Semifinals: Mario Diliberto vs. Andrew Jessup
Andrew had a tough matchup this round in Mario’s Junk Aristocrats. While Naya’s Thundermaw Hellkites are excellent, an early Skirsdag High Priest basically required a Domri Rade. Without one, the 1/2 would take over the game in short order.
Mario's stuck with Junk Aristocrats for a few weeks now, and it's paying off.
Andrew mulliganed while Mario kept his opener, but Andrew’s six rewarded him with turn 1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim. Mario dropped to 18 for Doomed Traveler, and wasn’t under a lot of pressure from the follow-up Voice of Resurgence on Andrew’s side.
Skirsdag High Priest put Andrew under the pressure of a potential 5/5 Demon on the next turn, and he had just a tapped shockland after attacking. Mario had the Varolz... and a third land gave him access to Skirsdag High Priest’s morbid trigger at will. Andrew played another Voice and moved to end the turn—a 5/5 Demon joined the party first.
With Lingering Souls, Voice of Resurgence, and Tragic Slip at the ready, Mario was positioned to make another Demon on the following turn while keeping up his offense. He didn’t want to let Andrew access any Elementals, if possible, so he’d likely just be sticking to an air-based offense. He elected to scavenge onto the Spirit token, attack for 7, and then cast Lingering Souls.
Andrew lacked the double red he’d need to Hellkite, but that wasn’t going to be very helpful in this spot anyway—Mario had lethal damage on the board. He dropped Gavony Township, nodded as Andrew made another Demon, and scooped up his cards when Mario attacked.
Mario 1, Andrew 0
Andrew kept to start game 2, while Mario looked up a hand with a lot of buddy lands but a strong curve. Stomping Ground into Avacyn’s Pilgrim for Andrew, and Mario laid Isolated Chapel. Turn 2 Boros Reckoner put him on the defensive, and he could muster only Doomed Traveler and a tapped land for turn 2 as his deck failed to deliver shocklands.
Attacking for 3, Andrew debated what to follow with before deciding on hardcasting Ghor-Clan Rampager. Mario had a High Priest, but the amount of pressure he was under made its impact negligible at best in this situation. He needed defense! Attacking for 1, he played the High Priest and held on for dear life, hoping to avoid a Thundermaw Hellkite. When Andrew dropped the Dragon onto to the table, Mario laughed. “That’s pretty good!”
On 5 life, he debated what to do now. He played Cartel Aristocrat and left up Isolated Chapel, giving him access to a stabilizing Tragic Slip. When Andrew swung with everything, Mario blocked before making a Demon—and fell prey to Selesnya Charm on the Boros Reckoner for lethal.
Mario 1, Andrew 1
Mario had the play for the first time and opened with a very good one-lander. He’d need literally any land in his deck to make a turn 3 5/5 Demon... but he’d need it off the top, immediately. Electing to mulligan, he fell to five cards after Andrew announced a keep.
Overgrown Tomb for Mario, but Stomping Ground into Pilgrim for Andrew, giving him a quick tempo lead. Turn 2 Skirsdag High Priest on Mario’s side was promising, though he lacked white mana, while Andrew had the more conventional Loxodon Smiter. Mario cast Lingering Souls and passed the turn, threatening a turn 4 5/5 if Andrew didn’t have a removal spell for the opposing Squire.
Mario fell to 16 life as Andrew attacked before deploying Scavenging Ooze, which exiled Lingering Souls. Mario drew Abrupt Decay, offering him a non-Varolz way to obtain morbid while simultaneously removing a threat from Andrew’s board—that seemed too enticing to pass up, and he ended the turn.
Andrew had Thundermaw Hellkite on turn 4, forcing Mario to respond with Abrupt Decay on Loxodon Smiter and a 5/5 Demon, which was tapped by Thundermaw’s trigger. He took 7 more, going to 9, and untapped with just a High Priest in play. Doomed Traveler off the top would offer him another Demon, but he found just Lifebane Zombie. The 3/1 exiled Flinthoof Boar while revealing Selesnya Charm—not good for Mario, as he needed that 5/5 Demon blocker to stand strong.
Attacking for 1, Mario passed the turn. Andrew exiled the Demon and attacked with just the Hellkite before playing another Scavenging Ooze. Mario drew one more card, and scooped ‘em up.
Mario 1, Andrew 2