Both Jake Mondello and Ross Merriam have had their share of success on the Star City Games Open circuit. Ross has over ten Open Top 8s and Mondello is a Legacy Open Champion. However, neither player has managed to break into the Top 8 of a Grand Prix until this weekend. Ross made a decent run at Grand Prix New Jersey last year with a 13-2 record, but the breakers didn’t work out and he had to settle for a hefty check and a Pro Tour invite.
Mondello is armed with a blisteringly fast Temur deck. He’s aiming to run over Merriam before he loses to a wave of card advantage and huge creatures.
Merriam is playing a controlling Sultai strategy with a lot of late game power and effective ways to stall the board. Merriam should have the advantage if he’s able to stave off Mondello’s aggression.
Merriam tried to keep up and was eventually able to stall the ground, but Mondello had found Cloudform and continued pecking away at Merriam’s life total.
Once Merriam’s life total was low enough, Mondello made an uncharacteristically aggressive attack. Merriam flipped up Kin-Tree Warden and attempted to regenerate, but Mondello had Ruthless Instincts to go over the top for victory.
Mondello 1 - 0 Merriam
This time, Merriam could only cast Sultai Ascendancy.
Merriam took a bit of damage, but looked to have stabilized with Archers' Parapet and Longshot Squad. He established solid control of the game when Mondello went for Dragonscale Boon on Tuskguard Captain and lost two cards to Merriam’s Murderous Cut for one mana.
From here, Merriam’s superior card selection allowed him to grind out the game. Mondello tried to establish some kind of offense, but Merriam was only drawing gas and eventually Mondello ran out of steam and was forced to move on to a third game.
Mondello 1 - 1 Merriam
The game started slow as creatures traded with removal spells.
Merriam found and cast Sultai Ascendancy on the fifth turn and the pressure would be on Mondello to end the game before Merriam’s enchantment got out of hand.
Mondello was able to attack for a pair of turns, but Merriam’s superior card quality looked to have been established.
Mondello would need an answer to stay alive before getting crushed underfoot by Merriam’s Woolly Loxodon.
From here, the game turned into an interesting dance of attacks and blocks. The board was stalled with each player at a precarious life total, in danger of dying to a single attack.
Mondello 2 - 1 Merriam
Jake Mondello defeats Ross Merriam in three games to advance to the semifinals!