It's here. The rivalry. This long-time feud is beginning to bubble to the surface.
After a brief dispute on where in the diamond-aligned tables the match would take place – with each side wanting the match to be closer to them – a neutral party (ie: a judge from neither country) moved all tables out of the way, leaving a sole table in the center of the circle/arena, surrounded by onlookers supporting one of two outcomes:
-a win for Demian Tejo, and a trophy for Buenos Aires
-a win for Philippe Monlevade, and a trophy for Brazil, the second one that Brazil claimed from Argentina's Grand Prix
With a shuffle, and a quick study of both players' decks, the two got underway...
...and both immediately began shuffling up for a mulligan.
Well, at least this match between two rival countries will be starting on some equal footing. Six cards a piece is a lot more fair than six cards to seven card.
Despite going second, it was Tejo who was first onto the board with a first-turn Cloudfin Raptor, followed by two Judge's Familiars to evolve the Raptor and attack for 1. The Raptor immediately went down to Dreadbore when Monlevade untapped and played a land (a precaution against the Judge's Familiars), not wanting the flying creature to get any bigger. Tejo had no additions to his board on the next turn, holding back with a Cyclonic Rift at the ready.
Monlevade drew and then cast Courser of Kruphix, not finding a free land but getting some life-gain off the Courser from the land he played from hand. Tejo untapped and locked down the 2/4 creature with Tidebinder Mage, attacking for 2. When Monlevade drew for his turn, he found a land on top, which he played. Stormbreath Dragon followed, attacking in for 4 before Monlevade passed back. Tejo added a Cloudfin Raptor to his board before attacking in with his creatures, passing back and content to take another 4 from the dragon on the next turn, along with 2 from a token made by Monlevade's freshly cast Xenagos, the Reveler.
Tejo, who was sitting on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, found a Bident of Thassa on top, which he cast, attacking in with his two Judge's Familiars and drawing two cards. Monlevade played one of his shock lands untapped, going to seven lands total, made a token with Xenagos, then went into his attacks. Cloudfin Raptor jumped in front of the Stormbreath Dragon, saving Tejo from potentially more than 4 damage. Monlevade passed back, waiting to go monstrous.
When Tejo sent in his three remaining creatures, Monlevade activated his Stormbreath Dragon. In response, Tejo used Nykthos to generate an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, sending all non-land cards back to Monlevade's hand.
Now down on board, it was time for Monlevade to rebuild. Two Courser of Kruphixes allowed Monlevade to net 2 life off the land that he got from the top of his deck. It revealed Ghor-Clan Rampager, a card that represented lethal damage with Stormbreath Dragon if Monlevade would be given the opportunity.
Nykthos generated six mana for Tejo, who cast Thassa, God of the Sea, giving his Tidebinder Mage unblockable with its effect. He sent his creatures in, drawing three cards and casting Master of Waves.
"You're at 6 life, right?" confirmed Monlevade.
Monlevade quickly untapped and cast Stormbreath Dragon, using the Ghor-Clan Rampager that was waiting on top to push through for 9 damage, sending the two to the second game, and the Brazilian side of the room into a roar of applause, the two sides hanging at the side of their respective corners, waiting for their representative to take the trophy.
This, by the way, is quite possibly the coolest aspect of a Latin American Grand Prix: the camaraderie, rivalry, and the support all the way through to the Finals for their hometown heroes. The tension and pressure of not only winning the Grand Prix, but also in wanting to not let their countrymen down, was getting to the players, as a friend of Monlevade brought him some paper towels to dry the sweat off of his head and hands.
The two players kept their hands, and then they were off into the second game.
Tejo led with Cloudfin Raptor, evolving it with Tidebinder Mage and attacking for 1. Frostburn Weird made the Raptor a 2/3, and attacks put Monlevade to 15. The Brazilian, meanwhile, only had Forests and a Courser of Kruphix on the third turn, while Tejo had a brutal hand of two Master of Waves at the ready.
An attack with Cloudfin Raptor and Frostburn Weird from Tejo warranted no blocks from Monlevade, as he fell to 12 and nodded to the Master of Waves that followed. He took 2, then gained 1, from an untapped Overgrown Tomb, as Golgari Charm wiped away the Master of Waves and its minions.
A Mutavault activation from Tejo eluded to him sending his whole team. While Monlevade was able to take out the Tidebinder Mage, three pumps on Frostburn Weird dropped Monlevade to 3. Vraska the Unseen came down and took out the Cloudfin Raptor (the land bringing Monlevade up to 4), and suddenly the Brazilian had some breathing room. A Mutavault activation from Tejo and an attack with it and Frostburn Weird warranted a block with Courser on the Weird, dropping Monlevade to 2, as Master of Waves #2 came down. Monlevade untapped and cast Polukranos, World Eater, played a land (going to 3), and passed back.
When Tejo sent in all but his Master of Waves, Monlevade had nothing and shuffled up for the third and final game of the main event.
And with that, the Argentinian crowd applauded, chanting for their countryman to win.
The third game, however, did not start out well for the Buenos Aires resident, who had to mulligan to six cards. Tejo looked at his second hand: Judge's Familiar, Tidebinder Mage, Cyclonic Rift, Master of Waves, and two Islands. He kept, and found a Cloudfin Raptor for a turn one play instead of his other options. Monlevade had a speedy start as well, with a second-turn Sylvan Caryatid, falling to 18 from a Blood Crypt.
Courser of Kruphix followed, gaining Monlevade 1 life when he played his Temple of Abandon from hand (leaving Mistcutter Hydra on top). Tidebinder Mage followed, clearing away the Courser as a future blocker, and evolving the Ratpr for Tejo's attack. Monlevade quickly untapped, dropped a Blood Crypt untapped, and cast Mistcutter Hydra for 4, beginning his assault.
Frostburn Weird made the Cloudfin Raptor a 3 power attacks, as it and Tejo's other two attacking creatures dropped Monlevade to 8. Monlevade thought before casting his second Mistcutter Hydra, this one for three, giving him two creatures that Tejo had little say in stopping. The bigger one was sent in, dropping Tejo to 12, while the other one was left back to block.
When Tejo just sent in his flying creatures, Ultimate Price was aimed at the Cloudfin Raptor, prompting Tejo to counter it with his Judge's Familiar. Monlevade fell to 6, while he kept swinging in with the big Mistcutter Hydra, sending Tejo to 8. Scavenging Ooze followed, giving Monlevade more life and breathing room.
When Tejo had nothing more than a Tiderbinder Mage on the next turn, locking down the Ooze, it became clear that his only out was Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, which would let him overload the Cyclonic Rift in his hand.
After an attack from the 4/4 Hydra, Tejo fell to 4. He drew.
Another Cyclonic Rift.
Without a way to stop protection from blue, Tejo sent in his whole team. Monlevade made blocks to ensure he would not die, Tejo extended the hand.