Andrew Elenbogen was on a roll. After narrowly escaping defeat from the jaws of Wilson Mok's Jeskai Control in the quarterfinals, he squeaked out a victory in the Red-White Aggro mirror against Tay Jun Tao in the semifinals. Starting as the eighth seed, Elenbogen needed to win as an aggro deck starting more games on the draw than the play.
But he did it, and the run of the first-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor wasn't over.
For Luis Scott-Vargas, adding a ninth Pro Tour Top 8 to his Hall of Fame career gave him the stats for entry twice over. As one of the game's greatest players—whether you're looking at active or inactive players—he was finally in a position to take advantage of battling the aggro mirror.
"I'll go first," Scott-Vargas said.
"Wise," Elenbogen agreed. "Going first is a significant advantage."
"It is. This is the only time I've gone first," Scott-Vargas said, referring to starting on the draw for both his quarterfinals and semifinals matches. "I'm seventh."
Both players were on versions of Red-White Aggro. Dauntless Bodyguards, Benalish Marshals, History of Benalias, and Skymarcher Aspirants laid a foundation of aggressive creatures. Elenbogen opted for an Experimental Frenzy package in the sideboard, eschewing the Heroic Reinforcements and Aurelia, Exemplar of Justices other decks layered in. Scott-Vargas too had Experimental Frenzys in his sideboard, but chose Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice as a four-mana trump.
The most interesting card in a sideboard was Settle the Wreckage. Across his team Scott-Vargas was the only one playing the card, and only as a single copy in the sideboard. Thanks to the small, closed natures of Pro Tour metagames, if his team was asked to offer a deck tech he could show a deck that implies all their decks had Settle the Wreckage. By playing it in Constructed rounds, Scott-Vargas alone could create the impression others playing against his team should play around it.
The truth? Scott-Vargas elected to be the lone player on his team to have it in the sideboard, which oddly enough created an incredible moment in his semifinal match against Jérémy Dezani.
Elenbogen, having studied Scott-Vargas's deck and watched his semifinals match, would have to respect a single Settle the Wreckage after sideboarding—even if Scott-Vargas was alone in playing it.
Jockeying for control of the battlefield, Scott-Vargas went wide with back-to-back History of Benalia and set up a powerful attack. Elenbogen blunted it somewhat by using Conclave Tribunal to exile one Saga, but the pile of damage Scott-Vargas dished was enough for Elenbogen to move on to the next game.
"Studying your list," Elenbogen said, picking up his copy of it next to him. "I still think you're favored."
"I would agree," Scott-Vargas shared.
Bouncing anecdotes about Leonin Vanguard back and forth, Elenbogen offered how his team settled on playing Snubhorn Sentry—it was better against the decks they were more worried about—than Leonin Vanguard, which was excellent in the white aggressive deck mirrors.
"At least I get to go first this time," Elenbogen finished.
"Well, I hope you go first all the rest of the games." Scott-Vargas was rarely without the right quip for the moment.
The second game was another quick race, this time Elenbogen leading out with Skymarcher Aspirant and Adanto Vanguard into History of Benalia against Scott-Vargas's Legion's Landing, Healer's Hawk, and Dauntless Bodyguard into History of Benalia.
Battlefields full of creatures were the norm between these decks. After a pause, Scott-Vargas cast Benalish Marshal before passing with his team ready to block.
Conclave Tribunal removed the Marshal before Elenbogen attacked. It put Scott-Vargas down to 1 life and one Healer's Hawk. After drawing one last card, he too made the call to concede to the superior forces in a game.
Game 3 found Scott-Vargas with an early Healer's Hawk and Ajani's Pridemate, which was a quick-to-grow problem for Elenbogen. Another Pridemate followed by Leonin Vanguard added to Elenbogen's issues. It was exactly the kind of start Scott-Vargas tested for.
While Elenbogen had double Benalish Marshal, he had no attacks against Scott-Vargas: Elenbogen was down to just 7 life.
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice complicated things even further. After the next attack Elenbogen was at 3 life and a draw step from defeat.
"You got me."
Another round of applause echoed as Scott-Vargas moved to match point.
"At least that was my nuts draw," Scott-Vargas said. "Healer's Hawk into Pridemate into Vanguard into Marshal into Aurelia."
"I don't think there's any draw I have that beats that," Elenbogen said.
"Your draw was very good too," Scott-Vargas admitted. "Triple one-drop into Marshal."
After taking a mulligan, Scott-Vargas had a slow start to Elenbogen's blistering heater. A sea of one-drops—Snubhorn Sentrys, Dauntless Bodyguards, Healer's Hawk, Skymarcher Aspirant—and Conclave Tribunal put Scott-Vargas down to just 4 life to Elenbogen's 18.
Elenbogen paused. "Now we play the Settle the Wreckage game," he said. "You definitely have it. You're pretty lucky."
"I did side in three." Scott-Vargas joked.
On the next attack Elenbogen kept it light again. "I can keep doing this," he said, leaving most of his army back. Sure enough Scott-Vargas cast Settle the Wreckage, having bought a few turns of Elenbogen playing around it.
That was all he would get.
After Elenbogen attacked again with just flying creatures—keeping Benalish Marshal around to pump them—Scott-Vargas revealed he was finally out of time.
"This is Game 5 now, right?" Elenbogen asked.
"Yep." Scott-Vargas was all business now.
"So I just have to win a game against you and I win the Pro Tour? Unfortunately, people tell me you're very lucky."
Scott-Vargas nodded. "It's true."
It took a few moments as Scott-Vargas had to take two mulligans. "Well, I'm not complaining about that," said Elenbogen, waiting with his kept opening of seven cards. "Good luck on five."
After another moment, Scott-Vargas took a third mulligan.
"Geez." Was all Elenbogen offered this time. Scott-Vargas would need to draw incredibly well to overcome the awkward start.
Scott-Vargas led with a tapped land into Healer's Hawk and Dauntless Bodyguard the next turn. Elenbogen had three one-drops down—Legion's Landing, Skymarcher Aspirant, and a Bodyguard of his own—in the same time. A quick attack-and-trade later, Elenbogen had transformed his Landing, played another, and played Snubhorn Sentry.
Scott-Vargas drew a card and passed with two lands up.
Elenbogen hit his city's blessing with another Skymarcher Aspirant, and attacked with everything he could. Pride of Conquerors ensured Scott-Vargas kept his creatures around after blocking, but Elenbogen took a turn off to convoke Venerated Loxodon and set up a massive attack.
Then that attack came. One Pride of Conqueror's after blockers and Scott-Vargas extend his hand.
Andrew Elenbogen defeated Luis Scott-Vargas three games to two, becoming Champion of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica!