When Sideboard photographer Craig Cudnohufsky came over to photograph Courtney's Boys he sent Neil Reeves into a manic self-pat down. "Wait, wait, wait! I gotta find the toothpick, dagnabbit!" With toothpick in mouth and photo taken the two teams were still not ready to get down to the business of settling the pre-play trash talk.
Alex needed caffeine to fend off his jet lag and he tried to suck down a slug of European coffee but could not manage more than a disgusted sip. TOGIT member swung by with another cup for Gary Wise but it was intercepted by Bob Maher who wanted to add sweetener before it got to the—how shall we say...finicky?—Gary. Confused by the fuss over the coffee, Gary asked, "You're not spitting in it are you?"
Bob: "Yes, Gary. You're on my team and I am spitting in it."
Gary: "Not after today..."
Bob (to Patrick): "What do you want for the coffee?"
Sullivan: "Prize split?"
Neil: "How about if we don't lose I kick you in the groin?"
Alex: "I might just scoop to see that—nothing personal Patrick. It's just funny."
Alex Shvartsman vs. Bob Maher Jr.: Game 1
Alex is heavily favored to win this match with fast elf beats, Silvos on mop up detail, and a pair of bomb artifacts in Slate of Ancestry and Riptide Replicator. On the down side, Alex is playing U/G and has zero removal to deal with Bob's R/W soldier deck that features multiple Daru Stingers—the one card Alex thinks can possibly pose a threat to him.
"To the surprise of no one..." offered Bob Maher when Alex tapped two green on the second turn and played one of his three Elvish Warriors. There was some surprise when Alex enchanted it with Crown of Vigor on the next turn and bashed across for three. Gary: "I usually think I am going to win when my opponent plays Crown of Vigor." Bob quietly shook his head to suggest that would not be the case for him today.
He did play a Sandskin on it next turn. "That guy is enchanted like you would not believe!" Although I am sure Bob would have preferred to save the enchantment for Alex's 8/5 Pitfighter Legend.
Bob played an Akroma's Devoted hoping to provide an obstacle course for Alex's Elf army but Alex played a Beserk Murlodant next which was not going to be stopped by the 2/4 cleric. Bob played a 3/3 Daru Stinger showing Alex two Dive Bombers and went to 14 on the next turn when Alex swung in with the oddly named beast. Snarling Undorak joined Alex's side and a Dive Bomber joined Bob's.
Alex attacked with both of his beasts and Bob had no blocks--thanks to the pesky Murlodant—and went to 8. Alex pressed the issue and played his Silvos. Bob: "Is that all? By the way, can I have my Sandskin back?" Alex: "Sure, If I can have attacking with the Warrior for three turns back."
Never one to give in without a fight Bob played another Dive Bomber and sent the turn back. When Alex attacked with everyone Bob nodded and commented, "That sucks." He could kill both of Alex's beasts but he would still have no way to deal with the regenerating trampler.
Alex – 1 Bob – 0
One table over, Neil was finding that U/R dealt with fast black just fine when you have Imagecrafter and Callous Oppressor on the draw. To make things worse for Zvi, when his 5/5 Soulless one blocked a morph it turned up to reveal Chromeshell Crab. With Damage on the stack, Neil gave Zvi the dying shellfish and took his undead 5/5 to seal the game. Neil: "My morph was Chromeshell Crab."
Zvi – 0 Neil – 1
Another table away, Gary and Justin were engaged in a drawn out ground stall. Gary had resolved a Phage and was waiting on a falter effect AND one of Justin's two Dive Bombers to be tapped. When Justin finally did attack with one of the 2/2 birds Gary cast Cover of Darkness naming Legends and attacked for the win. Justin was sitting on a Shock and finished the 4/4 off with the other Dive Bomber. Dave Williams—Gary's replacement for the upcoming Pro Tour—was nearly apoplectic. He thought that Gary should have named Elves—even Mutant would have worked. Gary had two Stonewood Invokers with plenty of mana and a Wirewood Channeler. Gary could have put Justin on a short clock but instead it looked like he no longer had a way to win.
Alex Shvartsman vs. Bob Maher Jr.: Game 2
This game it was Bob who made the turn two play. His Starlight Invoker presented a formidable wall for Alex's elves to climb over. Alex played a Wirewood Elf and used it to ramp up to a third turn Keeneye Aven after Bob played a third turn morph .
Bob played another Morph and revealed his first one to be Daru Healer and only took one from Alex's 2/3 flier. Alex kept the pressure on with a fourth turn Beserk Murlodant. Bbob added an Akroma's Devoted to his forces and was able to continue to use the Healer with no fear of direct damage from Alex's deck to only take one in the air. Alex played another morph and flipped up Mistofrm Seaswift at the end of Bob's next turn, which saw the great one play a Whipcorder and a Wall of Hope. Bob's defenses were growing but now he took four in the air and fell to 14 and Alex started playing the Elvish Warriors. Now able to tap the 3/1 illusion, Bob was once again only taking one a turn from the Aven—impressive defense considering he was stuck on four land for many turns. He was able to keep Alex's elves at bay
When Alex played a Mistform Dreamer Bob cycled a Gempalm looking for his fifth land. He found it and tapped out to play a Lowland Tracker. He had to take six from Alex's army and fell to 5 with Alex still at a virginal 20.
At this point Neil was finishing off Zvi. Neil: "You have eight mana in play? I guess you have one out." Zvi: "I think I have at least two." Neil: "You have ONE Skinthinner! Did you draw it?" Zvi showed him land and shrugged: "Maybe I was thinking about my last deck." Neil—an intense competitor—was upset that Gary was now down a game and things were looking grim for Bob in Game 2. Neil: "Its pretty bad that I know your deck better than you do!" He kicked his chair back and stalked off unable to wait for the outcome.
Back to the game at hand...
Bob tried to mount a game and provoked Alex's Seaswift with the Lowland Tracker. Alex used Mage's Guile to save it and put two Elvish Warriors and a Murlodant in its path. Bob had the Inspirit and killed the beast and saved his soldier. Bob fell to 2 on Alex's next attack and Courtney's Boys were teetering on the brink of elimination.
Bob managed to provoke and kill the Seaswift next turn but a 7/7 Stonewood Invoker put an end to those shenanigans. Glory Seeker joined the party and when Alex attacked for 2 in the air next turn Bob prevented one with the hardest working Daru Healer in Magic and cycled a Sunfire Balm to prevent another clinging on to both his remaining life points.
Bob was now sitting on eight mana and passed the turn. He used the Starlight Invoker to gain 5 life and after damage resolved he had doubled his life total to 4. With a little room to maneuver Bob was able to take a turn to cast Dive Bomber. Alex attacked with his 2/1 flier and a Stonewood Invoker. Bob thought for a while about whether to gang block or not and ultimately decided to merely put Wall of Hope in the way. Alex pumped his Invoker and Bob leaped to 11 and gladly put his wall in the bin and unmorphed a Skirk Commando during Alex's EOT.
Airdrop Condor hit play and Skirk Commando was thrown at the Invoker while Alex's mana was all tapped. Bob was able to finally able to sneak in his first damage with Dive Bomber. Bob tried to trade Airdrop Condor for Mistform Dreamer but Alex had a Primal Boost.
Dive Bomber was able to attack again and suddenly the life totals were close together and it looked like Bob could get back in the game when he was able to gain 5 a turn while only taking one thanks to Whipcorder, Daru Healer, and the Invoker—the score was Alex =14 and Bob = 15 when Alex played Slate of Ancestry. "Oh god," was all Bob could muster. Alex—who had hit a mana flood wasted no time using it and drew five cards pitching three lands and added an Elvish Warrior. Bob went to 20 during his EOT.
Bob cycled Renewed Faith and went to 22 looking to find something besides two points a turn from Dive Bomber, which nibbled Alex to 12. Alex tapped out on his next turn to play a Riptide Replicator that would make 8/8 white beast tokens. Dave Williams: "I can't think of a single white beast in Magic!" Bob went up to 27 during his EOT and untapped and enchanted his Dive Bomber with Crown of Fury dropping Alex to 9. Alex played a Primoc Escapee which Bob tapped EOT and then proceeded to drop Alex to 6 and played another Dive Bomber. Alex made an 8/8 beast EOT and it ate a Glory Seeker on his next turn. Alex played a Snarling Unduroak but kept a Vorine back in his hand despite enough mana to cast it and make another 8/8.
A crowd was gathering around Bob's amanzing comeback at this point—all the more amazing when Gary announced, "I'm mulliganing Game 2!" It was shortly followed by, "I did not play a third land." Bob would have to win this game and the next for Courtney's Boys to advance.
Alex was reduced to chump blocking the first striking Dive Bomber with the Keeneye Aven. Bob played a Goblin Machinist and Alex continued to pump out the white beast tokens and swung in with them on the next turn. Bob double activated the Goblin Machinist first revealing Daru Stinger and then revealing Flamewave Invoker—not enough to kill a token, Bob announced no blocks and his life total was reduced by half but now he had a plan.
Bob just passed the turn back to Alex with no play and Alex swung in with three 8/8's. Bob chumped all three and with only six cards in his deck activated Goblin Machinst four times until he knew his top card was Flamewave Invoker.
Bob untapped and used his Whipcorder to negate a blocker in the air and swung in with both Dive Bombers. Alex blocked the enchanted one and took two from the other. Bob played his Invoker and finished Alex off with an activation of the Lava Axe on wheels.
Alex – 1 Bob – 1
Illuminati –1 Courtney's Boys – 1
As the peanut gallery swelled to see if Bob could come back from the brink of elimination and finish off the Illuminati's long sought after Masters bid. Gary commented to me as they were shuffling, "There is no player in the world I would rather have in this situation." For emphasis he added, "That is including the German!"
Alex came roaring out of the gate with one of his many Elvish Warriors but Bob had last game's MVP the Starlight Invoker to slow him down. Perhaps wanting to get revenge for that game Alex cycled his Primal Boost to kill the 1/3 cleric. Bob played a face down guy and Alex played another Warrior and a Starlight Invoker. "We tested this deck," quipped Gary. Bob made the 3/3 Daru Stinger that Alex professed no fear for prior to the beginning of the match showing a Dive Bomber and a Gempalm Avenger.
Alex played a Krosan Vorine but he was stuck on four lands and had some expensive spells he wanted to cast including a Murlodont. Dive Bomber hit play on Bob's team and Alex went in search of a fifth land with a Sage Aven. There were none to be found in his next four draws and while he pondered the order to put them back in Bob offered a little bit of advice, "You really shouldn't wear glasses when you play Magic, Alex." Williams chimed in with, "They didn't call them Glasses of Urza for nothing." Alex took off his glasses but when he couldn't make out the cards in play clearly he put them back on.
Bob went to work with his Dive Bomber and played his Flamewave Innvoker. Keeneye Aven joined Alex's team and when Bob swung in with Dive Bomber he double blocked with both Sage and Keeneye Avens. Bob shot Alex's Bird Soldier with his Stinger and finished it off with an umorphed marauder. With the soldier out of the way he then cycled the Gempalm and killed the Sage Aven as well.
Alex tried to go on the offensive next turn and swung in with both Elvish warriors and the Vorine—provoking the Dive Bomber. Alex lost both his Vorine and Elvish Warrior while Bob lost only the flier—which was probably Alex's objective. He followed up with a Mistform Seaswift. With his Stinger at his back Bob was content to send his men in to get two for ones against Alex's gang blocks; Flamewave Invoker traded for Seaswift and Stonewood Invoker and Bob added his Machinist to the table.
Still looking for land, Alex cycled a Hundroog while Bob kept his beat on. Alex fell to 15 from the Daru Stinger and Bob played another revealing only Glory Seeker and played the Glory Seeker. Alex played another Vorine still without that elusive fifth land for his Murlodant.
Bob enchanted his goblin with Crown of Fury and sent it in with his Glory Seeker. The machinist did a total of three damage and a pair of soldiers shot the Elvish Warrior that stepped in the path of the 2/2 to death. Bob shrugged and played a Wall of Hope, "Why not."
Alex finally found the fifth land to play the Murlodant but it was not going to be enough to do the job. Lowland Tracker finished off any hopes Alex had of winning and a few turns later he conceded completing an unbelievable comeback from 2 scant life points away from elimination.
Alex – 1 Bob – 2
Illuminati – 1 Courtney's Boys – 2