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Round 9: Phoenix Foundation vs. www.mtgplanet.com

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Phoenix Foundation have so far met their goals. They survived the Sealed Deck rounds, and dismantled their first two opponents thus far on Day 2. Kai Budde's confidence about his skills in Team Rochester verges on arrogance, but it's hard to argue with three digits of pro points.

In the unenviable position sitting across from them are Blake Quelle, Matt Sperling and Rory Draxler: www.mtgplanet.com. Quelle rose to the public eye when he Top 8'd at U.S. Nationals this year. Draxler and Sperling are the unknown quantities.

Sperling got a great start against Kai Budde: Benevolent Bodyguard, Nomad Decoy and then Mirror Wall. Budde had just three lands and a Phantom Tiger. His next play of Phantom Nantuko was a little scarier, but his missing his fourth land drop eased things. He missed another and made Skywing Aven,

Baberowski faced Draxler, and answered his Dusk Imp and Treacherous Werewolf with Mirror Wall and Organ Grinder. The next turn was the big one. Draxler failed to find his fifth land and could only watch as Baberowski's Crippling Fatigue took out his team. Again he failed to draw land number five, stranding his Soul Scourge, Zombie Assassin and Treacherous Vampire. He Morgue Thefted his Dusk Imp and couldn't even play it. By then Baberowski was too far ahead, and he took the first game.

Quelle was giving Blume lessons in beatdown. Cartographer enchanted with Exoskeletal Armor, Arrogant Wurm and Battlefield Scrounger all came out to tap-dance on his forehead. Bomb Squad looked like it would have enough time to wipe the board if Blue chumped, particularly after a timely Lava Dart caught Nantuko Tracer as it was suiting up with Seton's Desire, but Obsessive Search turned up Aether Burst for Quelle just in time to punch through for the win.

Sperling had given Budde enough time to draw some lands, and Wormfang Drake joined his force, starting to serve in the air. Chainflinger hit the table ready to wreck Sperling. He tried Churning Eddy.

"It's going to be expensive for you." - Kai Budde

Grip of Amnesia took away his hopes for threshold. It didn't much matter. Next turn saw Kai drop Chainflinger AND Psionic Gift. Sperling packed it in.

Draxler kept a slow hand against Baberowski in Game 2, and was punished by Filthy Cur and Patrol Hound. His first play of the game was Thermal Blast, shut down by Pay No Heed. He placed his hopes on Dusk Imp and Strength of Lunacy. Baberowski was ready with Crippling Fatigue. Draxler fell to two. Grotesque Hybrid wasn't exactly enough to save him.

Phoenix Foundation 1 - www.mtgplanet.com 0

Across the table, Quelle's opener of four land, Aether Burst, Aquamoeba and Obsessive Search turned up only one more spell before he was facing lethal damage. Blume had fired out Tireless Tribe, Militant Monk, Blessed Orator and Nomad Decoy. The Burst gave Quelle a few extra turns of forests before he scooped.

Sperling started Game 2 with a horde of 1/1s, Budde answered them Skywing Aven and then Psionic Gift. Sperling was ready with Churning Eddy. Budde Peeked and didn't like what he saw: Swirling Sandstorm, Shieldmage Advocate and Angelic Wall. He needed to get in the game, fast.

Now it was Blume's turn to suffer mana problems. He stalled at two land, Firebolted a Cartographer, and then faced down a Seton's Desired Aquamoeba. His third land came into play tapped, and by then he was in single digits. Quelle had no difficulty finishing him off.

Phoenix Foundation 1 - www.mtgplanet.com 1

Then it was just Budde vs. Sperling. Sperling had solidified his defenses with the Wall and Shieldmage, adding a Nomad Decoy and Cephalid Looter to the mix. Budde minimized the threat of Swirling Sandstorm with Ironshell Beetle Armoring up his Giant Warthog. Sure enough, Sperling Looted away the Storm the following turn.

He was at threshold, however, and so his Decoy was working overtime. Budde played Escape Artist and waited. Coral Net devalued his Phantom Nantuko immensely. He let it die. All the advantage Sperling had amassed failed to disappear, and soon it was time to go to Game 3.

Sperling again had the early drops of Researcher and Spurnmage Advocate. Budde Peeked at Shieldmage Advocate and Defy Gravity. Sperling obliged him by summoning the Advocate on his turn. Budde answered with Anurid Barkripper. Sperling untapped and showed what two cards he'd drawn: Coral Net and Nomad Decoy, two enormous rips.

Budde pitched Ghostly Wings to keep the Barkripper around and made Nantuko Disciple. Sperling's Researcher dug for more goods and turned up Vigilant Sentry. The Barkripper, having outlasted its usefulness, was replaced with Hydromorph Gull. Sperling pulled Angelic Wall off the top.

Now his defenses were impenetrable. Budde played out Hapless Researcher and Skywing Aven, clearing his hand for Breakthrough for four. Sperling had finally run out of topdecks, so Budde had some room to struggle. Sperling found Cephalid Aristocrat, and decided to work toward threshold. Budde let him. The Decoy tapped it at end of turn and sent Deep Analysis to the graveyard. Sperling was polite about his fortune. Even when it happened twice. The life totals were eleven to ten in Sperling's favor.

If the threat of Nantuko Disciple was great, it got downright shocking with Budde's next play of Psionic Gift. The Aristocrat was suddenly a huge liability. And here, Sperling erred. Playing Defy Gravity to get to threshold, he attacked. Budde blocked with his Aven and bounced. Instead of Spurning his own Aristocrat, Sperling did nothing. Budde pumped it at end of turn, then pinged it, sending four more cards to Sperling's graveyard. He untapped and armored the Aristocrat up with Ironshell Beetle, wearing a wicked smile. Now Sperling didn't have enough time. He attacked with his Aristocrat and killed it, but Budde's responses left him without a library. Had he killed the Aristocrat earlier, he would have had seven cards left, probably enough to win the match.

Final Result: Phoenix Foundation defeats www.mtgplanet.com 2-1

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