Round 11: Thiago Saporito vs. Ondřej Stráský

Posted in Event Coverage on August 28, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

These two testing partners sat down against one another, and immediately started joking around. They are both first-timers at the World Championship, and over the past three weeks have been testing together. They already knew what deck the other was playing (they were both on Esper Dragons), so there was very little to worry about.

"Have you really not tested this matchup at all?" Top European Pro Point earner Ondřej Stráský asked. Not only was it his first time here, but this man is younger than the game itself. He's just 20 year old.

"No. Why? You did?" Thaigo Saporito replied. Hailing from Brazil, the Top Latin-American Pro Point earner and Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir Top 8 finisher was joking in his tone, but it was clear he hadn't actually played the matches.

"Well, I played like 30 matches or so," Stráský quipped.

"Oh, you're so pro," Saporito said. It's well known that the World Championship testing can be so frenzied that often something will fall through the cracks. Both these players were under the tutelage of Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. And sometimes you run out of time, and just have to do what someone else says. "Should I keep seven lands? Is that good?" Saporito was only partly joking here too.

"The second games are going to go quickly. The first game is going to be…"

Stráský shook his head. "…Miserable."

Teammate Thiago Saporito and Ondřej Stráský settle in for the long haul.

The first game in the Esper Dragons mirror match is a test of endurance. There will be Thoughtseizes. There will be counterspells. There will be draw spells. There will be draw spells countered. There will be dragons. There will be dead dragons. Eventually, the more patient person will prevail. Most of the time.

The Games

The first spell of the game came on the fifth turn. It was a 1-drop, Thoughtseize. Stráský had the discard spell in his opening hand, but because the early turns are so unimportant, there was little reason to cast it before now. Saporito countered it, and then returned in kind. He saw a hand of Silumgar's Scorn, Bile Blight, Ultimate Price, Dig Through Time, Dig Through Time, and Hero's Downfall. The Brazilian took the Silumgar's Scorn, so we were back at parity. Both players had a Thoughtseize and a Silumgar's Scorn in the graveyard.

After a few more turns of little on-board action, Saporito struck an important blow. He used a Dig Through Time on Stráský's end-of-turn and found a big ol' dragon. Because the draw spell wasn't countered, Saporito thought it safe to cast his Dragonlord Ojutai, and he had the back-up Silumgar's Scorn for some protection anyway. Stráský tried to kill the dragon, but the counterspell did its job, and Saporito was able to connect with the Dragonlord. As many people will tell you, the first hit can be the worst.

After selecting his free card, Saporito even had a back-up threat in Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. That ate one of Stráský's kill spells, and another for the dragon was again countered by a third Silumgar's Scorn.

Saporito finds an opening and doesn't let go.

Not only had Saporito drawn multiple threats in this threat-light deck, but also drew three counterspells to help the threats get there. Perhaps this game would be a lot shorter than anyone intended.

Stráský sunk to 6 life and took another Thoughtseize to the face.

"C'mon, top-deck," he said as he tried to draw his way out of this debacle.

He didn't. The 5/4 flying dragon punched the Czech player in the face again and again until he died.

Stráský had a wry smile on his face. "Lucky," he said. The Brazilian, who had not tested this match-up at all, had convincingly taken the first game. Saporito smiled back and just shrugged.

As the two were sideboarding, Saporito flashed a card and asked, "Should I keep this in?" Stráský got a look on his face that said, "Do you really think I'm going to tell you how to sideboard against me?" He looked up and saw Saporito showing a Bile Blight—easily the worst card in the matchup—and a big smirk on Saporito's face.

Even at this high-level, these two were having the time of their lives.

The second game saw eight land in play on both sides before anything stuck around on the battlefield long enough to do anything of consequence. It was the 2-drop, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Saporito had to use a Dissolve to make sure he could ignite its spark, while Stráský countered with a Dragonlord Ojutai.

The two had been emptying their hands with removal spells and counterspells so no one had too much gas left in the tank. They both refueled by digging through time, hoping to deal with the opposing threats.

While Stráský was jovial with his teammate at the beginning, he quickly became focused on the win as the match progressed.

But Saporito had a secret. Since the beginning of the game, he had Dragonlord Silumgar in his hand. He was just waiting for the right moment to execute his plan. After Stráský resolved an Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver to go with his Ojutai, Saporito pulled the trigger.

He battled through a counterspell, but the stack resolved with a blue-black dragon, Ashiok, and a Jace, Telepath Unbound on his side of the table. Two turns later, he cashed in six loyalty counters from the Ashiok to put into play a removed, Tasigur the Golden Fang. Saporito was looking strong. The only problem with the Silumgar is that though the board looks insurmountable, killing the 3/5 can easily reverse the tides.

The score was 9-9. After dispatching the dragon handily, Stráský had one last play to make. He cast a Dig Through Time, and said, "Come on." He found a Dragonlord Silumgar of his own and another Dig Through Time (he wanted a removal spell instead). He cast the dragon and took back the Tasigur that was rightfully his to begin with. His returned Ashiok got going, and just like that, Stráský had made the board look significantly different. All he needed was a removal spell for the Dragonlord Ojutai that he didn't find off his draw spell.

The battlefield difference looked staggering, but looks were deceiving. Silumgar still couldn't block the Ojutai without dying (and giving back the Tasigur), and Stráský was only at 9. And the Czech didn't have the removal spell yet to close it out. Stráský took a hit one more time before the Silumgar had to die so Stráský could live…temporarily.

Stráský began shaking his head. He didn't want to lose to a teammate. He didn't want to lose to be likely knocked out of Top 4 contention. He didn't want to lose to somebody who hadn't played the matchup before. He just didn't want to lose.

But there was nothing he could do. He scooped up his cards, and Thiago Saporito won the match.

Stráský tried had to hold in his emotion. He was trying to think if he had made some sort of mistake. He had been so jovial at the beginning of the match, but became momentarily solemn. After a few seconds, he decided he hadn't thrown the game away; the bright player returned.

"Why'd you play Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? PV told us to side it out," Stráský asked.

"Really? I was playing around it too," Saporito said.

The two laughed and shook hands. Stráský looked at his World Champ–testing teammate and said, "Good luck, bro. Top 4, easy."

Saporito 2 – Stráský 0

Thiago Saporito's Esper Dragons - 2015 Magic World Championship

Download Arena Decklist

Ondrej Stráský's Esper Dragons - 2015 Magic World Championship

Download Arena Decklist


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