Quarterfinals Feature Match - Mike Long vs. Frank Hernandez
Its amazing how Mike Long's adversarial nature creates celebrities out of relative unknowns. First, a kid named Matt Linde became the fan favorite at US Nats '98, then Seattle's Chris Benafel became the hero upon defeating Long in the semi-finals at this year's PTLA. Now, you can add the name Frank Hernandez to the list.
The home town favorite, Hernandez, playing Stompy, knew going in that he had the good match up against Long's Accelerated blue. This was very apparent game one, which started with a first turn Wild Dog followed by an explosive second turn consisting of Pouncing Jaguar, Gaea's Cradle and Albino Troll. Long, who played first, retaliated with a second turn Monolith and a third turn Powder Keg, which Frank answered with an end-of-turn Vine Dryad.
Playing a Treetop Village, Frank attacked with everything, taking Mike to 10, forcing Mike to tap down to one mana for a Morphling. Serving with all of his creatures again, Frank made a near fatal error, announcing that he was casting Giant Growth and pointing at the Morphling in stead of the Troll it blocked. A dispute ensued in which head judge Colin Jackson decreed that as the target hadn't been verbally declared, Hernandez now had to do so. Long, visibly flustered, asked to see Jackson and T.O. Jeff Donais before returning to the table only to have Frank knock him down to zero life with an attack.
Settling down for game two, things went a lot better for Mike this time around. Frank's start was a slow one, following Mike's first turn Seal of Removal with an Elf, which was followed up by no Hernandez spells on turn two. Mike played a Powder Keg on turn three and looked well on his way to solidifying his board situation, with a fifth turn Morphling a possibility without much threat. On turn four, Frank cast a free Rushwood Legate and a Tangle Wire, slowing Mike's development a bit, but soon it wouldn't matter as Mike, who by this time had Frank naming each phase of each turn, eventually got his Morphling into play while only being reduced to 11, the Shapeshifter dominating the table until Palinchron allowed Long to go in for the kill.
Game three wasn't much of a contest, with Frank's second turn Troll starting the aggression. Casting a Land Grant on turn three, Frank then lay a forest, cast Wild Dogs and played TWO Rushwood Legates. With Mike sitting on two Islands, he could only watch as Frank's swarm, which would be joined by a Pouncing Jaguar and a Treetop Village, reduced him by ten points in one turn, and then a last chance Masticore did nothing but chump block as Frank served for the win.
In game 4, fearing a Legate, Mike elected to play a Port first turn, with Frank replying with a Jaguar. After Long played the initial Island, Hernandez came out storming, with a second Jaguar and a Legate. Mike's third turn saw him tap his second-turn Monolith to cast another Monolith, which he also tapped to cast Palinchron. Frank then attacked with all of his creatures, but when he tried to Giant Growth, killing the 'Chron, Mike Miscalculated and the Legate died. Mike, who had sideboarded out most of his counters, then could only play an Island and say 'go', with Frank then adding to his swarm with an Albino Troll and an Elvish Lyrist. Attacking with everything taking Long to 8, Frank then responded to Mike's Powder Keg by casting a true bomb in this matchup, a River Boa. With Mike in desperate straits, he cast a main phase Brainstorm, finding a Seal of Removal and a Treachery. He took the Boa, activated the Keg for 1 and attacked with the Chron. With Frank attacking with the Troll taking Mike to 2 life, he then cast a second Boa, and after it was returned to his hand the following turn, he cast Hurricane for 2 points, winning the game and the match, as well as putting himself one game away from making the US Team.