The upper half of the Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica quarterfinal bracket features a pair of interesting showdowns—experience versus breakthrough, and Islands versus Plains.
The first match featured top-seeded Wilson Mok, breaking through to his best premier play finish and first Pro Tour Top 8 from his fifth try. The lonesome control player to make Top 8, his Jeskai Control deck was built to fight the sea of white-based aggro decks that had been tearing through the field. Four copies of Deafening Clarion with two more sweepers in Cleansing Nova provided Mok multiple ways to reset the board.
Of course, Adanto Vanguard becoming indestructible was still a problem, which is where Andrew Elenbogen enters the picture. Elenbogen already had three Grand Prix Top 8s, including one from Dallas earlier this year. Now, his first Pro Tour Top 8 breakthrough was ready to fight uphill against the deck built to beat it.
Red-White Aggro is ostensibly a mono-white deck, often with Venerable Loxodon and a sea of powerful aggressive cards—Dauntless Bodyguard, Benalish Marshal, History of Benalia. But the wrinkle comes from the sideboard with Experimental Frenzy, which if left alone provides overwhelming advantage against spells like Deafening Clarion and, well, Cleansing Nova.
The other match featured another Red-White Aggro player in Tay Jun Hao. With several Grand Prix Top 8s to his credit, Tay unlocked his first Pro Tour Top 8 like Elenbogen did with a deck packed with the same powerful white creatures. Layering Heroic Reinforcements on top of it meant Tay could set up a lethal attack from "nowhere" given a full battlefield of creatures.
However, standing in Tay's way was one of Magic's greatest players: Pro Tour Hall of Fame member and five-time Pro Tour Top 8 contender Yuuya Watanabe and his Izzet Drakes. As the namesake implies, Enigma Drake and Crackling Drake pair well with a pile of low-mana-cost spells. Arclight Phoenix fits in the mix perfectly as well, since if you're casting Chart a Course and Opt into Shock all before combat you're going to get your Phoenix back anyway.
But it's a combo-style finish that gives the deck it's edge: 15 life isn't a safe total against two Drakes poised to attack you next turn.
Match 1: Wilson Mok (Jeskai Control) vs. Andrew Elenbogen (Red-White Aggro)
Elenbogen took a quick Game 1, racing ahead of Mok's Control deck early, and looked to do the same in the second. But Mok found two early Deafening Clarions to try and take over from Elenbogen's pressure. Adanto Vanguard and History of Benalia kept Elenbogen in the mix—until the third Clarion evened the match score.
The third game—the first with sideboard options around—showed how Deafening Clarion can fail to be enough. Adanto Vanguard and Venerated Loxodon required both Cleansing Nova and Seal Away, which Mok wasn't as good at drawing after picking up two Clarions early.
The fourth game progressed at a slower pace, but Elenbogen had mid-game muscle thanks to Snubhorn Sentry and hitting City's Blessing—clearing a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Mok left unsafe. Crackling Drake and double Ionize set up Invoke the Divine to lock down blockers and pick up some life for Mok, cascading into advantages too great for Elenbogen to finish it out.
In the decisive fifth game, Elenbogen's powerful ally, Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, finally arrived. But Mok's Angel—Lyra Dawnbringer—ensured he stayed ahead and forced Elenbogen to find Conclave Tribunal before Cleansing Nova cleared four enchantments.
But it wasn't enough as Elenbogen ripped another Experimental Frenzy and reloaded with a battlefield filled by creatures. A tight race followed as Elenbogen attacked Mok to just 2 life, forcing Mok to cast Cleansing Nova to reset creatures—including his Lyra—this time.
Mok drew Invoke the Divine to end the second Frenzy and gain a touch of life, but Elenbogen's Benalish Marshal and Snubhorn Sentry, backed up by Conclave Tribunal, put him back into the driver's seat. First, Mok's Teferi, Hero of Dominaria fell. Next to fall was Mok himself, as his control deck finally ran out of answers.
Andrew Elenbogen defeated Wilson Mok three games to two and advanced to the semifinals of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.
Match 2: Yuuya Watanabe (Izzet Drakes) vs Tay Jun Hao (Red-White Aggro)
A board full of creatures into Venerated Loxodon set up History of Benalia and more than enough pressure for Tay to take the first game. The downside of Izzet Drakes is even starting well, as Watanabe did, you need to keep drawing spells to close the game out.
The third game was match point for Tay, but Watanabe wasn't going to go quietly. Double Enigma Drake presented early blockers against a fleet of one-drops and Adanto Vanguard from Tay, forcing a slightly slower pace from the aggressive deck.
That's all Watanabe needed to set up a lethal turn, showing a masterclass in how to combo finish with Izzet Drakes.
Tay kept a slow hand after a mulligan down to five for their fourth game, but double History of Benalia was one way to make up for it. Clearing a blocker with Conclave Tribunal and attacking for 10—with more to follow up the next turn—overwhelmed for Watanabe who went all-in on a Murmuring Mystic defense.
Tay Jun Hao defeated Yuuya Watanabe three games to one and advanced to the semifinals of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.