By Josh Bennett

The Players

Italy's Andrea Mengucci became a fan-favorite with a dominating performance as the King of the Hill at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that led to a Top 8 berth. Local journeyman Larry Swasey is best known as a writer for Star City Games, and is a regular of various tournament circuits.

This weekend Swasey's Blue-White-Red deck is a throwback to the Geist of St. Traft decks of yesteryear. Mengucci is playing one of the cornerstones of the format: Jund. With both of them sitting on perfect 6-0 records, the winner of this match would lock up a Day 2 appearance and set himself up for a run at Top 8.

The Games

In game one, a turn-two Thoughtseize from Mengucci revealed Swasey's hand of Snapcaster, Lightning Bolt, two Electrolyzes, Vendilion Clique, Path to Exile and Arid Mesa. Mengucci stripped the Snapcaster Mage. They passed a couple turns playing out lands, Swasey hitting his third without incident. He missed on turn four, however, and on turn five Mengucci resolved Liliana of the Veil.

It was far from an ideal situation for Mengucci. He was long on land and seemingly short on action. Still he upped her loyalty. They both discarded. Swasey played Vendillion Clique at end of turn, which Mengucci promptly Lightning Bolted, and saw that Mengucci was only holding swamp and Scavenging Ooze. Swasey untapped, Electrolyzed Liliana, then played a Steam Vents untapped, priming the Bolt that Mengucci had seen. Mengucci again upped Liliana, then played his Ooze and slowly incremented it to a 5/5. Swasey was happy to let that happen, what with Path to Exile still at the ready. Bolt took care of Liliana, then he untapped and dropped the mighty Geist of Saint Traft.

Andrea Mengucci

Mengucci would need action to get himself out of this bind, but his deck offered up only Inquisition of Kozilek. It forced out the Path and stole Snapcaster Mage, but still the Geist was active, and Mengucci's life total plummetted. Two turns later, he conceded.

Swasey 1 - Mengucci 0

Game two again kicked off with hand disruption. This time Inquisition of Kozilek forced Swasey to turn over a hand of five land and two Vendilion Clique. Some onlookers in the gallery moved on to another match, and who could blame them? Swasey would need a strong sequence of rips to come back from this imbalance.

Mengucci went one further and resolved a Dark Confidant. When it dinged him for five by revealing Batterskull, Swasey rubbed his hands together and announced "Alright. We've got a plan!"

Thoughtseize further disrupted Swasey's plans, and a turn later Scavenging Ooze showed up to put on the pressure and shore up Mengucci's dwindling life total. Swasey dropped Vendilion Clique on the board during Mengucci's next draw step, and saw Olivia Voldaren and Batterskull grinning back at him. He sent the Batterskull packing, but Mengucci's deck was feeling generous, and served up Chandra, Pyromaster. The Planeswalker shot down the Clique and provided another persistent threat. Swasey hung on as best he could, but after Olivia hit play the game was over.

Swasey 1 - Mengucci 1

"Pretty greedy, my opener," said Swasey with a laugh.

Mengucci smiled and nodded. "Too much greed."

Larry Swasey

Swasey thought hard before settling on keeping his seven for the deciding game. Again Mengucci led with Inquisition. Swasey had just a Steam Vents in play, and turned over two Snapcaster Mages, Vendilion Clique, Geist of Saint Traft, Restoration Angel and Ghost Quarter. Mengucci couldn't resist commenting.

"So greedy!"

"That's not greedy! Ghost Quarter fixes my mana!"

He took one of the Snapcaster Mages. Another Inquisition forced Swasey to play the second one and left him with just two Cliques and an Angel in hand. Worse, lands were not forthcoming for Swasey. Mengucci summoned Liliana of the Veil and forced a sacrifice of the Snapcaster, and a turn later things got worse when he brought out Fulminator Mage, complete with accompanying explosion noise. Swasey could only shake his head.

"Ok, now it was greedy. If I hit that third land though..."

"Yes, if. There's an italian proverb. 'If is the paradise of the fool.'"

Andrea Mengucci defeats Larry Swasey 2-1

The Aftermath

Swasey went on to explain that though he probably should have mulliganed his five-land hand, his game 3 hand was a worthwhile keep. "Basically, I need to draw one land. That hand has a lot of the tools I need with one land, and even without, the Snapcasters can do early damage and help against Liliana. The other problem is if I mulligan, my next hand will be worse against his early discard. If I'm just mulliganing to hit a land drop, then I think I'm better off keeping."

I also bent Mengucci's ear concerning his play of Liliana of the Veil in the first game against a known hand that seemed well-suited against it. He explained that his hand had so little action, and dead cards like an Anger of the Gods, that he felt his only chance was to clear a path for his Scavenging Ooze and hope his draws would be kind.