The French have been having quite a season, what with Les Plus Class finishing second at Pro Tour New York and Farid Meraghni winning San Diego. They've continued their invasion of the Pro Tour's Top 8 here in Osaka with Olivier Ruel already clinching Top 8 and four other Frenchmen sitting down for thirteenth round feature matches with Top 8 hanging in the balance.
Wilfried Ranque has been hot all weekend: his team Metagames won the Gateway to advance to the Osaka Masters Series and he was on 9-2-1 as his feature match with Your Move Games owner Rob Dougherty began. The winner clinches a Top 8 berth while the loser can still get in by winning round 14. Dougherty was running a fairly typical mono-Black control with the biggest twist being YMG's Stalking Bloodstalker technology. Ranque was running the tournament's other major archetype – Blue-Green – but a more aggressive design than the average. He has extra ways to allow himself to discard (both careful Study and Breakthrough), plus Nimble Mongoose and Werebear to take advantage. Deep Analysis helps him recover and main deck Stupefying Touch rounds things out.
Ranque played three early copies of Careful Study in game 1, but voluntarily giving up card advantage just isn't good against mono-black. Dougherty simply killed all Ranque's creatures, Mind Sludged Ranque's hand away, and then dropped a Vampire for the win. As usual, mono-black took Game 1 from blue-green.
Every blue-green player in the room seems to have a different opinion about how to beat mono-black. Many of them think Upheaval is the answer and Ranque is no exception, but Ranque takes things to the next level, bring in Standstill to try to stall the game long enough for him to draw and set up his Upheavals.
The early turns of game 2 were business as usual – Dougherty mercilessly killed Ranque's first two creatures. The came the important part the game – Dougherty did not have a Mind Sludge while Ranque did have an Upheaval. Ranque was able to play Nimble Mongoose and then Standstill after the Upheaval. Dougherty didn't hesitate to kill the Mongoose – he knew he would be the one breaking the Standstill sooner or later. The players traded creatures and removal for a few turns until Ranque used Breakthrough to dig up a Mongrel and another Standstill. Dougherty once again plowed right through it, hoping the sheer power of his black cards would overwhelm the extra blue and green cards Ranque drew.
They almost were.
Butchers and Edicts took care of all Ranque's creatures, but just before Dougherty could go in for the kill, Ranque used Aether Burst to free his trapped Werebear and then (after untapping), used Centaur Garden pumped it up just enough to finish Dougherty off. This match would come down to game 3.
Ranque just shook his head on urn 3 of game 3 when Dougherty played his second Nantuko Shade. Ranque had a Stupefying Touch for the first one, but the second was bad times for Ranque. He was forced to play Upheaval as soon as he got to six mana, but he didn't gain much of an advantage from it despite following it up with a Standstill. Well, I guess living to continue playing the game should count as an advantage, but Dougherty finished him off a few turns later.
Final Result: Rob Dougherty advances to his fifth Top 8.