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Final: Jeff Garza vs. Brian Kibler

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Brian Kibler even looks like a new man! The letter A!t the end of day 1, Brian Kibler was actually complaining that he hadn't played well in about a year. Then he spent the evening after day 1 hanging out with out with his ex-girlfriend in NYC, and he was like a new man virtually overnight. Jeff Garza is like a new man in the sense that he's only sixteen and fresh off of a win at the JSS Championships and a top 8 appearance at Grand Prix: Orlando. Jeroen Remie remarked upon Garza's success in the semifinals, telling Jeff that he might just be "the future of U.S. Magic."

Brian Kibler took his Vial Affinity deck to a 7-2 record on day 1 before he ran the table on day 2, finally drawing in the last round with Chris McDaniel to secure his place in the top 8. Garza is piloting the other story of this weekend, G/R Tooth and Nail, a deck that uses Red to only splash for Electrostatic Bolt. Jeff actually got his deck from Gabriel Nassif via way of Huey Jensen. Apparently they were talking before the tournament, and Jeff mentioned that he liked Tooth, but complained that the Big Red matchup was giving them problems. Huey explained that Nassif figured out you could drastically improve the matchup by adding Electrostatic Bolt to the main, and voila! three G/R Tooth decks in the top 9.

Kibler bopped around in his headphones while the players shuffled up for round 1. He told Garza, "I have an obvious mental advantage here. I can't hear you, so you really can't trash talk me or anything."

Judge: "Can you read lips?"

Kibler: ""I can't hear you either, but I hope I didn't just get a warning or anything."

Garza mulliganed his first seven for a new six and kept a one-land, two Oxidize hand. When I asked for a look at his hand, he looked at me and said, "My advice? Don't double mulligan against Affinity." He gave a sigh of relief when Kibler mulliganed himself and then grimaced at his second six before choosing to keep.

Jeff Oxidized Kibler's Seat of the Synod, but found no land on turns 2 or 3, getting a "Cool!" exclamation out of the Dragon Master. Garza's second Oxidize knocked out an Arcbound Ravager, but Kibler just replaced it with another. Sylvan Scrying let Garza fetch a Mountain to cast Electrostatic Bolt, but Kibler made his new Ravager a 5/5 and cast Cranial Plating. Garza cast a Solemn chumpblocker, as he slowly drew out of his mana screw. With Kibler now stalled on land, the question loomed as to whether Kibler could finish Garza before Jeff could cast Tooth and Nail for Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel, a combo Brian had no answer to in the main deck.

Kibler drew his card, and cast a Disciple of the Vault before passing the turn without attacking into Garza's lone Jens on the board, the rationale thereof being that Jeff was rapidly approaching Tooth mana, and Brian didn't want to give him any extra chances to find land. Sylvan Scrying let Garza play a second Cloudpost, while Reap and Sow killed Kibler's Blinkmoth Nexus, which would have gone lethal next turn. Garza Bolted away Kibler's Disciple during his own turn when Brian was one artifact short of being able to kill him with a Ravager on the board, and then cast Sylvan Scrying, fetching his third Post. Kibler drew nothing useful on his own turn and scooped up his cards when Garza showed him the Tooth and Nail in his hand.

"I didn't think I was going to win there when I couldn't draw a second land," admitted Jeff. "Yep, that's true," Kibler said with some remorse. "I didn't think you would win either."

Garza 1 - Kibler 0

Kibler mulliganed to five cards, and asked Garza, "How's your hand? Is it good? Do you have a hot one over there? How about we just both start from zero? That would be fair, right?"

Garza jawed back at him a bit, now smiling because he was suddenly much closer to winning his first Grand Prix title. Kibler started out with two Aether Vials, one of which Garza destroyed with Tel-Jilad Justice. Kibler played a second land on turn 4, matching Garza's six available mana. Frogmite and Arcbound Ravager joined the Dragon Master's army, but the Ravager lasted mere seconds before having his circuits overloaded by an E-Bolt.

Garza continued to slowly build his mana base, taking four a turn from a 3/3 Frogmite and a Nexus, as Kibler struggled to find any pressure at all. As Brian passed the turn back to Garza he begged, "Please don't cast Tooth and Nail right now. Anything else would be okay." Garza had had the bomb in hand for ages though, and cast it during his turn, fetching Triskelion and Eternal Witness and putting them into play.

Jeff Garza Wins!

Kibler had a monster turn during his next untap, casting Thoughtcast, Shrapnel Blasting the Trike (losing his Frogmite in the process, and then casting Disciple of the Vault, before a Worker traded with Garza's Witness. This left Brian with little gas, but cleared Garza's board as well. Unfortunately for Kibler, Garza just fetched the Angel/Abunas combo that had been so good for him all day and challenged Brian to draw enough cards to break it.

In spite of Garza progressing very slowly, giving Kibler plenty of chance to draw his second and third Shrapnel Blasts, Brian could only draw one, and eventually died to an army of Eternal Witnesses and a 1/1 Triskelion, with the ability to reduce Jeff's life total available, but no kill in hand for the Platinum Angel.

Jeff Garza is the Grand Prix: New Jersey 2004 champion!

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