This is what Pro Tour Top 8s look like at their best—two Pro Tour Champions squaring off in a battle that would decide which of them would have the chance to add another trophy to their collection. Jérémy Dezani won Pro Tour Theros in his only previous Top 8 appearance, while Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas won Pro Tour Berlin a decade ago and has an astounding eight other Sunday appearances to his name.
It was a showdown of the best of the best, and both were playing the best deck of the weekend: Boros Aggro. While the lists had some differences—LSV's Team ChannelFireball was playing Benalish Marshal while Dezani had more red sources to support Boros Challenger and Goblin Instigator to maximize his early plays—they were at their core the same White Weenie strategy. Both had dominated throughout the tournament with their decks, and both had won tightly contested quarterfinal matches to make it to this point.
As expected in the pseudo-mirror between two White Weenie decks, the battlefield filled quickly as both players swarmed the board. Between two decks defined by their powerful three-drops, it was Dezani who had the first salvo, landing History of Benalia while LSV opted to use Pride of Conquerors to win an early combat step and knock Dezani down to 12.
Adding Boros Challenger to his board, the Frenchman cracked back to even the life totals. But it was LSV's turn to deploy a three-drop, with Benalish Marshal creating a very dangerous combat for Dezani as he lined up his blocks. Opting to trade his Challenger for a Vanguard, Dezani again evened the life totals at 6 before deploying a post-combat Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. But when LSV had Conclave Tribunal for the Angel, a Pride of Conquerors was enough to seal the deal on the following turn.
The Hall of Famer got off to a much slower start in the second game, with a pair of tapped lands slowing down his Healer's Hawk. Meanwhile, Dezani had four creatures on the board by his third turn. With so many creatures and a Pride of Conquerors, Dezani took a huge chunk out of LSV's life total, though the ChannelFireball team member held on at 4 life thanks to his lifelink creatures. When a second Marshal joined the board, the Healer's Hawks were suddenly real threats, and the 6-point life swing on the next attack step pulled him out of the danger zone. A Pride of Conquerors of his own completed the comeback and put LSV up two games to none over Dezani.
Both games were back-and-forth, competitive affairs, but despite having been on the verge of taking both games, Dezani now found himself on the brink of elimination as they sideboarded for the third game of the set. Fortunately, he had a crucial third-turn History of Benalia and an even more crucial Conclave Tribunal for the American's Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice.
But LSV had more gas in the tank. Healer's Hawk, Leonin Vanguard, and Ajani's Pridemate formed a devastating trio, and the two-mana sometimes-Grizzly Bear was a 4/4 by the time the Hall of Famer passed his next turn back. It threatened to take over the game very quickly, but Dezani had a second Conclave Tribunal to keep things in check. And when he found Lava Coil to answer the follow-up Benalish Marshal, it seemed that Dezani may have found his way back into the game.
After answering LSV's biggest threats, Dezani was ready to deploy one of his own: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. No Aurelia yet in the match had made it through a turn cycle, so Dezani had to be counting his lucky stars as he untapped and cast Heroic Reinforcements and moved to combat.
What happened next will go down in Magic history. LSV—who had Adanto, the First Fort untapped with mana to activate—grabbed a token off the battlefield and handed it to Dezani, who had been reaching toward one to help visualize the battlefield as he lined up the possible blocks. When he declared his attack as final, LSV promptly dropped Settle the Wreckage on the table, earning an instant handshake from Dezani as he realized he had been baited by one of the best bluffs in Pro Tour history.
With that, the match was over and LSV was on to the finals of Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.
Luis Scott-Vargas (right) shakes hands with Jérémy Dezani (left) after securing his seat in the final.