It was the final showdown of the Neon Dynasty Championship. After 15 rounds of play across the Alchemy and Historic formats, plus a Top 8 that awarded six spots to the World Championship and dozens of dungeons ventured into on Sunday, it all came down to a final title match.
It was a matchup of veteran and newcomer. Eli Kassis had competed atop the Magic Pro League for the last season and been a force on playtesting teams for the Championships in that time. Dunn has been rising to a high level for years but finally found his breakthrough performance and first career Top Finish with Neon Dynasty.
The Championship would be decided by a best-of-three set of matches, and as play began players traded resources in the early turns, with Kassis removing Dunn's first wave of creatures while beginning his venture into the dungeon. Meanwhile Dunn was setting up his midrange value engine with
As players traded blows and removal to try and gain the upper hand on board, it was Kassis who came up with the first massive topdeck:
With his offense stalled, Dunn turned to defense, firing off a
That card turned out to be
The planeswalker threat completely upended the status quo, and Kassis was forced to begin attacking Dunn to try and clear away the spider. While that did result in a large clearing of the board, it left Lolth on the battlefield to repopulate it with tokens. When
Kassis was the one with the card advantage engine in the second game, leading on
While he was seeking, he found
The third game would decide who would have command of the title match, and it didn't disappoint. The familiar early game pattern played out, with both players trading removal and resources, leading to a game where both players began to fall down on cards and position even as their life totals remained high.
But games are not always about the life total, and in this case it became a race for Kassis to reach the end of the dungeon. While his life wasn't under immediate pressure,
Games aren't always about the life total, but they're not always about small advantages, either. Or, as Cedric Phillips put it, no one can fight the Tibalt tide forever.
The iconic planeswalker gave Dunn an iconic moment, and a few turns of activations later he had taken the first match of the best-of-three finals and now found himself just one match away from reaching the top of the Magic world in his first Top Finish.
But first he had to finish the title match, and the veteran Kassis is known for being unflappable. With his back up against the wall, he opened the next set on an ideal hand that curved
The sequence put Dunn on the back foot, and he did his best to fight back with a pair of
The switch had been flipped, and Kassis was on the board.
The Orzhov Venture deck was one of the best-performing Alchemy decks on the weekend, and in the next game Kassis showed off one of its little-used features: going through a different dungeon than usual.
Expecting the sideboarded game to go long like they did in the first match, Kassis opted to begin his dungeon journey through the
It was a long journey, but Kassis committed early and as the game pressed on it was
Finally, as Dunn struggled to hold on, Kassis decided to get aggressive with his planeswalker and his lands, and he defeated the Mad Mage—and also Dunn, evening the title match at one apiece.
That meant it would all be decided by one last match.
The dungeon-crawling began early for both players with dueling
A flurry of combat followed – including a quadruple-block by Dunn in a wild attack step that left Kassis with
Or find their way out of the dungeon. Kassis channeled
Kassis had now won three games in a row, and was just one away from taking the title match and winning the Neon Dynasty Championship.
But it wouldn't come easy, as Dunn controlled the early board and transformed
Until Dunn found his own Tibalt, that is. He added it to his field and passed the turn knowing that if he untapped with the powerful planeswalker he'd likely be able to pull away. That put all the pressure on Kassis when he untapped for his turn.
He didn't disappoint.
From there, it was an uphill battle for Dunn as he tried to use his creatures to pressure
Again, Kassis did not disappoint. And in a moment that won't be soon forgotten, neither did the +1/+1 counter from the Storeroom inside the
Eli Kassis mastered the
🏆Congratulations to #NEOChamps champion Eli Kassis!🏆— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) March 14, 2022
Kassis guided his Triumphant Adventurers through a stellar Top 8 to secure his win and put Orzhov Ventures on the Alchemy map. GGs Eli! pic.twitter.com/wcqXGnZGwI