As top eight matches go this one, more than most, is a real clash of cultures. Antonino De Rosa from the USA is a verbal presence wherever he goes whilst Yann Hamon of France is just the opposite, quiet and unassuming he lets his playing do his talking.
Antonino is playing Red and White Slide and no more needs to be said than that. Yann’s deck is something different though. The only deck to play Forests in day two he plays a Green and Red base of Beasts, mana acceleration and creature removal and a small splash of Black for Cabal Conditioning. He’s played and beaten Red and White decks all weekend but he’ll still need more than a little luck.
Antonino won the die roll and chose to play, dropping a Lightning Rift on turn two. Yann followed suit, playing a Rift of his own. Two turns later Antonino played his deck’s signature card, Astral Slide and Yann could only answer with a Wall of Mulch.
Now De Rosa played out a morph, secure in the knowledge that he could protect it from Yann’s Rift and passed the turn, Yann cast Explosive Vegetation to get up to seven mana and thin his deck a little and Antonino took the opportunity to Slide out his Angel so he could start to attack the following turn.
He swung in for a few turns and Yann could do nothing until he drew into a Break Asunder and cast it to destroy the Astral Slide. “Break Asunder? I don’t even play that in Limited” was Antonino’s reply as he put his Slide in the bin. Even so, he had enough cycling cards in his hand to finish off the Frenchman and take the first game.
Antonino bought in two Akroma, Angel of Wrath, one Temple of the False God and one Decree of Annihilation, taking out three Gempalm Incinerators and one Spark Spray. Yann bought in most of his sideboard: Cabal Conditioning, Contested Cliffs, two Explosive Vegetation, three Fierce Empath, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, three Ravenous Baloth and two Rorix Bladewings. He took out his Wall of Mulches, three Lightning Rifts and Gempalm Incinerators and one Slice and Dice. “I can deal with the Exalted Angels if I go first, but I need the Lightning Rifts if I go second,” was his explanation, knowing that Antonino’s best bet was turn three Angel and a flying attack on turn four.
Game two started slowly, the first play a turn three Fierce Empath fetching Kamahl, Fist of Krosa. Antonino cycled an Eternal Dragon and complained about Yann’s shuffling “You going to shuffle me that much every time? I’m so lazy. I would never shuffle that much.” Yann handed him his deck back, pointing out that the match wasn’t being timed.
Antonino played out an Astral Slide and passed the turn. Yann played out his fourth land, attacked with his Empath and played Explosive Vegetation to put him on six land. “That’s not fair. You have six mana, I have only three!” He did nothing but play a fourth land of his own and passed the turn back.
Yann took some time thinking of his next play, much to Antonino’s chagrin but Yann had his excuses well prepared, “So many spells, so few mana.” “So few mana!” Antonino exclaimed, as Yann now had seven. He finally chose to play out Kamahl and passed the turn back.
The next few turns were all about removal as Antonino cast Starstorm to kill Kamahl and the Empath. Yann destroyed Antonino’s Slide and played out more creatures and Antonino cast Akroma’s Vengeance to reset the board one more time. Yann still had gas in the tank and dropped another beast, a Ravenous Baloth before Antonino had a chance to cast Decree of Justice but only made two 4/4 angels. Yann played out a Silklash Spider, nearly emptying his hand – and fell into Antonino’s well-placed trap as he cast yet another Vengeance to clear the board but leave him with more cards in hand.
Yann cast a new Explosive vegetation to help thin his deck whilst De Rosa returned a Dragon to his hand, he couldn’t cast it yet though which gave Yann a chance to play his newly drawn Rorix Bladewing and swing in for six, dropping Antonino to ten life. Antonino had an answer to Rorix and played Akroma, swinging in for six of his own to take Yann back down to 20 life – he’d gained a lot from dying Baloths – the battle of the Legends was on!
Yann then cast one of his three Black spells, Cabal Conditioning forcing Antonino to empty his hand. He returned one of his lost cards, a Dragon, back to his hand and swung in again to take Yann to 14. Yann was proving by far the luckier of the two, drawing a Krosan Tusker, playing it out and using his Contested Cliffs to kill the troublesome Angel. He took his chance to fly in for another six while he could, dropping the American to only four.
With a Dragon in hand, Antonino probably felt safe, played it and a Lightning Rift out to empty is hand and waited to see what fate awaited him. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t a semi-final berth: Yann drew a second Krosan Tusker, killed the Dragon and swung in with his own to even the match.
Playing second he needed his Rifts back in the deck to help kill Exalted Angels, so they came back in.
As too often happens the third game was far from dramatic. Antonino had to mulligan and wanted to keep his six card hand – it contained all he needed to beat Yann but a good selection of land: a Mountain and a Temple of the False God aren’t what you’d chose, but he stuck with it. He didn’t see a third land by the time Yann had six on the table and a Kamahl in hand. Antonino conceded rather than suffer the extra three turns knowing that even drawing three land in a row wouldn’t be enough to save him.
Yann wins 2-1.