Justin Gary and his Your Move Games teammates have been the belles of the ball this weekend. Justin has been here before as a competitor and has an impressive career that anyone who follows competitive magic should be familiar with. His opponent Jeroen Remie from the Netherlands has been quietly having an incredible year. After a top 32 finish in San Diego, Jeroen skipped Osaka—because he doesn't care for constructed formats much. He followed up with another top 32 finish in Nice and then a 10th place performance at Worlds. Somewhere in there he nabbed a top 16 at Euros and now he is qualified for the Masters Series by virtue of his performance this weekend.
Just before this match began, head Judge Rune Horvik handed out score pads for the competitors to use during the match. Jeroen took one look at the YMG score pad he had been prepared to use and tossed it aside. "I'm not going to use this one then. I think it would be stupid."
"I don't think it matters. We have more than enough product placement in this Top 8 already," said Justin pointing out the YMG shirts he, Darwin Kastle, and Rob Dougherty were wearing at three of the four quarterfinal tables.
"I'm actually scared of you guys," joked the European. "I just saw this movie where a serial killer had this huge red dragon on his back..."
"Don't worry. We only kill people who beat us..."
The night before the Top 8 all of the players are given access to each other's decklists. "Did you playtest against my deck last night much?" asked Jeroen.
"A little—I put more time into the semi-final match..."
"Well of course you think you're going to win."
"I don't want to sound cocky but I think—"
"It's a good match up for you," Jeroen acknowledged. "Maybe I can come out fast and attack you for 28 on the first turn."
"With Forest Bird? You're playing the wrong deck."
Justin turned to face me as they dealt out their opening hands, "I apologize in advance for the length of this match. Hopefully it will just go three games."
Justin kept his opening hand but Jeroen had to mulligan down to six. He attempted to Duress on his first turn but only got to see a Force Spike. His next Duress was met with Counterspell and his third turn Yavimaya Elder finally resolved.
Gary continued to play lands and Jeroen got in hit with the Elder before making a Living Wish for Genesis. Gary Brainstormed at the end of the turn and picked up an Accumulated Knowledge and used it to draw two cards—one of which was another AK!
Gary untapped and played Oath of Druids, "A little spell for 1G that eradicates all creature based strategies. After this tournament I will have to add up how much money this little puppy has won me to date!" Jeroen attempted to Vampiric Tutor EOT but it was Spiked.
Shaking his head in disgust, Jeroen attacked with the Elder and then sacrificed it to get two lands and draw a card. He did not want to give Justin an opportunity to untap and take make an impossibly large Cognivore—the only creature his instant-crammed deck could deliver.
"Makes up for the mulligan," offered Justin.
"I guess. You had two AK's with likely more on the way."
Justin patted his deck, "This has been known to draw more cards." He then cast Accumulated Knowledge for three more cards. Jeroen cast Vampiric Tutor in response.
"You know that is card disadvantage, don't you? I'm getting +3 while you're getting –1," teased the confident former National Champion.
"I would take it back if I could."
Justin got in some beats with a Village until Jeroen played a Dustbowl and traded a Forest for it. Justin played a Pernicious Deed and Jeroen continued to attack his non-basics but he could not afford to play a creature thanks to the looming Oath of Druids.
When he finally did play a Birds of Paradise it drew raised eyebrows from Justin but all was made clear when Jeroen cast Cabal Therapy and had it countered. He flashed it back sacrificing the mana bird and named Forbid but found only Fact or Fiction, Krosan Reclamation, and a Polluted Delta. The Fact or Fiction was cast and Justin took Oath, Oath, and Brainstorm over Forbid and Cognivore.
Jeroen played a Pernicious Deed, which prompted Justin to clear the board with his own, "Doing your job for you." Brainstorm and Polluted Delta allowed him pick up three new cards while shuffling two unwanted cards back in the deck. Living Wish found him a Palinchron and he played it untapped his lands and dropped another Deed. With Oath off the board, Jeroen played an Elder and a BoP.
The bird chump blocked the Palinchron. Genesis finally got played and Justin cast another Fact or Fiction—his third of the game. Justin then used the Intuition from the pile he took—he also got a Counterspell—after Krosan Reclamation-ing two of his AK's and left them out while he looked for a mysterious third card. "Any guesses for the peanut gallery?" Justin played to the crowd. When he revealed the third AK, Jeroen deadpanned, "Ahhh...an interesting strategy."
Justin drew four cards and played a Treetop Village leaving his illusion back to block. Jeroen attempted to Chainer's Edict but Justin activated his Village and his Palinchron lived to fight with Genesis in combat. Palinchron won. Jeroen tried to dig for some kind of answers and sacrificed the Elder. His deck only offered Wall of Blossoms which prompted an, "Oh, baby!" from the YMGer.
Palinchron flew over the cantrip wall and Justin flashed back Krosan Reclamation targeting Jeroen's Genesis and a land. Jeroen attempted a Spiritmonger—it was countered—but it really didn't matter. Justin played his Oath and countered Jeroen's attempt to Edict himself.
On his next turn Justin flipped over a Cognivore that for the purposes of this article might as well have been infinite.
Justin – 1 Jeroen – 0
As they shuffled up for the second game Justin discussed the exclusive Top 8 lunch that Wizards throws in between the Quarter and Semi-Finals. This was Jeroen's first Top 8 and he was unfamiliar with the tradition.
"You haven't had a Top 8 lunch before? That's what I was most excited about getting into Top 8! They're tasty."
"I'm pretty excited about getting into Masters."
Remie mulliganed once again and led off with a Cabal Therapy naming Oath of Druids. He found only Pernicious Deed, Mana Leak, Living Wish, Intuition and three lands. "Its like Peek but without drawing a card."
Remie's third land was a Dustbowl that he Living Wished for and he used it to attempt Pernicious Deed but Justin used Mana Leak. Jeroen missed his next land drop and could not power up his Bowl. Justin beamed as he ripped his own Dustbowl off the top of his deck and he made a sound like a mortar shell landing behind enemy lines when he played it and ate Jeroen's only source of green, a Llanowar Wastes.
Jeroen missed his next two land drops and Justin played back-to-back Treetop Villages aka The Back-up Plan. Justin had Intuitioned for AK's before his opponent found a third land but Justin let one of his Villages get its long awaited revenge when he used it eat his opponent's Dustbowl. To add insult to injury, Justin drew three cards EOT and FoF'd the next turn while Jeroen still sat on two lands.
Jeroen was able to use those two lands to Naturalize a Wished-for Masticore but Justin was up so many card that he discarded an Oath of Druids. A Duress revealed that he was holding two Counterspells, Foil, Forbid, Deed, Living Wish—which was discarded—and a land. He mounted a little more resistance with a Planar Void but Justin had enough counters to win with the back up plan.
Justin – 2 Jeroen – 0
At this point both Darwin and Rob had won their matches without losing a game. "I have to win one! I can't let you guys go Nine-oh!" Which should give you an idea how demoralizing this match-up is for The Rock.
"Sorry, the guys are never going to let me live it down if I don't three-oh sweep you!"
Remie finally kept an opening hand and came out of the gate with Duress. He took Intuition and left four lands, Forbid, and a Deed. The sweep looked to be in jeopardy when a Planar Void resolved. The Cabal Therapy that followed took Pernicious Deed. "Well done after the Planar Void, btw. Thanks for the extra card."
Spike Feeder stuck on the third turn but there was no fourth turn land drop. "No land? That's exciting." Justin played Oath of Druids but it was Naturalized. When Jeroen tried to Tutor at the end of the same turn it was countered. Justin began to "cycle" AK's and Fact or Fictions until he found Palinchron. Jeroen tapped out for Spiritmonger and Justin Brainstormed and raised his eyebrows. "Oh come on! Be disappointed for once!"
"You didn't give enough respect to the Force Spike!"
Justin began attacking with Palinchron and a Treetop Village until a Wall of Blossoms shut it down. "Now all I need to do is deal with a an inviolable 4/5 flier."
He could not.
Final Result: YMG – 9 World – 0