While bigger-name Magic pros have been chasing Gold, Platinum and other glories down in Sydney, one of the storylines we followed at Grand Prix Stockholm was the path of less familiar players as they chased down their goals for the end of the season. Earlier in the day we followed Eliot Boussaud and Kayure Patel as they achieved the records they needed to lock up Silver and the invite to two Pro Tours that came with it. To that list we could now add another name. By making the Top 8 here, Italy's Matteo Moure also crossed the Pro Point threshold required to reach Silver. Moure didn't want to stop there. He said he would try to go to Sydney for PT Eldritch Moon in order to see if he could push on further to attain Gold.
Moure reached Silver on the back of making his second Grand Prix final this season. At GP London last August his run was stopped in the final by Fabrizio Anteri and a crash of angry Siege Rhinos.
For his opponent, Elmer Van Eeghen, this was his first Grand Top 8, although he did have Pro Tour experience having qualified four times previously. The medical doctor from Amsterdam was one of three people to crush the field with perfect 9-0 records on Saturday. He followed that with a very good draft day on Sunday and was now only one match away from lifting the trophy.
Despite reaching the final, Moure really wasn't happy with his deck. Looking at his decklist it looked as though an attempt to go into white had been aborted, which had left him to scrape every playable out of his green cards. On a more positive note, he had picked up a couple of multi-colored bombs in Ulrich of the Krellenhorde and The Gitrog Monster. They'd taken his deck into three colors, but for that raw power it was worth stretching the mana base.
Van Eeghen was also running three colors, but only to splash the ridiculously splashy Spreading Flames. The rest of his deck was a tasty green-blue concoction topped out with a couple of Eldrazi emerge cards.
Once again, Moure got to go first by virtue of being the number one seed coming into the Top 8.
“Let's have a good match,” Van Eeghen said before the game started.
Unfortunately the mulligan gods had other ideas. Moure shipped back his first hand and then went down to five cards.
However, Moure hadn't fought his way to the final to roll over to a couple of mulligans. He summoned a Spirit of the Hunt to fight back. At one point it even looked like he might turn it right around as escalating up to two modes on Savage Alliance wiped Van Eeghen's side of the board.
“Pretty good,” Van Eeghen said.
Unfortunately, the problem with starting off on five cards is it gives a player less resources to work with. While Moure had turned the game back in his favour, he still only had the Spirit of the Hunt on his side. That allowed Van Eeghen to rebuild with Reckless Scholar and then Intrepid Provisioner. And then Lashweed Lurker emerged out of the Reckless Scholar when Van Eeghen decided he didn't need it anymore to set Moure back another turn and force him to recast his only creature. More Eldrazi Horrors showed up as Van Eeghen summoned a Wretched Gryff for the full mana cost.
That was enough for Moure. He drew another card and showed a hand of land and one mystery card. In total he'd drawn only four non-land cards the whole game.
“I thought I'd undone the mulligan with the 3-for-1 with the Savage Alliance but I drew only land,” he said.
“I thought you were ahead at that point,” Van Eeghen said.
Van Eeghen 1-0 Moure
With an audible tsk, Moure wasn't happy with his first hand in the second game either.
Fortunately, this time Van Eeghen hadn't come racing out of the gates with two-power threats on turn one and two. The first threat he managed was a rather more sedate Ingenious Skaab on turn three.
Moure's Ulvenwald Captive might not have been the most exciting but it did allow him to ramp out first a Cult of the [autocard]Waxing Moon[/autocard] and then fill out his board with Gnarlwood Dryad and Backwoods Survivalists.
Van Eeghen had the card to break it open as he revealed what the mountains in is deck were for as he attempted to three-for-one Moure with Spreading Flames. Two creatures were engulfed but Moure was able to save his Dryad with Confront the Unknown.
Neither players seemed short of gas. Van Eeghen flashed out Stormrider Spirit in Moure's end step and the Italian returned the favour by summoning his own instant speed Spirit of the Hunt. Through it all, Moure maintained a slight edge with his removal and tricks – this time a Prey Upon to eat Van Eeghen's flier – and kept squeezing.
More threats, more squeezing. Aside from the Spreading Flames, the Dutchman hadn't drawn the combat tricks or interactive spells he needed to take the pressure off. When Moure calculated it was safe to have his Runaway Carriage join the attack that was the cue to take the match to a decider.
Ominously, neither of Moure's multi-colored bombs had put in an appearance yet.
Van Eeghen 1-1 Moure
Would we have a mulligan-free final game.
Nope, yet again Moure had to play with less than a full grip of seven cards.
Van Eeghen had a more ruthless start this time, curving Kessig Prowler into Ulvenwald Captive. Moure tried to keep up with his own Captive, but him always remaining one turn behind would be the story of this game.
“Always three colors,” Van Eeghen joked when Moure's third turn saw Forest, Swamp and Mountain on the table.
Moure had said the same to him in the second game, so the Dutchman was returning the banter.
“Always mulligans,” Moure corrected.
Their turn three plays, Intrepid Provisioner and Backwoods Survivalists, traded as Van Eeghen didn't have a trick to win combat despite Moure being tapped out. What he had was more pressure as Pack Guardian jumped out for him at the end of Moure's turn with a 2/2 Wolf for company.
Drag Under set Moure further back, and knowing he couldn't risk something bad happening if he tapped out to recast his Cult of Waxing Moon, he opted to summon Sanguinary Mage and leave mana up instead.
Van Eeghen thought it might be for Spirit of the Hunt and checked whether it pumped itself.
“No, only other wolves.”
Moure didn't have it anyway. Confront the Unknown meant he got to stave off the Wolf token but lost his Vampire when the Kessig Prowler transformed up to Sinuous Predator. Moure was still facing a pack of four-power wolves. Did he have anything else? He went digging with his Clue and found a Loam Dryad to buy another turn.
The game state hadn't improved.
Moure: four land and nothing else. He extended the hand.
Van Eeghen lifted his arms in celebration and his friends joined him in the feature match area as he was presented with the trophy. For Moure there was only the consolation of a second Finalist's plaque and the knowledge he'd locked up Silver for next season.
Elmer Van Eeghen defeats Matteo Moure 2-1 to become champion of Grand Prix Stockholm.