After 17 rounds of play, it all came down to this. The original field of 1,232 players had been cut down to just two, locked in one final battle to decide it all. The winner would walk away with the title, the trophy, and the first-place prize of $10,000. For both of them, their performance at this Grand Prix, points at previous events, and their corresponding qualification for Pro Tour Amonkhet meant Silver level in the Pro Players Club.
One side of the table featured Italy's Fabrizio Campanino, who managed to make back-to-back European Top 8s, coming fresh off of a Top 8 at Grand Prix Prague just a few weeks ago. There, he failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals, but this weekend, he had his eyes set on the trophy. His opponent was France's Samuel Vuillot, who made the Top 8 of this Grand Prix together with compatriot Alexandre Habert, both of them piloting a deck that their friend and teammate Eliott Boussaud put a lot of work in.
The matchup was a mirror match between two copies of the deck that dominated this tournament: Mardu Ballista. This was not the Mardu Vehicles deck that you might know from Pro Tour Aether Revolt—there were no Veteran Motorist or Inventor's Apprentice in any of these lists. Instead, they had a better mana base and room for Walking Ballista, which gave them an edge in the mirror match and against Saheeli Rai combo. And it wasn't just the Ballista—what also stood out was the plethora of planeswalkers and removal spells in their sideboards, allowing them to transform their strategy for games two and three.
Campanino had a fast start with Toolcraft Exemplar and Heart of Kiran, but Vuillot had a removal spell for the flier and a Thalia, Heretic Cathar as a first-striking blocker. Afterwards, Vuillot stuck a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and started attacking.
Samuel Vuillot ponders his options in the first game of the finals.
Campanino was unable to get rid of the planeswalker for a while. A glimmer of hope arrived when Campanino found a new Heart of Kiran along with Scrapheap Scrounger as a crew member, allowing him to ping Gideon in the air, but by then it was already too late.
Campanino had fallen to a dangerously low life total thanks to Gideon's attacks at that point, and Vuillot's ragtag team of remaining creatures swung in for the last points of damage.
Fabrizio Campanino 0 - Samuel Vuillot 1
The second game was all about the way the players sideboarded.
Vuillot made the following changes: +3 Oath of Chandra +1 Nahiri, the Harbinger +4 Release the Gremlins +3 Oath of Liliana +1 Ob Nixilis Reignited -4 Scrapheap Scrounger -4 Heart of Kiran -4 Toolcraft Exemplar
With these swaps, Vuillot transformed completely, cutting not only all of his early drops but most of his artifacts as well. He only had Thraben Inspector and Walking Ballista remaining, so he essentially made the three copies of Release the Gremlins that Campanino boarded in completely ineffectual.
The sideboard plan worked out beautifully for Vuillot. He started the game with Oath of Chandra and Oath of Liliana, and then it was time for planeswalkers to arrive. All the time, he got more and more value from his Oaths. Funnily enough, one of the planeswalkers he cast was Ob Nixilis Reignited, who is not technically part of the gatewatch, but he triggered the Oaths regardless.
Meanwhile, Campanino was unable to put on a lot of pressure. He did have Release the Gremlins in hand for a long time, but that was of no help at all because Vuillot had basically no good targets left in his deck.
Fabrizio Campanino was unable to get a footing in the second game.
Soon enough, soundly beaten in terms of sideboard strategy, Campanino extended his hand in defeat.
Fabrizio Campanino 0 - Samuel Vuillot 2
Immediately after the match ended, Vuillot received applause from his teammates Elliot Boussaud and Alexandre Habert, who were watching the finals from the sidelines. As Vuillot explained after the match, when they saw Gosaku's MTGO PTQ winning list, "we knew it was the future." They already played Oath of Liliana in their Mardu Vehicles deck at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, which they felt was awesome, and the ability to become a Mardu Superfriends deck after sideboard put everything together.
Samuel Vuillot (left) and his friends Elliot Boussaud (middle) and Alexandre Habert (right) were all ready to take an Oath to commemorate this awesome weekend for them.
Congratulations to Samuel Vuillot, winner of Grand Prix Utrecht 2017!