Semifinals: Carlos Romao (Jeskai Control) vs. Makis Matsoukas (R/W Tokens)

Posted in PRO TOUR KALADESH on October 17, 2016

By Melissa DeTora

Melissa is a former Magic pro player and strategy writer who is now working in R&D on the Play Design team.

Makis Matsoukas was competing in his very first Pro Tour this weekend in Honolulu. The student from Athens worked with local friends who helped him come up with his Standard deck. He never thought he'd make it all the way to the Top 8, let alone with a strong enough record to get a bye into the Semifinals.

He had his work cut out for him, however, as his opponent was Carlos Romao, a former World Champion and five-time Grand Prix winner. Romao plowed through the two stages of the quarterfinals. This match certainly would not be easy for Matsoukas.

The Decks

Matsoukas was piloting a unique version of Red-White Aggro. While most Red-White Aggro players opted to run Vehicles of some variety this weekend, Matsoukas chose a more aggressive version of Red-White. Four copies of Smuggler's Copter were a given, but instead of larger vehicles, Matsoukas is running a go-wide strategy with efficient token generators like Servo Exhibition and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar alongside Reckless Bushwhacker to help close out games.

Romao was on Jeskai Control, and with eight instant-speed removal spells and five sweeper effects, he had a slight edge in this match-up. Additionally, Matsoukas was running four copies each of Outnumber and Declaration in Stone. While these were normally fantastic removal spells, they were very weak against Romao's deck.

Makis Matsoukas didn't expect to make it this far, but today he finds himself under the Sunday spotlights facing down 2002 World Champion Carlos Romao.

The Games

Matsoukas chose to play and Romao kicked things off with a mulligan. He found a six he was happy with and the first game of the semifinals was underway.

Matsoukas had the first play of the game with Servo Exhibition. Romao played nothing but lands for the first few turns and was getting beaten down. Pia Nalaar was added to the board, but a Radiant Flames from Romao cleaned everything up.

Reckless Bushwhacker without surge was the follow-up for the Greek player, and he continued to add creatures to the board and pressure Romao's life total. Romao could only cast a Glimmer of Genius, searching for an answer.

Romao found a second Radiant Flames and, once again, Matsoukas had to rebuild. He deployed a Smuggler's Copter but no creature to crew it. The next turn Matsoukas cast Thraben Inspector, which was able to get in the Copter, but a Harnessed Lightning stopped Matsoukas's attack.

Romao sets up his defenses and looks towards the late game.

Matsoukas animated his Needle Spires and attacked, but a surprise block from Torrential Gearhulk put him very far behind. Inventor's Apprentice and a surged Reckless Bushwhacker was Matsoukas's follow-up, but a second Torrential Gearhulk jumped in the way of one of the attackers. A third Gearhuk was enough for Matsoukas and he scooped up his cards and shuffled up for Game 2.

Romao mulliganed to start off the game, but seemed happy with his six. Matsoukas kicked things off with Thraben Inspector into Smuggler's Copter, his ideal start. The Inspector got inside the Copter, but Romao had the Harnessed Lightning to stop the loot. Matsoukas added another Thraben Inspector and Inventor's Apprentice to the board.

Romao cast Radiant Flames on his turn, and three creatures went to the graveyard. Matsoukas spent the next two turns attacking with Needle Spires and Romao found himself at 9 life. During Matsoukas's next attack, Romao flashed in a Gearhulk, used it to cast Glimmer of Genius, and blocked Matsoukas's creature land.

Matsoukas had nothing to follow up afterwards and Gearhulk began attacking. Before long, another Gearhulk hit the battlefield. Matsoukas tried to exile both Hulks with Declaration in Stone, and Romao found himself with zero Gearhulks and two clues. Matsoukas then added Toolcraft Exemplar and Reckless Bushwhacker to the board and made a lethal attack, but Immolating Glare allowed Romao to continue playing.

Romao cast Dovin Baan and nullified the Reckless Bushwhacker, but Thraben Inspector knocked Romao down to four. Glimmer of Genius from Romao found Fumigate and he cast it to clear the board. Dovin Baan continued to tick down, giving Romao extra cards and life. Matsoukas had nothing to follow up with an Romao was clearly in the driver's seat.

Romao cast more draw spells, putting him very far ahead, and he finally found a win condition in the form of Archangel Avacyn, prompting a concession out of Matsoukas.

Matsoukas hoped to improve his poor match-up post sideboarding and removed his Outnumbers from his deck. He began the game with a mulligan, and Romao followed suit. Both players were happier with their six-card hands.

Matsoukas remains undeterred, even when facing down one of the game's champions.

Needle Spires into Toolcraft Exemplar was Matsoukas's opener, followed by Pia Nalaar on turn three. Matsoukas pushed his team into the red zone, and Romao cast a Spell Queller with the hope to block. Matsoukas had Stasis Snare for the Queller, and Romao fell to 11.

Dovin Baan was Romao's turn four play, which stopped Toolcraft Exemplar, but Matsoukas took out Dovin with his other attackers and then dropped a Servo Exhibition. Matsoukas made a giant attack, and Romao cast Archangel Avacyn before blockers. Matsoukas activated Pia Nalaar, faltering the Angel, and putting Romao to a dangerously low life total. Romao drew for his turn, didn't find a sweeper, and conceded.

Matsoukas started the fourth game with an Inventor's Apprentice into a Smuggler's Copter. Servo Exhibition was Matsoukas's next play, but Matsoukas chose not to crew the Copter in fear of a Harnessed Lightning out of Romao. Romao made a Spell Queller to block Inventor's Apprentice.

Matsoukas crewed the Copter in his next combat step, and it was met with Immolating Glare. Matsoukas cast Make a Stand to save the Copter and got in for some additional damage.

Matsoukas went for Toolcraft Exemplar into a surged Reckless Bushwhacker. Romao had a removal spell for the Copter, but a huge attack from Matsoukas dropped Romao down to 4. Romao untapped and cast Radiant Flames, clearing the board, and Matsoukas had no play to follow up.

Romao cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and made a token, turning the corner. Matsoukas destroyed the token with Harnessed Lightning and then made a Gideon of his own. A Radiant Flames from Romao destroyed the token and allowed him to attack the opposing Gideon with his own. Romao was in firm control of this game as Matsoukas made a Smuggler's Copter, but he failed to find something to crew it with.

Romao continued to make Knight Ally tokens with his planeswalker, and Matsoukas finally found a Pia Nalaar which crewed his Smuggler's Copter, threatening lethal. Romao had the answer in Torrential Gearhulk which flashed back a Harnessed Lightning, taking out the Copter.

Romao made an emblem with Gideon and cast Radiant Flames for two, taking out Matsoukas's creatures while keeping his now 3/3 Knight Ally tokens. Romao made a huge attack and Matsoukas dropped to 12. Matsoukas drew his card and found a Stasis Snare, but it was not enough to deal with Romao's army. He extended his hand and Romao took the match.

Carlos Romao defeats Makis Matsoukas 3-1 and advances to the finals!

Makis Matsoukas - Red-White Tokens

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Carlos Romao - Jeskai Control

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