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Quarterfinals: Svend Geertsen vs. Benjamin Niedrig

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Svend Geertsen finally broke his 9-0 curse. Time and time again he has blasted out of the gates at a Pro Tour only to fall in the last rounds. This time he held on and made the Top 8, becoming one of only a handful of players who have had two Top 8 finishes with five or more years between them (his first was in Worlds 1997 and this one is his fourth).

Across the table Benjamin Niedrig is probably fighting back the jitters. In his first Pro Tour ever he reached this Top 8. Now far can he carried his Cinderella story?

He drafted a good blue and black deck including Balshan Collaborator, Mutilate and Gravestorm. Lets see how he can perform under the close scrutiny of the crowd.

Game 1

With no time limit they shuffled carefully, and for a very long time, chatting about the draft. Niedrig kept a hand with only Swamps for lands but he had Mutilate and Gravestorm.

Geertsen Peeked seeing Mutilate, Crypt Creeper, Balshan Collaborator, Cabal Torturer and Gravestorm.

Svend: "Someone passed you that?! Seriously?"

The Swiss returned the favour with Mesmeric Fiend having a look at Geertsen' bombs: Laquatus' Champion and Shambling Swarm. The other non-land cards where Morgue Theft and Fledging Imp.

Benjamin: "Some nice cards here as well!"

He took the Swarm. After this "voyeur" session Geertsen played Fledging Imp and passed the turn and Niedrig dropped Gravestorm. With only on carde in Svend Geertsen's graveyard it looked like a one sided Howling Mine waiting to happen.

Patriarch's Desire took out the Fiend to free the Swarm as Geertsen tried to both fuelled his graveyard and pick up the pace before he ran out of cards to remove. Niedrig found an Island and unleashed Balshan Collaborator on the table.

The Danish attacked with the Imp, dropped Swarm and passed the turn. Again he removed a card to deny the Gravestorm. The Collaborator entered the Red Zone while Cabal Torturer and Crypt Creeper showed up to hold up the fort.

In came the Swarm and the Imp. The Creeper traded with the Imp and Benjamin dropped to thirteen. Geertsen was running out of gas and soon Gravestorm would make the Mutilate in Niedrig's hand only a minor problem.

He played another Imp and again denied the Gravestorm. Even without the help of his enchantment Benjamin's draws were amazing: this time he ripped Carrion Wurm.

In came the Wurm and Svend Peeked hoping to draw another land. He had the Champion still in his hand and he would probably would like to play it in the near future.

Again the Danish sent the Swarm and Imp. The Torturer jumped in front of the Swarm to minimize the damage and Geertsen played Organ Grinder. Knowing he would probably have to win the damage race fast Geertsen decided not to remove any extra cards to the Gravestorm.

This would power up his Grinder and hopefully get Niedrig within the Champion's six point range. On the other hand it would give Niedrig an extra card each turn. It was a tough gambit but probably the best available plan for the Danish.

After a very long deliberation Benjamin decided to let the Collaborator and the Wurm played defense instead of attacking and Mutilating the table away. Svend Geertsen leaned forward studying the table with great care.

Finally he settled for the Champion dropping his opponent to five. Again he lapsed into deep thought deciding if should attack or not, and with what creatures. With so much money, and Pro Tour points, on the line every little move has to be understandably carefully considered.

He even picked a few cards up to swing but eventually relinquished the turn without picking a fight. Apparently he had a change of heart because he decided to deny Gravestorm on the next upkeep.

Niedrig sent his crew in. Swarm and Imp gang blocked the Wurm while Collaborator soared above dropping Geertsen to eleven. Mutilate sweeped the table with Niedrig going back to eight (from the Laquatus' Champion effect and the Grinder's departing shot).

But Geertsen had a cunning plan: He played Gravedigger to get back the Champion. One attack later and the helpless Swiss was within Champion range.

Svend 1-0 Benjamin.

Svend: "That was a good game. I don't think you should have attacked with the Wurm. It let me use the Grinder."
Benjamin: "You are probably right. Those three life points might have changed things. Still I think it wouldn't have matter."

Game 2

Again Svend Peeked in his first turn seeing a very weak, albeit fast, hand: Phantom Whelp, Crypt Creeper and Dusk Imp. In came the Creeper. On the following turn the Danish continued his wicked peeking ways with Fiend (taking the Imp).

The Swiss added the Whelp to the table and Svend dropped Gravegouger to trade with the Creeper. Niedrig upped the stakes with Dreamwinder and Geertsen tried to answer with Organ Grinder but a Patriarch's Desire cleared the way once again.

By now Geertsen was at twelve and despite a hand full of spells he seemed troubled by Benjamin Niedrig's attacks. He Repelled the Dreamwinder with Patriarch's Desire and Ghastly Demise in hand.

The monster returned on the following turn and Geertsen sent in the Fiend in hoping to use the Desire to finish the Dreamwinder. No such luck. The Swiss wouldn't trade. After a long deliberation Geertsen used Mind Sludge to wipe away his opponent's hand getting the Whelp and above all the annoying Gravestorm.

Still Benjamin found Aven Fisher at the top of his deck and dragged Geertsen down to eight. Although he had a good control hand (with Demise and Desire to finish the two creatures) Svend Geertsen needed to make his move fast before things got desperate.

On the next turn he Demised the Dreamwinder and returned Grinder with Gravedigger. Could the lone Fisher race Svend's three creatures? Maybe not but Niedrig drew Mesmeric Fiend and Mutilate on the following turns.

He used the Fiend to see if Geertsen had any backup plan. He saw another Grinder, Fledging Imp and Patriarch's Desire. He took the Desire and attacked to drop his opponent down to four.

In came Geertsen's creatures and Niedrig soaked it all up falling to nine. As in the first game things were getting very tricky. Svend Geertsen dropped Fledging Imp and discarded to trade with the Fisher.

The card Niedrig got was quite important: Morbid Hunger. Should he Mutilate or cast Morbid Hunger? He went for the black Wrath returning the Patriarch's Desire to Geertsen hand.

On the next turn he played Cephalid Scout and Dusk Imp hoping one of them would survive to bring Sven within Hunger range. The Desire got the Imp and Svend played Organ Grinder. But the Scout was more than enough. It dealt one point of damage and the Hunger finished the second game.

Svend 1-1 Benjamin.

Svend: "I'm SO glad I didn't win this game. I've been up 2-0 in quarterfinals twice and lost."

Game 3

Before sideboarding for the third game Geertsen consulted his copious notes hoping to compile his opponent's complete decklist or at least get a very clear picture of what to expect.

Again Svend Peeked, this time with a "Guess what? Peek", seeing Cabal Torturer, Dreamwinder, Balshan Collaborator and Obsessive Search. He followed that with Cephalid Scout and Fledging Imp before Niedrig dropped his first creature: Cabal Torturer.

The Swiss dropped Mesmeric Fiend getting Patriarch's Desire over Mind Sludge, and Gravedigger. The Torturer killed the Scout but the Cephalid Sage and Imp brought Benjamin all the way to twelve.

A Mind Sludge for three got rid of Mutilate, Gravestorm and Crypt Creeper. Geertsen raised his eyebrows and wondered what single card Niedrig had kept. It was the Collaborator.

The Sage and Imp ganged Dreamwinder but, with the help of the Torturer, they traded before the Collaborator came out. Svend Geertsen was now in big trouble. The Collaborator took a four-point bite and in came a Organ Grinder as well.

All the Danish had in play was Gravedigger. It seemed way too little. So he took another hit from the Collaborator and played Laquatus' Champion dropping Benjamin Niedrig down to a measly four.

The Balshan flyer took a five-point bite putting Svend at ten while the rest of the team sat back bracing to stop the two creatures on the Danish side. If Svend sent his team in Niedrig could chump with the Torturer and use the Grinder once bringing Svend within a second Grinder activation and a Collaborator swing.

Indeed he chumped the Champion with the Torturer and used the Grinder and the end of the turn. He untapped, attacked with the Collaborator but Svend was ready for that: Repel.

Benjamin smiled, shook his head and bounced the flier. He used Churning Eddy to bounce the Champion and passed the turn giving Geertsen a whole new puzzle to figure out. The Fiend chumped Gravedigger and Geertsen replayed the Champion.

The Collaborator showed up again and Geertsen got his shot. He could play Patriarch's Desire on any of the blockers and attack for the final two points of damage. He faded out the Collaborator (since he had Threshold for the Desire) and sent both creatures in to finish the third game.

Svend: "Close games so far. I can't remember playing a closer set of games ever."
Benjamin: "Yes, really close games."

Svend 2-1 Benjamin.

Game 4

Geertsen smiled when he laid out his first turn Island.

Benjamin: "Time to Peek?"
Svend: "Not this time."

The Swiss dropped Crypt Creeper and traded it for Fledging Imp before returning it with Gravedigger. Geertsen put an end to any extra Red Zone trips with Cephalid Sage.

A Fiend finally revealed Niedrig's hand. Svend took Patriarch's Desire over Gravestorm, Mutilate, Carrion Wurm, and Balshan Griffin. Benjamin's hand was brutal. All he need was an extra land - Swamp would be perfect -, to reach five mana and go nuts.

As you can imagine Sven Geertsen stared at the cards for quite a while before making his pick. Leading 2-1 with the cameras on their match, the only table still playing at this point, made the pressure even higher. Benjamin drew and passed the turn.

Svend: "No land?"

He Peeked to dig deeper, hoping to find something to stop the impeding doom. Still Niedrig couldn't find a fifth lands but he did find Think Tank, which would certainly help. The first card he saw was the Collaborator. Now, that was a tough choice. He kept it and played it.

The Danish laughed, as his troubles just keep getting worse. He stared at his hand full of spells and decided the best he could do was play Repel. Then he drew his fifth land and unleashed hell: four point Mind Sludge.

The crowd let out a collective "ouch". Niedrig's dream hand was about to go away. Out went Carrion Wurm, Innocent Blood, Gravestorm and Balshan Griffin. Niedrig was now down to Mutilate.

Balshan Collaborator came back but Geertsen had the Patriarch's Desire. A second Peek and Concentrate helped the Danish dig deeper. Still the Think Tank kept Benjamin in business giving him Dreamwinder and Organ Grinder to keep churning out creatures.

Laquatus' Champion showed up providing Svend Geertsen with a stellar blocker. He thus stabilized the Red Zone but he was pressed to keep up with the Think Tank. The Swiss was getting the lands out of the way and just buying spell after spell.

In came Cabal Torturer, with Threshold, and the Danish decided he was high time to start swinging. Gravedigger took one for the team by stepping in the way of the Champion. If Niedrig could just play a fifth land his Torturer could take out most of Svend's team, with the help of the Desire locked under the Fiend.

The Grinder started working on Geertsen life and out went another land. Svend was at eleven and Niedrig seemed happy to just play chump blocker after chump blocker while his Organ Grinder took did the dirty work. Whelp was the next to jump in the way.

Torturer ate up the Fiend and Grinder took another bite bringing Svend Geertsen to eight. Since his opponent was tapped the Danish took the opportunity to Waste Away the Grinder.

Obviously this meant Benjamin Niedrig needed another plan. He chucked Churning Eddy with Think Tank and gave his Dreamwinder a Ghostly Wings. That was a slightly faster clock and it dropped Geertsen to three.

He had to do something about it on the next turn or he would perish under the mighty new wings of the Dreamwinder. He sent the Champion in and the Creeper chumped. Then Geertsen made his move: Patriarch's Desire - with Threshold - on the Dreamwinder.

The mighty new flier was gone. Niedrig returned the favour with his own Desire on the Champion to go right back up to twenty. All he had now was Torturer and Think Tank but the Danish was in really bad shape.

The two remaining creatures on Geertsen's side started swinging and he played Scrivener to get back Repel. He obviously wanted to get some damage in before the Cabal Torturer could start packing his creatures away.

Svend (watching Niedrig reaction as he drew his card): "All smiles."

Actually Benjamin had just drawn a land. That wouldn't help much. Repel got the Torturer out of the way but he took down the Imp. The next swing brought Benjamin to eleven and Organ Grinder showed up. For once the Think Tank failed Benjamin providing only land when he threw away the Torturer.

The next swing brought him down to two. Despite Geertsen' worried look the last draw couldn't save the Swiss. His only salvation was Morbid Hunger.

Svend: "Good games."
Benjamin: "Close games. Congratulations and good luck."
Svend: "Very close games. Thanks and congratulations as well."

Final Result: Svend 3-1 Benjamin. Svend Geertsen will now play European Champion Eivind Nitter in the semifinals.

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