In Round 6, Mexico and the United States squared off. With both at three wins and two losses, the winner will almost certainly make Day Two, while the loser would have to scrap for survival in the next round, and even then may not be guaranteed a spot. On paper, the United States was the easy favorite with a combined 4 Pro Tour Top 8s (1 win) and 14 Grand Prix Top 8s (6 wins) and every expectation to make Day Two. In opposition, the only person on the Mexican team to Top 8 a Grand Prix was the captain, Marcelino Freeman, with the remainder of the team relatively fresh faced.
The Mexican team fielded Eldrazi Ramp (Migel Martinez), Atarka Red (Marcelino Freeman) and Abzan Aggro (Ramon Vazquez), with Jose Menchaca as coach. The United States was on Esper Dragons (Tom Martell), Temur Company (Mike Sigrist) and Atarka Red (Joel Sadowsky), with Neal Oliver as Coach.
Mexico, with spirit on display, as they face off against their North American neighbors in Round 6.
Seat A: Migel Martinez (Eldrazi Ramp) vs. Tom Martell (Esper Dragons)
Game 1 saw Martinez mulligan to five, an already difficult spot for a deck that needs to hit its mana to launch its enormous monsters. Martinez attempted to get started with a number of mana-dorks, but Martell made sure to kill each one as they appeared. With Martinez unable to cast his winners, Martell's control deck took over the game in short order.
In Game 2, Martell, aware of the lack of removal in his opponent's mono-green deck, sideboarded into Monastery Mentor. Martell opened with a Duress and, seeing only a Void Winnower and Hedron Archive, realized tempo was on his side. By the time Martinez was affecting the board, Martell was beating down with an army of Monks, making short work of his opponent.
Mexico 0—United States 1
Seat B: Marcelino Freeman (Atarka Red) vs. Mike Sigrist (Atarka Red)
The luck turned against the United States in Game 1, and it was Sigrist who had to mulligan down to five cards. Freeman, however, had the perfect Atarka Red hand, with double Monastery Swiftspear, double Wild Slash, and both red and green mana. Sigrist's creatures met quick ends to the Wild Slashes, and when Freeman drew into Atarka's Command, the game ended as swiftly as the spears hit.
Sigrist kept a removal-heavy hand in Game 2, snuffing out Freeman's creatures as they hit the battlefield. However, Sigrist couldn't seem to find blue mana, constraining his options and stranding cards in his hand. This left an opening for Freeman, who stuck a couple of creatures to whittle down the American. Sigrist awaited an attack, and then tapped out for Collected Company. Freeman saw this as his opportunity. After blockers, he cast Become Immense followed by Temur Battle Rage, going off for lethal damage.
Mexico 1—United States 1
Seat C: Ramon Vazquez (Abzan Aggro) vs. Joel Sadowsky (Atarka Red)
Vazquez won the die roll, while Sadowsky suffered with yet another mulligan to 5 for the Americans. Vazquez landed an early Warden of the First Tree, and while Sadowsky found a Dragon Fodder and a couple of Outburst, he couldn't find removal for the Warden. The life-gain allowed Vazquez the time to land a Hangarback Walker, followed by a Wingmate Roc. So far ahead on board state and life total, Vazquez's victory became inevitable.
Game 2 began again with a mulligan for Sadowsky. Although he started fast with a Dragon Fodder, followed by a Abbot of Keral Keep into an Atarka's Command, Vazquez landed and pumped a Warden of the First Tree to keep his life total safe. While Sadowsky tried to rally, he again struggled to find removal. Vazquez found removal for Sadowsky's threats and ultimately saw an opportunity to pump the Warden to maximum capacity. With the red deck unable to take down the 8/8 lifelink creature, Mexico beat down to clinch the victory.
Mexico 2—United States 1
Team Mexico, celebrating their victory and guarantee into Day Two.
"Our Standard decks are generally a 66% chance to have a good matchup against the Mexican decks," Martell said afterwards. "But this round, it happened to break the other way. Even then we should generally have been favorites; my deck is heavily favored against Eldrazi Ramp, and Mike should have been a slight favorite. The format feels very 'rock-paper-scissors.' Unfortunately, we suffered a lot of mulligans, and the Mexican Abzan build meant they had a very good mana base. Oh well. We'll just win the next round."
"It feels good to win," admitted Freeman, "As we're looking forward to Day Two. For a lot of my team, this is their first big tournament. Before we came here I told them, 'you need to think of everyone as a good opponent, but don't get intimidated. A new guy, or Mike Sigrist, can both die to a good deck.' I'm very happy about our success so far."
"I just want to thank our team captain," said Martinez. "He's kept our spirits up. It's his first time playing with us, and he's been super friendly. We should also thank our local store, El Nucli, who saved us at the last minute, staying open super-late so we could finish our decks. My thanks to both."