Round 1: Feature Match - Eduardo Lopes vs. Murilo Fraga Pereira

Posted in Event Coverage on September 17, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

Playing in his first Nationals, the 23 year old Pereira has drawn a tough match to get his campaign under way. He faces none other than Eduardo Lopes, the defending National Champion, looking to lead another Brazilian team to Worlds later in the year. Pereira has chosen the trusty Caw-Blade for the six rounds of Standard, while Lopes will be looking to ramp his way into Titans galore with Valakut.

Raging Ravine opened for the Champion, while Seachrome Coast led to Preordain for the first-timer Pereira. Turn two saw Overgrown Battlement as the first of many mana providers, a second Preordain being the reply from Pereira. Using the Battlement, Lopes added Khalni Heart Expedition to the table, laid a land to put on the first counter, and passed. Pereira landed a very pretty Friday Night Magic Squadron Hawk, refilling his hand to the max, while Lopes was already down to three cards.

Eduardo Lopes

One of those (or possibly the fourth he drew) was Obstinate Baloth, which arrived unmolested. Pereira dealt the first damage of the match, dropping Lopes to 23, thanks to his Baloth. Phantasmal Image copied the Baloth, sending Pereira up to 24. When Lopes triggered Khalni Heart Expedition for the second time, Pereira was ready to respond with Into the Roil with Kicker. Lopes could only re-play the Expedition to end his turn.

With a stack of cards in hand, Pereira was looking in control. He used Dismember to destroy Lopes' Obstinate Baloth, leaving the way clear for his own Phantasmal Image/Baloth to attack. Tectonic Edge blew up Lopes' Raging Ravine, and a second Squadron Hawk joined the Pereira team, fetching one copy from his deck. At least Pereira was now tapped out, so Lopes had some kind of window to do something useful.

He didn't.

Back with Pereira, the beats kept on coming, with Oblivion Ring taking out the Overgrown Battlement. Lopes cast Rampant Growth and got his Khalni Heart Expedition to two counters, but he was down to 12 and facing three Squadron Hawks and the Image/Baloth. In came the Pereira team, and Gideon Jura arrived and went straight to eight loyalty. Lopes played Overgrown Battlement, but it was irrelevant. Gideon went into 6/6 smashy-facey mode, and Lopes was overwhelmed.

Eduardo Lopes 0 - 1 Murilo Fraga Pereira

The 29 year old Lopes was playing in his sixth Nationals, but had never had anything quite like 2010, when he lifted the trophy before heading the team for Worlds in Chiba, Japan. He certainly wouldn't be phased by being one down, especially after a mulligan and an unexciting keep at six cards in game one.

Game Two

He began game two with a Mountain, after both players had fallen to six cards. Khalni Heart Expedition arrived, and Explore was also allowed. Lopes couldn't take advantage of the 'extra land' clause, however. Pereira continued to pass the turn, Lopes attempting Rampant Growth, again allowed by Pereira, who was certainly representing countermagic in his studied pauses before saying 'ok' to each spell.

Lopes tapped all four land for Oracle of Mul Daya, which meant Mana Leak from Pereira was a hard counterspell. Lopes cracked his Khalni Heart Expedition, taking him up to seven lands in play, five of them Mountains. He would have to be careful if he wanted maximum value out of subsequent Valakut interactions. How many Mountains was he running?

For now, though, his plan was simple - cast Wurmcoil Engine and destroy. Deprive ensured that wouldn't be happening, but he was running Pereira out of countermagic. He laid Valakut, added Overgrown Battlement, but for the first time didn't have something useful to do with a stack of mana. Pereira, meanwhile, did have something useful to do, casting Emeria Angel, and getting a 1/1 Bird via Landfall, one of the most successful abilities introduced to the game in recent years.

Murilo Pereira

Lopes found Primeval Titan waiting for him, leaving Pereira to crack a fetchland in response, netting him another free flyer. With two Islands up, he now had enough to Flashfreeze the Titan, which he duly did. A second Overgrown Battlement from Lopes was not a significant threat. Five power of flyers attacked Lopes, who fell to 15. The air force was increased by Pereira casting Squadron Hawk, fetching up all three copies of the standout 1/1s.

Lopes had twelve mana available, and he used the first six to attempt another Primeval Titan. Flashfreeze was ready once again, but Lopes used the other six mana for a second Primeval Titan of the turn. Awesome stuff, and he quickly fetched up Valakut number two, and a Mountain. That was enough to kill Emeria Angel and a 1/1 Bird. What a turn! Only precisely that combination of two Titans would have inconvenienced Pereira, and with one Titan already in Lopes' graveyard, the odds were stacked against him.

Pereira was happy enough to cast a Primeval Titan of his own, although his was called Phantasmal Image. Unsurprisingly, he was very interested in searching out Tectonic Edges, ready to kill Lopes' Valakuts at the earliest opportunity. Nonetheless, Lopes would get at least one turn with double Valakut active, and a Primeval Titan on the board. What would he do with it? He attacked, and had to choose between finding two Mountains, or a Mountain and a Valakut, or (theoretically) the last two Valakuts. He went for plan (b), getting one of each. Phantasmal Image bit the dust when targeted, along with a Bird.

Lopes used most of his remaining mana for Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Pereira had Mana Leak ready, and Lopes put Ulamog into his graveyard. Realizing his mistake, he noticed - too late - that he had Overgrown Battlement and one Forest left, which would have paid for the Mana Leak. Thankfully, it didn't matter. With Pereira's defenses now well and truly breached, Lopes cantered to victory, and there's little better than a major error coming when it doesn't count against you.

Two Primeval Titans in one turn? That'll be game then.

Lopes 1 - 1 Pereira

Game Three

For the decider, both players were able to keep their opening seven. In the early exchanges, Lopes had turn one Valakut into turn two Khalni Heart Expedition, Pereira casting Sword of War and Peace on turn three. Two mana got Lopes a second Khalni Heart Expedition, and Terramorphic Expanse would help turbocharge the race to get counters on them. Evolving Wilds triggered both Expeditions once again, leaving Pereira to contemplate Into the Roil action. That didn't happen, and now both Expeditions were up to three counters. Win!

At end of turn, Pereira used Tectonic Edge to eat Valakut, sending both players back down to three mana. He still had a second Tectonic Edge on the table, and promptly laid the third. He would likely need it, since Lopes was busy stockpiling mana galore, cracking both his Expeditions for a total of three Mountains and a Forest.

Both players passed, and there was an almost eerie calm. Then Lopes pulled the trigger on Summoning Trap, and that was the cue for some serious thinking from Pereira. It resolved, and the first six cards were nothing good. The seventh, however, was Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre...

Pereira was ready. He cast Into the Roil with Kicker to send the Eldrazi to Lopes' hand. Lopes too was ready, casting Primeval Titan. Pereira was ready again, this time with Flashfreeze. Lopes was ready again with another Summoning Trap! This time he found Primeval Titan, and this time Pereira couldn't stop it. The Titan fetched up Valakut and Terramorphic Expanse, and an amazing sequence came to an end. Both players had only one non-land permanent in play. For Lopes, it was his hard-fought Primeval Titan. For Pereira, it was that long-ago Sword of War and Peace.

Pereira used Tectonic Edge to destroy Valakut, now having drawn all four copies of the Edge, leaving him two still to use. He cast Phantasmal Image to copy the Primeval Titan, with an eagle-eyed spectator spotting that Pereira had tapped his mana incorrectly, using a Plains and Tectonic Edge for the Image. The error was quickly corrected, and on we went, with Titans now on either side of the board.

Deep in game three

Lopes wanted to attack, but Pereira wanted to think. The problem was, he could cast an Into the Roil, but then he would be open to Ulamog coming crashing down. He worked out that he had no real choice, and let Lopes turn his Primeval Titan sideways, triggering the search for Valakut and a Mountain. The targeting effect took out the Phantasmal Image, and now Pereira was in deep trouble. Lopes wasn't done. He was however, running out of time to force the win. As he marshalled his mana, time was called, making this turn 'zero' of five extra turns.

He cast Wurmcoil Engine and Overgrown Battlement, and knew he had two more turns to claim victory. As expected, Pereira ended the turn by using Tectonic Edge to blow up Valakut. With Terramorphic Expanse available, Lopes had to decide whether to fetch up a Mountain in response. He elected to keep his powder dry, and Pereira untapped for turn one of extra turns. He activated Inkmoth Nexus, equipped it with the Sword of War and Peace, and charged in, over the heads of the opposing creatures. Pereira went up to 17, Lopes down to 16, and now had three poison counters.

Turn two, and Lopes continued to try to find the win. He cast Khalni Heart Expedition, then looked to attack. In came the Primeval Titan and Wurmcoil Engine. Lopes found his final Valakut and a Mountain. In response to the damage triggers, Pereira used his Tectonic Edge to blow up the Valakut. This time Lopes responded with his Terramorphic Expanse for another Mountain. Pereira did the math and knew that he couldn't quite survive.

It had been an epic start to the day, the very last match still going, and it was the 2010 Champion who had started with a win.

Eduardo Lopes 2 - 1 Murilo Fraga Pereira

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