Round 13: When Worlds (Competitors) Collide

Posted in GRAND PRIX RIMINI 2016 on August 14, 2016

By Tobi Henke

This round two players squared off in the feature match area who, less than a month from now, would meet again at the 2016 World Championship. Japanese Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka had qualified for the most exclusive event of the year largely on the back of several strong PT finishes, most notable among them his fourth place at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.

At that same tournament, Andrea Mengucci had made it all the way to the finals, in fact by beating none other than Yasooka. This and his victory at last year's World Magic Cup as part of Team Italy, were the biggest contributing factors to Mengucci earning one of the coveted spots at the World Championship.

Yasooka and Mengucci currently were No. 11 and No. 12 in the Top 25 Rankings, respectively, and were still in a position to climb a few spots this weekend. At this inaugural event of the 2016–2017 season, both were 10-2, fighting to stay in Top 8 contention. Curiously, this could be the twentieth Grand Prix Top 8 for the Japanese veteran, or the very first for Mengucci.

For this Grand Prix, both pros had chosen Bant Company, the most popular deck in today's Standard. Yasooka, usually known for coming up with his own unique, and sometimes crazy, brews, sheepishly admitted that he hadn't had time to prepare anything special because of his sightseeing trip around Italy. Mengucci, meanwhile, had a reputation for playing Bant Company, ever since his finals appearance at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad with the deck.

The Games

The first interesting situation of the first game came to pass when Yasooka passed his fifth turn with no play, then responded to Duskwatch Recruiter's transform trigger by activating its ability. Mengucci saw the writing on the wall and responded with his Collected Company before the Recruiter turned into Krallenhorde Howler. That way, Collected Company resolved, otherwise it would have been countered by Yasooka's Spell Queller.

Andrea Mengucci

Still, over the next couple of turns, Yasooka managed to exile a couple of Mengucci's spells with Spell Quellers. Yasooka was ruling the skies and his Spirits kept eating away at Mengucci's life total. But then the Italian's own Spell Queller, together with Selfless Spirit, managed to take one down in combat. So one of Yasooka's Quellers was gone and another soon followed, thanks to Reflector Mage.

Now the game entered a stage where it was all about Tireless Trackers drawing cards. Mangucci had two, Yasooka drew even with Collected Company, but lost both to Mengucci's Declaration in Stone. Soon a pair of 7/6 Tireless Trackers, fighting alongside two Sylvan Advocates, forced Yasooka into unfavorable blocks.

Mengucci tried to seal the deal with another Reflector Mage … Yasooka had Spell Queller … but Mengucci had Ojutai's Command and took the first game.

"A great game," he commented. Yasooka nodded in agreement.

In the second game, Yasooka played first, but it was Mengucci who cast the first spell in Jace, Vryn's Prodigy before exiling Yasooka's Nissa, Vastwood Seer with Declaration in Stone.

If Yasooka had lost any tempo he more than made up for it with being the first to cast Collected Company, netting him a pair of Tireless Trackers. Mengucci tried to draw even, but his Company only gave him one Tracker plus a surplus Jace to replace his tapped one.

Nevertheless, soon enough Jace, Vryn's Prodigy transformed into Jace, Telepath Unbound and allowed Mengucci to recast his Declaration in Stone, leaving Yasooka without creatures.

Shota Yasooka

However, just one turn later, following Yasooka's end-of-turn Collected Company into two Reflector Mages, Mengucci was the one who found himself with zero creatures on the battlefield. Zero planeswalkers too.

Following that, Sylvan Advocate, Declaration in Stone, and another Reflector Mage meant Yasooka was able to keep pressuring Mengucci. The Italian, now at 4, saved himself with Tragic Arrogance. Yasooka regrouped with another Tireless Tracker and Sylvan Advocate, and two turns later another Declaration in Stone allowed Yasooka to push through the final damage.

Unfortunately, the third game couldn't match the quality of the first two. Mengucci took two mulligans and failed to play a land on turn four. He did have Spell Queller in hand, but no source of blue mana to stop his opponent's Collected Company. This was all the more troubling, as Yasooka used Jace, Telepath Unbound to recast said Company.

Mengucci eventually drew a fourth land and even a source of blue mana … in Evolving Wilds. To add insult to injury, when Mengucci finally cast Collected Company for his last shot to stay in the game, the top six cards of his library only included one creature.

Shota Yasooka 2-1 Andrea Mengucci

After the match the two players chatted a bit about their card choices and found various points of agreement. For example, both took a pass on Archangel Avacyn. Check out their decklists here:

Andrea Mengucci's Bant Company

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Shota Yasooka's Bant Company

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