When it was announced that 2012 Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa would be at the feature match area, it did not take long for a small crowd to begin flooding around the table. Players lined up in semi-circles around Damo da Rosa and Mattias Urban, his opponent for this round.
Damo da Rosa went with what he knows best: blue spells. Esper was his choice for the weekend. "I think all the decks are at a very similar power level, and this is the one that I played the most by far," he said.
Urban was also casting blue spells, but the difference between he and Damo da Rosa in deck choice is that his blue cards were creatures. His choice was instead Mono-Blue Devotion, the deck made famous for its success at Pro Tour Theros.
Urban began to grimace as he looked at his seven, but ultimately decided to keep. Damo da Rosa led off with Temple of Enlightenment, while Urban had an Island. Under no pressure, Damo da Rosa was content to play his lands tapped, scrying with Temples and taking no damage from shock lands. Syncopate quickly disposed of Urban's third-turn Thassa, God of the Sea, and a Thoughtseize from Damo da Rosa on the next turn revealed what he was up against: a Mutavault, Bident of Thassa, Thassa, God of the Sea, and three Islands. The Bident immediately hit the graveyard.
Urban played his Mutavault and Thassa on the next turn, while Damo da Rosa took the time to deploy Jace, Architect of Thought, moving it immediately up to five loyalty. A Mutavault attack sent Damo da Rosa to 17, and Tidebinder Mage came down after that. When Damo da Rosa removed two loyalty from Jace, Urban was then pinned with a brutal decision.
Urban decided that splitting the powerful land and counterspell away from the planeswalker was the only solution. Damo da Rosa now had a choice: which pile would he take?
He ultimately settled on taking more cards, pushing Elspeth to the bottom. The Mutavault came into play, but despite having it as a potential blocker, Urban was able to force through his own Mutavault and the Tidebinder Mage to finish off Jace thanks to Thassa's activated power.
When a Frostburn Weird threatened to come down and make Thassa a creature on the next turn, Damo da Rosa hesitated but allowed it to resolve. He took 7 from attacks, but healed back up 4 of that with Sphinx's Revelation at the end of turn, drawing four cards. Supreme Verdict, unsurprisingly, came down and swept away two creatures and four of Urban's devotion.
However, Urban wasn't without options, his two Mutavaults at the ready. He woke up both and sent in his two lands after Damo da Rosa spent Dissolve on Judge's Familiar. Nightveil Specter followed, and PB quickly untapped to play two cards: Detention Sphere on Thassa, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion which immediately made three tokens. Damo da Rosa was far ahead in cards, despite being a little low on life. While he had fallen to 4 from Nightveil Specter attacks, Sphinx's Revelation for seven made that 11 and all but ensured his lead in cards. Urban took the opportunity at his end step with Damo da Rosa tapped out to overload Cyclonic Rift, ensuring he was not immediately dead.
However, that was the problem. Death was not immediate. It only seemed inevitable. When Damo da Rosa used Revoke Existence on the Thassa that returned to play after Cyclonic Rift, following that up with Detention Sphere on Nightveil Specter and Elspeth, Sun's Champion, the game appeared over. Urban attempted to fight back with a second Thassa, but another Detention Sphere left him without options.
Urban was first to act in the second game with Tidebinder Mage. It attacked in on the next turn, and Urban passed back with open mana. However, when he repeated this on the fourth and fifth turns, it became clearer that Urban's hand was rather reactive. He used Rapid Hybridization on his creature at the end of Damo da Rosa's fifth turn, with the Brazilian Hall of Famer content on just playing lands.
When Damo da Rosa fell to 11 after that attack, he was ready to expend a Supreme Verdict, passing with two open. Thassa, God of the Sea came down for Urban, but it was immediately exiled by Damo da Rosa on the next turn with Revoke Existence. Lacking options, Urban sent in his Mutavault, trading it with one of Damo da Rosa's own. However, Urban still had a second available to him, and it pressed on without its friend on the next turn, while Nightveil Specter ran into Dissolve. Urban continued pressing with his Mutavault on the next turn, dropping Damo da Rosa to 7, and Tidebinder Mage gave him a creature that actually made it into play.
When Damo da Rosa went for Sphinx's Revelation, Gainsay shut that down. Worried of losing his other in-hand card draw mythic to a second counter, Damo da Rosa instead led with Ætherling, which bit the dust to Rapid Hybridization and was replaced with a 3/3 frog lizard. The token was big enough though to hold back Urban's creatures, and Urban was now top-decking. Not a particularly good spot to be in when your opponent's next play is Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
A few activations and turns later, and Damo da Rosa had earned the handshake.
Damo da Rosa 2 – Urban 0
After the match, I asked Urban what his keep was in the first game, as his hesitation implied a difficult decision. "My hand was two Mutavault, two Thassa, Bident of Thassa, and two Islands," he said. The reason for his keep was due to the hand's power in match-ups like Esper, where it is powerful to have access to the Mutavaults with Bident of Thassa, and it is also a good follow-up in other matches if they stop an early rush of creatures.
In this case, however, no real action came along with these cards, giving Damo da Rosa more than enough time to find what he needed to win that game.