Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - Catching Up with King Carlos

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.

Trivia time: Who is the only Magic World Champion across two versions of the game? If you answered, "Carlos Romão," you'd be spot on. Back in 2002, Romão went to Worlds and had a tiny scrap of information that nobody else had - that you could quite happily let Psychatog decks draw all the cards they wanted. All day, all night, Fact or Fictions aplenty, it just didn't matter. What mattered is that you saved your countermagic for their very, very few threats. And then you countered those threats all the time. All day, all night, no Psychatog for you.

Fast forward eight years, and at Worlds in Chiba, Japan to close the 2010 season, Romão did it again, this time in the online version of the game, taking down Akira Asahara of Japan in the final. The Online Championship was a huge workout, comprising three formats across three days (Standard, Extended, and Masters Edition 4 Draft) at the end of each day of competition in the World Championship itself. What are his memories of that event?

"I really started to focus on the event once I knew the formats' he says. 'I had won the MOCS qualifier back in May, so I'd had six months to think about it, but it only really came into focus once those formats were known. In Standard I played UB Control, very much like the French deck of the Two Guillaumes (Wafo-Tapa and eventual World Champion Matignon)."

"Med4 was very strange. It was the first ever tournament that used that card pool, so there was literally no way to prepare for it. All you could do was keep looking at all the cards in the set, and try to work out what might be good. The thing is that there were so many terrible creatures back then, so you knew that the games were going to go a lot longer than something like M11 draft. They were just terrible, those creatures."

"Then in Extended I played Faeries, which was fine."

Was he more nervous about the Final in 2002 or 2010?

'To be honest I wasn't really nervous for either final. To me, making the Top 8 is worth almost as much as a title. Of course winning is great and has more obvious rewards, but if you make the Top 8 you've really achieved something. In 2002, I played a match in the penultimate round of Swiss against Brian Kibler, and I knew that if I beat him I could ID the last round into the Top 8. Because I could see my goal within reach, that was the match that made me really nervous. I was about to achieve something I really wanted.'

Carlos Romão

"The same thing happened in 2010. In the last round of Swiss, knowing that I'd make the cut if I won it, I was really nervous. Once I'd made the final, I wasn't nervous at all. I was already happy with myself, and knew I'd done a great job."

Once he was in the final against Asahara, he got a very nasty shock.

"I opened with Inquisition of Kozilek. I'd watched replays of his Standard matches, so knew the matchup was ok for me. Suddenly I'm looking at a deck with maindeck Goblin Ruinblasters, and he's playing something completely different than I expected. It was only afterwards that I found out that you were allowed to change your deck between the Standard rounds and the final. I literally didn't change a single card - I hadn't realized you could!"

Last year at Nationals, Carlos had a poor day one, dropping at 3-4 after a disappointing loss in the first round of the second draft took him definitively out of contention. Now he's at 2-0, and very much on a mission.

"I'm not currently qualified for Worlds or any other Pro Tours. I want to get back to playing Pro Tours again."

So the goal is once again to make the Top 8?

'Not this time' he laughs. 'This time it's all about the Top 4, because they're the ones who get to go to Worlds and play for the team. Once you're in the top 4 you can relax, because you know you're going on the plane, you know you've got Worlds to look forward to, and you know you've done a great job on the weekend.'

He pauses.

"But the quarter final? If I get there, that's when I'll be nervous. It's always worst when your goal is right there in front of you."

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