It was a David and Goliath finals. One player enjoying his first Grand Prix Top 8, the other aiming for his third Grand Prix win.
Hamilton’s Robert Lombardi has paid his dues on the PTQ circuit, and now he’s leveled up his game and posted his first Grand Prix Top 8. All weekend he’s played a very focused and deliberate game. His deck of choice is Shota Yasooka’s Esper Dragons list from the Top 8 at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. One more win will make him a champion.
Team Face-to-Face Games’s Jon Stern has already cleared the weekend’s major hurdle. This Top 8 earns him qualification back onto the Pro Tour that he would otherwise have been chasing in the coming weeks. Now it’s time to pad the résumé, and the bank account. Naturally he’s playing the refinement of Steve Rubin’s championship deck, Green-White Tokens.
Stern was first on the board with a Lambholt Pacifist, hoping to catch Lombardi with snarled mana for the flip into a quick 4/4 attacker. He had no such luck, however. Lombardi fired off a turn-two Transgress the Mind, taking away Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and seeing a pair of Sylvan Advocates and a Plains.
Stern brought out one of his Advocates, but still didn’t get to flip his Werewolf thanks to Lombardi playing Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Worse, Lombardi had Kalitas the following turn. Stern built up his board thanks to some help from a pair of Thraben Inspectors. He had Westvale Abbey, but just four lands to work with.
Lombardi stocked his hand with Painful Truths and then resolved Dragonlord Ojutai, and he was rolling. Stern took a hit and watched as Lombardi got double duty off Ultimate Price thanks to his flipped Jace. Silumgar's Scorn stopped Avacyn from crashing the party. From there it was smooth sailing.
Lombardi 1 – Stern 0
Stern opened with a 1/1 Hangarback Walker and tried a second one, but was stopped by an un-augmented Silumgar's Scorn. Canopy Vista meant he didn’t have the one mana to spare. Lombardi had no immediate answer to Nissa. He played a land and passed. Stern summoned Thraben Inspector and distributed counters with Nissa. In response, Lombardi removed the Hangarback Walker with Grasp of Darkness, giving Stern a pair of Thopters that inherited the counters. It didn’t matter to Lombardi, who was sitting on Languish and wiped Stern’s board.
Stern rebuilt with a 2/2 Hangarback Walker. Lombardi answered with Dragonlord Ojutai, but Stern untapped and played Clip Wings to clear it out. He buffed his Walker to a 3/3 and made another Plant token before passing. Lombardi was on the back foot, but again had Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Stern didn’t break stride, tapping three for Stasis Snare to clear a path and boosting his team with Nissa before knocking Lombardi to 11.
Lombardi was struggling. He animated his Shambling Vent and killed Nissa, but was still facing down an army. Worse, Stern had yet another Nissa, further shortening the clock. Lombardi got one more turn before he had to pack it in.
Lombardi 1 – Stern 1
Things started out poorly for Stern in the decider. After shipping back his opening seven, he found an unplayable six. With a frown, he went to five.
He led out with a pair of Hangarback Walkers, losing one to Grasp of Darkness. He could mount no real pressure off just two lands and watched as Lombardi rolled out Dragonlord Ojutai. When Stern went to sacrifice a Thraben Inspector's Clue in a bid to get another land, Lombardi pounced on him with Silumgar's Command, sending the Hangarback Walker back to Stern’s hand and destroying the Inspector.
Full credit to Stern, he played it out to the bitter end, trying to maximize every turn. Unfortunately, Lombardi just pulled further and further ahead. Soon enough, he was flying over for lethal.
Robert Lombardi defeats Jon Stern 2-1