The two players in the finals, Italy's Carmine D'Aniello and France's Nicolas Legendre, were both in their first Grand Prix Top 8. They were thrilled to have made it all the way to the finals, but sitting down at the table, they definitely wanted to win this final and important match.
Carmine D'Aniello was on quite the winning streak. After six rounds, he was at a 4-2 record, which meant that he couldn't lose another match if he wanted to make it to the Top 8. And he didn't. His deck of choice, Red-Green Aetherworks Marvel, was arguably the breakout deck and the dominant deck of the tournament. Just a short while ago, D'Aniello had defeated his countryman Marco Cammilluzzi in a very friendly near-75 card mirror match.
Nicolas Legendre had made it to the finals with a less popular choice: Red-Black Aggro. "I played Black-Red Aggro because I like to play aggro and to use burn spells! Also, I figured that there would be many White-Blue players at the Grand Prix, and the matchup against them is great," he wrote in his Top 8 player profile. The deck had been around since the introduction of Kaladesh, but a recent adoption of Bloodhall Priest gave it a bit of momentum.
Legendre got to play first, but despite casting creatures on turns one and two, he was unable to put a lot of pressure. The problem was that both of his early drops were Inventor's Apprentice and he lacked an accompanying artifact. When he passed his third turn without a play, while D'Aniello was still at 20 life due to his Woodweaver's Puzzleknot, things were looking grim for the Frenchman.
Legendre was able to use his mana on turn three on Fiery Temper for D'Aniello Servant of the Conduit and on turn 4 on Bloodhall Priest, but without artifacts and madness outlets, all of his cards were underpowered. Woodland Druid and Rumbling Baloth had never made a splash in Constructed, after all.
Carmine D'Aniello did not feel like he was under much pressure in Game 1 of the finals.
When Legendre added Bomat Courier on turn five—finally a madness outlet and an artifact—D'Aniello had to take action. He used Kozilek's Return to sweep away the small creatures and cast Chandra, Torch of Firebrand to take down Bloodhall Priest.
Legendre was now out of gas and could only chuckle as D'Aniello hit Aetherworks Marvel with Chandra's +1 ability on the next turn—the perfect sink for all the energy counters that the Italian had been building up over time.
After spinning the wheel, D'Aniello immediately hit Emrakul, the Promised End, the most powerful card in the deck. When Legendre untapped and revealed that he only had lands a Smuggler's Copter without a pilot, he saw no way out and scooped up his cards in defeat.
Carmine D'Aniello 1 – Nicolas Legendre 0
Nicolas Legendre passed the turn in Game 2 in the hope of not facing a turn-four Emrakul.
D'Aniello, however, had the dream start. Thanks to his Woodweaver's Puzzleknot, he had six energy by turn three, which was exactly enough for his turn-four Aetherworks Marvel. It promptly hit Emrakul, the Promised End straight away.
While controlling Legendre's turn, D'Aniello made him lose a Pia Nalaar due to the legend rule, forced Inventor's Apprentice to attack into Emrakul, and sacrificed both Thoper tokens to Pia Nalaar's ability afterwards. This left Legendre with just a Scrapheap Scrounger and a Pia Nalaar on the battlefield and merely a Bloodhall Priest in hand.
Facing a 13/13 flier and an opponent who still was at 14 life, Legendre was in a bad spot. He tried his best to force through some damage, but it was to no avail, especially since D'Aniello was still holding Galvanic Bombardment. Emrakul soared over twice, and Legendre congratulated D'Aniello on his win.
Carmine D'Aniello 2 – Nicolas Legendre 0
Carmine D'Aniello is your Grand Prix Madrid champion!
Immediately after the final handshake, D'Aniello lept into the arms of his Italian supporters, who had been excitedly watching the match from the sidelines. Shouts of "grande, grande!" and the passion of the Italian Magic community proliferated through the room.
Carmine D'Aniello celebrated his victory with his friends.
Afterwards, he returned to the table, and the two players had a friendly chat about the matchup. "I never lose against aggro," D'Aniello said, fanning out the Galvanic Bombardment and Weaver of Lighting that he boarded in. Legendre agreed: "I got lucky in the pairings and played a lot against White-Blue Flash in the tournament, but this matchup is awful for me."
Matchups aside, it was a marvelous performance from D'Aniello, whose victory was made all the sweeter because he had managed to win 12 matches in a row. "I lost my hope yesterday," he told me. "But the deck was great, and this is amazing!"
Carmine D'Aniello had the broadest smile as he received his winner's trophy.