On one hand, this matchup might look like just another Psychatog on Psychatog mirror, one of several hundred played this week. But on the other hand, this match is the culmination of many great stories. Carlos Romao of Brazil became one of the first two Latin American players to ever make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. Mark Ziegner of Germany is trying to become only the second person to win the individual and team titles in the same event. And those are just the really relevant ones; this match actually encompasses many threads, from Red Zone 2K2 to Blue/White Battle Screech, from Cole Swannack to Ken Krouner, from the Irish and Argentinean breakouts to the USA's miracle run. It all comes to close here under the harsh lights in the feature match area. This is the pinnacle of Magic Worlds 2002.
Mark Ziegner's weapon of choice is a blue/black/red Burning Wish-Psychatog deck with a "silver bullet" sideboard including Stone Rain and Pyroclasm. Carlos Romao is running a two-color Cunning Wish version of the same deck. Both players have shown proficiency in the 'Tog-on-'Tog matchup on their climbs to the top.
As they set up to play, small Brazilian and German flags were set up on the table to indicate the players' nationalities. These two countries had met earlier in the year, not in Magic, but on the soccer field for the Championship World Cup match, in a match that Brazil won. Ziegner was now seeking redemption.
As they shook hands, Ziegner reminded Romao, "There is no Ronaldo here."
Both players opened with the ideal turn-one Salt Marsh, but Ziegner got way ahead in tempo shortly thereafter. He Ice'd one of Romao's lands to prevent him from playing a Nightscape Familiar on turn 2, then Memory Lapsed the Familiar on turn 3 when Romao looked like he might miss a land drop. Romao did miss his third drop, played the Familiar, and then Ziegner killed it with a Flametongue Kavu.
Romao still had no third land, and killed the FTK with a Chainer's Edict. Then Ziegner went for the throat—he played his sixth land and cast Burning Wish, fetching a Lobotomy from his sideboard. Lobotomy stripped Romao of his Fact or Fictions, although Ziegner was hoping to nail the Psychatogs themselves.
At one point, down eight lands to three with a Nightscape Familiar on the other side of the table, Romao at least made the cool play of Cunning Wishing for one of the Lobotomied Fact or Fictions. "Removed from game" just isn't as permanent these days.
He never got to cast it, however, as Zieger used his mana advantage to go straight beatdown, playing out a second Familiar, a Pyschatog, and then a Flametongue Kavu targeting his own Familiar, which regenerated.
One flashed back Analysis and one Fact or Fiction later, Ziegner was making a lethal attack on the disheartened Romao.
Ziegner 1 – Romao 0
Romao made the interesting decision to draw first in the second game, hoping to avoid the mana issues that plagued him in the first. It didn't really work; he had to mulligan to start the game.
A turn-2 Duress from Ziegner revealed only a Memory Lapse and a Fact or Fiction among the lands in Romao's hand. Ziegner stripped him of the FoF, and then made him use the Lapse on a Burning Wish the following turn. This was shaping up to be a blowout for Ziegner.
Romao was lucky to draw a Counterspell for the Wish and then another for Ziegner's Fact or Fiction. The German was obviously distressed at Romao's fortunate pulls. A Duress from Ziegner was met by a Fact or Fiction in response by the big Brazilian, turning over Edict, Edict, Deep Analysis, Island and Fact or Fiction. He kept the first three, and then Duress resolved, and Ziegner made him discard the Analysis. He Memory Lapsed the Analysis when Romao attempted to flash it back on the following turn.
Both players sat around for a few turns, then Ziegner attempted a Burning Wish, which Romao let resolve. Ziegner got an Analysis from his 'board and drew two cards.
Romao tried an Upheaval, floating no mana, but Ziegner Lapsed it without much of a fight from the Brazilian. Ziegner drew two more cards and Duress Romao, seeing a second Upheaval and three Edicts. He chose Edict, the Romao untapped, cast Upheaval, and discarded a ton of lands.
Then Ziegner drew another Logic. Now his plan was to play his Familiar, Lapse the first Edict, let it die to the second, the play the 'Tog and Logic the Lapsed Edict. It played out just as he hoped, except Romao had a 'Tog of his own to add to the table.
Ziegner had drawn another Logic in the meantime, so he was in no danger of losing to Upheaval once Romao rebuilt his mana base. But he couldn't win with what was in play, and eventually Romao was going to start flashing back the Edicts. Ziegner played out a Familiar.
Romao then started going off. First, he Duressed the last card out of Ziegner's hand, the Circular Logic. Then, he activated his 'Tog to remove two Fact or Fictions from his graveyard and used Cunning Wish to put one into his hand, cast it, and stocked up on goodies.
Ziegner had to prevent Romao from killing him, so he attacked with his 'Tog, leaving Romao no choice but to block with his own. When all was said and done, both 'Togs were still alive but bloated at 11/12, and the graveyards were almost empty. Both players had one Edict apiece in the 'yard. Romao cast a Familiar on his turn.
Ziegner drew and played a Fact or Fiction on his turn, and Romao responded with one of his own. Romao came away with a Cunning Wish and some land, and Ziegner got a Merfolk Looter, a Gainsay, and a land.
The Fact or Fiction Romao Wished for was hit with Gainsay, leaving Ziegner with no permission in hand. Romao discarded once to his 'Tog to get threshold, then activated his Coliseum. He was now ready to Upheaval.
Romao tapped seven mana, cast Upheaval and floated two. Ziegner played the bluff and floated two of his own. Romao fell for it, and played just a Familiar instead of the Psychatog. It ended up not mattering, as he played 'Togs on the next two turns and ran over Ziegner's Looter.
Ziegner 1 – Romao 1
Ziegner went first, and his Salt Marsh prevented him from getting off his Duress before Romao cast his. "Duress your Duress." Ziegner, with just a Fact or Fiction and a Psychatog for spells, cast the 'Tog on turn three, but Romao had a Gainsay. Ziegner's main phase FoF on turn 4 resolved, and he nabbed two lands and a Memory Lapse.
Romao tapped out on his fourth turn to Deep Analysis, so Ziegner got a 'Tog down without a fight. Ziegner. Romao played a Familiar and tried to Edict, but it was Lapse'd. The 'Tog swung in for one, then Romao replayed the Edict. Ziegner tried to FoF in response, but it was Lapsed, and the 'Tog died.
Ziegner cast the Fact or Fiction on Romao's next upkeep and turned over five spells. Romao split them pretty quickly as such:
Ziegner kept the larger pile and played a Familiar.
Some funny business went down when Ziegner went to flash back an Analysis. First, Romao Wished for a Mana Short and cast it, but Ziegner hit it with a Memory Lapse. Then Romao cast Fact or Fiction, and Ziegner responded by Repulsing Romao' s Familiar. The piles were split as such:
Romao kept the smaller pile, and Ziegner finally drew his Analysis cards. Romao replayed his Familiar and passed, then Ziegner tried to kill it with an Edict. Romao responded with Mana Short first, and then a Fact or Fiction, split "Tog or no" against two Counterspells and two lands. The crowd applauded the Brazilian's good fortune, but Romao was faced with a tough choice. He kept the 'Tog.
Ziegner laid an Island to represent Gainsay or Memory Lapse, the passed the turn. Romao went for the win anyway, casting Upheaval and floating mana for the Psychatog. Not wanting to draw out the inevitable, Ziegner conceded.
Ziegner 1 – Romao 2
Before came four, the event staff brought the table full of trophies onto the stage. "Don't do this," smiled Romao, not wanting to be reminded of the pressure. Ziegner had a different idea. "Can you pile the money right here?" he asked, patting the playmat. "It would block my view," joked table judge Gis Hoogendijk.
Ziegner got the jump on game 4 with a turn-2 Duress stealing a Fact or Fiction. Play slowed down after that; Romao's turn-5 Familiar was Repulsed and Ziegner's Fact or Fiction was countered. The Familiar was Edicted when it came back, and Romao's Psychatog was countered with Circular Logic.
Ziegner Edicted away another Familiar then went on a card-drawing rampage, first casting Deep Analysis twice, then using a Burning Wish to retrieve it and cast it twice more. Then casting another, then a Fact or Fiction, etc., etc., etc.
Three 'Togs came down, and Romao looked done for. But when Ziegner attacked and discarded most of his hand and ate all of his graveyard, Romao used his last card—Cunning Wish—to get a Repulse, which kept him alive at six life. Romao used his Cephalid Coliseum to sift through some cards, putting an Analysis into his graveyard. He flashed that back, down to three, and cast Upheaval! Amazing!
Nightscape Familiar came down to play defense, and it looked like Romao might actually claw out of this. But no, Ziegner had an Edict and a Fire/Ice, both of which were capable of clearing the path for his Psychatog.
Ziegner 2 – Romao 2
Game 5. For all the marbles.
After getting it Lapsed once, Romao managed to Duress Ziegner for a Fact or Fiction. Ziegner cast Deep Analysis and passed, so Romao played a Psychatog. Ziegner untapped and Duressed him, and was appalled to find Counterspell, Circular Logic x2, and Deep Analysis. A murmur ran through the crowd. "Not bad," sighed Ziegner as he selected the Counterspell.
Both players got Atogs into play through each others' countermagic, and Romao even staved off a flashed back Edict with a Circular Logic. After that, several turns of posturing ensued.
Romao won a long, draining permission war that resulted in him Cunning Wishing for a Fact or Fiction. After that, Ziegner was out of gas and drew two consecutive lands, whereas Romao was setting up an amazing hand. Romao eventually cast his Fact or Fiction, turning over Upheaval and four other spells. Ziegner split it Upheaval vs. the other four, but Romao didn't buy it. The crowd roared.
After another Fact or Fiction, Romao's hand was so bloated with cards that he could afford to just attack with his Psychatog into Ziegner's. Ziegner blocked, and Romao slowly counted both graveyards to himself in Portuguese. Satisfied with his conclusions, he pumped the 'Tog to 9/10, and Ziegner had to let his die. One turn later, Carlos Eduardo Romao, Brazil, and South America were in the record books.
Final Result: Romao 3 – Ziegner 2
Carlos Romao and the rest of the Latin Americans did so well for one reason: they broke the format. With the understanding that the way to win the Psychatog mirror is NOT to counter card drawing, but to instead let all the Fact or Fictions and Deep Analyses resolve, saving your counters for the few spells that really matter, Romao managed to go 8-0 against other 'Tog decks.
For some reason, most other players are content to fight the card drawing, and they wonder what goes wrong. But not Romao. Draw all you want, he'll still beat you.
There was a Ronaldo here, and he led Brazil to victory.