Semifinals: Fire and Water

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Ryo Ogura and Nicolas Lovett play out the classic Control on Aggro matchup.

The letter O!gura won the roll and got to go first, which he surely appreciated facing a deck as aggressive as Boros. With the help of a turn-two signet, that means potential access to Wrath of God after just one hit from the seemingly inevitable Savannah Lions, offing whatever came out on the Boros player's second turn in the process. That all sounds good, but unfortunately for Ogura he had to mulligan to five before finding a hand he was willing to go with. Facing Lions on turn one and two he was on a quick clock, and had to spend his third turn on Compulsive Research to try and repair some of the damage done by all the mulligans.
At this point Lovett switched to phase two of the plan, pointing the burn directly at his opponent while his weenies continued in. Way behind, the best Ogura had was Dimir Signet, dropping to 5 after another attack. Next turn was the same, but with Azorius Signet. He had the Mana Leak for a Lightning Helix pointed at his head, but on Lovett's turn he dropped to 1. Thinking a bit, Lovett decided to go with Soltari Priest, limiting his opponent's outs as much as possible by stopping the two Faith's Fetters from being answers, making it "Wrath or No?" when clearly his opponent didn't have the Wrath yet. Drawing up one last card, Ogura resigned immediately.

Lovett 1 - 0 Ogura

Game 2

Now came the real test. Adding in Circle of Protection: Red, Spell Snare, additional Faith's Fetters, and the fourth Wrath of God, Ogura got to transform his deck into a quicker control deck more hostile to the kind of swift aggression Boros can dish out, dumping off the slower card drawing like Think Twice, Mystical Teachings, and Careful Consideration that's in the main deck to handle all of the other decks out there that don't lead off with a two-power attacker on turn one.

Even better for Ogura, this time it was Lovett taking mulligans to five. Lovett managed to put a pretty good attack out, leading with Savannah Lions, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, and then Lions #2, but with just two cards left at that point, running out of gas was going to be an issue quickly. Ogura had a solid start as well, ramping off a second turn signet to get Faith's Fetters down on the Holy Nimbus before it could even attack, swinging his life total significantly in these critical early turns. Next was Circle of Protection: Red, and just like that Lovett was pretty much down to hoping his Lions could do the job. The game continued slipping away next turn, though, as a Compulsive Research found the missing Urzatron piece.

Lovett tries for a Stone Rain.

Ogura dropped to 10 from the cats, then went to 9 after an Adarkar Wastes hit to Mana Leak a Stone Rain on an Urza land. Now powered up and with COP: Red already in play, a Triskelavus off the 'tron lands meant the lions wouldn't be a factor any more either. From here all of Lovett's threats were countered or outright killed, including a Teferi ambush on a poor Icatian Javelineer that should have stayed out of the red zone. Drawing cards and protected by COP for red and plenty of creature removal for white, Ogura eventually put it away with Urza's Factory.

Lovett 1 - 1 Ogura

Game 3

Now back on the play (and no mulligans on either side), Lovett again had Savannah Lions, this time paired with Soltari Priest. Ogura had his standard turn-two signet, keeping everything on book so far. (Sorry, non-chess fans, couldn't resist.)

Out of creatures he could cast for now, possibly because he was stuck on two lands, Lovett had to switch a bit early to the burn phase, getting a Volcanic Hammer in while Ogura continued with yet another signet, racing to establish the mana needed to lock down control of the game. As Lovett continued to struggle on two mana, everything was going as planned for Ogura, with Compulsive Research keeping the cards flowing, all the while using lands and signets to establish a giant mana base.

One thing was missing, however. Still stuck on two land, Lovett added an Icatian Javelineer to his board in a clear declaration: "Hey, if you've got Wrath I can't win this anyway, so I might as well go for it and hope." Now at 6 mana, and with Lovett watching him like a hawk, Ogura had to pass the turn back. In came the team, dropping Ogura to just 2. Now finally at three mana, Lovett went for Stone Rain, which ran into Remand. Ogura drew his card for the turn and with a quick intake of breath dropped the piece needed to complete the Urzatron, using it to play a Trike that killed off the Javelineer and Priest, holding off a Lion in the process.

Tapped down to just 1 ManaBlue Mana open, this time it was Ogura watching Nick like a hawk, trying to figure out where he was at. Once Ogura untapped he'd be in much better shape. Got burn, Nick? Nope, just a Stone Rain on 'tron, which ran into Remand. Untapping all that mana, Ogura now had a Faith's Fetters for the Lion, going up to a much more comfortable 6 life and visibly breathing a little sigh of relief as some of the tension from being so low eased.

Ogura is cool and collected.

Now Lovett was in trouble. With six cards in hand and no fourth land, how to try and put it away before things slipped all the way away? He opted for Stone Rain on a 'tron piece again, this time resolving, but with Ogura so clearly thinking about it that there was no question he had the counter. At this point the Trike was chipping away for 2, but the clock on Lovett's life total got much shorter when it was joined by a new 4/4, drawing a long, slow exhalation from Lovett. Playing another Stone Rain (this time on Academy Ruins) he finally had a fourth mana in the form of a second Flagstones of Trokar, thinning out two Sacred Foundries in the process. Stone Rain doesn't scare the Trike squad, though, zooming in for 6 and dropping Lovett to 8. Now facing an Urza's Factory too, as if things weren't bad enough already, Nick went for a Helix when Ogura tapped everything but an Island to make a factory-worker. Tapping the last land, he showed a Spell Snare and that was enough for Lovett to concede, sending it to Game 4.

Ogura 2 - 1 Lovett

Shaking his head a bit, Lovett said he'd had the two Stone Rains from the beginning of the game. With a Lion and two lands he couldn't toss it back, he just didn't draw the third land in time.

Game 4

For the first time of the match Lovett had something other than turn one Lion, getting Magus of the Scroll instead. Soltari Priest came out next, and the two began the three-per-turn clock. On his third turn he didn't play a land, dropping out a Javelineer with a very clear "Are you countering this?" Ogura thought hard and then went with Spell Burst to stop it, and was happy to see when Lovett passed the turn back. So the Javelineer hadn't been bait for a slowrolled third land to slip a better two-casting cost creature into play, Lovett was just stuck on two land again. (Though, granted, Boros runs a lot less land than Ogura's deck.)

Lovett steadies himself.

Dropping to 13, Ogura had Remand on a Volcanic Hammer to buy time, but Flagtones of Trokar meant Lovett was back in the three-mana business at last. At this point Ogura found his COP: Red, a crucial card in the match, but right now his real issue was dealing with the Priest beating him up - though at least now the Magus was neutralized. The Priest continued relentlessly, dropping Ogura to 11, then 9. Teferi sprang out to finish the Magus, but the former planeswalker caught fire after the fight, going down to a Volcanic Hammer. Now a Lions was added to the mix and Ogura's clock was just about out of time. Again not managing to find a Wrath, he dropped to 3, and then perished the following turn. Though he'd developed his mana well, he'd gone the whole game without drawing a Wrath or Trike, and no card drawing but a measly Remand. Then again, the typical Boros draw means "the whole game" isn't exactly a very long time. Strangely, it was the first game of the match won by the player going first!

Ogura 2 - 2 Lovett

Game 5

As the lights came back up and the cameras leaned back in, Lovett reached out to shake his opponent's hand, wishing him luck in this final game of their exciting match so far. With a big smile and a hearty shake from his opponent, it was time for the decider.

This time going first looked to be a big deal for Ogura. Lovett was back to his turn-one Lion opening, but Ogura was able to use Remand on a second Lion to slow the beatings down by a full turn. Even more important, this time Lovett was stuck on just one land! Jumping at the chance to draw cards while his opponent was uncharacteristically slow coming out of the gate, he tapped out for Compulsive Research, discarding a Spell Snare and Teferi after a lot of deliberation. The second Lion came back down but this time Ogura had Faith's Fetters, again causing the beatdown clock to stutter.

Ogura reaches for victory…

With so much more life at this stage than normally happens in this match-up, Ogura decided to take this window to go ahead and just tap out for Tidings, looking to gain enough card advantage to put his sputtering opponent away. The crackback took him down to only 13, and when Lovett used his lonely land to drop a Magus of the Scroll, it looked like a Wrath from Ogura would probably be enough to stabilize the position. However, the best Ogura had was Dimir Signet, passing the turn right back. Ogura was down to 8 as Lovett got another attack in, and suddenly we had a game on our hands. Lovett had finally found a second land, too, which he greeted with a huge smile and even a little pump of the fist. His Volcanic Hammer hit a Mana Leak, but despite all his early woes this now felt a lot like the previous game, where Ogura just hadn't been able to find that initial Wrath of God.

Casting a quick glance at the Teferi in his graveyard he'd decided to discard earlier, Ogura went to the top of his deck looking for a big pull, and that's exactly what he got. He played out the final piece of the Urzatron with a sudden intake of breath, tapping it to get a badly needed Triskelavus into the field of battle. For Lovett, the situation had flipped just as quickly back to dire. In addition to the Trike, there was also an Urza's Factory sitting in those tapped lands, all ready to flood the table with help from the 'tron. Deciding to send everything at Ogura in an attack of desperation, everything on his side died off, leaving a 2/2 Trike. A Stone Rain disrupted the 'tron for now, but Lovett was going to need more help.

The Triskelavus swung in, making it 8-8 on life. Ogura passed the turn with exactly enough mana to make a token, but he'd have to tap out in the process. Lovett passed the turn back and after some nervous thought Ogura went for it and tapped out to make an Assembly-Worker. The penalty was a Lightning Helix, making it 5-11 in this nail-biter finish, but after the next swing it was Ogura 5, Lovett 7.

Untapping, Lovett went for Volcanic Hammer, but Ogura had a devastating answer in Spell Burst (with buyback!), drawing an elated cheer from all of the Japanese players in the crowd. Lovett played land #4, facing exactly enough mana to get Spell Bursted no matter what he cast with his remaining two, but needing to get rid of the Spell Burst while Ogura couldn't buy it back. Tapping out, he played the other Helix in his hand, dropping to six from his painland. The Helix and Spell Burst went to the 'yard, but Lovett was understandably disappointed, having had enough damage in hand to put it away if he just could have gotten it through. After Ogura's attack, Lovett was down to 2, at which point his opponent put it completely away with yet another Triskelavus, sending two points immediately to finish Nick off - the first loss he'd taken in any Constructed format the entire event!

…and takes it!

Ogura 3 - 2 Lovett

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