After two very taxing days of Limited play these two great players sat across each other in the finale, surrounded by a surreal wall of nervous Brazilian fans. They both shuffled silently and with worried looks in their faces.
Romao had just breezed through a semifinal match against Justin Schneider, but the pressure to repeat a Brazilian Grand Prix victory seemed to show in his face. He was also very concerned about catching a flight back home to avoid flunking his class.
Alex, on the other hand, had just been through two very grueling matches and wasn't feeling well. A couple of times he felt very faint, and some Brazilian spectators even pretended to lock him inside the bathroom! Through all this he was still very friendly, smiling and talking to everyone along the way to the table.
Carlos came out smoking with a Thunderscape Familiar and a Firescreamer. Meanwhile Alex was suffering from real mana problems, laying three consecutive Swamps. He played an Exotic Curse, lowering the Firescreamer's power and hoping to finish it off soon. Carlos had no such trouble. He improved his mana with a Quirion Trailblazer, getting his fourth different land type.
Alex finally drew his second land type, an Island, which allowed him to drop a Collective Restraint to slow the beatings and let the curse destroy the Firescreamer. Carlos now had to choose between attacking or playing spells. He dropped his trademark creature, Duskwalker, followed by a Root Greevil.
Alex then decided it was high time to show what his deck could do. He played a Ravenous Rats, nabbing a Death Bomb, bounced it with a Cavern Harpy and replayed it, this time forcing Carlos to lose a Caldera Kavu. All of a sudden Carlos was faced with a hand stripping machine!Alex Shvartsman
The Greevil got rid of the Restraint, freeing the Brazilian's army and he sacrificed the Quirion Trailblazer to cast a Diabolic Intent. Alex had to read the card and when Carlos passed the turn without casting anything the American murmured "Interesting".
Carlos got rid of the Rats with a Zap. He dropped a Cinder Shade and Serpentine Kavu to increase the pressure on Shvartsman. Alex couldn't stop the flow, instead using his flyers in an attempt to race the ground behemoths coming from the other side of the table.
The Serpentine Kavu got blocked, and killed, by the Cavern Harpy and a Morgue Toad a few turns later but Carlos wouldn't give Alex any room to work. He dropped problem after problem. Alex's bad board position and his visible tiredness showed when he sent a Phyrexian Bloodstock on the attack. Carlos blocked it with the Cinder Shade and Shvartsman tried to cut the Brazilian's Red mana with a Dream Thrush, to keep him from sacrificing the Shade. The Latin Giant simply drew mana from the Mountain in response to that effect prompting the following line from a smiling Alex:
"What am I doing? It's official, I'm an idiot."
Despite a late Crypt Angel, which was brought down by Tribal Flames, Alex couldn't muster a defense strong enough to contain the monsters that kept pouring out of Carlos' hand. When he lost the Restraint, it took with it his best hope of winning the game.
After some sideboarding, mostly on Alex's part, the second game got underway. The crowd was still silently hypnotized by the match in front of them, praying and rooting for the home player.
Alex was the first to do something other than drop land when he played a Dream Thrush. It stung the Brazilian a couple of times. Alex tried to augment his position with Tower Drake, but Carlos Zapped it while Alex had no white mana to defend it. This marked the arrival of Carlos' spells.
His first creature, a Kavu Recluse, went down under an Exotic Curse (with a little help from the Thrush's land changing trick) but the clean-up crew of Caldera Kavu and Cinder Shade stuck around.Carlos Romao
Alex still couldn't draw any powerful spells so he tried to race through the air, to no avail. Romao's huge creatures kept piling on and Alex's best new recruit was a blocking-challenged Urborg Phantom. Alex blocked as best he could to avoid being buried under Carlos' creatures, but a kicked Magma Burst limited his options.
With a genuine smile in his face Alex extended his hand to concede, releasing the earth-shaking roar of the crowd. For the first time today Carlos' smile truly erupted from his usually stern face. The sheer wall of noise seemed to make everyone forget their evident tiredness. The award ceremony was as loud and raucous as you can imagine.
The crowd may have suffered in deep silence until the end of the final, but their waiting has paid off. Don't forget, no one parties like Brazilians. From the end of the Finals until the wee small hours of the morning you could see the energy on everyone's face. Pure Magic.
Final result: Carlos 2 - 0 Alex