As the finals kicked off at Mythic Invitational II in London, the two players who sat opposite each other couldn't have entered under much different circumstances. On one side sat veteran Matt Sperling, who had a late charge Saturday to make the most unlikely of his third Mythic Championship Top 8 appearances. On the other was Eli Loveman, the 25-year-old making just his fifth Mythic Championship appearance after qualifying for London by way of a Grand Prix Top 8.
Both players brought explosive decks. For Sperling, it was Experimental Frenzy Affinity, taking the incredibly quick starts of the robots deck and combining it with the late-game power of Experimental Affinity, which kept the gas flowing and eliminated poor late-game topdecks like Ornithopter or Memnite.
Loveman was on Humans, another staple deck in Modern and one that sent three pilots into the Top 8. Between the aggression of Champion of the Parish and Thalia's Lieutenant and the disruption of Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage, the archetype had the tools to take on any deck in the format, and that's exactly what Loveman did when he put together a perfect 8-0 run on Saturday to make the Top 8.
Sperling's start was explosive, yes, but without a Mox Opal it meant a two-drop was stranded in his hand. Unfortunately for the Affinity player, Loveman was on the play and named that two-drop with Meddling Mage. That meant Arcbound Ravager was not to be, and Sperling was forced to begin the beatdown with just the help of a Signal Pest.
Loveman, meanwhile, developed his board with Thalia's Lieutenant and a second Æther Vial, though after a mulligan to five cards he was still looking to add pressure of his own, a struggle since he had been forced to name Wizard with Unclaimed Territory.
But Champion of the Parish joined the field, and Mantis Rider wasn't far behind. As Sperling drew lands and stared at the stranded Ravager in his hand, it wasn't long before Loveman was up a game in the finals.
It may have been Sperling's deck that was the more explosive of the two, but Loveman's Humans Tribal deck flipped that script in the second game despite being down a card on the draw. Æther Vial led to Champion of the Parish before Loveman pulled off one of the "combos" of the deck: casting Thalia's Lieutenant and putting the trigger on the stack before using the Vial to put in a second Lieutenant. The result was a board that exploded in power out of nowhere, and with just an Arcbound Ravager to his name, Sperling was in trouble.
Cranial Plating off the top gave him some hope, but a Vialed Reflector Mage in combat meant that Ravager was a threat no longer. Rather than bounce the Ravager to his hand, Sperling chose to instead bounce all of his permanents, scooping up his cards and moving onto the sideboarded games in a 0-2 hole.
Sperling finally got going in the third game, displaying what his Experimental Frenzy Affinity deck was capable of. A second-turn Cranial Plating was followed by a third-turn Frenzy, which allowed him to play a free Ornithopter after that. Loveman then responded with new, Ravnica Allegiance addition Deputy of Detention to remove the Frenzy, prompting the following exchange.
Sperling: "Well, your friends liked that one, but they won't like what's on top of my deck."
Loveman: "Not Galvanic Blast?"
Sperling: *Flips Galvanic Blast for all to see.*
Both players shared a laugh, but it was Sperling who got the better end of the exchange, knocking Loveman to 11 with a Cranial Plating-fueled attack. Loveman tried to pull back in it with a Kitesail Freebooter, but the power of the robots would not be denied as Blinkmoth Nexus picked up a second Plating and sealed the deal, putting Sperling on the board.
After three lightning-fast games, things slowed down in the fourth. Loveman struggled with just one land and double Noble Hierarch, while Sperling had Ornithopter in Steel Overseer. It was a reasonable start for the Affinity player, but the devastating Izzet Staticaster arrived out of the sideboard for Loveman and immediately shot it down. Mantis Rider followed and with the exalted from the Hierarchs represented just a four-turn clock.
Sperling reloaded with Arcbound Ravager (with enough fodder to protect it from the Staticaster), and simply played his fourth land and passed back to Loveman. A third Hierarch made the Rider a 6/6 when it swung in, and Sperling opted to chump block with Inkmoth Nexus and sacrifice it to grow his Ravager to a 2/2. A second Mantis Rider followed post-combat, and Sperling untapped for his turn in severe trouble. He opted to simply play a second Ravager and pass the turn back.
Loveman untapped for what could be the deciding turn of the Mythic Championship, and kicked things off by taking a Galvanic Blast from Sperling's hand, revealing a pair of Steel Overseer stranded by the Staticaster.
But Sperling wasn't out of tricks. With two Ravager and an Ornithoper in play – one he had almost chumped with earlier – he sacrificed one Ravager to the other but chose to move its three counters to the Ornithopter, taking down one Mantis Rider in combat. But Reflector Mage followed and nipped the flyer out of the air, forcing Sperling to fall to 4 on the next attack. When his draw step failed to yield anything, Sperling extended his hand and congratulated Loveman on becoming the Mythic champion.