This round was the victory lap of the rookies, who had managed to dispatch most of the more accomplished players in the quarterfinals. Ruben Perez had been the underdog versus 12th-ranked Fabrizio Anteri but won anyway, while Mattia Rizzi was eliminated from his third Grand Prix Top 8 by Alberto Mattioli.
For Mattioli and Perez, this was their first Top 8 and they were looking to make it count. But after sixteen long rounds, which they had evidently been able to navigate almost flawlessly, some fatigue was setting in. The games were partly decided by major blunders on both sides.
First to slip was Ruben Perez, playing Affinity. He got off to a reasonably good start and by turn four, he had already played Springleaf Drum, Memnite, Mox Opal, Arcbound Ravager, Master of Etherium, and a couple of lands including Darksteel Citadel and Inkmoth Nexus. With Mattioli tapped out except for an Endless One and a Thought-Knot Seer, Perez decided to go for the kill.
He activated Inkmoth Nexus and attacked with it. Then he began feeding artifacts to his Arcbound Ravager, with the obvious intention to eventually move enough counters to Inkmoth Nexus to deal 10 infect damage. Unfortunately, he didn't have enough artifacts to do so. At some point, Mattioli realized his mistake, yet he couldn't stop the greedy Ravager from eating more and more artifacts. In the end, Perez was left with just Master of Etherium and a nonlethal Inkmoth Nexus, which was sent on a Path to Exile on its next attack.
The second game, after an impressive opening by Perez and an amazing comeback from Mattioli, was decided by Perez's Ensnaring Bridge and Mattioli's inability to cast Hurkyl's Recall at the right time. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to attack for lethal damage, Mattioli wasted the spell with no need at a time when Perez could simply recast Ensnaring Bridge.
The players got a grip on themselves for the third game, though. Both maneuvered through a series of complicated board states to find the best line. Unfortunately for Perez, this line involved a well-placed Hurkyl's Recall this time. A triplet of 4/4s (two Thought-Knot Seers and one Endless One) took the game and match when Eldrazi Displacer displaced enough of Perez's blockers.
After the match Mattioli and Perez had a friendly chat about their respective mistakes.
"I don't know what I was thinking!"
"I know the feeling!"