In this, the penultimate round before the Top 8, Matej Zatlkaj met Max Sjöblom. Both have one previous Grand Prix Top 8 to their name, with one additional Top 8 at the Pro Tour for Sjöblom and two for Zatlkaj. "I had hoped to play a less accomplished opponent."—"Me too!"
Both players entered the round with a record of 11-2. A victory here could possibly secure a spot in the Top 8 already, and a loss might not spell immediate elimination either. "I have good tiebreakers and since the field is so small I think there is a good chance one 12-3 may make it in," said Zatlkaj. Obviously, he'd nevertheless prefer a win.
Sjöblom was running a Mardu Midrange deck, Zatlkaj had brought Jeskai, a deck much maligned in the aftermath of Grand Prix Los Angeles, where it put up rather disappointing results. Zatlkaj was still convinced of its power though and "determined to show 'em."
Things didn't start out very well for Zatlkaj, however, as he mulliganed down to four. He did have Lightning Strike for Sjöblom's Seeker of the Way as well as Stoke the Flames to kill Butcher of the Horde. He even had Goblin Rabblemaster for offense. But the effects of Zatlkaj's mulligans began to show soon enough, with the added bonus that he had drawn more land than spells too.
"Cards in hand?" asked Zatlkaj who held none. "Five," was Sjöblom's reply. The game proceeded exactly as one would expect. Sjöblom had more creatures than Zatlkaj could handle and more removal than Zatlkaj had creatures.
Max Sjöblom 1-0 Matej Zatlkaj
This time, Zatlkaj only took one mulligan and the game was long and grindy. Both players had Seeker of the Way and Zatlkaj's survived for quite a while and was later replaced by another; Zatlkaj's Goblin Rabblemaster survived long enough to at least create two tokens.
Various creatures and removal spells traded, including three copies of Butcher of the Horde which Zatlkaj killed with two Stoke the Flames and one Suspension Field. Meanwhile Zatlkaj's attacks had brought Sjöblom's life total well into the single digits. Just as Sjöblom was poised to make a comeback with Sorin, Solemn Visitor and Goblin Rabblemaster, Zatlkaj's Keranos, God of Storms finished the game.
Max Sjöblom 1-1 Matej Zatlkaj
Here, nothing happened until turn three, when Zatlkaj cast Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Sjöblom answered it with Crackling Doom. Next, Sjöblom's Goblin Rabblemaster died to Zatlkaj's Stoke the Flames. Then, Zatlkaj's Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker was shot down with two Lightning Strikes and Zatlkaj's Mantis Rider was hit by a third.
Sjöblom's Butcher of the Horde met Stoke the Flames, then Zatlkaj refueled with Dig Through Time. Zatlkaj had Goblin Rabblemaster, then another, while Sjöblom was slowly but surely running out of answers—and life. Finally, Mantis Rider put the nail in Sjöblom's coffin.
Max Sjöblom 1-2 Matej Zatlkaj