Round 16: Makis Matsoukas vs. (18) Andrea Mengucci

Posted in Event Coverage on February 3, 2018

By Frank Karsten

Both players entered this round at 11-4. They needed to win the match and then hope that their tiebreakers would hold up in order to make the Top 8.

Andrea Mengucci, a member of team Connected Company and currently ranked 18th in the world, had already managed to advance to a Pro Tour Top 8 twice before. Greece's Makis Matsoukas, a Gold-level pro on team Snapcardster, had previously made it to the Top 4 of Pro Tour Kaladesh.

The matchup was one between two aggro decks—one old and one new. Matsoukas' Affinity deck had been around since the inception of the Modern format, whereas Mengucci's Humans deck was the breakout deck of this Pro Tour, enabled principally by Unclaimed Territory and Kitesail Freebooter from Ixalan. But would it hold its ground against Arcbound Ravager and friends?

No. 18 ranked Andrea Mengucci and Greece's Makis Matsoukas had one win to go for an outside shot at the Top 8, providing their tiebreakers held up.

The Games

Mengucci, on the play, started with two permanents on turn one: Unclaimed Territory and Noble Hierarch. Matsoukas, in true Affinity fashion, put down five: Inkmoth Nexus, Mox Opal, Vault Skirge, Ornithopter, and Signal Pest.

Matsoukas followed up with a payoff card in Cranial Plating and started attacking with high-powered evasive creatures. Yet Mengucci was happy to enter a damage race, as he had a pair of Mantis Riders that could do double duty on both offense and defense.

Over the course of the next few turns, Mengucci swung in with a ragtag team of Humans while passing the turn with Mantis Riders and/or Kitesail Freebooter as blockers.

Matsoukas was capable of some fast starts, but his opponent's deck had the potential to stifle races in the air.

The race was close. Matsoukas got Mengucci down to 1 life and eight poison, leaving him wondering after the game if he could have won the game by targeting different creatures with his Cranial Plating. But ultimately, Mengucci's flying blockers helped him stay alive, and the Italian pro won the first game.

Matsoukas, now on the play, repeated his five-permanent start from the first game, but he didn't have a payoff card to follow up. On turn two, he attacked for 3 damage and two poison while disrupting Mengucci's development with Galvanic Blast. Yet without Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating, Steel Overseer, or Master of Etherium, there was no guarantee this would be good enough.

Mengucci's 5-Color Humans deck was fairly straightforward in terms of card types it could play, but the creatures it could cast proved to have some powerful effects.

Mengucci, in the meantime, developed his board with Champion of the Parish and Kytheon, Hero of Akros and then passed the turn with an Æther Vial up.

When Matsoukas attacked with Signal Pest, 2 Vault Skirge, and Ornithopter, Mengucci tapped his Æther Vial, revealed Phantasmal Image, copied Vault Skirge, and blocked the attacking Signal Pest. It was a big ambush that swung the game in Mengucci's favor.

Mengucci's next three further cemented his advantages. Kataki, War's Wage put a tax on Matsoukas' artifacts, and then two Reflector Mages bounced Matsoukas' remaining evasive creatures.

Now suddenly Mengucci had five creatures to Matsoukas's zero, and there was no way for the Affinity player to come back from that position. Matsoukas extended his hand in defeat.

Makis Matsoukas 0 - Andrea Mengucci 2

Andrea Mengucci won the match, and his tiebreakers were ultimately good enough for him to clinch a spot in the Top 8!

Matsoukas, Makis - Affinity

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Mengucci, Andrea - 5-Color Humans

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