After seven rounds of Swiss and two elimination rounds, only these two players remained to duke it out for the trophy and the title. Austria's Fabian Ghafouri was playing the popular mono red, while Slovak Lukas Paugsch had brought a deck very much outside of the norm. Curiously, his blue-red Zombie/emerge/Fevered Visions concoction had made it all the way to the final, wading through a sea of mono red. Paugsch couldn't believe it himself: “The matchup is terrible! The quarters and semis were really just … odd. I can't possibly win this matchup three times in a row.”
The match began with Bomat Courier and Falkenrath Gorger for Ghafouri, and neither player added any more spells to the proceedings for quite a while. Paugsch especially was in no position to do so, as his first four lands were: Island, Island, Sanctum of Ugin, and Spirebluff Canal.
When he finally had red mana available, he cleared the board with Kozilek's Return, but he certainly didn't generate any card advantage that way: Bomat Courier was sacrificed in response and gave Ghafouri a fresh five cards, including one Earthshaker Khenra which immediately took Paugsch to 7.
When the Khenra was joined by Ahn-Crop Crasher, another Kozilek's Return took care of the beaters, but the burn spells—Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance—brought Paugsch to 1 … with Ramunap Ruins already under Ghafouri's control.
In a refreshing change of pace or, rather, direction, Paugsch's deck got the opportunity to show itself from its best side for once. Paugsch began with Cathartic Reunion, discarding Advanced Stitchwing and Prized Amalgam. Afterward he showed me his hand which included another two Amalgams … Naturally, all three followed the Stitchwing to the battlefield at the end of Ghafouri's third turn.
“That's pretty impressive!” said Ghafouri with a nod of approval and took 12 damage. In the meantime he had only cast one Earthshaker Khenra and one Kari Zev, Skyship Raider and had to admit that none of these were actually any good on defense. Neither was the Ahn-Crop Crasher which followed.
Ghafouri passed his turn without attacks, or tried to pass anyway …
“You know … Let's just play game three,” said Ghafouri. One of Ghafouri's friends, Michael Kundegraber, who had lost to Paugsch in the semifinals, suggested, “That's probably the best draw you can have, right?”
“Actually, the best is to discard Stitchwing Skaab on turn one, then return it by discarding two Prized Amalgam on turn two,” Paugsch corrected. There was more friendly banter, including such highlights as Paugsch's: “Maybe, with the prize money, I can buy a real deck instead of this.”
Reality seemed to reassert itself for the final game: Ghafouri led with, in order, Falkenrath Gorger, Bomat Courier, Ahn-Crop Crasher, and Earthshaker Khenra, while all Paugsch was doing was to cast one Strategic Planning and another Strategic Planning.
Paugsch barely survived on 3 life before he finally dealt with the onslaught by means of Kozilek's Return. Again, this resulted in new cards for Ghafouri by way of Bomat Courier and he immediately regrouped with Falkenrath Gorger.
When the Vampire attacked, Paugsch killed it with Fiery Temper, discarded to reanimate Advanced Stitchwing. Post-combat Ghafouri just cast a somewhat impotent Sand Strangler.
Paugsch attacked. Next stop: Ghafouri's upkeep, where Paugsch sacrificed his Zombie to emerge Elder Deep-Fiend, triggering Kozilek's Return and Sanctum of Ugin. He used the former to kill Sand Strangler, the latter to get a second Elder Deep-Fiend. Suddenly, the table had turned. What had been unthinkable mere moments ago, seemed a distinct possibility now. That is, Paugsch could actually win this thing.
In any case, Ghafouri had no response, no fifth land, no play, and fell to 12 on the following attack. The Deep-Fiend was replaced by its counterpart during Ghafouri's next upkeep; at end of turn Stitchwing Skaab joined the fray with Fiery Temper putting Ghafouri at 9; finally Stitchwing Skaab, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Wandering Fumarole attacked … for the win.
Fabian Ghafouri 1-2 Lukas Paugsch
So maybe the matchup wasn't that bad after all? Paugsch was vehemently opposed to the suggestion. “No, no, no. It is awful. I played on Magic Online, and I had something like a ten percent win rate.”
Well, that's Magic. Sometimes you win the ten-percent matchup three times in a row. (Math, by the way, tells us that you do that once in every thousand attempts.)