Both these Brazilian players are sitting at 6-1. Victor Fernando Silva and João Paulo Araujo both hail from around São Paulo and traveled across the Andes to get here to Santiago, and have impressive records to show for it thus far.
Silva has been becoming a name in the grinder scene. After qualifying for the World Magic Cup but was unable to attend due to visa issues, he trained hard on Magic Online, came back, and is perched as one of the next hopes of Brazil. He is playing the Esper deck knowing that the control deck allows you to outplay whoever is on the other side of the table if you have the skill set. And Silva’s skill set is stellar.
Victor Fernando Silva
João Paulo Araujo is slightly more casual about Magic, if evident only by his jocular demeanor compared to the stoic Silva, but is no stranger to the scene. He finished Day Two in both Grand Prix Houston and Las Vegas, and is looking forward to being able to attend more Grand Prix events next year. He was playing Mono-Red Devotion with Fanatic of Mogis. A punishing deck that can top off the curve with a Burning Earth to really wreck Esper’s day, Mono-Red’s only flaw was its inconsistency. Its best draws were unbeatable; its bad ones unbearable.
This matchup was going to be a fun and brutal one in one way or another. Mono-Red Devotion against Esper starts off fast and can sometimes end dreadfully slow. If it’s the former, Mono-Red is happy, if it’s the latter, not so much.
In the first game, Araujo’s start out the gates was slowed by an Azorius Charm—Esper’s best early defense against the many two-power–one-mana dudes that Mono-Red could throw out. This opening roadblock was indicative of the entire first game.
Silva went Charm, Dissolve, Charm, Hero’s Downfall, then, into a basically open board, he cast a Sphinx’s Revelation for three. The total was 20-19, technically in Araujo’s favor—technically. But the life total was about all Araujo could say was going his way. But he kept on fighting as hard as he could. He laid Boros Reckoner after Boros Reckoner only to watch each one quickly vanish with spot or mass removal. He binned each one in succession, and grew a little grimmer each time.
Silva was at 16 when he felt it safe enough to cast an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Though Araujo was able to use two Lightning Strikes to kill it, for his troubles he received another Elspeth the following turn. Araujo didn’t smack his forehead when the second one came down, but I could see it all the same.
It was then Mono-Red started looking like a very sad deck indeed. Turn 8 Firefist Striker looks very different than on turn one, two or three. And Elspeth was basically making three Firefist Strikers every turn. For free. So Silva just started swinging for the fences. He brought in all his 1/1s, gladly sacrificing one a turn to a blocker to get the other damage through. It didn’t take too long Araujo to see the writing on the wall.
The second game was that other type I mentioned earlier. Mono-Red quickly got Silva down to 8 with a flurry of hasty dudes, and forced Silva to tap out for a Supreme Verdict. Though that three-for-one seemed to favor Silva, that allowed Araujo to resolve a Burning Earth, and all of Silva’s lands were non-basic.
Silva had to take two damage just to bin the Chandra’s Phoenix Araujo cast the following turn. Now, with his opponent at 6 life with four non-basic land on the field, Araujo put the last nail in the coffin. He cast a second Burning Earth. Gross.
João Paulo Araujo
The game was elementary after that, and Araujo tied the series 1-1.
In the first two games, the archetypes and the match-up played out like the Platonic ideal: Game one was fairly long with Esper Control dominating from turn two or three, after blunting the first wave of the red aggressors. While Game Two saw Mono-Red take full advantage of a mulligan from the control deck and explode on the board, doing enough initial damage to let a four-drop bat cleanup.
Which way of play showed up in the rubber game? Well Araujo didn’t have a first-turn play, then cast a second-turn Rakdos Cackler. That’s usually a decent indicator. No Burning-Tree Shaman into an Ash Zealot or something awesome. Just tap one of the two Mountains to make a Rakdos Cackler. And for the third game in a row, Silva had an Azorius Charm ready for the already-fashionably-late Cackler.
After that, Araujo tried to go over the top early. Hammer of Purphoros could threaten constant damage, if unanswered. He laid it turn three and if it lived, it would make every land a guy, and every guy a winner. But Silva had the Detention Sphere ready. Araujo still followed it up with the Cackler, Boros Reckoner, then a Fanatic of Mogis, dealing five damage to the face, but it wasn’t as rosy as you might imagine.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa from Silva was mitigating basically all the damage that Araujo’s deck could dish out. Paired with some spot removal—a Doom Blade here, an Ultimate Price there, another Detention Sphere all around—and it was looking grim for Araujo.
Araujo desperately started throwing damage at Silva’s face, taking him from 17 to 14 to 12 to 10 to 8. He passed the turn with a Cackler and a Fanatic of Mogis on the field.
It was here Silva had a choice. He could keep relying on the Blood Baron and risk dying to the creatures on the board, or he could lean into the Supreme Verdict lying in wait in his hand but lose his meal ticket on the board. This could make the difference in the game. Though Araujo was low on cards, Silva was only at 8. He could die to many combinations of cards from Araujo.
Silva opted for the second plan; he swung with the Blood Baron. Araujo accepted Silva’s trade offer of Blood Baron for Fanatic, and Silva then cast Sphinx’s Revelation to gain 5. The life total was 12 to 13 in Silva’s favor, and that lead wouldn’t change throughout the remainder of the match—the Revelation had found another Blood Baron. And even though Araujo was able to kill the second one, it bought just enough time to find the third. Silva rode that third lifelinking 4/4 powerhouse across the finish line.
Silva had to make a fairly risky choice—without the second win condition in his hand, letting the Blood Baron die then not draw anything off the Sphinx’s Revelation could have cost him against a deck that could win at a moment’s notice. But it was the right play, and it paid off.
Victor Fernando Silva wins 2-1 over João Paulo Araujo moving to 7-1.