Finals: Lukas Blohon (Esper Dragons) vs. Simon Nielsen (Four-Color Rally)

Posted in Event Coverage on November 15, 2015

By Frank Karsten

The big story to come out of this Grand Prix was that the two biggest European pro teams each found a way to beat the Rhino in the room with a different Jace, Vryn's Prodigy deck. Team Cabin Crew (represented here by Gold level pro Lukas Blohon) put two players in the Top 8 with Esper Dragons after discovering that that deck had a good matchup against Abzan. Team EUreka (represented here by Simon Nielsen, a member of the Danish World Magic Cup winning team) put three members in the Top 8 after coming to the seemingly counter-intuitive conclusion that Four-Color Rally could smash Abzan.

The Four-Color Rally players on Team EUreka had approximately a 23-1 record against Abzan in this event and roughly a 90% win percentage as a whole! As they explained to me, Abzan decks were usually not fast enough against them, especially considering they could chump block and Abzan was lacking sufficient cheap interaction. As a result, the Rally the Ancestors deck typically had enough time to set up a Zulaport Cutthroat kill. Anafenza, the Foremost could shut down the engine, but according to them, just four Anafenzas wasn't good enough. Abzan players wouldn't always draw it and the Rally deck still had Sidisi's Faithful and Murderous Cut to deal with the legend. While they claimed that the deck was broken, they did warn that it was not easy to play and likened it to the practice-rewarding Amulet of Vigor combo deck in Modern.

But I disgress. Abzan was last week's deck. Well, it was still the most popular deck in Day 2 of this event, but judging by the Top 8 and their incredibly high win percentages, the breakout decks in Brussels were Esper Dragons and Four-Color Rally. So there couldn't be a more fitting finals.

Notably, Blohon had already fought this exact matchup several times in the Swiss and twice in the Top 8: he defeated Magnus Lantto in the quarterfinals and Martin Müller in the semifinals. So Blohon knew what to do in this matchup, but the Rally the Ancestors deck was so successful that it put three people in the Top 8. Also, Nielsen had beaten Blohon's teammate (16) Ondřej Stráský in the quarterfinals. Would Lukas Blohon be able to triumph over Rally one more time to win the tournament, or would Simon Nielsen be able to take the trophy with arguably the best-performing deck in the tournament?

Game 1

Nielsen was on the play, while Blohon had to mulligan into a weak hand. Once the game began, Nielsen played a bunch of quick creatures and started attacking Blohon with Zulaport Cutthroat, Catacomb Sifter, and Grim Haruspex.

Simon Nielsen

A pair of Foul-Tongue Invocations was not the answer that Blohon needed against that swarm of weenies. He tried to get back in the game with a turn-five Dragonlord Ojutai, which was the best he could hope for, but it wasn't enough because Nielsen already had a dominating board presence that could easily exploit his death triggers.

Lukas Blohon 0 – Simon Nielsen 1

Game 2

The key card in this game came from Blohon's sideboard. On turn four, Blohon cast Infinite Obliteration, naming Nantuko Husk. Nielsen, with merely a Zulaport Cutthroat on the board, revealed a hand of all spells (three Collected Company and one Rally the Ancestors) but lost all the sacrifice outlets from his deck. Could Nielsen still win without Nantuko Husks?

Over the course of the next few turns, Nielsen bricked with Collected Company and merely assembled a ragtag beatdown team of Zulaport Cutthroat and Elvish Visionaries. It didn't seem to be good enough, especially once Blohon attacked with Dragonlord Ojutai and stabilized the board with Arashin Cleric. Blohon may have had Zurgo Bellstriker and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in mind when he put Arashin Cleric and Infinite Obliteration in his sideboard, but they were both great against Nielsen.

Lukas Blohon

Nielsen tried to fight back with Abzan Ascendancy, but without Nantuko Husk, he was unable to turn any of his creatures into a flying chumpblocker, and Dragonlord Ojutai soared over for the kill.

Lukas Blohon 1 – Simon Nielsen 1

Game 3

The games so far had taken a while, so both players went for a quick restroom break. Some of the Danes who were watching the Top 8 from the sidelines joked about replacing Nielsen's deck by a Giant Spider deck while he was gone, just to see the look on his face when he would draw his opening hand, but eventually play resumed without shenanigans.

Nielsen was on the play in the final game, but unfortunately for him, his seven-card and six-card hands did not contain enough lands, so he was forced to mulligan down to five cards in search of a keepable hand.

Turn-two Zulaport Cutthroat and turn-three Nantuko Husk was a pretty good curve for a mulligan to five, but Blohon's deck didn't stumble. Ultimate Price destroyed Nantuko Husk; Jace, Vryn's Prodigy transformed into Jace, Telepath Unbound; and Dig Through Time offered more card selection.

Eventually, Blohon cleared the way with Duress, played Dragonlord Ojutai, and ended the game with four attacks. The 5/4 flier had not been seen much lately, but here in Brussels it showed that it still was one of the best cards in Standard.

Lukas Blohon 2 – Simon Nielsen 1

Congratulations to Lukas Blohon, your Grand Prix Brussels champion! He had a fourth-place finish, a third-place finish, and a second-place finish at Grand Prix events before, but now he could finally add that coveted first place to his résumé.

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