Evan Petre was already on top of the world. Fresh off his first Pro Point a month ago at Grand Prix Los Angeles, the New York native didn't have to travel quite so far this time to pick up more. Reaching the Top 8 of Grand Prix Pittsburgh was the pinnacle of the 24-year-old's fledgling Magic career, and he had already made the most of it with a semifinals win over third-ranked Steve Rubin.
Pascal Maynard entered the final match with much more on the line. A win here would lock Platinum for the season, the ultimate goal of the 10-time Grand Prix Top 8 member. He plans to attend Grand Prix Sao Paulo next week to play Team Limited with friends Shaheen Soorani and Brian Braun-Duin, who is locked in a razor-sharp race for the title of Grand Prix Master. So, while next week always remains an option for Maynard, he could remove any pressure of hitting Platinum if he could take down the title in Pittsburgh.
Maynard arrived with Bant Humans, one of the more recent additions to the Shadows Over Innistrad Standard scene but one that featured nearly all of the format's most powerful cards. Collected Company, Eldrazi Displacer, Reflector Mage — they all appeared in Maynard's deck, and were terrifying in combination.
Petre was armed with the preeminent deck of the format in Green-White Tokens. Accounting for more than 30 percent of the top 100 decks entering Day 2 here, the green-white monster leveraged the power of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to keep a steady flow of creatures on the board, even while leaning at times on wrath spells like Tragic Arrogance. The matchup was one both players had played multiple times throughout the weekend, and one more meeting would decide the winner.
Mindful of the main deck Tragic Arrogance in Petre's deck, Maynard played carefully with his hand full of creatures and Collected Company. He showed practiced discipline in holding the Company in his hand while building his board with smaller creatures.
Petre smartly tried to hold back that Tragic Arrogance. He kept his own board up with Sylvan Advocate and even went for an Archangel Avacyn, but when it was removed by Dromoka's Command a now-5/5 Thalia's Lieutenant he had no choice but to pull the trigger and shrink Maynard's board.
While the wrath did decimate Maynard's board, it gave him the courage to fire off Collected Company, which hit Reflector Mage and Thraben Inspector, putting him right back ahead and allowing him to finally draw first blood and knock Petre to 18.
Petre passed back, representing Archangel Avacyn if Maynard attacked. Showing no fear, Maynard did just that, and though it cost him a creature it knocked Petre into range of a kill on the next turn. When a Dromoka's Command removed the Avacyn on the next turn it was enough for the pair to move on to the next game with Maynard one win away from Platinum.
The second game got off to a rough start for Petre as he mulliganned down to five cards. He was starting on a deficit, but Maynard was dealing with problems of his own, namely a slew of uncastable cards in his hand as he lacked blue mana. When Petre landed Deathmist Raptor the game slowed to a crawl as neither player wanted to initiate combat.
Hitting his fifth land drop, it was Petre who finally swung. Maynard fell to 17 from the attack, and then cracked back on his turn. And while the expected Archangel Avacyn fell to Dromoka's Command, the indestructibility for the team it left behind allowed Sylvan Advocate to pick off a flipped Lambholt Pacifist.
Fifteen rounds and a Top 8, and the Grand Prix Pittsburgh title all came down to one final game between the two. Back on the play, Maynard went down to six cards and then faced a difficult decision: he had a pair of Thalia's Lieutenant and a Plains, but no second land. After a lengthy debate he decided to keep.
Keeping a Wastes on top with his mulligan scry, Maynard was able to cast both Thalia's Lieutenant on time, though a Fortified Village coming into play tapped wasn't what he hoped for on the third turn. No fourth land came, but Maynard did have a stream of two-drops to keep his board presence up.
Unfortunately, none of those creatures wanted to tangle with Petre's Deathmist Raptor. And as Maynard populated his board with small creatures, Petre went big. Sigarda, Heron's Grace arrived, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer transformed. As Maynard whiffed again on a fourth land to cast the Collected Company in his hand, Petre untapped into a Tragic Arrogance that wiped out Maynard's threats.
Nissa called upon the power of Ashaya, and suddenly Petre's board was a real threat to end the game. And when Maynard missed again and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar arrived to make an emblem, that's exactly what Petre did, fighting back from the 1-0 deficit to take the match 2-1, the trophy and the title of Grand Prix Pittsburgh 2016 champion!