s mentioned earlier, at last year's U.S. Nationals, Antonino De Rosa was halted in his pursuit of back-to-back National titles in the quarterfinals. The man who did the halting? None other than his round 14 opponent, Luis Scott-Vargas. The pair sat at 30 points, knowing that the cut was certainly going to be at 31 with other tables clearly factoring into the final cut.
Friends with a lot of respect for each other's Magic talent, the two were quite disappointed that one would have to knock the other out of Top 8 contention. Antonino ran a Rakdos deck that abuses Greater Gargadon, while Luis Scott-Vargas played an eccentric blue-green-white Chord of Calling concoction.
The crowd was thick around the final feature matches of the day.
Antonino won the die roll, and Luis had to mulligan. Ant suspended a turn-one Gargadon and followed it up with two Scorched Rusalkas and a Keldon Marauders. Luis had a mere two lands in play at the end of his second turn . . . and at the end of his third turn. On turn 4, Ant bashed Luis down to 12, then took off another point with another Keldon Marauders.
Luis missed his land drop again, but he had a Wall of Roots to simultaneously slow the bleeding and add another mana source to his board. Antonino sacrificed the Marauders with one counter to his Gargadon at the end of the turn. Ant attacked with all his creatures, with the Rusalkas getting through to knock Luis to 8. He played a Mogg War Marshal after combat.
On his next turn, Luis was finally able to get another land, but he had to Farseek for it. At the end of the turn, Antonino sacrificed War Marshal to Gargadon; he then untapped and sacrificed Marauders to Rusalka, putting Luis to 6.
Antonino drew and swung with both tokens and both Rusalkas. Luis blocked one and went to 3. The Loxodon Hierarch Luis played on his next turn was a little late to the party; Antonino showed him a Threaten, and Luis packed up his cards.
De Rosa 1, Scott-Vargas 0
This time, it was Luis on the play and Ant taking a mulligan on the draw. Luis played lands for the first two turns, while Antonino played a Rusalka on each of the first two turns. Luis drew some cards with Compulsive Research on his third turn, while Antonino only played a land and attacked Luis to 17.
Luis accelerated his mana with a Wall of Roots and a Farseek. Antonino got through for 1 and played a Mogg Fanatic. Luis then played a great answer for the assorted 1/1s: a Serrated Arrows. During Antonino's next attack, he blocked one of the 1/1s and killed another with arrows, taking 1 from combat damage and 1 from the Rusalka activation. After combat, Ant played a Mogg War Marshal.
Since Antonino was tapped out, Luis Arrowed Ant's other Rusalka during his main phase. He then passed the turn with a boatload of mana untapped. Antonino, still on three lands, paid echo on his Marshal and sent his team. Luis ambushed him with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, blocking a Mogg token. Antonino had no further plays.
After attacking Antonino to 16 with Teferi, Luis saw no need to play anything during his own turn. During Ant's attack, Luis used his last arrow counter on Mogg Fanatic (falling to 12 in the process) and put his Wall in front of War Marshal, Ant's last remaining creature. Ant thought for a while, bemoaning, "Why is Magic so hard?" Eventually, he just played another Scorched Rusalka and passed the turn. At the end of Ant's turn, thanks to Teferi, Luis was able to safely plop down what is likely his favorite card in the deck: Arcanis the Omnipotent.
As Luis activated Arcanis with a grin, Antonino noticed his glee at playing the flashy legend and commented, "You're such a kid!" Luis then played an Aven Riftwatcher and attacked with Teferi, putting him ahead 14-13 in life totals. When Antonino tried to Threaten Arcanis to cast a Concentrate of his own, Luis simply used Arcanis's second ability to return it to his hand.
In control of the game, Luis attacked with Teferi and the Riftwatcher. Ant blocked with a token and took 2 from the flier. When Ant had another Threaten for Teferi, Luis played Arcanis and another Riftwatcher in response. Ant sacrificed Teferi to get him off the board and put Luis to 14.
Luis drew some more cards, played Serrated Arrows, and shot Ant's Rusalka. Antonino forced Luis to bounce Arcanis by pointing a Char at it, then played another Mogg War Marshal. Arcanis soon came into play and was turning sideways again, and Antonino feigned disgust. "Man, you're just playing by your own rules," he accused. "You're drawing four cards and I'm drawing one?" Luis smiled and added a morph to the board.
Ant again used Threaten as a bounce spell on Arcanis. Luis cast Chord of Calling for Loxodon Hierarch, then untapped and sent the Elephant and his morph into the red zone. Antonino chump blocked, drew for his turn, and packed it in.
De Rosa 1, Scott-Vargas 1
Antonino was playing for a spot in his third consecutive U.S. Nats Top 8.
As in Game 1, Antonino got to go first, and Luis had to mulligan. Also as in Game 1, Ant started things off with a suspended Gargadon. He soon added a Dark Confidant and an Epochrasite to the board, while Luis built up his mana with Wall of Roots and Farseek. Antonino sacrificed Epochrasite to Gargadon, Deathmarked Wall of Roots, and attacked before playing another Epochrasite.
Luis finally got the Confidant off the table with Serrated Arrows, and Antonino sacrificed his other Epochrasite to Gargadon. On his fifth turn, Antonino played and sacrificed Mogg War Marshal. He then tapped out for Dark Confidant and was able to get his Gargadon into play and into the red zone by merely sacrificing one token and one Mountain.
Down to 7 life, the best Luis could muster was a Loxodon Hierarch (going to 11) and an Arrow counter for Bob Maher Jr.'s likeness. Antonino's first 4/4 Epochrasite hit play during his upkeep. His Threaten was met by Rune Snag, but Luis was still forced to chump block Gargadon with Hierarch to stay alive, falling to 6 in the process.
Luis had another Hierarch, but it wasn't going to be enough. It was at this point that the two competitors decided that intentionally drawing was worth the risk that one of them might "draw out" of Top 8.
Antonino De Rosa and Luis Scott-Vargas drew.
After the match, Scott-Vargas and De Rosa were elated to discover that they finished the Swiss in seventh and eighth place, respectively. It would seem that there's potential for a very strong U.S. National team!