It would be hard to have scripted a better finals matchup. Pascal Maynard having notched his third Grand Prix Top 8 in three attempts, Mario Flores having Top 8’d Grand Prix Mexico City in three different years.
Maynard’s deck was a spicy four-color brew. “This is exactly the sort of deck I loved to draft in Khans, all powerful cards with multilands. It’s harder with Fate Reforged, but this time it worked out.”
Flores’s deck is mostly Abzan, only straying for the unmorph cost on a pair of Ponyback Brigades.
Maynard opened things up with a beatdown draw of Ainok Bond-Kin into Mardu Hordechief. Flores played out a pair of plains, and when his third draw step failed to yield a land he was forced to discard. He took five on the chin and was soon staring down Daghatar the Adamant. One more missed draw was all it took to convince him to move to the next game.
Maynard 1 – Flores 0
No mana trouble for Flores in the second as he played out Jeskai Student into Abzan Banner. Maynard’s second-turn Whisperer of the Wilds gave him Abzan Battle Priest on his third turn. The escalation continued with Siege Rhino from Flores. There would be no stroll to victory for Maynard. He grew his Priest, then played out morph and a second Whisperer.
Flores hit with both his creatures and Maynard risked a block on the Student with one of his Whisperers. Flores had the Smite the Monstrous for the two-for-one. Maynard hit back for two with his morph and passed. When Flores sent his team in again, Maynard tapped out to unmorph Pine Walker. Flores went deep in the tank, reluctantly spending Grim Contest to trade the Rhino for the Walker.
Maynard rebuilt with Ainok Bond-Kin and a morph. Flores wiped the board with Crux of Fate. The hits kept coming. Maynard brought out Daghatar the Adamant, only to be matched by a face-up Abzan Guide. With two cards in hand and six mana, Maynard held back. Flores wasn’t about to risk combat, and simply summoned Destructor Dragon. Maynard played Write Into Being and passed.
Flores got in for four with his dragon, then played Seek the Horizon and Sultai Emissary. Maynard untapped and stared at his hand for a while before committing Temur Sabretooth to the board. Another hit from the dragon left Maynard at just three life. Flores added Longshot Squad and passed. Just in time, Maynard hit his seventh land for Duneblast, sparing Daghatar. Still, Flores got a manifest off his Sultai Emissary and was able to cash in his Banner before untapping, but passed a blank turn.
Maynard looked like he was starting to pull away. He hit for another four and dropped Mer-Ek Nightblade. Flores had other plans. He tapped five and turned up Ponyback Brigade, then untapped and dropped Debilitating Injury on the Nightblade and hit the red zone with his creatures. Daghatar ate the 2/2, but Maynard was forced to throw away the Nightblade to stay alive at one, and still facing three 1/1 tokens. His top card provided no solution to the problem, and they were on to game three.
Maynard 1 – Flores 1
Maynard opened with a morph. Flores answered with Sandsteppe Outcast and friend. Maynard simply played a tapped land and passed, already on the back foot. Flores hit for three and added Abzan Skycaptain to his crew. Maynard hit back with his morph and paid to reveal it as Abomination of Gudul. Flores hit for five and dropped Reach of Shadows on it.
Maynard secured the ground with Rotting Mastodon, but the real problem was sailing overhead. Flores put him to eleven and played Seek the Horizon. Maynard untapped and stared at the board, thinking hard. It was a full minute before he settled on a plan of Abzan Battle Priest. Flores threw a wrench in the works with Debilitating Injury and dropped Maynard to eight with his fliers. Another hard think for Maynard, and he decided to get in for two with the Mastodon before summoning the much-maligned Ambush Krotiq, bouncing his Mastodon back to hand.
Flores was perfectly happy to keep hammering with his fliers and refused to commit more to the board. Finally, Maynard pulled the trigger on Duneblast. He swung in for 5 and played a Dismal Backwater to get back up to six. Now it was Flores’s turn to make an unpleasant decision – spending Crux of Fate on just the Krotiq. His follow-up was strong, however: Siege Rhino. Maynard played Write Into Being and then Dazzling Ramparts, but he was in a precarious position. A single Ponyback Brigade could mean defeat.
As if on cue, Flores brought out two morphs and passed. Maynard tapped out for Rotting Mastodon and Whisperer of the Wilds. Flores charged in with Rhino and one morph. Maynard pushed the Ramparts and Mastodon in the way. Flores unmorphed Abzan Guide to gain life, but that was all. Maynard added Ainok Bond-Kin to his squad and passed.
The crowd, now forty strong, were completely silent. Flores attacked again, this time adding the other morph. Maynard put Ramparts on the Rhino, Mastodon and Bond-Kin on the morph, and his manifested creature on the Guide. Flores tapped five to flip up the second Abzan Guide. Maynard also had something to reveal: Temur Sabretooth. He bounced Whisperer of the Wilds to make it indestructible. Flores lost both his Guides, but stood at twenty-seven life to Maynard’s three. He played a morph, and passed.
Now you have to understand, the match had been going on for quite some time already, and it was down to a game of inches: Flores trying to eke out a lethal attack, Maynard trying to balance the need for defence with some kind of offence. For many turns they simply kept building up their armies. Flores’s Longshot Squad grew to a 5/5 but he couldn’t press. Maynard swung with Glacial Stalker, trying to take out Siege Rhino with Awaken the Bear, but Flores had Smite the Monstrous. Of course, the Sabretooth was happy to save the Stalker and they were back at square one hundred. The only difference was a Dismal Backwater bumping Maynard up to four.
Maynard counted the libraries. He had ten. Flores was about to draw down to eight.
“We have a game plan,” said Maynard. “Go.”
More big guns on either side. Destructor Dragon for Flores. Necropolis Fiend for Maynard. There were nine creatures on either side of the board. Maynard had been locking down the Longshot Squad with his Ramparts, and decided to risk hitting for four with his Fiend. Flores tried to hit back with his dragon but Maynard flipped up Monastery Flock. At long last, Maynard found his Daghatar. He could steal away the Squad’s counters and speed up his clock. He hit with his Fiend again and passed.
Flores flipped up Ponyback Brigade. Then he tapped five more to do it again.
“Oh… [Unprintable]. You have two of them.” – Pascal Maynard
Flores untapped and both he and Maynard triple-checked the number of creatures in play. Flores was ahead by exactly the six goblin tokens. With both hands he turned his whole squad sideways at once.
Maynard tapped five and played Ethereal Ambush. In response, Flores cast Grim Contest on his Abzan Guide and Whisperer of the Wilds. Maynard moved a counter with Daghatar to give the Whisperer deathtouch, so it was a push. Maynard went to blocks and lined up his creatures. Four tokens were still getting through.
“Well,” said Maynard, looking at his notes, “I think there’s only one card in your deck I don’t know. I hope it’s not Feat of Resistance.”
He played a Grim Contest of his own to kill one of the tokens. The crowd gasped and waited for Flores to respond. When he extended the hand to Maynard in defeat, the crowd voiced its disappointment, and then erupted in applause for Maynard.
Pascal Maynard defeats Mario Flores 2-1