This has to be a storeowner's dream.
Here you are, in the top 4 of a professional Magic tournament, and the guy across from you and the guy behind you are both wearing your T-shirts. Rob Dougherty is the one in such an enviable position; he is the owner of Your Move Games, the game shops that lend their name to his Magic team, a team that makes up 75% of this event's top 4.
Dougherty's friend Justin Gary currently has his hands full against John Larkin on the other side of the stage. But the teammate with more relevance to Dougherty right now is Darwin Kastle, the man he must defeat in order to advance to the finals.
Dougherty is playing a nearly mono-black Reanimator deck designed by another member of this prestigious team, Dave Humpherys. Kastle is with a tuned-up version of the Rock.
I asked them if they had playtested the matchup in earnest. "Not really," said Kastle. "Well," added Dougherty, "the Rock was one of the last decks I tested against, and I won, like, every game, which is one reason I'm playing this deck today." Basically, Darwin in the underdog an he knows it. "If I win, it'll be because I played circles around Rob."
After they shuffled, Dougherty slowly began picking through Kastle's deck, pulling out scuffed sleeves. He then asked the table judge to make sure nothing was awry, and then told Darwin to replace on of them. I found this astounding, as did Kastle. "I don't even look at your sleeves," said Kastle, "because you're my teammate." Regardless, Kastle replaced the scuffed sleeve and the match began.
Kastle started off with a turn-one Cabal Therapy naming "Entomb." Miss. Dougherty's hand was actually 2x Vampiric Tutor, Faceless Butcher, Reanimate, and Cabal Therapy. Kastle cast a Birds and flashed back the Therapy. Rob Tutored in response, so Darwin chose Reanimate. Dougherty had drawn Tutor #3.
Dougherty tried a Therapy naming Diabolic Edict, and missed, showing Kastle had just Birds and Elves in his hand. Kastle drew another Therapy, Therapied for Tutor (Dougherty Entombed Verdant Force in response), and flashed it back naming Faceless Butcher, emptying his hand.
That didn't matter. Kastle had no pressure, and eventually Rob drew a Reanimate. Here comes the Best Fatty Ever Printed!
Kastle took a few beats and then drew a Spiritmonger. But Dougherty drew the fourth Vampiric Tutor, got Reanimate and revived Faceless Butcher (going to two life), and swung in for the win.
Dougherty 1 – Kastle 0
Rob sided in: 4 Diabolic Edict, 3 Phyrexian Negator, 2 Faceless Butcher, 1 Engineered Plague
Sided out: 4 Last Rites, 3 Exhume, 1 Petradon, 1 Stronghold Taskmaster, 1 Phantom Nishoba
Darwin sided in: 1 Planar Void, 1 Masticore, 1 Genesis, 1 Faceless Butcher
Sided out: 1 Naturalize, 1 Spiritmonger, 1 Yavimaya Elder, 1 Living Wish
Kastle started Game 3 by mulliganing a hand of forest, Elf, Dust Bowl and four black spells into the exact same hand minus the Elf. He kept.
He played the forest and said go, and Dougherty laid a swamp and did the same. Kastle ripped a Llanowar Waste on turn 2 (and shuffled it into his hand to conceal it), then cast a Duress. He was saddened to see two Entombs and two Reanimates. He took a Reanimate, but to no avail. Dougherty's next turn saw Symbiotic Wurm hit the table. He drew City of Traitors and added a Negator on the next turn, and Kastle couldn't deal with any of it.
Dougherty 2 – Kastle 0
Darwin put his 4th Elder back in for Genesis.
Kastle finally drew a decent hand—a couple Edicts and a couple Yavimaya Elders. Decent, but not great. It ended up playing out very well, however, as all Dougherty could manage was a third-turn Negator and a fourth-turn Butcher.
Both were dispatched via Edicts, and a Treetop Village joined the Elders for a little beatdown party. Dougherty died holding a grip of land.
Dougherty 2 – Kastle 1
Dougherty went back into full Reanimator mode for game 4, putting the three Exhumes and one Engineered Plague into his deck and pulling 2 Negators and 2 Edicts.
Game 4 was wild and woolly. The cameras were on these two, and the crowd was certainly in for an entertaining game.
Darwin had a forest and a mana creature in his opening hand, but opted to play a swamp so that he could Tutor. If Rob did nothing, Darwin could get Planar Void. But as it turned out, Rob cast Entomb at the end of Darwin's turn and Reanimate on turn 2. Nothing better than a turn-2 7/7 with only one land.
Darwin played an Elf and then cast Therapy naming Therapy. A miss. Dougherty has lots more one-mana spells, though, including Duress and two Tutors. Rob swung in with the 7/7 Verdant Force, taking a big bite from Darwin. He then Duressed, missing.
Kastle untapped and dropped Faceless Butcher on the table, removing the threatening Force from the table. He then sacrificed his Elf to Therapy away Rob's two Tutors.
With the knowledge gleaned from his Duress, Dougherty used Cabal Therapy and a Saproling token to take the last of Kastle spells—Yavimaya Elder and Pernicious Deed, leaving him just a Treetop Village in hand.
Kastle attacked with the Butcher and dropped his Village. Dougherty used Reanimate to acquire a Yavimaya Elder, quite useful considering he was stuck on two swamps. Darwin had a great draw as well, ripping Pernicious Deed, which took the last two Saprolings off the board.
Darwin drew a Diabolic Edict and was looking good. But Rob's draw was better: his own Faceless Butcher. The new Nightmare freed the Verdant Force, but Darwin killed the green behemoth with the Edict.
No sweat. Rob still had Exhume in his hand and put the Verdant Force back out. Darwin brought back an Elder, which he sacrificed to get the second forest necessary to animate both Treetop Villages.
Rob was at two life, with a Force, one token, and a Butcher (holding a Butcher) in play. Darwin took the opportunity to attack with both Villages. Dougherty was forced to block with the Butcher, lest he die from trample. Both Villages died, but Verdant Force ended up under the Butcher. Dougherty was left with a single Saproling.
Luckily, he drew and played Nether Spirit. Suddenly, Darwin couldn't attack or Verdant Force would be coming back. Neither player budged for a few turns, and Darwin drew a couple Elves to flesh out his army. Dougherty cast Cabal Therapy naming Duress, taking two of them from Darwin. That would prove crucial.
With three creatures to Rob's two, Darwin swung in. Oops. Rob had the Edict, Edicted away an Elf and double-blocked the Butcher, going to 1. Verdant Force was freed from under the Nightmare, and there was nothing Darwin could do.
It's interesting to note that Kastle had drawn Vampiric Tutor that turn, meaning there was no need to make a risky play. But once his board was wrecked by the Edict, he couldn't afford to Tutor or he would die to the Verdant Force's counterattack.
Final Result: Dougherty wins 3-1.