Hugo Araiza is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you were playing back in 2001, it may ring a bell. That is because Araiza was the winner of Grand Prix Buenos Aires during that year. The occasion was made all the more momentous however, as Araiza became the first Mexican national to win a Magic Grand Prix that day. Now he finds himself in Top 8 contention, in excellent shape as one of the only 4 players left with a record of 10 wins or better following the second draft of the day, proving that he's still got what it takes to take down a Grand Prix, even despite how much they've grown in attendance in recent years.
"I started playing around 1995, when Revised was the expansion," Araiza said. "My first tournament was the National Championship for my country [one year after Araiza started playing], and I got second place."
Araiza followed his Grand Prix victory with a 13th place finish at Grand Prix Santiago later in 2001. Unfortunately, during these years, Pro Tours were not really an option for him, despite putting up some solid finishes in the Grand Prix circuit. "I didn't play in Pro Tours because Pro Tours were mostly in the United States, and I didn't have a visa," he explained.
It wasn't long until real life kicked in, and Araiza had to put down his cards due to work. However, after very long hiatus, Araiza started playing again a year ago. "But only sometimes," he said. "Just when the format is Sealed."
Araiza's familiarity with the current block is also a little limited, so his performance has been based more on instincts and less on knowing the card pool. "The Born of the Gods prerelease was my first time playing Theros block," he said. The number of times he has played a Theros block Limited event before this weekend was relegated to that prerelease and two additional booster drafts.
His opponent for this round, Charlie Reinhart, traveled from the USA to try his hand at a run for the Grand Prix trophy. His weekend started off on a high note, as you may have noticed if you've seen the undefeated Sealed decks from yesterday, when he piloted an absolutely brutal blue-black deck to an 8-0 finish. His first draft was also solid, landing him a 2-1 finish and giving him a shot at Top 8.
Now, the two face off to see who is going into Round 13 in a commanding position for Top 8. Losing isn't the end, but it will make finishing in the Top 8 harder.
You may not be able to tell if Araiza's deck starts off with a couple of early plays, but Araiza's red-black deck is short on creatures. He confirmed after the match that he only had access to 11 creatures, meaning he needed his slew of removal to carry him to a stage where his creatures could end things.
Reinhart's green-black deck offered up some powerful draws as well, with a slant towards green to support cards like Nylea's Disciple.
Reinhart spent his early turns on color fixing, such as Traveler's Amulet and Nylea's Presence. He was first on the board as well with Blood-Toll Harpy, but the flying creature was shot down by Spark Jolt at the end of Reinhart's turn. Araiza left the card from his scry on top, then followed up with a third-turn Spearpoint Oread.
However, Reinhart came over the top of the three mana red creature with Mistcutter Hydra for three, which knocked down Araiza to 16. Araiza's follow-up, Anvilwrought Raptor, was not what he was looking for. The Hydra attacked in again, knocking Araiza to 13. Reinhart popped his Traveler's Amulet, fetching out a Swamp, then followed it up with Cavern Lampad.
Araiza thought long before casting Dragon Mantle on his Spearpoint Oread, and attacking in with one pump. Nyxborn Eidolon from Reinhart was bestowed on his Mistcutter Hydra and, despite losing his Cavern Lampad to Pharika's Cure, the Hydra was hitting hard. However, four toughness was not enough to get the Hydra out of range of Araiza's Lash of the Whip, which gave the former Grand Prix champion some breathing room. Attacks dropped Reinhart to 8, but Reinhart cracked back with his Nyxborn Eidolon, then dropped Araiza to 6 with Sip of Hemlock.
When Araiza had Scouring Sands to dispose of the Eidolon, Reinhart was out of gas. Fearsome Temper gave Reinhart only a turn to find an answer, but when none came, he picked up his cards for the next game.
Reinhart started off the second game with a monumental lead, leading with Swordsmith Centaur bashing in for 3 on the third turn. The Sedge Scorpion that followed became an inefficient blocker in the face of Araiza's Spearpoint Oread, which also threatened to hold back the Centaur. However, Reinhart's green creatures still contributed to devotion, and Nylea's Disciple gained him 5 life.
Araiza enchanted his Oread with Dragon Mantle on the fourth turn, giving him a sizable blocker. Reinhart, however, was willing to push through damage regardless, bestowing Nyxborn Eidolon on Sedge Scorpion and attacking with all of his creatures. When Araiza had Pharika's Cure, the dust settled, and Araiza was still at 19, with Reinhart's board left only with a 3/3 scorpion. Kragma Warcaller gave Araiza another threat, and attacks dropped Reinhart to 19.
But Reinhart was not done yet. He quickly untapped and cast Pheres-Band Raiders, giving him a way to claw back into the game. Araiza played his land, then sent his creatures in. When the Raiders blocked the Warcaller, Lash of the Whip made it a 1/1 and ensured the creature's demise.
Ragemonger made things all the more troublesome for Reinhart, as it gained some abilities (including haste) due to Araiza's Warcaller, and Araiza sent in his three creatures. When Reinhart went for blocks, Araiza announced 4 damage with the Ragemonger. "You didn't announce your trigger for him," Reinhart said, noting that players had already passed the declare attackers step and that damage was being assigned. When the judge confirmed this, the Ragermonger only dealt 2, and the Kragma Warcaller traded with the enchanted Sedge Scorpion.
Despite that setback, while Reinhart found Servant of Tyramet to soak up some damage, the glut of lands he was drawing offered him no way to stem the damage he was still taking. Fearsome Temper made the regenerating blocker irrelevant a turn later, and Reinhart offered the concession.
Araiza 2 – Reinhart 0