With a former Top 8 competitor of a Pro Tour, and not one but two former Grand Prix champions, few would have predicted that the team of Eduardo Sajgalik, Fabrizio Anteri and Daniel Royde would fall to the likes of Rosario Maij, Adrian Rosada and Frank Schäfer. While the Berliners did have a former Grand Prix winner and a Top 8 Grand Prix competitor in their ranks, it still felt like they were more likely to fit the description of David going up against Goliath.
The second semifinals seemed a lot more evenly-matched. While Marco Orsini Jones had advanced to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour before and his brother Matteo and their teammate Dan Gardner had also had some success on the grand stage, every single one of their opponents Robin Steinborn, Jasper Grimmer and Amit Cohen had reached the Top 8 of a Grand Prix before.
In the end, the statistics did lie, and both of the German teams made it to the finals where they would now have to duke it out between themselves. All of them were extremely familiar with the current Limited environment; after all, most of them were playing it once a week in their local gaming store in Berlin. Furthermore, both of the teams prepared for this event together in one big apartment in Florence, they had traveled here over together and now they were in the finals together.
We had scouted both decklists prior to the match and it appeared that Cohen had put together an extremely interesting deck featuring 2 copies of Conifer Strider together with a number of Auras.
Maij on the other hand went with a slightly more ordinary approach. He assembled a solid blue-black deck that featured a few Plains to allow him to cast Secure the Wastes and Sandstorm Charger in the late game.
Maij had the better start and he got on the board first while Cohen was forced to watch his opponent's creatures pick apart his life totals.
He did eventually find a Conifer Strider on his fourth turn, and a Cached Defenses turned it into a more than formidable attacker. Maij, however, didn't feel like giving his opponent enough time to make the most of it, simply adding more creatures than Cohen could handle.
Cohen tried to stay in the game with Hunt the Weak and he found a second blocker, but strength in numbers (Qarsi High Priest, Ojutai Interceptor, Vulturous Aven, a Morph creature, Elusive Spellfist, and Dutiful Attendant) eventually overwhelmed him the following turn, and that provided Maij with the lead!
Both players kept their opening seven and this time it was Cohen who had the better start. Abzan Runemark allowed Graceblade Artisan to swing for 6 and there was little that Maij could throw in its way to stem the bleeding.
Even though few turns had passed, Maij was left with just 6 life. He tried defending himself with Palace Familiar, but the one-two punch of Conifer Strider and an Epic Confrontation was too much for him to handle, and that's how Cohen tied the scores in record time.
This time around, Cohen went down to six while Maij kept his opening seven. Cohen had the first play in Atarka Beastbreaker, though, and a Abzan Runemark the following turn provided him with a way to pressure his opponent.
Unfortunately for Cohen, Maij had a great defender with Custodian of the Trove, and it held Cohen's attacker at bay. Things got worse for Cohen when his deck wouldn't provide him with a fourth land. With five cards in hand that all cost 4 mana or more, he was forced to watch Maij pull ahead and once again play the numbers game, flooding the board with creatures.
Cohen's deck added insult to injury, providing him with Blossoming Sands, undoubtedly a land, but still not helping him to put up more of a board presence. At the same time, Maij picked apart Cohen's life totals with a Lotus Path Djinn that flew over the few blockers Cohen had.
While Maij's first attempt to wrap things up fast (a Noxious Dragon) was foiled by a timely Epic Confrontation (that cost Cohen his only real threat Atarka Beastbreaker), Cohen didn't succeed in holding an army of tokens at bay, courtesy of a big Secure the Wastes. The following turn, Maij turned all of his creatures sideways and Cohen didn't have enough blockers to buy himself another turn!