The Elite Eight battles take center stage to set up the Final Four action! By the end of the day, we’ll know the final two EDH March Madness finalists who will square off for the Championship Title of the First Annual GDC EDH General Tournament of Doom on Monday.
We’re right down to the end. We’re dying to give away some sweet prizes; take a look back at the original announcement to see what’s on the line.
Here’s the Elite Eight bracket:
Yore-Tiller Conference: Sharuum the Hegemon vs. The Mimeoplasm
The YT Conference comes down to two heavy-hitters-
-Sharuum! The old guard, representing Shards of Alara block. She’s the original face of evil Esper combo decks, and easily the third-most hated sphinx in the game. (Magister Sphinx and Consecrated Sphinx exist, after all…)
-Ol’ Dino-Arm! The new school, hailing from the first dedicated Commander product produced by Wizards of the Coast. He…er…she…it’s every bit the legendary ooze that Experiment Kraj wishes…er…it could be.
The battle starts off with a flurry of acceleration. Sharuum finds Sol Ring and Coalition Relic in the face of Mimeo’s Sakura-Tribe Elder into Kodama’s Reach start. Before long, The Mimeoplasm taps down for a signature Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon-plus-fattie win. Sharuum responds with an immediate Sculpting Steel/ Bitter Ordeal combo to render the giant, poisonous ooze dead on its next draw step.
Cocky on the heels of first blood, Sharuum plays it a little loose in the second game. Early threats from Mimeo meet removal and counters as she works toward a decent board position. From nowhere, Dino-Arm finds a Prophet of Kruphix and untaps with the legendary sphinx. We’ve seen this before. Sharuum attempts to deal with the Prophet via a Vindicate, and Mimeo responds with Abyssal Horror, catching Sharuum with two cards in hand and no counters…
…And one of them is Magister Sphinx!
Sharuum drops to ten, and then to zero in short order. Flash plus untap was just too much that round.
Determined not to make another mistake, Sharuum falls back to her tried-and-true control game, matching The Mimeoplasm shot-for-shot. Entomb meets Cryptic Command; Buried Alive meets Nihil Spellbomb. Despite the blowout in game two, Mimeo simply can’t gain any momentum versus the Esper control shell, which has far more space to run the right answers around its tighter combo complement. A final Spell Crumple in Mimeo’s face seals the deal, and Sharuum advances to the Final Four.
Winner: Sharuum the Hegemon, Score: 45-14
Witch Maw Conference: Momir Vig, Simic Visionary vs. Captain Sisay
These staples of EDH tables have haunted players for years without inducing the same cringes as a Sharuum or an Uril. They earned their seats in the Elite Eight due to speed, consistency, and resilience, and everyone watching was eager to see if Vig’s blue advantage trumped Sisay’s cheaper cost and access to better hate cards.
The games played out in one of three ways: Sisay hit the table early with something like turn two off a Sol Ring or three off a signet, and then went nuts generating mana for a crazy Genesis Wave-fueled victory; alternately, Sisay spent her early tutoring on answers, digging for enchantment tutors to deliver more answers, culminating with the soul-grinding pseudo-combo finish of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite eating everyone’s lands (animated by Kamahl, Fist of Krosa); finally, her sorcery-speed silver bullets came too slowly and infrequently while Vig just ramped, found flash enablers like Prophet of Kruphix, and quickly went for some infinite mana combo to bounce everyone’s stuff with Mystic Snake backup.
It was pretty…like a ballet cast full of football players slowly getting punch-drunk as they battle through an 18-game season.
In the end, Sisay’s lockout options were too versatile for Vig, and she clenched it in a nail-biter of a final game.
Winner: Captain Sisay, Score: 30-28
Ink Treader Conference: Edric, Spymaster of Trest vs. Balthor the Defiled
Dwarves and Elves have never liked each other. Just because Gimli and Legolas figured it out doesn’t mean that is in any way normal at all. Zombie dwarves especially hate elves. Balthor has been lucky to play against a field of decks who either use the graveyard themselves or have somewhat weak options for fighting against it, while Edric has been lucky enough to play against decks that don’t really want to be continually killing every creature in sight. Edric still isn’t the best at fighting against graveyards, but Balthor has no problem whatsoever killing every creature in sight.
First, he starts the killing wave early to prevent anyone from gaining advantage from Edric. Then, when Edric finally succeeds in fielding an army of weenies later on to generate value, Balthor Massacre Wurm-s and leaves Edric bruised, battered and…well, defiled.
It takes a while for people to learn this, but removal beats Edric. Period.
Winner: Balthor, the Defiled, Score: 38-21
Glint-Eye Conference: Animar, Soul of Elements vs. Rafiq of the Many
Animar must have landed in Innistrad after Avacyn escaped the Helvault, because he has been fighting nothing but humans and angels this whole tournament. To understand how Rafiq could have a chance we have to answer the question – “What does he have that the other Commanders Animar faced did not?”
Animar is similar to Rafiq’s last victim, Arcum, in that both decks end up folding like a paper crane when the Commander is removed from the equation. As it turns out, Rafiq is very good at making sure Commanders don’t hit the board and don’t stay out. From that point, sweeping the table is academic.
Winner: Rafiq of the Many, Score: 28-13
And with that…
Welcome to the Final Four!
The finest of the four conferences arrive for battle to see who wins the honor of putting it all on the line. Introductions are not necessary – you know them and love them. These are the best of the best, the spikiest of the spikes, here to do battle to determine once and for all who reigns supreme over competitive EDH.
Without further ado, here’s the Final Four bracket:
Semi-Final: Yore-Tiller Versus Witch-Maw
Nobody should be surprised that Sharuum the Hegemon of artifact-based infinite combos made it this far. Between an ability that offers great value and makes for a powerful combo enabler (and the shard that offers the best combination of superior disruption, card advantage, tutoring, and recursion), she has a lot going for her.
Sisay is a less-well-sung hero, but if you’ve seen a decent Captain Sisay deck do its thing, you know what a walking tutor – not to mention built-in card-advantage engine – leading a deck built around silver-bullet answers and huge mana can do. She had to get a bit lucky to ride her number-two seed to the semis, and dodged a bullet by not facing any removal-heavy decks, but the power of this general and this deck is undeniable.
If anything, the degree to which games in this matchup were close was a surprise that echoed Sisay’s dogged persistence throughout the tournament. Game one, Sharuum tapped out after ramping a bit for an early tutor to find another combo piece and go for the win, thinking it was safe to let Sisay land one tutor. Wrong move. Kataki, War’s Wage landed and *boom* – Sharuum’s mana advantage was blasted back to just playing fair. That gave Sisay the window to move in on blowing up everything and pressuring the table with an absurd mana advantage.
However, once Sharuum players realized they couldn’t take “a gun full of silver bullets” lightly and fell back on the traditional kill-or-counter everything plan, it was a hard-fought lights-out in five games. Sisay can’t do much if she can’t chain tutor effects to build up virtual and actual card advantage, after all…
Winner: Sharuum the Hegemon, Score: 30-23
Semi-Final: Ink-Treader Versus Glint-Eye
Balthor has made quiet the run in this tournament. He already took out Jhoira of the Ghitu, Maelstrom Wanderer, Ghave , Guru of Spores, and Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Rafiq has made an impressive run of his own, taking down Vendillion Clique, Damia, Sage of Stone, Arcum Dagsson,and Animar, Soul of Elements. Let’s go back and remember how they beat each of these decks.
Balthor beat Ghave primarily because Ghave also uses the graveyard and couldn’t bring in the hate necessary to stop Balthor without stopping himself. Balthor beat Maelstrom Wanderer by simply being the quicker deck. Balthor beat out Jhoira because she had too few answers for his enchantments. He beat Edric because the deck couldn’t survive the continual board wipes. For a deck to compete with Balthor it has to be ok with exiling all graveyards, fast, full of answers to enchantments, and able to survive repeated board wipes.
Rafiq beat Clique because the faerie just wasn’t good at taking down an entire table. He beat Damia by simply being faster. Rafiq pulled the upset against Arcum by exiling key permanents and killing Arcum before he could be activated. Rafiq took down Animar by taking the commander portion of the deck out of the equation. For a deck to beat Rafiq it needs to have the power to take down a group, it needs to be fast, it needs to be able to survive decent amount of control, and it needs to not rely completely on its commander.
Rafiq has no problems with using Rest in Peace or Trinket Mage into Tormod’s Crypt to take graveyards out of the game. He has plenty of ways to search for those answers as well. The deck is fast and has zero problems dealing with enchantments. Since Rafiq only focuses on one or two creatures at a time, he comfortably supports as many board wipes as Balthor.
Balthor can combo out to destroy an entire table with no problem. Balthor has proven himself to be dangerously fast. He wipes the board clean and isn’t afraid of removal, although exile and tuck effects can be an issue. The deck has enough recursion to survive at top tables even if Balthor gets tucked or stolen.
Several major factors pushed Rafiq over the edge during the matchup: Armageddon, removal that doesn’t put things in the graveyard, stack interactions, and Rest in Peace. Rafiq can do too much that Balthor can’t interact with. He casts Counterspells, destroys lands, and removes cards from play while Balthor is helpless to do anything but watch. It was a fun ride while it lasted, but Rafiq absolutely dominated this matchup. Rafiq takes the game to levels that Balthor can’t follow, and so it comes to pass that our favorite little dwarf, the Cinderella story of the tournament, was finally left behind.
Winner: Rafiq of the Many 51-6
And then there were two.
The Championship face-off on Monday for ultimate bragging rights couldn’t be scripted any better; the evil Esper empire brings the combo-control pain versus the light of voltron-style Bant, as Sharuum the Hegemon squares off against Rafiq of the Many.
Don’t miss it, folks!