gave its life to save the Nantuko, and the Morph went on a Commando Raid to smoke the Frightshroud Courier.
With no cards in hand and only Shepherd of Rot in play, Jeff ripped a Spitting Gourna. Morgan just summoned Wretched Anurid and sent his Nantuko Husk back to the red zone. Jeff blocked with both of his creatures, and Morgan sacrificed both of his creatures to save his husk and clear Jeff's board.
Jeff was looking bad at five life and playing off the top of his library. He drew and shipped the turn. Morgan quickly attacked and summoned his just –drawn Severed Legion. Jeff played his Treespring Lorian off the top, but Morgan drew Crown of Fury to make Severed Legion 3/2 and attack for the win.
Douglass – 1, Cunningham – 0
Jeff chose to play Game 2, hoping to nullify the speed advantage that Morgan's deck enjoyed. Jeff had a turn two Headhunter, and again Morgan had a turn two Sparksmith.
Jeff had a turn three Swat for the Sparksmith, though, and was able to sneak in with the Headhunter for one damage and a card out of Morgan's hand, a swamp.
Morgan brought out a Severed Legion to block and protect his hand. All Jeff responded with was a Morph.
Morgan quickly Erratic Explosioned the Morph, attacked with the Severed Legion, and summoned a Goblin Sledder to block the Headhunter.
Jeff attacked with his Headhunter into the goblin, and Morgan predictably blocked. Here things got hairy. Jeff said, "Damage on the stack?"
Morgan, who was on autopilot, agreed.
Jeff then announced a Vitality Charm on the Headhunter and said, "Oh, wait, before damage."
This all happened very quickly, and Morgan untapped, attacked with Severed Legion, played the land he just drew, and cast a Screeching Buzzard that he had in his hand.
Nowhere did he discard from the Headhunter due to the trample damage. It wasn't caught until after Morgan summoned the bird, and head judge Nat Fairbanks was called over. It was agreed on by all that the Vitality Charm was cast before damage and what two cards were in Morgan's hand at the time. Nat ruled that the game will go back to immediately following the attack, so the bird was uncast and Morgan had to discard it or the other card in his hand, which turned out to be Anurid Murkdiver. Because he couldn't take back the attack, Morgan had to pitch the hugely relevant swampwalker in order to have the buzzard able to block the Headhunter. It was a very difficult ruling and it may have affected the outcome of the game.
Anyhow, the game continued with Morgan trying to win with a pair of two power creatures in play. It was impossible, though, as Jeff was ale to bust out with his Aphetto Vulture to trade with Screeching Buzzard and a Symbiotic Beast to press the attack. Morgan's Severed Legion traded with a Haunted Cadaver, and an Elvish Warrior combined with Symbiotic Beast combined to seal the deal for Jeff.
Douglass – 1, Cunningham – 1
Morgan was frustrated at the ruling, but nothing could be done. He chose to play first, but had to ship his firsthand. His second had no play until turn three, and that play was a Festering Goblin. Jeff summoned a Morph for his third turn.
Morgan slipped in for a point and summoned a Screeching Buzzard. Jeff sent his Morph, and Morgan let it through unblocked. After damage was on the stack, Jeff revealed it to be a nightmare for Morgan: Haunted Cadaver. Combined with the mulligan, Morgan's hand was completely stripped.
Jeff just started busting out Morphs, and Morgan was on the defensive, a very poor position to be in for his deck.
After trying to hold of the attack for a few turns, a Symbiotic Beast hit the table and advanced Jeff to the finals.
Final Result: Cunningham defeated Douglass 2 - 1
GP Philadelphia 2002: Top 8 Decklist
GP Philadelphia 2002: Top 8 Decklist