Posted in GRAND PRIX SANTIAGO 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on November 2, 2014

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

9-1 is a very good record. 9-2 is pretty decent too, but 10-1? That's the kind of record where a player can see the Top 8 coming into view. At the start of Round 11, Chile's Agustin Aldunate and Nicolas de Nicola of Argentina sit on that 9-1 record. Which of them will hit double figure victories this round? Judging by past form, the Argentinian may have the edge. Twice a team member at the World Magic Cup, de Nicola also made it as far as the semifinals at this very Grand Prix twelve months ago, and a win here would take him a good distance towards a repeat in the elimination rounds.

Nicolas de Nicola

Aldunate had relied on the Jeskai Clan to propel him to his excellent record. The usual suspects were all in evidence – Goblin Rabblemaster, Seeker of the Way, Lightning Strike, and more – while de Nicola was pinning his colors to the Abzan mast, with the emphasis very much on midrange threats that were tough to deal with.

Game 1

There was plenty of information for de Nicola early, via a turn two Thoughtseize. Double Seeker of the Way, Lightning Strike, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos left him options, and a clear understanding of Aldunate's game plan. He needed the help, too, having opened on a mulligan to six. Boon Satyr was never going to trade with Seeker of the Way, but at least the Lightning Strike was gone from Aldunate's hand. Although de Nicola looked to have stabilized with Siege Rhino, Stormbreath Dragon can change things in a hurry. A second Siege Rhino, on the other hand, meant advantage de Nicola, even though his Hornet Queen looked a long way off, sitting as he was on just four mana.

The Battlefield

Mana was also a problem for Aldunate – he had far too much of it. With a life total still in double figures, de Nicola was comfortable enough to send double Siege Rhino into the red zone. If that wasn't a sign that he was going to win, the Wingmate Roc that followed combat surely was. The rest – and it took a while – was simply window dressing on a dominant game one performance from the Argentinian.

Aldunate 0 – 1 de Nicola

Game 2

Given the double Siege Rhino of game one, it won't have been lost on Aldunate that he really wanted to be the beatdown. That isn't easily accomplished by back to back Mystic Monastery and a Temple of Epiphany. Mantis Rider arrived a 'turn late' on turn four, and you had to wonder what had prompted Aldunate to keep his opening seven.

Agustin Aldunate

There were no such problems for de Nicola:

Turn two: Sylvan Caryatid

Turn three: Flash out Boon Satyr

Turn four: Wingmate Roc

Aldunate had a nice turn, using Suspension Field to kill the Roc token, then attacking with his Mantis Rider before using it to Convoke out Stoke the Flames, killing the original Roc. De Nicola had a second Wingmate Roc...Aldunate had Banishing Light for 'half' of Nicola had a third Wingmate Roc...except he didn't, met with Disdainful Stroke (good name). Whether intentional or not, Aldunate had morphed (ok, not morphed but, you know, transformed) himself into the control player, which seemed somewhat problematic against a midrange deck from de Nicola packed with so many obvious ways to gain an edge.

Siege Rhino is a fine example of such a card. You might kill it, but it's going to drain you for three if it hits play, and once again de Nicola had two of them at the ready. When he used Abzan Charm to protect his Wingmate token from Stoke the Flames, it was over – a comprehensive victory for the Argentinian. In fairness, double Siege Rhino is pretty decent. Double Siege Rhino plus triple Wingmate Roc is several notches higher on the power curve.

Aldunate with work to do at 9-2, but still very much in the hunt. De Nicola at 10-1, and a back to back Santiago GP Top 8 looking very much on, and in, the cards.

Aldunate 0 – 2 De Nicola