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Quarterfinals: The Sick Life

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Quarterfinal: The Sick Life
by Josh Bennett

Tom Martell (Caw-Go) vs. Ben Stark (Caw-Go)

Ben Stark was hoping that he’d left his quarterfinal bad luck behind him in 2004, when he made two Pro Tour Top 8s and failed to escape the first round both times. Tom Martell is just happy to be here, having reached the Sunday stage at just his fifth Pro Tour. The first order of business for the two ChannelFireball teammates in the Top 8 was a near-perfect mirror match.

“My only advantage is that I have two Baneslayers and he only has one,” said Stark, “but it’s not even important, or good. It’s just less terrible.”

Teammates Ben Stark and Tom Martell play the intricate Caw-Go mirror match.

Martell was slow to arrive at the stage. He’d spent Saturday battling a 101-degree fever, now mercifully under control. The two exchanged good lucks, shuffled up, and were off.

Game 1

Both players kept their starting hands, and Stark opened with a turn-two Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Sword of Feast and Famine. Martell sighed. “Sick life.”

Stark laughed. “Whatever, you probably have it too.”

Wearily, Martell replied “I do.”

“It’s so much nicer to play against other decks that don’t have the one-card combo on turn two. Sucks to break it and then have to play the mirror.”

Martell got his Stoneforge Mystic onto the battlefield and passed it back. Stark Preordained, then passed the turn, ready to use his Stoneforge Mystic to get his Sword of Feast and Famine. Martell played a third land and summoned Squadron Hawk, getting a second out of his deck. Stark put out his Sword and untapped.

He suited up his Stoneforge Mystic and went to attack, then reconsidered and Preordained first. He sent both cards to the bottom and swung in. If Martell didn’t block, he would get to put his Sword on the Hawk on his turn for a guaranteed strike. He weighed his options and took three, discarding Day of Judgment.

Martell drew his card and paused to think before tapping his Stoneforge Mystic to get out his Sword, equipping it to his Hawk, and attacking. Stark discarded Tectonic Edge. Martell got to untap his lands and took a minute to consider his position. He tapped two, and Tectonic Edged Stark’s Colonnade. Stark put his in the graveyard and Martell went to use his other Edge. There was some confusion as to whether Martell had meant to resolve the first Edge or not. After a quick conference with the Head Judge, Martell was given the go-ahead to use both Edges.

Stark swung in, and Martell discarded Stoneforge Mystic. Stark played a second Hawk and passed with an Island open. Martell cast his second Hawk, getting two more. He attacked with his Sworded Hawk, and Stark chumped with his own. Stark made another SquadronHawk and hit, forcing Martell’s Stoneforge Mystic off the table. Martell played a second Mystic, getting Sylvok Lifestaff out of his deck. He attacked with his Hawk and caught another of Stark’s Hawks.

They traded Squadron Hawks for another round, and it was Stark’s equipped Stoneforge Mystic against Martell’s three Hawks. Stark frowned at the board. Eventually, he attacked and Martell declined to block, discarding Sylvok Lifestaff and losing his Colonnade to Stark’s Tectonic Edge. Martell hit back with two Hawks and Stark pitched Day of Judgment. The life totals were 12 for Stark, 11 for Martell. Stark played a Colonnade and hit again. Martell naturally chumped.

He doesn’t have his customary hat, but Ben Stark is definitely thinking.

Martell hit back with just his equipped Hawk. Stark needed a minute to figure out what to discard. Reluctantly, he binned Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He attacked back and Martell declined to block, losing a Spell Pierce and falling to 8. Martell tried to snap the equilibrium with Gideon Jura, but Stark had Stoic Rebuttal. The Hawk hit again and Stark discarded Spell Pierce, leaving him at 6 with just two cards in hand. Martell untapped his lands but made no other play.

Stark continued to struggle to find a satisfactory play. He tried Jace, the Mind Sculptor but Martell was ready with Mana Leak. Martell let another of his Hawks take one for the team. Martell also had Jace, and used him to bounce Stark’s Mystic and he got in for another three. Stark rallied with Gideon Jura, assassinating the Hawk. Martell wasn’t done yet. He Brainstormed, then played Tectonic Edge and his own Gideon Jura for the kill, having both protection from a potential Spell Pierce and the ability to later deal with Stark’s Colonnade. Both Gideons went to the graveyard. Martell passed with Tectonic Edge and island open.

Stark replayed his Stoneforge Mystic and tutored up Sylvok Lifestaff. He put it into play and passed. Martell untapped and Brainstormed with Jace. Arid Mesa gave him a shuffle afterwards. He Preordained and kept both on top. He then tapped four for Day of Judgment. Stark’s last card in hand was Spell Pierce. Now Martell had to decide between killing the Stoneforge Mystic and using his Tectonic Edge.

“I should’ve used the Edge on your turn. I’ve made so many mistakes this game,” said Martell.

He chose to pay and let Day of Judgment resolve. Stark looked to his deck hopefully, saying “Cmon, untapped land.”

He got there. Five mana let his Colonnade kill Jace, and then the Colonnade paid for Stark’s Tectonic Edge to kill Martell’s. Martell wasn’t done yet. He fought back with Preordain, keeping one on top, then played out Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. He peeked at Stark’s top card with Jace, and left it where it was.

Stark had to pass hit turn, keeping mana open for his Colonnade to block. Martell Brainstormed with Jace but turned up nothing of consequence. Stark drew and exhaled, saying “That’s good.” It was another untapped land, allowing him to animate his Colonnade and equip it with Sword of Feast and Famine. That put Martell to one and untapped all his lands, keeping him safe from an equipped Mystic. Martell drew, Brainstormed, and conceded.

Ben Stark 1, Tom Martell 0

Game 2

Stark mulliganed to six. Martell led with Preordain, keeping both on top, and then ran out Stoneforge Mystic, tutoring up Sword of Feast and Famine. Stark had a Mystic of his own, and got the same Sword.

“We didn’t get to this Top 8 by NOT drawing Stoneforge Mystic.” —Ben Stark

Martell played a Tectonic Edge and passed. Stark Preordained two cards to the bottom of his deck, then cast a second Stoneforge Mystic. Martell allowed it. Stark got Sword of Body and Mind. Martell put Sword of Feast and Famine into play. He untapped, playd an Island, suited up his Stoneforge, and attacked. Stark let it through, discarding Mana Leak. Martell used his bonus mana to play Jace, the Mind Sculptor, sending one of the Mystics back to Stark’s hand.

Stark didn’t like his way. He Preordained and kept one of them. He knocked Jace to one Loyalty and replayed his second Stoneforge Mystic. Martell played a second of his own, fetching a second Sword. He cast it, then attacked with his equipped Mystic. Stark chump blocked. Martell Brainstormed, then passed the turn.

The step past ‘head-scratcher’ is ‘sleeve-eater.’ True story.

Stark took a minute before deciding on Gideon Jura, who assassinated the tapped Mystic. Martell used up his Jace to bounce Stark’s Stoneforge, then double-equipped his own and killed Gideon Jura. Stark summoned Baneslayer Angel, but couldn’t safely block the Stoneforge Mystic. Martell milled him for ten and got a wolf. Stark tried to cast a Sword of his own, but Martell had Stoic Rebuttal. Baneslayer drained for five, but Martell was still in the driver’s seat.

Martell got out another Stoneforge Mystic and hit back for seven, reaping the benefits of both Swords. Stark tried to cast his second Sword, but a Spell Pierce from Martell meant that he couldn’t equip it that turn. He put Martell to 10. Martell returned fire and played a Baneslayer of his own. Stark’s top card was no help, and they were on to Game 3.

Ben Stark 1, Tom Martell 1

Game 3

Again, Stark had to go down to six. Martell kept, and they were off. Stark didn’t have the all-important Stoneforge Mystic on turn two, but luckily for him, neither did Martell. He played Squadron Hawk, getting a second for later, and passed. Stark played a Colonnade and passed. Martell played a Stoneforge Mystic with blue open, and Stark declined to counter. Martell shrugged and declined to search, having both Swords already in hand.

Stark made no play on four mana. Martell hit for one and waited on his Stoneforge Mystic. Stark played a Hawk and searched up three more, passing the turn with three mana open. Martell equipped his Hawk and attacked. Stark chumped, and then at end of turn played Divine Offering on the Sword, stopping Spell Pierce with one of his own, killing both Sword and Hawk.

Stark untapped and brought down Gideon Jura, upping him to eight loyalty. Martell played Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstormed, then cast Squadron Hawk, getting two more. Stark leaned back in his chair for a think. He eventually chose to fetch island with Misty Rainforest, then animated his Celestial Colonnade and swung at Jace with both it and Gideon. Martell put Jace in the bin. Stark Preordained, then passed the turn.

Now it was Martell’s turn to enter the think tank. He tapped four for a replacement Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstormed, then got a shuffle and an extra card with Squadron Hawk. He dinged Gideon Jura for 1 and passed. Stark swung in with Gideon at the new Jace, and a Hawk hit the bin. He then played his own Jace to kill them both, and finished off with a Squadron Hawk.

“You know, usually in a game of Magic, if someone asks if you’re winning or losing, you can say, yeah I’m like 80% to win from this point, but here I really have no idea. I could have it locked, or I could be drawing dead.” —Ben Stark

Martell animated his Colonnade and swung at Gideon with it and a Hawk. The Hawks traded and Gideon fell to two loyalty. Martell played a postcombat Hawk, his last. Stark untapped, played an eighth land, upped Gideon to four, and played out a pair of Hawks, leaving his Tectonic Edge and some blue lands up.

But Martell wasn’t nearly done. He tapped five for Baneslayer Angel, which hit play. Then Stoneforge Mystic snuck his Sword of Body and Mind into play, and with two mana left over he suited up the Hawk and attacked Gideon with it. Stark chumped. At end of turn he blew up Colonnade with Tectonic Edge.

The step past ‘sleeve-eater’ is ‘brain-melter.’ Stark looks about halfway there.

Stark put his head in his hands and stared at the table. He killed Squadron Hawk with Gideon Jura, then tapped four for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, bouncing the Baneslayer. Martell had a Gideon of his own to take them both off the table, then equipped his Stoneforge Mystic and swung at Jace, forcing Stark to chump with a Squadron Hawk.

The haymakers continued on Stark’s turn. He Brainstormed and found yet another Gideon Jura, killing off the Stoneforge Mystic. Martell replayed his Baneslayer and equipped it. Stark untapped, then Preordained, putting both on the bottom. He played Divine Offering on the Sword of Body and Mind. He bounced the Baneslayer and put Gideon to six loyalty.

Martell Preordained and sent both cards packing. He replayed his Baneslayer, as well as a Celestial Colonnade. Stark Brainstormed with Jace and played Tectonic Edge, ensuring that Gideon Jura would be safe. He put the planeswalker up to eight loyalty. Martell animated his Colonnade and attacked as he was forced to. Tectonic Edge killed Celestial Colonnade. He had no further play.

Stark’s Gideon killed the Baneslayer, safe at one loyalty. Martell had nothing to do but kill Stark’s two Colonnades with Tectonic Edges. Stark continued Brainstorming, and now Gideon hit the Red Zone for 6. Martell played a Stoneforge Mystic, but had nothing to search up. Stark was not so constrained. His Stoneforge Mystic got Sword of Feast and Famine, and Gideon forced Martell’s Mystic to attack. Martell was able to force through a Jace to kill the other, but the damage had already been done. Stark took the game in short order.

Ben Stark 2, Tom Martell 1

Game 4

Martell opened the next game with Preordain, keeping one. Stark played Colonnade, and Martell followed up with Squadron Hawk, getting two more. Stark went one better, with Stoneforge Mystic, fetching Sword of Feast and Famine. Martell hit for one, then played Sword of Body and Mind. Stark hit back for one with his Mystic and played a Squadron Hawk, ready to chump.

Martell equipped and attacked, knocking Stark’s bird out of the sky. Then came Arid Mesa and a Stoneforge Mystic of his own, getting a second Sword. Stark played another Hawk, then passed with two open. When Martell attacked with his equipped Hawk, Stark tried a Divine Offering. Martell had Spell Pierce at the ready. Stark let the Hawk through, taking 3, losing ten cards from his library, and giving Martell a Wolf. Martell added a Squadron Hawk to his board.

Stark untapped, used his Mystic to get his Sword into play, then equipped his Hawk and attacked. Martell chumped. At end of turn he got out his second Sword, then untapped, spilled creatures onto the board, double-equipped ihs Hawk and charged. Stark took a pile of damage and Martell got all his mana back. His advantage was overwhelming, and Stark soon scooped.

Ben Stark 2, Tom Martell 2

Game 5

Stark looked at his opening hand for the deciding game and agonized over it. He seemed to be trying to convince himself to keep, but he just couldn’t do it. Martell kept his opening seven. Stark’s six were much more to his liking.

Stark started with Preordain, and Martell followed suit. Stark had the all-important Mystic on turn two, getting the Sword of Feast and Famine. Martell had only Squadron Hawk. Stark attacked for one and played a second Stoneforge Mystic, getting his second Sword. Martell untapped, Preordained, and sent both to the bottom. He spent his other two mana on a second Hawk. He hit for one and passed the turn.

[card images, align=center: Sword of Feast and Famine, Squadron Hawk]

Stark had to Preordain his way into a land, then swung with both his Mystics and played a Squadron Hawk. Martell played a Colonnade and hit back for two, playing his third Hawk. Now it was go-time for Stark. He got his Sword of Body and Mind into play via a Mystic, equipped his Hawk and swung with it and a Mystic. Martell chumped the Sworded Hawk.

Martell turned things around with Gideon Jura. He killed the equipped Hawk and attacked for one. Stark moved his Sword over and hit again, forcing another Hawk off Martell’s side of the table. With his sixth land, he was able to tap out for Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He Brainstormed and passed it back. Martell had an untapped land for his turn, and so was able to animate his Celestial Colonnade and kill Jace. Gideon dropped to two Loyalty to kill the equipped Stoneforge Mystic.

Stark’s last Stoneforge Mystic picked up the Sword and charged. Martell chumped again. Stark spilled out two more Hawks and passed. Martell used up the last of Gideon’s loyalty to kill the Stoneforge, but was ready with a second copy of the big Planeswalker. He forced Stark’s creatures to come at Gideon, then played Ratchet Bomb.

Unfortunately for him, Stark had a Gideon of his own, wiping both off the table, and now his Hawk was free to hit with the help of the Sword of Body and Mind, milling ten and getting a Wolf in the bargain. Martell was out of gas; he played Celestial Colonnade and passed.

What are you building, Stark?

“I have no idea if I’m supposed to play the second Sword or not,” mused Ben Stark. Eventually he cast it, and it went uncountered. He doubled up Equipment on his Hawk and charged with his team. Martell pitched Spell Pierce and dropped low. His Bomb ticked up to two counters, and he played a Hawk. Stark played Jace, the Mind Sculptor, forcing the Hawk back to hand. His two Wolves each got a Sword. He attacked. Martell blew up the bomb and blocked with Celestial Colonnade, surviving for a turn, but he still needed an answer for the massive crew on board. He drew his card, then extended his hand in defeat, congratulating his teammate on a hard-fought match.

Ben Stark defeats Tom Martell 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!

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