There are few things as painful in life as the sting of a missed opportunity. A few weeks ago, Tulio Jaudy was informed that his visa application to the US had been denied, forcing him to miss Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. Here in Latin America, missing a Pro Tour for which you are qualified is a very big deal. There are so few opportunities to get the points needed to make Silver or Gold, so every shot at the Pro Tour counts for so much more. While players in the Canada, the US, or Europe may be playing with thoughts of hitting Platinum or placing in the money on their minds, most of the Latin American players are simply looking for an additional opportunity to play on the Pro Tour. This match marks the final hurdle on Jaudy's way to reclaiming an invitation to the Pro Tour for him and his friends Guilherme Merjan and Carlos dos Santos Esteves.
But their opponents Walter Perez, Paulo Ricardo Cortez, and Lucas Esper Berthoud (what a Magic name!) are no strangers to missed opportunities. Roughly four years ago, Berthoud and Cortez had made good on their opportunities, managing to qualify for all of the Pro Tours and Worlds in one season. Unfortunately, they were never able to make good on their invitations. For Cortez, university commitments prevented him from attending, while the beginning of a new job kept Berthoud away. They both recently returned to the game and have been eager to reclaim their shot at the Pro Tour. To aid them, they enlisted the help of an old Brazilian Nationals acquaintance, Walter Perez, and they stormed their way to an undefeated Day 1 and eventually to this spot in the Top 4.
Esteves's deck is an incredibly interesting blue/green deck with about seven or eight two-mana creatures, including two each of Kiora's Follower and Bassara Tower Archer. While there are a couple of big beasties for the Followers to ramp into, the deck primarily runs on its aggressive base, using bounce spells and combat tricks to force through the damage in traditional blue/green tempo style.
His opponent, Walter Perez, has a white/black deck that has the potential to play one of two games. On one hand, cards like Oreskos Swiftclaw and Harvestguard Alseids, of which Perez has two, allow him to take an aggressive early stance. Should the game go late, cards like Scholar of Athreos and the powerful Silence the Believers can turn a bogged-down affair into a one-sided slaughter.
Jaudy's draft was covered here. The end result was an oddly aggressive red/green build, very akin to Esteves's deck. Jaudy has a massive number of great creature enhancers in his deck, including a pair of Fearsome Tempers, Rouse the Mob, and Feral Invocation, but he is a little light on the creatures to carry them. Still, if any of them make it onto Two-Headed Cerberus or one of his two Sigiled Skinks, the game could get out of hand very quickly.
Berthoud will be the one to have to rein Jaudy in. His white/blue deck is filled with power and a great curve. Battlewise Hoplite and Loyal Pegasus start the curve that goes all the way up to the powerful Prognostic Sphinx. In addition to the Sphinx, Berthoud's deck is also packing the nigh-unbeatable Godsend.
Unlike his two teammates, Merjan picked himself up a slower control deck. His blue/black creation contains a Springleaf Drum to combo with his Pain Seer and Disciple of Deceit, Dictate of Erebos, and a reasonable amount of removal to help him keep control of the game.
It was bound to be an interesting matchup against Cortez's black/red deck. Rather than the hyperaggressive black/red Minotaurs deck we've been seeing all weekend, Cortez's deck is more controlling, relying on an absurd amount of removal to keep the board clear while Bladetusk Boar and Erebos's Emissary get the job done.
Walter Perez (White/Black) vs. Carlos dos Santos Esteves (Blue/Green)
This match was the first to begin and easily the first to finish. Esteves's two-drops did what they were supposed to do, as a Bassara Tower Archer and Swordwise Centaur ran roughshod over Perez's early game. The only defense he could muster was a Bronze Sable, but it wasn't able to stem the tide of creatures that poured from Esteves's hand onto the table, ending the game in short order.
The second game was just as one-sided as the first. Esteves once again shot out of the gates with a pair of Bassara Tower Archers, and they beat Perez all the way down to 14 before he played his first creature, a Warchanter of Mogis. Hubris pushed the Minotaur out of the way and let Esteves bash through freely once more. Perez tried to defend himself with a Scholar of Athreos, but a Pheres-Band Thunderhoof and a bestowed Nimbus Naiad were more than enough to push through the remaining damage.
Paulo Ricardo Cortez (Black/Red) vs. Guilherme Merjan (Blue/Black)
Merjan was behind early in the first game of this match. Between Bladetusk Boar and Erebos's Emissary, Merjan had his hands full trying to stall for time. Voyage's End and Hubris bought him a few precious turns, but it didn't look like it was going to be enough.
And then Merjan had a chance to prove how underrated Disciple of Deceit is right now. Thanks to Stratus Walk, Merjan got to effectively tutor every turn thereafter, grabbing the perfect card for each situation. Felhide Minotaur turned into Asphyxiate to kill an Insatiable Harpy. Blood-Toll Harpy turned into an Ashiok, Nightmare Adept. Nyxborn Eidolon turned into a Feast of Dreams. Merjan was slowly crawling back to a semblance of control.
Still, there was one element that he couldn't account for: the Bladetusk Boar. Inexorably, the Boar took three-point chunks out of Merjan's life total. By the time he found a Lash of the Whip to kill it, the damage was done. He was now low enough for Forgeborn Oreads to finish the job the Boar had nearly taken to completion, ruining a perfectly good comeback story.
The second game once again showcased the Disciple, with Merjan using it in conjunction with Springleaf Drum to turn a Drown in Sorrow into an Ashiok on an otherwise empty board. Cortez held a handful of red cards and four-drop black cards, but only three Swamps in play. He fortunately drew a Mountain after a one-turn stumble, allowing him to start unloading. He was already way behind and desperately trying to make up ground. First, Disciple of Phenax took Hubris from Merjan. Bladetusk Boar came next. The whole while, Ashiok was happily munching on his library. Merjan was clearly in the driver's seat in this game, but it never ended up mattering because...
Lucas Esper Berthoud (White/Blue) vs. Tulio Jaudy (Red/Green)
This match was playing faster. At first it looked like this match may end up in the same manner as Esteves's, but for the other side. Jaudy's deck failed to cough up any creatures with which he could defend himself, and a Battlewise Hoplite/Loyal Pegasus combo proved more than enough to put Jaudy out of his misery.
In the second game, however, Berthoud's draw slowed down while Jaudy's sped up. Oakenheart Dryads, Two-headed Cerberus, and Flurry of Horns gave Jaudy an impressive army, forcing Berthoud to take up a defensive posture. Supply-Line Cranes, Floodtide Serpent, and Stonewise Fortifier were enough to hold things off for the moment, but a massive Rouse the Mob destroyed Berthoud's team and left him at a meager 4 life. Another attack got through for two more. Though Berthoud refilled his board with a number of creatures, Jaudy simply aimed a Bolt of Keranos at his face to finish things off.
The final game of the match showcased exactly what you can do on limited mana. Berthoud's open was very fast, chaining Loyal Pegasus into Oreskos Swiftclaw and Stonewise Fortifier. Jaudy managed to stem the bleeding with a Spark Jolt that he ironically wished wasn't even in his pool to kill the Swiftclaw. Both players were stuck on three lands, but Jaudy was able to use his more efficiently, casting Oakenheart Dryads and Two-Headed Cerberus, the latter of which eventually picked up a Fearsome Temper. With two angry heads facing him down, Berthoud wasn't able to properly defend himself. He was forced to watch his team killed off piecemeal until there was no one left to defend him.
Esteves/Jaudy/Merjan defeat Perez/Berthoud/Cortez 2-0 to advance to the Finals!