Quarterfinals: Jon Finkel (Seasons Past Control) vs. Andrea Mengucci (Bant Control)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 24, 2016

By Tobi Henke

Jon Finkel was clearly the most accomplished player in this Top 8, if not in the history of the game. He had already made it to the playoffs of the Pro Tour eleven times when he was inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame in 2005. He added another four Top 8s since then, most recently at the previous Pro Tour in Atlanta, and was now playing in his sixteenth!

Andrea Mengucci had only made the Top 8 once before, at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx two years ago. Another highlight of his career was winning last year's World Magic Cup as part of Team Italy.

Both players had entered the tournament at the Silver Level of the Pro Tour Players Club, both incidentally on the same number of 29 Pro Points. With the additional 18 awarded to all quarterfinalists here, both were now a virtual lock for Platinum. (47 plus three guaranteed points for attending Pro Tour Eldritch Moon later in the year would make the requisite 50.)

"It's still important to win now," said Mengucci. "So that you can get to Platinum before the next Pro Tour."

"Also, so you can win the whole thing," Finkel added. He was obviously looking to add a fourth title to his already impressive résumé, to repeat the success of seasons past. Meanwhile, the success of Seasons Past was very much in question here. The Pantheon's innovative black-green control deck had brought Finkel so far, naturally beating other Bant Company decks on the way. But would it carry him to another victory against Mengucci's version, especially now that full decklists were available? Finkel would later tell me, "It's probably my worst match-up."

While waiting for the go-ahead signal, the players chatted a bit about various things. Mengucci raised the topic of Finkel being one of very few Hall of Famers who continued to do well over the years. Finkel objected and offered a slew of others, noting William Jensen's performance over the past couple of years in particular.


Jonny Magic himself, Jon Finkel, faced off against World Magic Cup winning team member Andrea Mengucci in the first set of quarterfinal matches.

"My win rate is probably even higher now than it used to be," said Finkel. "Though I'm definitely a worse player nowadays. And I'm not saying that to be modest."

The Games

Mengucci landed Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on turn two, while Finkel's first move was to Read the Bones. Mengucci passed on turn four, then responded with Bounding Krasis when Finkel cast Infinite Obliteration.

Reflector Mage was chosen as the creature to exile and Mengucci revealed a hand of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, another Bounding Krasis, Collected Company, as well as two Sylvan Advocates. While Finkel was looking through Mengucci's deck, the Italian pointed at his Evolving Wilds: "Can you get me a Forest?"

"Sure." While the stakes were high, with thousands of dollars on the line, the atmosphere was quite friendly here.

On his next turn, Finkel was able to clear the board with Languish, but Collected Company provided ample reinforcements in Bounding Krasis and Tireless Tracker. The following attack brought Finkel to 9, and Mengucci added two 4/5 Sylvan Advocates to his team.


Mengucci has grown a lot since his first Pro Tour Top 8, and he intends to make his second one extra special.

Finkel went to Dark Petition for another Languish, leaving Mengucci with two Advocates. On his turn, Mengucci sacrificed a clue and found Dromoka's Command for the ninth point of damage.

"I was so afraid you would name this," Mengucci said as he pointed at his Sylvan Advocates. Finkel just nodded, unwilling to engage in such result-oriented thinking.

The second game went much better for Finkel. His Duress took care of Mengucci's Ojutai's Command, his Languish wiped the board, and his Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet began to get in for some damage as well as some life.

Over the next couple of turns, Mengucci fought back valiantly and threw more and more creatures in the way of Kalitas and his growing army of Zombies. At one point, Finkel controlled a 5/6 Kalitas as well as five of its tokens and had already cast Seasons Past and still Mengucci was hanging in there, mostly thanks to Nissa, Sage Animist and Duskwatch Recruiter. While Mengucci clearly wasn't winning this game, even now his deck showed just how much longevity it really had.


Finkel is still one of the masters, with a very reasonable sixteen Pro Tour Top 8s to his name now.

Only when Finkel cast Seasons Past for the second time, did Mengucci finally concede.

In the third game, Finkel had two copies of Grasp of Darkness to dispatch the first two of Mengucci's creatures. However, the Italian's Tireless Tracker survived and started to generate multiple clues right away off of Evolving Wilds.

Also, this time, Finkel's Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet first met Reflector Mage, then Ojutai's Command. In the meantime, Finkel had cleared the table via Languish and Mengucci had summoned reinforcements in the form of a 4/5 Sylvan Advocate.

Next, Mengucci cast and transformed Nissa, Vastwood Seer and made an Elemental token. Finkel tried to stop the bleeding and pointed a pair of removal spells at Mengucci's creatures, then tried to take down Nissa, Sage Animist with Hissing Quagmire. Mengucci would have none of it though, and stopped the deadly land dead in its tracks with Bounding Krasis. What's more, at end of turn, he cast Collected Company! Adding insult to injury, he found a Reflector Mage to bounce Hissing Quagmire. More importantly, and more responsible for the actual injury here, he also found a second Sylvan Advocate which provided lethal damage on his next turn.


Mengucci's Bant Company deck is able to pile on the card advantage, keeping pace with his Seasons Past opponent.

Both players had to mulligan for the fourth game. Mengucci kept a hand of six with Lumbering Falls, Canopy Vista, and a solid curve from Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to Collected Company. Finkel kept the following five: Forest, Llanowar Wastes, Grasp of Darkness, Ultimate Price, and Read the Bones.

Finkel may have started the game at a disadvantage, but was actually doing quite well for a while here. He took Negate with Duress, Jace with Dead Weight, and Sylvan Advocate with Ultimate Price.

However, he wouldn't be able to keep exchanging cards on a one-for-one basis forever, especially when Mengucci's card advantage machine kicked into gear. A clue off of Tireless Tracker was a moderate start, Collected Company into Nissa, Vastwood Seer plus Sylvan Advocate was critical, and Ojutai's Command on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was backbreaking.

"Ojutai's Command was great both games," Mengucci pointed out his most important sideboard card. A surprise, really, considering that Finkel's deck barely included more than four creatures (that is, a fifth in the sideboard). "In the last game, I just drew it the turn before you cast Kalitas."

Finkel wished him good luck for the semifinals.

"Thank you, and thanks for the great games."

Andrea Mengucci defeats Jon Finkel 3-1 and advances to the semifinals!

 

Jon Finkel: Seasons Past Control

Andrea Mengucci: Bant Company

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