Coming into Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, there were dozens of teams loaded with superstars. Players with Pro Tour titles. Hall of Famers. Players in contention for current best in the world. Teams that have found proven and consistent success. The best players to ever sleeve up Magic cards, in many cases teamed together.
Those are the teams that most would have picked for the Top 4. Which made the Top 4 run of these two teams—the Hotsauce Games trio of Allen Wu, Ben Hull and Gregory Orange and the Belgian squad of Christophe Gregoir, Branco Neirynck and Thomas Van Der Paelt—all the more impressive. They had outlasted all those superstar teams, and would now play for a chance to advance to the finals and the record prize pool.
In this team tournament, the winner would be the squad that took two of the three best-of-five matches. As we watched Orange and his White-Blue Control deck take on the combo God-Pharaoh's Gift brew Van Der Paelt had brought to the Top 4, the Legacy and Modern matches got off to a fast start, with Wu using Death and Taxes to take a lightning-fast game one over Death and Taxes while Neirynck did the same for the Belgians with Humans besting Hollow One.
The eternal matches were fairly straightforward, with creature decks smashing into each other, the combat step playing a pivotal role in a pair of formats where it isn't always guaranteed to.
Back at the front table, the Standard game continued to stretch on, a development that surely benefitted Orange's control deck. Still, Van Der Paelt was determined to keep attempting to put God-Pharaoh's Gift onto the battlefield by way of casting it or using Refurbish, and eventually he was successful at doing just that.
Unfortunately for him, even that was not enough.
But even as Orange controlled the board, Van Der Paelt had a few tricks up his sleeve, and found a window to use his Ipnu Rivulet to try and steal the game.
Meanwhile, the back matches played out much as expected, with Wu taking a 2-1 lead on Gregoir while Humans ran roughshod over Hollow One, with Hull even going so far as to discard a 4/4 he could have cast for free due to how poorly it fared in the matchup against cards like Phantasmal Image and Reflector Mage.
But despite being down and with his back against the wall, Hull persevered, and knocked Neirynck down to just 3 life, giving the Belgian just one turn to find an answer as he tried to lock in the first match result. That turn ended up being one of the most exciting moments of the semifinals, with a Core Set 2019 standout proving to be the difference-maker.
Back in Standard, the second game played out much like the first, with Greg "the Citrus Assassin" Orange leaning on a bevy of countermagic and removal to outlast the combo deck, while Wu completed the back table by loading up an Umezawa's Jitte with plenty of counters to answer any creature the Eldrazi deck could muster, evening up the semifinals at one match win apiece and sending things back to the front table to decide it all.
Both players now had access to their sideboard, but it was still going to be an uphill battle for Van Der Paelt. He gained access to counterspells of his own, but Orange had the same, along with Forsake the Worldly to clear out God-Pharaoh's Gift before it could generate a trigger. And try as he might, the Belgian was never able to get a God-Pharaoh's Gift to last until the beginning of combat, as Orange completed a clinic in beating the explosive combo deck and sent his team to the finals of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in the process.
The Hotsauce Games trio of Allen Wu, Ben Hull, and Gregory Orange defeat the Belgium team of Christophe Gregoir, Branco Neirynck and Thomas Van Der Paelt 2-1 to advance to the finals!