In this semifinal match, Italian Joan Mateo met Germany's Rüdiger Hesse. Hesse had brought the Eldrazi, backed up by hatebears like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, while Mateo was playing Monastery Mentor, one of the most popular decks of the format.

“Buona … fortuna?” Hesse hazarded, trying to work out the Italian for “good luck.”

“Buona sorte!” replied Mateo. “Good luck to you too.”

Game 1

Hesse led with Wasteland, Mox Emerald, and Sol Ring, the latter of which was met with Mental Misstep. Mateo, meanwhile, just had an Island on his first turn. Hesse then summoned Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which cost Mateo 2 mana when he cast Mox Jet and Ponder on his next turn. Hesse didn't miss a beat and cast Reality Smasher, attacking for 7.

Rüdiger Hesse

“You're at 13?” Hesse asked. Mateo pointed out the Mental Misstep in his graveyard. “11.”

But Mateo wasn't done yet. His Monastery Mentor, followed by Mox Emerald, was met with a sigh from Hesse: “This is the sixth Mentor deck I see today.”

Hesse cast Black Lotus and Eldrazi Displacer, and attacked with Thalia and Reality Smasher. Mateo double-blocked the former with his token and Mentor, with just one Mox as his only untapped source of mana.

Now Hesse could have asked to resolve first-strike damage, forcing Mateo to either lose Monastery Mentor or to have and to cast a spell—options restricted to Gush in fact. This would have been great—and totally without cost to Hesse, as he could have activated his Eldrazi Displacer after Gush just the same. Instead, he displaced the 2/2 Mentor without need and only killed the Monk token.

This allowed Mateo to untap and cast Preordain, Gush, and Time Walk all on his turn, with enough mana to pay for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and attack for 6 damage. On his extra turn, Mateo continued the action with Dig Through Time and Swords to Plowshares, clearing the way for Mentor and tokens to take Hesse all the way to 4. Mateo, himself on 6 life, had left four tokens behind.

Hesse ripped a second Reality Smasher from the top of his library and proceeded to attack for exactly lethal damage, saying, “That's what you call ‘beginner's luck,' I guess.”

Joan Mateo 0-1 Rüdiger Hesse

Game 2

The second game began with another blunder. Or two, if you count both adversaries misplaying. This was the scene when things went awry:

With the help of some restricted goodness including Time Walk, Mateo passed one very early turn of the game with Monastery Mentor and an untapped Tundra. Hesse had only just had one turn so far, during which he cast two Moxen and a 1/1 Walking Ballista. He now played a second land, a fourth source of mana …

But Hesse didn't cast either the Lodestone Golem or the Thought-Knot Seer in his hand. No, he just passed. Which was strange because, if Mateo simply untapped and was able to keep up an instant, Walking Ballista going to two counters wouldn't even be good here. At least, that was my impression. (I later checked with Eternal expert Marius Hausmann.)

So, Hesse had apparently wasted his turn, to a degree. Or did he? Turns out he didn't, but only because Mateo made sure of it! Mateo cast Swords to Plowshares at end of turn, allowing Hesse to respond to Monastery Mentor's prowess ability by growing Walking Ballista and shooting 2 damage at the Mentor, killing it. If Mateo had waited until his own turn instead, he could have taken out the Ballista without losing his Mentor.

Joan Mateo

No reason to worry though. Mateo still had one Monk token around and found another Mentor before long. In fact, that turn was another interesting one, as Mateo cast Treasure Cruise, Mox Sapphire, Ponder, Monastery Mentor, Gitaxian Probe, and Black Lotus, then attacked with his Monk token for 4, with two triggers missed.

It didn't really matter. Dack Fayden took control of Hesse's Lodestone Golem, Snapcaster Mage granted flashback to Time Walk, and Mateo smoothly evened the score.

Joan Mateo 1-1 Rüdiger Hesse

Game 3

The third game was awesome, not least because of some very potent and well executed plays. First, Hesse opened on Mox Pearl, Eldrazi Temple, and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. He still had another Temple and an Eldrazi Smasher in hand, so the game looked to be almost over already.

However, on his turn, Mateo played a land, Mox Ruby, and evoked Ingot Chewer!

This delayed Reality Smasher until turn three, and on turn three Mateo also had a Monatery Mentor, once again followed by a Mox. Hesse attacked into Mentor/Monk with both Thalia and Smasher …

Mateo had Gush to make his Mentor eat Thalia. With Thalia gone, he no longer needed to pay 1 extra mana on all of his spells, so Force of Will was free to counter Walking Ballista.

All of this left Mateo with a lot of Monk tokens, and the next turn's succession of Mox Pearl, Dack Fayden, and Sensei's Divining Top created some more. Mateo also could have put Hesse at 1 life by attacking. At 5 life himself, he went about things a little more carefully and held back five tokens …

In a repeat of the first game's final moments, Hesse drew a second Reality Smasher and attacked for the win!

Joan Mateo 1-2 Rüdiger Hesse