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Semifinals: Alex Borteh vs. Eric Franz

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Ohio's Alex Borteh missed out on being on the National team last year, and he doesn't want it to happen again. His opponent, Oregon's Eric Franz, is a newcomer to the big tourney scene, and wouldn't mind making a name for himself at US Nationals, a la Justin Gary, Matt Linde, and Eugene Harvey.

Both are playing Psychatog, but Franz has a better mirror sideboard, featuring Possessed Aven and Duress.

Game 1

The match didn't start the way Borteh wanted. In a mirror that would see the playing of plenty land rewarded, Borteh missed his third- and fourth-turn land drops, leaving him behind in the race as Eric got out a quick Nightscape Familiar and Psychatog. While Borteh was able to match the creatures, Eric resolved Probe with the kicker, giving him a sizable lead.

Alex Repulsed the Familiar, Counterspelling it when it was recast, and then a turn later he couldn't hide his surprise when he resolved his own Probe without a fight. He then played an Island, giving him counterspell mana and passed the turn to Eric, whose own main phase was uneventful, cast Fact or Fiction is response to Alex activating Cephalid Coliseum in the end step, keeping Probe and an Island over two Islands and Memory Lapse. Borteh squealed with delight when he saw the cards the Coliseum provided, but admitted 'thing is, I think I'm still going to lose' before discarding two land and Fact or Fiction. Borteh untapped and cast Probe with the kicker, which resolved right before his Atog attacked, taking the score to 17-14 in Borteh's favor.

Now it as Eric's turn to Probe. Alex discarded his hand and Psychatog attacked, dealing one before Eric's Recoil 'killed' Psychatog. A turn later, Eric Probed again, with Alex's Force Spike being paid for. He discarded Fact or Fiction, forcing a bad reaction from Borteh, and a turn later, when Eric Upheavaled, Alex conceded.

Game 2

Borteh: "Keep."
Franz: "You said that pretty quickly."
Borteh: "It's really good."

Borteh played a Familiar on turn 2; his lands were two Swamps and a Salt Marsh, and he looked like he could really use another blue land. So when he cast Fact or Fiction on turn 3, Franz split it Island/Island/Marsh vs. Counterspell/Circular Logic. Borteh kept the land, and resolved a Psychatog on his next turn.

Franz was having problems of his own – his first four lands were Islands and his first spell, a turn-5 Deep Analysis, was Disrupted.

Borteh cast and flashed back a Deep Analysis on his next turn, giving him 10 cards in hand and four in the graveyard. Let's see... 1.5x + .5y + 1 + Nightscape Familiar = 19 damage. Franz was at 18 from two previous Familiar hits. But... Borteh had the life totals wrong on his sheet and never asked the judge if he was correct. He thought Franz was at 20, so he played a land and pitched two cards, attacking for four. When the judge informed him of the new totals, Borteh said, "I hate life."

Franz flashed back his Analysis down to 11, and found a Darkwater Catacombs. But Borteh wasn't about to screw up again – he attacked, pitched and removed cards to get the 'Tog up to 10/11, and showed Franz a hand of Disrupt, Gainsay, and Counterspell. Franz scooped.

Borteh 1 – Franz 1

Game 3

Franz went first in game 3, and played the ideal turn-2 Familiar. Borteh played his own on his turn, then Franz cast a mainphase Fact or Fiction on his third turn. Borteh split it Upheaval + 2 land or Familiar + one land, and Franz kept the Upheaval pile.

Borteh tried an EOTFOF, but Franz Circular Logicked it. Borteh then uptapped and Repulsed Franz Familiar, attacked for one, and then Memory Lapsed the Familiar on Franz's turn. He also had a Gainsay for Fraz's 'Tog. How nice – Repulse, Memory Lapse, and Gainsay, all on four land – thank you Nightscape Familiar.

Borteh Counterspelled Franz's Familiar when he tried to recast it, but was getting a little low on cards. Franz was up six cards in hand to two after he resolved a Deep Analysis, and seven to two when he cast a second one a turn later. He flashed back both copies, dropping to seven, and Duressed on of Borteh's two cards – a Probe – leaving him with just a Gainsay.

Franz had no men in play, so Borteh had some time. Borteh drew Fact or Fiction, revealing Swamp x2, Deep Analysis, Gainsay, and Nightscape Familiar. The split was Analysis/Familiar, and Gainsay/land/land, and Borteh took the Gainsay pile.

Franz: "I know every card in your hand. A significant tactical advantage."
Borteh: "You have enough of an advantage without needing a 'tactical' one."

Borteh wondered aloud when Franz was going to make his move, saying, "You don't want to give me another turn to peel another gassy one like that Fact." Franz simply said, "Go," and Borteh pumped the fist. He flashed back the Deep Analysis in his 'yard, and was not up to 5 cards in hand.

Franz Probed with kicker, and both players discarded lands. Franz then tried for a Familiar, but Borteh had Circular Logic. Franz couldn't defend it.

Borteh: "We suck."

Borteh then peeled a Probe, and hastily cast it. Franz responded with a Fact or Fiction, taking two lands and a Probe of his own. Probe resolved, and Borteh discarded a Familiar and a land, keeping Repulse, Gainsay x 2, and a Salt Marsh – which he played as his 11th land. He ditched the Familiar because he assumed Franz was holding Repulses and Recoils.

Borteh drew a Counterspell, but Franz had a Duress, plus a 'Tog, plus a Memory Lapse for whatever card Borteh could draw. Finally. Game to Franz.

Franz 2 – Borteh 1

Game 4

Borteh ripped the Nightscape Familiar with his first draw and played it right away to start game 4. Franz was again strapped for black mana, stuck with two Islands.

Borteh's turn-3 'Tog was Lapsed, but it resolved on turn 4. Franz had since played a Catacombs and an Underground River, so he access to both colors. At the end of turn 4, Franz tried a Fact or Fiction.

Franz: "Let's see if you drew into the Disrupt."
Borteh: "I may try to draw into it, actually."

Borteh Facted in response, but it was a bad one: 4 land and a Familiar. He took the 1/1 and one land. Then Franz's resolved, at it was a tank of gas: Duress, Psychatog, Island, and 2x Deep Analysis. Borteh split it Duress/Land vs. 'Tog/Deep/Deep, and Franz commented, "Duress must be really good right now."

"Yeah," said Borteh.

Franz took the Duress, and cast it on his next turn, showing Lapse, Familiar, land, and Upheaval from Borteh. Franz took the Big Ups, but Borteh was lucky enough to draw a replacement copy on his next turn. Borteh played out a second Familiar and another land, leaving him with just Gainsay and Big Ups in his hand. At EOT, Franz made him suffer for over committing by Recoiling his Psychatog.

Franz then started digging Deep, losing 6 life to the Analyses in his 'yard and going to 8 life. He put out his own Familiar, but was still outmatched by Borteh, two Drudge Skeletons to one.

Borteh then went for it – casting Upheaval with two mana floating. Franz Logicked, but Borteh had the Lapse. He laid a land and put out a Familiar. Franz simply played a Salt Marsh and discarded a bunch of stuff.

Borteh, before drawing, called to his library, "Come on Psychatog, be there! Be there! But I know it isn't, cause Efro is such an idiot. You'd be dead right now if it wasn't for Eric Froehlich. 'Ooooh, just board out some Psychatogs, Alex, you don't need them.' Froehlich didn't even pick me for the National Team in his article. I hate him."

Borteh drew... Island (he did actually sideboard out one Atog), then put out his other Familiar.

Franz took a couple hits, but got out his own Familiar and... a Psychatog. Just what he needed to Stabilize at 3 life. Borteh was holding six land, but he TD'ed a Fact or Fiction.

"This is going to be reeeally interesting." The Fact or Fiction, unfortunately for Borteh, did not resolve.

Borteh did, however, get a third Familiar to resolve two turns later, but was still in position to attack due to the "lethal 'Tog" problem. On Franz's next turn, the Oregonian made the unconventional play of "Probe, no kicker." Borteh didn't contest it, and Franz discarded an Upheaval and a Salt Marsh.

Borteh then drew another Fact or Fiction.

Borteh: "This is pretty broken. Fact or Fiction for one mana."
Franz: "I figure that had to happen. Once you get three Familiars out, you automatically draw one just so you can do that."

Borteh got the Fact to resolve by Lapsing Franz's Counterspell, then flipped over Memory Lapse, Deep Analysis, Counterspell, Gainsay, and Island. Borteh chose Memory Lapse, Gainsay, and Island, and then immediately flashed the Analysis back. Hmm... five cards for two mana and three life. Good deal.

Franz tried his own Fact or Fiction, but lost the permission war, two Gainsays to one Memory Lapse. Two turns after that, he tried another, but Borteh Memory Lapsed it.

Two turns later, Borteh drew Familiar #4 and wanted to complete the set. Franz re-cast his FoF, but Borteh had Gainsay. Unfortunately, Franz had a Counterspell while Borteh was out of permission. And the Fact or Fiction was a goodie, kids. Borteh split it Fact or Fiction/Possessed Aven vs. Counterspell/Duress/Island. The Aven wouldn't win the game on its own once Borteh got the 4th Familiar down, so it was a tough split. Borteh wanted him to take the Counter/Duress pile, especially since Borteh had no more actual spells in his hand, plus the fact that Franz had only one blue untapped and thusly couldn't use the Counter on the Familiar, and that's just the pile Franz took.

The 4th Familiar resolved, and Borteh attacked with the other three. Franz couldn't stop two of them, and he fell to one.

Now, if Franz had a bounce spell and the nerve to cast in on the last Familiar, he'd win the game.

Franz Duressed, and the jig was up for Borteh: three land.

Borteh: "It's been like that for most of the game. I'm sure that's comforting."

Franz exhaled, attacked with his Psychatog (but not the Familiar), and after Borteh blocked and regenerated, cast Upheaval and laid a Salt Marsh. Here we go again. He was two land short of being able to put out a post-'heaval 'Tog, but being at one life will make you do unsavory things.

Both players managed to get Familiars into play, then Franz put his Psychatog back out. They both had lethal damage on the table once again.

Franz then put out 'Tog #2, and things were looking really bad for Borteh. He couldn't cast another Familiar and regenerate them both, so he just had to put one out just to chump.

The 'Togs came in, and a Familiar fell. Borteh cast another Familiar on his next turn, but then laid a fifth land and cast a one-mana unkicked Probe which found him a Psychatog. He chose not to cast it, fearing a Counterspell that would then leave his Familiars unable to regenerate and having to block.

Eventually, Borteh had a window to put out his 'Tog, but Franz was unfazed. Franz attacked, killing another Familiar, and then Probed without kicker. He then dropped Possessed Aven. Oh dear.

Borteh had nothing, and on Franz's next turn, the Aven blew up Borteh's 'Tog, allowing Franz's two 'Togs to swing in for the kill.

Final Result: Franz 3 – Borteh 1

Eric Franz will now play for the Championship against the winner of Harvey/Ranks. Borteh must play the loser to see who the third man on the US Team will be.

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