This was it. After fifteen rounds of Swiss and two single-elimination rounds, it was on these two, the two youngest players in the Top 8, to determine the winner: 22-year-old Platinum pro Petr Sochůrek from the Czech Republic and 19-year-old Arne Huschenbeth from Germany who had finished the 2015–2016 season on eleven Pro Points and was by all accounts the underdog here.
"How many Top 8s do you have again?" he asked Sochůrek.
"This is my third. You?"
"My second. You might remember; we were both in the Top 8 in Paris."
The matchup here was the dreaded Bant Company mirror, something that, curiously, Sochůrek had been able to avoid throughout the Top 8 so far, whereas it was the third Bant-on-Bant match for Huschenbeth.
As per the usual script, the board quickly filled with creatures. Something of a stalemate developed and it came down to various card advantage engines for anyone to get ahead. Huschenbeth had Nissa, Sage Animist and Jace, Telepath Unbound active first, while Sochůrek did his best to keep up with his own Nissa and Tireless Tracker.
Jace's second ability allowed Huschenbeth to cast multiple copies of Collected Company from his graveyard, and soon he had his own Tireless Tracker as well as Duskwatch Recruiter. Huschenbeth was ahead on cards, lands, creatures ...
Some fun was had by all when Huschenbeth paused in the middle of a very convoluted turn as if he had forgotten something. Sochůrek smiled and helpfully pointed at Huschenbeth's Tireless Tracker the Clue generating ability of which Huschenbeth had indeed missed. Huschenbeth let out a lot groan of agony.
"It doesn't matter. You're still crushing me," said Sochůrek.
But actually not much was moving on the board, until Huschenbeth's Nissa went to seven counters and Sochůrek's drew even on the following turn. Now Sochůrek needed to make a move.
Sochůrek cast Reflector Mage to bounce Selfless Spirit, Huschenbeth sacrificed it instead. In response, Sochůrek cast a Dromoka's Command and Huschenbeth cast Dromoka's Command as well. Unfortunately, he misunderstood what creatures Sochůrek had targeted with which mode and made a mistake which cost him his only other flier, an empty Spell Queller. This cleared the way for Sochůrek's fliers to attack and reduce Nissa loyalty.
It all didn't matter though. Huschenbeth got a grip on himself and did some calculations. He got rid of three of Sochůrek's blockers with Declaration in Stone, activated Lumbering Falls and managed to attack for the win.
A little more than one hour had passed since the beginning of the match.
In the second game, Collected Company was the first spell Huschenbeth cast. He did so while being attacked by Krallenhorde Howler. But Sochůrek had Spell Queller and then cast Nissa, Vastwood Seer post combat.
Huschenbeth had another Collected Company on his turn, which found Spell Queller and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Sochůrek had Dromoka's Command and killed the Spell Queller, then attacked with 3/3 Duskwatch Recruiter, Nissa, and Spell Queller. Which put Huschenbeth at 4.
However, Huschenbeth was still hanging on. He had Evolving Wilds which allowed him to transform Jace and turn the opposing Spell Queller into an 0/3, summoned Selfless Spirit, and passed his turn with Spell Queller mana up (and indeed Spell Queller in hand).
This meant Sochůrek could only really attack with his Duskwatch Recruiter. On the flip side, there was nothing Huschenbeth could do about the 3/3. He went to 1 life.
At this point several spectators wandered off, with the intention to come back for the third game ...
Yet Huschenbeth was hanging on. He cast Collected Company from his graveyard, found Sylvan Advocate and Reflectror Mage, bounced Spell Queller, thus got to cast another Collected Company, found another Reflector Mage ... and suddenly Sochůrek had no creatures at all on the battlefield anymore.
One turn later Sochůrek's Nissa, Sage Animist also abandoned the sinking ship and getting his Spell Queller quelled itself certainly didn't help Sochůrek either. Huschenbeth cast and transformed his own Nissa and began attacking for increasingly large amounts of damage.
For the rest of the game, Sochůrek spent his turns casting multiple creatures. However, after blocking on Huschenbeth's turn, he always lost all but two of them. There were a few moments when Declaration in Stone, another Company into double Reflector Mage, or, of course, Tragic Arrogance might have given the win to Sochůrek after all, so the atmosphere remained tense.
The crowd held its collective breath.
But he didn't and there wasn't.
To summarize: Arne Huschenbeth resolved his first spell on turn five. He went to 4 on turn six, to 1 on turn seven. Then he won, some double-digit number of turns later.
"I'm shaking all over," said the newly minted Grand Prix champion, moments before being lifted into the air by his friends and supporters ...