Miracles against Storm. France against Spain. Nicolas Tholance against Rodrigo Togores. The finals in Prague became an epic battle between two players who would both be well earned winners if the cards came up right in the final match of the weekend.
"My deck is good against everything except Eldrazi, and I have played zero Eldrazi decks. And this is the first time I play against Miracles too," he said.
Nicolas Tholance, and his Miracles deck on the other hand, was happy to have faced the Eldrazi menace several times this weekend.
"I've played against it five times, winning four times and only getting a draw in the fifth," he replied with a smile as the players shuffled up for the first game.
With Rodrigo Togores on the play the first game continued in the friendly banter that the players had started before the match. After both mulliganed Togores opened with Volcanic Island and a Sensei's Divining Top, quickly joking that he had changed decks last minute before the finals.
Tholance let out a small laugh as he opened with a Sensei's Divining Top of his own.
After that the game was fairly uneventful, with both players sculpting their hands with their Tops and throwing in cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder in between. The big question would be if Tholance could find a Counterbalance to go with his Top or enough counterspells before Togores could assemble a storm kill with enough discard spells to back it up.
With no Counterbalance on the table, the Spaniard went for an interesting sequence on his fourth turn. Togores cast Dark Ritual, while still holding a second copy, a Cabal Ritual, Cabal Therapy and an Infernal Tutor in hand.
Cabal Therapy resolved and stripped Force of Will from the Frenchman's hand, and Togores continued with the second Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Infernal tutor, hoping that Tholance didn't have a second copy of Force of Will is his top three cards to draw with Sensei's Divining Top
He did however, and wisely drew it to counter the Infernal Tutor and leave Togores with an empty hand. Togores however had one final trick up his sleeve, and spun his Sensei's Divining Top to draw his top card. It turned out to be Past in Flames, enabling him to recast all his rituals and Infernal Tutor to find a more than lethal Tendrils of Agony to seize the first game.
"Woohooo," the Spaniard chimed, and pumped his fist in a salute to celebrate winning the game.
"Maybe I should have let the Infernal Tutor resolve?" Tholance asked after the game.
"But then I had lethal storm with any spell in my top three cards," Togores pointed out and wished good luck for the second game.
The second game didn't offer quite as an exciting start, as neither player had a Sensei's Divining Top for the first few turns, and instead took turns casting Brainstorm and Ponder to dig for their crucial cards in the match-up.
Other than a Gitaxian Probe from Togores revealing a hand of three Brainstorms and a Snapcaster for extra Brainstorming, the most exciting thing in the early turns was that a heavy rain started drumming against the roof of the Czech Grand Prix site. Perhaps a sign that a storm was coming after all?
If it was it would have to wait one more game to lead Togores to victory as the Snapcaster Mage was joined by an Entreat the Angels and a Counterbalance, locking Togores out from casting Dark Ritual and other mana accelerators to start his storm sequence.
All really good matches go to three game though, and the finals in Prague was no exception.
With both decks having some cards that are especially important for the match-up, namely Counterbalance for Tholance and discard spells for Togores it was no surprise to see aggressive mulligans by both players in the deciding game.
What was surprisingly though was that the Spaniard chose to draw first, clearly valuing the extra card higher than making his land drops first.
The game also played out in a way that seemed to favor his decision as neither played anything but lands for the first few turns.
Togores was the first to do something when he played a Sensei's Divining Top. While both players once again cast Brainstorm and Ponder to assemble just the right hands for what their opponent might be holding.
Nicolas Tholance kept Brainstorming, but couldn't find a Counterbalance so his board still consisted of nothing but lands as the storm outside grew even louder and the players actually had trouble communicating due to the heavy rain still pouring down on the tin roof.
A Snapcaster Mage presented a slow clock for the Frenchman, while letting him Brainstorm yet another time, but Togores sat confidant with seven cards in his hand, looking like he might threaten a lethal storm turn any time now.
Snapcaster attacked Togores down to 17 and Tholance actually discarded for his turn, as he missed his land drop for his turn, both players now sitting with stacked hands.
Togores however had no fear and started his turn with a Gitaxian Probe, which was met by Red Elemental Blast. A second Gitaxian Probe caused Tholance to laugh and point at the Pyroblast he just discarded.
The Probe resolved and revealed a stacked hand of Flusterstorm, Flusterstorm, Force of Will, Force of Will, Snapcaster Mage, Surgical Extraction. Surely enough countermagic to stop any storm attempts by Togores. Or was it?
"I'm pretty sure you're dead," said Togores.
"Only pretty sure?" Tholance replied.
A Cabal Ritual resolved, adding even more mana. Togores went for Cabal Therapy, which was met by Force of Will, pitching the second copy of the powerful counterspell. A second copy of Cabal Therapy was stopped by Flusterstorm and it looked like Tholance's patience in saving his Surgical Extraction would win him the match as Togores could only pass the turn, now down to 6 life after fetchlands and paying Phyrexian mana for his Gitaxian Probes.
Tholance drew for his turn – a Sensei's Divining Top, which would also let him find yet another counterspell if he should need one on Togores next and final turn. He attacked with Snapcaster Mage to drop Togores to 4, and passed the turn, crossing his fingers to be able to win on his next turn with his second copy of Snapcaster Mage.
Togores was forced to try and win on his turn. But his hand wasn't strong enough yet. He did hold both Past in Flames and Tendrils of Agony, but would have trouble building enough storm and mana, while playing around the threat of Surgical Extraction and Snapcaster Mage for a second Extraction.
He stated with Cabal Ritual, which resolved.
He continued with Past in Flames, which made the Frenchman pause before responding with Surgical Extraction on Cabal Ritual, followed by Snapcaster on the Extraction, targeting Dark Ritual with the second copy.
He crossed his fingers and cast it. And found ...
... a second copy of Lion's Eye Diamond giving him the mana he needed to cast Tendrils of Agony after first putting it on top of his library with the Brainstorm, following up with Abrupt Decay on Tholance's Divining Top so he'd be forced to draw a counterspell if he had one. It turned out he had in fact found a third copy of Flusterstorm, that Togores now could discard with a Cabal Therapy from his graveyard before casting Ponder, sacrificing his Lion's Eye Diamonds in Response, drawing his Tendrils of Agony to finish the finals in a most spectacular and unexpected fashion.
On the verge of tears of happiness Rodrigo Togores shook hands with his opponents with one hand and grabbed the trophy with the other. And his opponent could only agree with the wild Spanish crowd and congratulate a worthy winner on the title of champion of Grand Prix Prague 2016.