There is certainly no lack of experience and skill at this table.
Bob Maher's breakthrough event was Pro Tour: Chicago – also an Extended tournament where he won with an Oath of Druids deck. Maher has earned a Player of the Year title once since then. Although he was forced to take a sabbatical from the game for six months, Maher's return to the Tour at the beginning of this season was nothing short of triumphant. He teamed up with Neil Reeves and Gary Wise to make top 4 at Pro Tour: Boston, won Grand Prix: Copenhagen and finished in top 16 of GP Philadelphia. All of those were limited events. This weekend Maher proved that he is on top of his constructed game as well.
He got the Sutured Ghoul combo deck he is playing at literally one o'clock in the morning the night before the tournament. Some of the Dutch players who developed the deck (originally conceptualized by Tsuyoshi Fujita) approached Maher and Reeves, offering them the deck in exchange for a percentage of their winnings. Maher, duly impressed with its originality and raw power, was glad to accept the offer. His lack of practice time clearly did not hinder him much as Maher made his way into his second PT top 8 in a row and is now looking for a second PT win of his career.
Rob Dougherty is the owner of Your Move Games chain of stores and a founding member of team YMG. Several years ago, he was overshadowed by teammates Kastle and Humpherys but over the last couple of Pro seasons he certainly proved himself to be at least their equal, both as a player and deck builder. It was Dougherty who was mostly responsible for Your Move Games' success with Benzo – a mono-black reanimator deck – at Pro Tour: New Orleans last year.
He was unwilling to abandon the strategy. Although he tested several other decks, in the end he went with Benzo as his deck of choice. Dougherty and his wife had a son only a week or so prior to this Pro Tour. The happy father did not have as much time to playtest – or sleep for that matter – but it clearly did not hinder his ability to post yet another top 8 finish. One of three Your Move Games players at the top of the standings, Dougherty is hoping to be the one who brings home the big trophy for the team.
Dougherty began the game in the same fashion many games this tournament have been opened – with a Duress. Maher revealed Mox Diamond, a Duress of his own, a pair of Hermit Druids, Krosan Colossus, and two lands. Dougherty took advantage of the reasonably new rule that allows players to keep notes during the match, and wrote down all the cards in his opponent's hand except Mox Diamond which he discarded. He had to choose between letting Maher stop his own Entomb/Reanimate combo and letting him cast a turn one Hermit Druid, with potential win following on the second turn. Maher had no Exhume as of yet, but he could mill his library twice and cast Krosan Reclamation for a pair of Exhumes to win the game.
Maher paid three life points with Tainted Citadel to set off Duress of his own. Dougherty showed him Reanimate, a pair of Entombs, a second Swamp and Symbiotic Wurm. Maher did not have to think very hard in order to select the Reanimate. "We could play money-draft style and just leave them face-up," Maher commented referring to the cards in each player's hand that both knew about. Maher went on to take further pain playing and sacrificing Bloodstained Mire to retrieve his only Mountain, then three more damage to tap Citadel for green and summon Hermit Druid.
The game was looking grim for Dougherty. Maher would be able to mill his entire deck on the following turn and then ExhumeSutured Ghoul and attack for the kill with Anger in graveyard. Fortunately for Dougherty he top-decked an answer in form of Reanimate.
His options included getting either Visara or Petradon into play. Petradon would take out Maher's two lands and, more importantly, get rid of the only Mountain.
It might take Maher several turns to draw into enough mana to set off his combo and he was already at thirteen with all the damage he's been taking from his lands. The other path would be to animate Visara. That way, if Maher did not have Exhume in hand, he would no longer be able to win as Visara could just assassinate Sutured Ghoul once it shook off summoning sickness.
Dougherty cast Entomb placing Petradon into his graveyard and reanimated it, going down to twelve points. His decision worked out as Maher failed to play a land on his following turn. Dougherty attacked with Petradon bringing Maher down to eight life points. Maher now had just two more draw steps to solve the problem before he would be forced to chump block with his Hermit. Rather than go down to three life points, Maher blocked with Hermit Druid on the following turn. He then finally drew a land – Llanowar Wastes – tapped it for black mana and cast Cabal Therapy, prompting Dougherty to Entomb and fetch Faceless Butcher in response. Maher named Cabal Therapy, but found only some lands and a Symbiotic Wurm.
Petradon swung for five bringing Maher down to two life points and Dougherty cast Last Rites he just peeled off the top of his deck. Dougherty chose to discard two cards. As he was contemplating that play, Maher reassured him: "In case you were wondering I have no outs. I am just gonna scoop." Dougherty yanked Exhume and Hermit Druid out of Maher's hand. Maher drew his last card and packed it up.
Dougherty kept a one-land draw on the strength of Vampiric Tutor, Entomb, and Reanimate he could cast with that single Swamp. Maher played first and cast Duress, taking Diabolic Edict and leaving Dougherty with abovementioned cards, Butcher, and Phyrexian Negator. Maher took some time making this very difficult decision. Dougherty laid his Swamp and passed the turn, prepared to cast one of his two instants based on what Maher would do next.
Maher summoned Hermit Druid, prompting Dougherty to Tutor for another Diabolic Edict, which he chose over Planar Void, fearing Ray of Revelation. After his creature got sacrificed, Maher spent several minutes contemplating his next play. In the end, he chose to Tutor for a second Hermit Druid during his upkeep, then laid a land and cast it. It was also relevant that the land he laid was a Mountain. Dougherty really did not want that Hermit activating. He used Entomb to put Faceless Butcher into his graveyard and paid four life to Reanimate it. Dougherty now had dealt with half of Maher's Hermits and had a slow but not irrelevant damage source in play, with life totals standing at fourteen.
Maher had no play, passing the turn back to Dougherty who wasted no time building the pressure up on Maher by summoning a Phyrexian Negator. Maher knocked hard on his deck several times. "It needs to take some lessons from mine," Dougherty commented referring to some of his shameless top-decking in this match. Maher drew his card. "Riiight," he said. "I don't think I will be hitting my deck anymore." The draw was clearly not helpful as he laid a land and passed the turn again. With his opponent down to five after another attack step, Dougherty summoned a Nether Spirit taking one point of mana burn (he was operating off two Swamps and a City of Traitors). "On the second thought, maybe I did not hit the deck hard enough," Maher commented after drawing another unhelpful card. On to the next game.
Maher's misfortunes were continuing as he was forced to mulligan into a five card hand. Dougherty's hand was just fine. Maher cast Duress to take out Planar Void. Dougherty reciprocated by using Cabal Therapy to discard Hermit Druid, but Maher did not have one. Instead, he revealed a hand of land, Entomb, Exhume. This was not quite as scary because Dougherty would still have an opportunity to Duress before Maher could set off the combo.
On the following turn Maher cast his Entomb in response to the Duress, placing Verdant Force into the graveyard and leaving Maher with nothing but a land in hand. Phyrexian Negator came out on turn three. Maher emptied his hand to summon Hermit Druid, only to have Dougherty remove it with Engineered Plague. Maher drew no answers over the next several turns, with game and match going to Rob Dougherty.
Final Result: Dougherty 3 – Maher 0