Round 6: Dominican Republic vs. Finland

Posted in Event Coverage on November 18, 2016

By Chapman Sim

With only seven lifetime Pro Points and less than 20 Grand Prix attendances between the four team members, Team Dominican Republic was certainly not a quad that you would expect to be lurking near the top of the standings. All four players are also first-timers at the World Magic Cup, which made it even more impressive that they were doing so well. The Dominican Republic National Champion Caupolican Lopez Yapor was in praise of their team, and since their Magic community was very close-knitted, it seemed like all four team members were working together flawlessly.

On the other side of the table was Team Finland, which boasts more experience. However, what they had in common with their opponents was that this was also their very first World Magic Cup! In the Modern portion, Ricardo Sasso of the Dominican Republic and Tuomas Tuominen of Finland would serve as coaches while their teammates would try to win their respective matches.


Team Domican Republic and Team Finland both played well to get to their 4-1 records today, and their performance brought them in front of the feature match cameras for Round 6.

SEAT B: CAUPOLICAN LOPEZ YAPOR (INFECT) VS. MATTI KUISMA (DREDGE)

This is a matchup that is not uncommon, given that both Infect andDredge were popular deck choices among several teams. Caupolican Lopez Yapor of the Dominican Republic would try to poison Matti Kuisma of Finland to death before he can achieve critical mass generated from his graveyard-abusing deck.

In Game 1, Kuisma laid his first land and passed with no play. However, on his second turn, Cathartic Reunion, discarding Golgari Grave-Trolls, immediately dumped twenty cards into his graveyard out of nowhere. Finding Narcomoeba, a pair of each Prized Amalgam and Bloodghast, Lopez was quickly overwhelmed by an army of five creatures, which cost his opponent absolutely no mana to summon!

"That was pretty much the perfect draw," Kuisma celebrated his good fortune. "Guys, I'm up one game!" Certainly, the addition of Cathartic Reunion had transformedDredge into an even bigger monster than before. Lopez could only nod and agree as he reached for his sideboard.

In Game 2, Lopez kicked off with Glistener Elf and Grafdigger's Cage, a crucial sideboard card which could singlehandedly paralyze Kuisma's strategy. However, Kuisma had drawn the best card against a deck of twelve 1/1 creatures, namely Darkblast.

With both players finding their best trumps against each other, the game was reduced to a crawl. Lopez had no way to stick any of his Infect creatures on the board, while Kuisma couldn't cheat any of his creatures from his graveyard onto the battlefield.

No matter. Kuisma had played this matchup a hundred times and knew exactly what he needed to do to win. Using Life from the Loam to secure land drops, he eventually sculpted a land of double Lightning Axe—in addition to Darkblast—before dredging and casting a pair of Stinkweed Imps from the graveyard. The "beatdown plan" was not as quick as he would have liked, but Kuisma eventually found an enormous Golgari Grave-Troll to shorten the clock.

Caupolican Lopez Yapor 0 – Matti Kuisma 2

With that, Matti Kuisma had clinched the first win for Finland, so he turned his attention to the match taking place in Seat C.

SEAT C: JAIRO Balbuena (BANT ELDRAZI) VS. LEO LAHONEN (BLUE-RED KILN FIEND)

Jairo Balbuena of the Dominican Republic had chosen Bant Eldrazi for the biggest tournament of his life. Leo Lahonen of Finland was one of five players to have opted for Blue-Red Kiln Fiend. Assuming the game progressed to the midgame and beyond, there was no question that the Eldrazis had the advantage. However, since Balbuena had very few removal spells, he could still stumble to a premature and oversized Kiln Fiend presented by the Finnish player.

Game 1 was rather unfortunate for Lahonen, who was forced to mulligan down to four cards. However, he conceded when Sasso played Temple Garden and Ancient Stirrings. He wasn't about to win with four cards anyway.

Rather than battle a lost cause, Lahonen chose to conceal information. This move paid of handsomely because he opened with Monastery on turn one (attacking for 1 damage), against his opponent's single Windswept Heath.

"It's time to go all-in, guys."

Balbuena was certainly taken aback when those words left Lahonen's lips. Surely, he couldn't be dead by turn two? His worst fears were confirmed when Lahonen rattled off Gitaxian Probe, Mutagenic Growth, Mutagenic Growth, Temur Battle Rage and four prowess triggers to transform a 1/2 Monastery Swiftspear into 9/10 double striking creature.

"I took one damage from the first attack and now I take 18 to go down to...1 life? Hmm...I can't sacrifice Windswept Heath? I guess I lose."

Balbuena was clearly in shock and awe from the perfect sequence. A fabled turn two kill against an unprepared opponent equalized the score between the players in Seat C.


Leo Lahonen pulled off the rare second-turn kill in his match against Jairo Balbuena.

In Game 3, however, Balbuena was more than prepared. Lahonen's slow draw was punished by a turn-three Thought-Knot Seer, made possible with the help of Eldrazi Temple, forcing Lahonen to kill it with a pair of Lightning Bolts. This ran him dangerously low on resources while Balbuena continued to churn out "value threats" such as Matter Reshaper, Reality Smasher and Drowner of Hope. Still holding Blessed Alliance as backup, there was no way that Balbuena could lose the match.

Jairo Balbuena 2 – Leo Lahonen 1

With the scores equalized for both nations, the pressure was on both players at Seat A to win this match. Whomever won would send their team to a very respectable 5-1 record, and very likely to clinch a top seed for an advanced standing tomorrow.

SEAT A: FABIO PORTES (NAYA BURN) VS. LAURI PISPA (LANTERN CONTROL)

In the final match, Fabio Portes of the Dominican Republic was piloting Naya Burn. Lauri Pispa of Finland would try to keep things in check with Lantern Control, a deck designed to abuse Lantern of Insight and Codex Shredder, manipulating an opponent's draws. Glint-Nest Crane and Inventors' Fair are great additions to the solid choice and either can assist in finding relevant artifacts such as Ensnaring Bridge and Witchbane Orb to lock an opponent out.


Dominican Republic competitor Fabio Portes receives some coaching from his teammate Ricardo Sasso.

In Game 1, Pispa had to mulligan to six, but it turned out to be favorable. He quickly assembled the combo of Lantern of Insight and Ghoulcaller's Bell to begin manipulating Portes's draw steps. Within a span of two turns, he was under assault by Goblin Guide and double Wild Nacatl, but he put a stop to the onslaught with Ensnaring Bridge. Because of his mulligan and his ability to dump his entire hand onto the table, that was able to keep all of Portes's creatures at home.

The only way out for Portes was Grim Lavamancer, which was repeatedly activated until he ran out of cards in his graveyard. With Pispa down to just 3 life, he had to tread carefully and made sure that his opponent wasn't drawing anything relevant that could finish him off. Eventually, he found Inventors' Fair to cushion his life total, as well as Pithing Needle to stop the Human Wizard, taking Game 1 for Team Finland.

Pispa called himself very fortunate as the game came to a close. "I had to mulligan for the Bridge, which brought me down to 6 cards. Everything went smoothly and I pretty much drew the exact cards in the correct sequence to win that very close match."

Now at the back of the wall, Team Dominican Republic needed Portes to win the next two games in order to turn things around.

In Game 2, Portes opened with Goblin Guide and suspended Rift Bolt. Pispa tried to defend with Spellskite. However, before Rift Bolt could resolve, the 0/4 "wall" was smashed with Destructive Revelry, allowing both Rift Bolt and a 3/4 Monastery Swiftspear to knock down Pispa to a precarious 10 life. Having drawn three copies of Lantern of Insight, that proved to be detrimental because it offered no defense whatsoever. After sacrificing all three lanterns to shuffle his library three times, he was unable to find anything of relevance that could save him from an incoming flurry of burn spells.

In Game 3, the decider, Pispa used Inquisition of Kozilek to remove Lightning Bolt, but Portes was able to scorch Pispa down to 8 life with another Lightning Bolt and three copies of Rift Bolt. When Portes drew into Monastery Swiftspear, the pressure was big enough to convince Pispa in pointing Abrupt Decay at it. Thereafter, Pispa tapped out for Witchbane Orb, putting an end to all targeted burn spells.


Fighting to the edge, Lauri Pispa looks for the pieces that will help his deck stabilize.

He thought he had stabilized, but it was not to be.

The Dominicans had the perfect workaround. Eidolon of the Great Revel, which Portes had been sandbagging for a while, landed on the board and pretty much locked out Pispa from the game. In a couple of attacks, Pispa was down to just 4 life and found no way of getting out of the fix. Most of the spells he cast would result in him taking two damage and that's not even accounting for the grip of cards in Portes's hand. With that, he extended his end and Team Dominican Republic erupted into a cheer of joy.

Fabio Portes 2 – Lauri Pispa 1

Team Dominican Republic defeats Team Finland

 

Jairo Balbuena - Bant Eldrazi

Caupolican Lopez Yapor - Infect

Portes Perez, Fabio Armando - Naya Burn

Matti Kuima - Dredge

Leo Lahonen - Blue-Red Kiln Fiend

Lauri Pispa - Lantern Control

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