Posted in Event Coverage on March 16, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

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.

In the first game, Mondello curved Highland Game into Tuskguard Captain.

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

In the second game, Mondello once again curved Highland Game into Tuskguard Captain.

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.

He found Icy Blast and fired it off, but Merriam was able to use Grim Contest to stay alive.

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.

Merriam’s Sultai Ascendancy seemed like it would find the tools necessary to win in due time, but Mondello was able to find Winterflame to set up a lethal attack.

Mondello 2 - 1 Merriam

Jake Mondello defeats Ross Merriam in three games to advance to the semifinals!

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