It all came down to this. After seventeen rounds of Magic, only two players remained: Amand Dosimont, playing Abzan Aggro, and Zan Syed, piloting Green/White Company. All in all, we had seven Den Protectors, eight Fleecemane Lions, and six Dromoka's Commands in the finals, and the players who claimed that green is best color in Standard may have been proven right.
Zan Syed, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, has had his first taste of Grand Prix success two months ago, when he made it to the Top 8 in Miami. He lost in the quarterfinals then, but he was determined to have another shot at glory and made the trip all the way to Paris enroute to next week's team Grand Prix in Florence.
Amand Dosimont was playing in his first Grand Prix Top 8. He had already defeated Pro Tour champion Antonio Del Moral León in the semifinals and was now looking to go the distance. The Grand Prix victory would also give him the lead in the race for the Belgian National Championship.
Zan Syed had brought an aggressive green-white deck with Collected Company and 24 creatures for three mana or less. His deck also included Mastery of the Unseen for late-game presence, as well as the Deathmist Raptor/Den Protector duo that has been dominating the top tables all weekend.
Amand Dosimont was on Abzan Aggro, running a version that didn’t hold many surprises. He maxed out on Abzan Charm and Anafenza, the Foremost, however, and these exile effects would potentially give him a good game against the ravenous, recurring Raptors.
Dosimont had a relatively slow start without a 2-drop. However, his third and fourth turns were rather effective, as he added Anafenza, the Foremost to the board and got a two-for-one with Dromoka's Command, dealing with both Mastery of the Unseen and a face-down Den Protector.
Then the players progressed to the mid-game, with removal spells flying left and right. The game was all about board presence, and both players jockeyed for position.
Eventually, two Siege Rhinos started to work on Syed's life total, and soon Syed had to make unfavorable blocks in order to stay alive. He found Mastery of the Unseen, but that card is only really good when you have some board presence, and Syed had struggled to make relevant creatures stick around. A Collected Company that only hit a single Elvish Mystic didn't help him much either.
On top of that, even though Abzan Aggro is called an aggro deck, it has so much staying power. Dosimont kept up the pressure with Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Rakshasa Deathdealer, and Fleecemane Lion. He had plenty of mana to activate his 2-drops and he was making 2/2 flying Vampires turn after turn. Syed couldn't keep up, even with Mastery of the Unseen on the battlefield, and eventually the air force that Dosimont assembled sealed the deal.
Amand Dosimont 1 – Zan Syed 0
Once again, Syed started with Mastery of the Unseen and a morph, while Dosimont lacked a 2-drop. It looked like Dosimont had his work cut out for him, but in a surprising twist of events, he revealed that he had sideboarded into a control deck: He cast Glare of Heresy on Mastery of the Unseen and then Drown in Sorrow to sweep the board.
But would it work against the card advantage that the megamorphs and Collected Company would eventually generate? Sure, the Abzan Aggro deck has enough staying power to capitalize on a board advantage, but it doesn't play well from behind. It can be hard for Abzan Aggro to beat Green/White Company in the long game, and Dosimont was running the risk that his sideboard plan would prolong the game to a point where he would discover that his deck could not play the control or value game as well as his opponent's.
Indeed, Dosimont had trouble pressuring his opponent with his situational, reactive cards, and it wasn't long before Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector came down on Syed's side of the table. A well-timed Dromoka's Command plus Hornet Nest from Syed eventually overwhelmed Dosimont.
Amand Dosimont 1 – Zan Syed 1
Syed took to the battlefield first, with Fleecemane Lion, Deathmist Raptor, and Hornet Nest, and that was exactly how Dosimont didn't want the game to go. Siege Rhino is a good card, but it isn’t any good against Deathmist Raptor and Hornet Nest, after all. Syed then solidified his board position with Collected Company into Courser of Kruphix and Hidden Dragonslayer. Was Zan going to beat Abzan?
Well, Dosimont fought back, and he had plenty of answers to stay alive. First Hero's Downfall took out one of Syed's creatures. Then another Hero's Downfall scored a two-for-one in response to Dromoka's Command. And subsequently, Den Protector started recurring the removal spells. Dosimont had chosen his role while sideboarding, and he was playing it very defensively.
The game was grindy and immensely complicated. As it progressed, the board got clogged up. At one crucial juncture, Syed (at 6 life) had a monstrous Fleecemane Lion, two Deathmist Raptors, Elvish Mystic, and Hidden Dragonslayer in play, while Dosimont (at 22 life) commanded two 5/6 Siege Rhinos and two 3/2 Den Protectors.
Syed then drew Mastery of the Unseen, and it looked like that might be the turning point. However, possibly suffering from exhaustion after two long days of Magic, he attacked with one Deathmist Raptor right after casting the enchantment. This gave Amand an opening, and he seized it: In his last chance to attack before Mastery of the Unseen would spiral out of control, Dosimont went for the alpha strike.
Syed carefully lined up his blocks. Fleecemane Lion went in front of Den Protector. Deathmist Raptor blocked the other Den Protector. And Elvish Mystic, a face-down manifest, and Hidden Dragonslayer blocked Siege Rhino. However, none of the Rhinos died that way, and Syed fell down to 2 life, regretting his attack with the Deathmist Raptor on the previous turn.
Although he was able to activate Mastery of the Unseen again on the next turn, it was to no avail. The Siege Rhinos crashed in again, and Syed had no blocks that could keep him alive for another turn.
Amand Dosimont 2 – Zan Syed 1
Abzan Aggro still has it: Supreme draws, early aggression, late-game staying power that puts some of the control decks to shame, and a plethora of sideboard options.
But it wasn't just a victory for Abzan Aggro. It wasn't just a victory for Amand Dosimont. It was a victory for Belgium—their second Grand Prix win all-time. Today, Belgium celebrates!
Congratulations to Amand Dosimont, winner of Grand Prix Paris 2015!