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Player of the Year Match: The Full Nelson

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Guillaume Matignon vs. Brad Nelson

"Before we get started, I need to know: Is this sanctioned?" —Brad Nelson

It was a scene with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the game's first-ever Player of the Year Showdown. Center stage, the match table itself, flanked by the flags of the two competitors. Farther back, front row seating for their families. On the Team Guillaume side sat Matignon's mother, his sister and his cousins. Their trip from Bordeaux to Paris was much shorter than that taken by Team Brad: Nelson's father, his father's girlfriend, and naturally Nelson's PT-playing brother Corey Baumeister.

Beyond the crowd-control barrier thronged supporters for both sides. Shouts of "Come on, Brad!" and "Allez Guillaume!" occasionally broke the murmuring. Inside, the film crew bustled getting everything ready for the live web broadcast. The players themselves sat at the ready. Matignon's attitude was completely relaxed, his face showing his trademark grin. Nelson, by contrast, was all business.

Game 1

Matignon won the ceremonial coin toss and naturally chose to play. It was an inauspicious beginning for Nelson, and it continued as Nelson mulliganed to a six that he seemed reluctant to keep. The call came over the loudspeaker that deckbuilding for the Grand Prix was to begin, and the crowd thinned significantly. Only the diehard remained.

When the players got the go-ahead to begin, Matignon's happy-go-lucky attitude was replaced by a stony-faced determination that matched Nelson's. Matignon started with Sphere of the Suns. Nelson undid some of the mulligan damage with Squadron Hawk, refilling his hand. Matignon went one better, tapping out for Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. He found Prophetic Prism and passed the turn.

Guillaume Matignon wants to return the Player of the Year trophy to France, where it's been absent since Gabriel Nassif's victory in 2004.

Nelson was short on options. He hit Tezzeret for one in the air, then played a second Hawk and a Celestial Colonnade. Matignon was ready with Pyroclasm, and Tezzeret animated the Sphere of the Suns, which then attacked for 5. Nelson had a fourth land, but had nothing better to do than play out the last two Hawks. Matignon showed a second Pyroclasm, and Nelson scooped up his cards.

Matignon 1, Nelson 0


Matignon happily flashed the thumbs up to his family seated behind him. They seemed caught offguard that he had won so quickly, but they were all smiles. Nelson's cheering section, now including Eric Froehlich and Paul Rietzl, made their presence known, calling for a rally from Nelson.

Game 2

Nelson led with Island and Spell Pierced Matignon's Preordain. He followed with Ratchet Bomb. Matignon resolved a Sphere of the Suns, and Nelson dropped Marsh Flats and passed. When Matignon tried another Preordain, Nelson hit him with Mana Leak. Matignon had no third land, but did get out an Everflowing Chalice for one. Nelson was also stuck on land with just three. He fetched up a Plains and played Squadron Hawk, leaving his island untapped.

"Might as well try it ...." said Matignon, tapping out for Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. Nelson snapped a second Spell Pierce onto the table.

Nelson untapped and started thinking. He confirmed that Matignon held just four cards. He stared at the table, considering every angle. Matignon was stuck on just two lands, with two artifact sources of mana. After a minute's deliberation, Nelson decided to pull the trigger. He attacked for one with his Hawk, then cleared out Hawk and Sphere with his Ratchet Bomb. Divine Offering left Matignon with just two land in play. Matignon drew, played a third land, and passed. Nelson ripped an island and went for Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It was allowed.

Matignon had Creeping Tar Pit in play, but needed to draw a fourth land to kill Jace. With that in mind, Nelson Brainstormed and crossed his fingers. Matignon calmly drew his top card and put Island into play. Nelson could only shake his head. Creeping Tar Pit sent Jace to the bin. Nelson untapped, then played Squardon Hawk and Celestial Colonnade. Matignon Preordained and sent both cards to the bottom. He then played a fifth land and passed the turn.

Brad Nelson, meanwhile, would be the first American Player of the year since Bob Maher in 2000.

Again Nelson went into the tank. The crowd was silent. Nelson hit for one with his Hawk, then destroyed one of Matignon's two Tar Pits with Tectonic Edge. He played a second Hawk and passed. Matignon got rid of them with Pyroclasm and played an Edge of his own. Nelson got out another Hawk. Matignon continued to stockpile lands.

Nelson tried a second Jace, the Mind Sculptor and countered Matignon's Stoic Rebuttal with Mana Leak. He peeked at Matignon's top card and sent it packing. As expected, Matignon knocked three loyalty off Jace with his Tar Pit, then passed. Nelson Brainstormed with Jace, and went to put another nail in the coffin with Gideon Jura. Matignon showed him a second Stoic Rebuttal. That left Jace unprotected from the Tar Pit, and he went away.

Nelson untapped and Preordained, sending both to the bottom, but then found Stoneforge Mystic waiting for him. He played it, and Matignon revealed that the last card in his hand was the third Stoic Rebuttal. He was clear to start sending his Tar Pit at Nelson, bringing him to 15. Nelson tried to return fire with his Colonnade, forcing Matignon to use his Tectonic Edge. Matignon played Tumble Magnet and knocked Nelson to 12. Nelson destroyed the Magnet with Tumble Magnet before untapping.

Nelson drew his card and exhaled deeply, leaning back in his chair and furrowing his brow. It was clearly a good one. He tapped two for another Stoneforge Mystic, tutoring up a Sword of Body and Mind, with enough mana left over to play it and equip it to his Hawk. It flew in, milled Matignon for ten, and created a Wolf.

At first, Nelson was using an empty sleeve for his token. Suddenly Brian Kibler, having ducked the crowd barrier, leaned in to the table, saying "Here's the Wolf token!" in a loud stage whisper. He handed Nelson a folded-up "Team Brad" sticker, with a cartoon of Nelson as a Jacob-style Werewolf. The crowd erupted in laughter. With the Sword active, it wasn't long before Nelson had evened the score.

Matignon 1, Nelson 1


Brad Wolf tokens.

"How long do we get to sideboard?" asked Nelson.

"Three minutes, same as always," replied a nearby Scott Larabee, Events Manager for Wizards

"Three minutes?!"

Matignon grinned and showed a booster box filled with sleeved cards. "I sleeved them all!"

"He's more prepared than I am," said Brad.

"I've built four decks. One is a fun one."

"For if you're up 3-1?"

"More if I am 1-3."

Soon they got the go-ahead to move on to the next game. Guillaume looked behind him for his supporters. There were a few empty chairs.

"Nice family I have, there. They've all gone for cigarettes."

Game 3

Nelson was first on the board with Necropede, but Matignon prompty killed it with Grasp of Darkness, Matignon untapped and played Sylvok Replica. Nelson had no third land and was forced to pass the turn back. Matignon tried to capitalize with Blackcleave Goblin, but Virulent Wound stopped it cold. Nelson drew his third land, and passed the turn.

Matignon was short on action. All he could do was play Tumble Magnet off his forest and four swamps. He hit for one with his Replica. Nelson didn't find a fourth land, and agonised over a decision before dropping Contagion Clasp on Sylvok Replica. Matignon still made no play. Nelson's deck served up land number four, enabling Corpse Cur, getting back Necropede. Matignon destroyed the Cur with his Replica, then got back both his creatures with Morbid Plunder.

Nelson kept his defenses up, adding Necropede and an Inkmoth Nexus to his board. Matignon made his Blackcleave Goblin and swung. Nelson took the poison. Then Matignon tapped out for his Sylvok Replica. Nelson untapped, then swung with his Necropede. Matignon decided to bite, and pushed Sylvok Replica in the way. Necropede put an extra counter on it, which signaled the Spread the Sickness to come, clearing away both creatures.

The Player of the Year showdown match continues, with the crowd and the cameras watching.

Matignon's Blight Mamba didn't measure up well to Nelson's next play of Trigon of Corruption. Matignon played an Inkmoth Nexus of his own, still stuck on a single forest. Nelson proliferated, then added Plague Myr. Matignon took care of that with a Spread the Sickness of his own. Nelson shrugged and replaced the infector with Carnifex Demon.

Matignon bugged out his eyes and laughed. He could make no play on his turn. Nelson meanwhile was rolling. Corpse Cur got back Corpse Cur. He continued to hold back. Being in such a dominant position, he just needed to keep the door closed to a surprise poison victory from Matignon. Matingon cast Skinrender to kill the Cur and passed the turn.

Nelson Proliferated, then untapped and recurred again. Matignon finally hit a second Forest and played Glissa, the Traitor. Carnifex Demon and Contagion Clasp shrunk Matignon's team. He untapped and proliferated again, sending Matignon's squad went to the bin. Matignon drew one more card, then packed up.

Nelson 2, Matignon 1


As the scoreboard changed, Nelson turned back and asked his family, "You guys having fun?"

His father was beaming with pride. "We're having a ball!"

Game 4

Both players had switched it up for the second game of Super Sealed. Matignon opened with island, mountains, and Vedalken Anatomist. Nelson showed leaden Myr, then a plains and Arrest for the Anatomist. Matignon passed on four land, and could only laugh when Nelson showed him Phyrexian Crusader. He Shattered Nelson's Myr at end of turn, then played his fifth land and passed it back.

Nelson swung in for two poison, then played a Trigon of Corruption. Matignon cast Quicksilver Geyser, freeing his Anatomist and bouncing the Crusader. He replayed his Anatomist and passed. Nelson had Contagion Clasp to go with his Trigon for the kill.

Matignon gets serious.

Matignon took to the air, first with Argent Sphinx, then, after Nelson played out his Crusader and Plague Myr, a Sky-Eel School. He swung with the Sphinx and passed his turn. Nelson was ready with Spread the Sickness, clearing the way for an attack and leaving Matignon at six poison. Matignon was forced to sit back on his Sphinx, and when Nelson showed him another Arrest he scooped.

Nelson 3, Matignon 1


True to his word, Matignon said, "Alright, I'll play the fun one." He drew up his opening hand and grinned. "Perfect." Not so much for Nelson, who quickly went down to six cards. He kept his six.

This time, Matignon was Plains, Mountain, and Sunspear Shikari. Nelson played out lands and a Culling Dais. With a twinkle in his eye, Matignon said "Let's go for it," and played Training Drone. Nelson was unwilling to let this get out of hand, so he dropped an Arrest on it in case of Equipment. Matignon cheered and pumped the fist.

He hit for 2 and cast Spin Engine. Nelson played Priests of Norn, hoping to stabilize, but Matignon had Piston Sledge for his Shikari, and both it and the Spin Engine got through unopposed. Nelson fell to 8. He untapped and cast Contagion Clasp, killing the Engine. The Shikari came in again, and Inkmoth Nexus made the block, then went on the Dais. Matignon tapped four and cast both Galvanic Blast and Burn the Impure on the Priests, knocking Nelson to 5.

Nelson drew, then cast Spread the Sickness on the Shikari, getting another counter on his Dais. Matignon wasn't out of gas yet. He had Pierce Strider to take Nelson down to just 2 life. Nelson drew and frowned. He cracked his Dais for two more cards, but neither were any help.

Nelson 3, Matignon 2


By now, those in the Grand Prix were finished with deck registration, so the audience quickly grew to capacity.

While they were shuffling, Matignon leaned in. "One thing, my sister looked at Magic coverage for the first time last night, and she said to me: Oh! They're not all big geeks, look at this guy, he's beautiful!"

"And that was me?"

"No. Brian Kibler."

Nelson rolled his eyes and laughed. "Of course."

"Who else would it be?

They kept their opening hands and were off. Nelson led with a pair of Seachrome Coasts and got rid of Sphere of the Suns with Divine Offering. They played out lands, and on five land Nelson went for Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Matignon sighed and tried Stoic Rebuttal, but naturally Nelson had the Spell Pierce. Matignon was forced to play a Jace of his own to be rid of them.

Nelson looked over his options and decided to play Gideon Jura, bumping him up to eight loyalty. Matignon Preordained, send both to the bottom, then played another. Again, neither card was any good. His last mana he spent on Tumble Magnet. Nelson animated Gideon, but Matignon declined to tap him, instead taking 6 damage. Postcombat, Nelson brought out Elspeth Tirel, who in turn brought three friends.

Matignon checks the math.

Matignon dug with Prophetic Prism and then animated Tar Pit to get rid of Elspeth. Gideon tried to step into the fray again, and this time Matignon tapped him down. He took 3 from the soldiers and fell to 11. Nelson played out Sword of Body and Mind, and passed. Matignon untapped and tried to regain ground with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but Nelson had Mana Leak. Matignon spent his last two mana on Pyroclasm, but again, Nelson had Spell Pierce.

Now one of the Soldiers picked up the Sword and Gideon manifested again. The Magnet shut him down, but the rest of the crew got in for 5, milling ten cards and netting Nelson another Wolf token. Nelson further turned the screws with his two Tectonic Edges, getting rid of Matignon's two Creeping Tar Pits.

Matignon summoned Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and turned his Prophetic Prism into a 5/5. Nelson folded his arms and got his brain working. He counted up a few scenarios, and came up with one that was acceptable. He went to attack, and Matignon refused to use the last counter on his Magnet. The Wolf token and Sworded Soldier took on Tezzeret, while the other two went at Matignon himself. Matignon's 5/5 Prism ate the Wolf token, but Tezzeret went to the graveyard and Matignon fell to 4 life. Gideon Jura climbed to ten loyalty, forcing the Prism to attack.

Matignon dutifully turned his Prism sideways, then cast a second Tumble Magnet, continuing to stave off defeat. One Magnet tapped the Sword-wielding soldier, and Matignon went to two. Gideon Assassinated the tapped Prism. Matignon had a third Tar Pit at the ready to dispatch Gideon, but there were still other problems to address.

Nelson Preordained into Preordain, then grimaced at the next two cards he saw. He triple-checked Matignon's graveyard before deciding to accept Sword of Feast and Famine. He suited up another Soldier, and both were locked down. Matignon was at just 1 life. He slowly drew his top card, then shrugged.

"Well, I'm still not dead," he said. He played a third Tumble Magnet. Between those and his active Tar Pit, he would survive another turn. Nelson made him use his Magnets, played a Colonnade, and passed. Matignon drew and played Mox Opal, sitting on Tar Pit and Inkmoth Nexus. He locked down one of the equipped Soldiers, and when the other attacked, the Nexus blocked it, shrinking it. Nelson passed the turn.

Matignon refused to go quietly. Pyroclasm left Nelson with just one Soldier token, helpless before the Magnets. Nelson played Ratchet Bomb. Matignon drew and passed. Nelson drew again, and this time it was Jace, the Mind Scupltor. He Brainstormed and gave the turn to Matignon, who knew he was almost done. He drew a card of Prophetic Prism, and revealed the card to be Scalding Tarn, offering a handshake by way of concession.

Immediately the crowd roared with applause. Corey Baumeister jumped up and ran to his brother, giving him the biggest hug he could muster.

Brad Nelson defeats Guillaume Matignon 4-2, and is the 2010 Player of the Year!


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