Paired down with only two more rounds to play, Marcelino Freeman's back was against the wall. Having picked up a second loss early in the day, Freeman was in need of a perfect 3-0 finish to this Pod in order to secure his berth in the Top 8. His weapon of choice to accomplish this was an incredibly aggressive red/white deck featuring multiple two-powered creatures for one mana. He was able to easily dispatch his opponent in the first round of play with this deck, and he hoped the trend would continue. Standing in his way was Michaell Solorzano, sitting at 9-3 and pushing to keep his dreams of a Top 16 berth alive. Solorzano's aggressive red/white deck was fast enough to keep pace with Freeman's, something he hadn't encountered before.
Freeman was forced to mulligan on the play, but was able to get on the board fairly quickly with a Nyxborn Rollicker which he soon enchanted with a Nyxborn Shieldmate. Solorzano's draw was even faster, putting an Akroan Crusader into play and enchanting it with Ordeal of Heliod, one of the worst possible cards for Freeman's aggro deck to see. Solorzano attacked, and Freeman blocked the 1/1 Soldier token with his 2/3 Rollicker. When Solorzano used Ray of Dissolution to destroy the Shieldmate, effectively getting to two-for-one Freeman.
Freeman managed to gum things up a bit with the most expensive card in his deck, the 4/5 Ember Swallower. Solorzano used Glimpse of the Sun God to push past it for one turn, dropping Freeman to 6. Divine Verdict on the following turn removed the roadblock. To replace it, Freeman found another of his four-drops, Ill-Temepered Cyclops, which he was able to enchant with Fearsome Temper to hold off Solorzano's troops.
At this point, the game was at parity, and both players were drawing off the tops of their decks. Freeman was well behind on life (32-6), but his Impetuous Sunchaser was the only creature that could attack. It was soon joined by a Loyal Pegasus, though Freeman left it back to defend. One turn later, Freeman broke the game wide open. After making his Cyclops monstrous at the end of Solorzano's turn, Freeman was able to enchant it with Hopeful Eidolon, giving him a 9/9 trampling lifelinker. This started to swing the life totals in his favor, one attack at a time. Freeman's Cyclops began eating Solorzano's creatures one by one before finally sinking his teeth into what was left of Solorzano's life total.
As much as Freeman had maligned his four drops during the deckbuilding process, it was because of their size that he was able to pull out this miraculous come-from-behind win.
Once again, both players shot out of the gates. Freeman led with Loyal Pegasus, Akroan Hoplite, and Wingsteed Rider. Solorzano, meanwhile, added a pair of Oreskos Sun Guides to his side of the table, threatening to negate any damage that Freeman could put out. He even had a sideboarded Glare of Heresy to hit the Hoplite on the third turn, paring down the threat. Freeman had a sideboarded card of his own, adding his Setessan Battle Priest to the maindeck to combat Solorzano's aggressive creatures.
The first big swing came on the fourth turn, when Solorzano sent his two Guides to attack. Freeman blocked one with his Battle Priest and the other with his Wingsteed Rider and Pegasus. Freeman thought he was getting the big blowout with a Coordinated Assault to trigger heroic on his Rider and Priest, but a Gods Willing and Mortal's Ardor turned the tables, keeping both of Solorzano's creatures alive while killing both the Priest and Pegasus. He even had a second Gods Willing when Freeman played Ordeal of Purphoros on his Rider, triggering the Ordeal to try and hill one of the Guides.
From here, the 5/5 flying Rider stopped Solorzano in his tracks. He was up 30-14, which kept Freeman from getting too aggressive, causing the game to enter a lull much like it had in the first game. Both players were drawing a large number of lands, not a common sight for these land-light red/white decks.
"It feels like we're playing blue, not red/white," Solorzano joked.
"Yeah, this isn't much fun," Freeman laughed along.
Eventually, Solorzano tried to break the stalemate and go for the win with a Portent of Betrayal, but Freeman had the Gods Willing, and both players returned to playing the ever-popular red/white draw go. This thoroughly engaging back-and-forth finally came to a halt when Freeman made an Ember Swallower and made it monstrous. While Solorzano had more than enough lands to sacrifice, the 7/8 body was far larger than he could deal with, and he soon found his once-safe life total in jeopardy. Before long, he found himself forced to begin chump blocking, though he was careful to try and keep his paths to victory alive, namely his Akroan Skyguard. Enchanting it with Ordeal of Heliod and Nyxborn Rollicker made it just barely large enough to be a threat, but still too small to deal with the rampaging Ember Swallower. Eventually, it was the last man standing on his side, and it too fell. With that, Marcelino Freeman put himself one match closer to his spot in the Top 8!
"Yes, I know, the four-drops were very good here," he laughed after the match. "It's because this is the mirror match. His deck is just as fast as mine, so having the bigger cards to finish things off is very important."
Here's what Freeman ended up building: