The finals of the 2016 Super Sunday Series Championship pitted Grand Prix and Pro Tour regular Thiago Rodrigues—a player with roots in his old hometown of Manaus, Brazil and current home of Paris, France—against sixth-ranked Samuel Black—a professional Magic player with a resume of Pro Tour and Grand Prix Top 8s, and a reputation for ingenious deck designs.
Rodrigues is no slouch in Magic, and as the primary Limited mind of the Dex Army—the Latin-Iberica alliance of pro players led by Willy Edel—he has proven to have a thorough understanding of the format already. Despite not going to the Pro Tour in two weeks, Rodrigues will be providing support and insight into the Limited format to his team, meaning that his Top 8 has given him a chance at more Limited research along with a shot at a title and $6,000.
Black is hardly a stranger to high-pressure matches or coverage, and his deck designing skills were shown to be in full effect with an amazing 40-card concoction from the Top 8 Booster Draft featuring synergy-driven white, black, and green spells alongside some potent bombs like Ob Nixilis Reignited.
While Black hasn't dropped a match all weekend, Rodrigues's White-Blue aerial assault strategy has proven powerful today. Regardless of the outcome, this match was guaranteed to be tight.
Rodrigues was the clear aggressor in the match, deploying creatures in the early game while Black developed his extensively spread mana base. Black's Netcaster Spider provided some breathing room, forcing Rodrigues to further add creatures to his board to go around the reach creature with his Makindi Aeronauts and Gravity Negator. This gave Black the opportunity to deploy a Tajuru Stalwart, and even despite Rodrigues's Expedition Raptor supporting his team, Vampire Envoy with the Netcaster offered additional blockers.
Rodrigues began attacking with his supported Gravity Negator, coercing Black into a double block with the Spider and Envoy. Rodrigues dispatched the Spider, giving him a more powerful air force on the next turn.
Black simply deployed another one, along with Essence Depleter, in the few turns later.
However, Rodrigues has a card that needed answering in Coralhelm Guide, allowing him a way through for damage while Black—short on colorless mana—couldn't use his Depleter to drain any life. However, Black had an answer to the Coralhelm Guide in the form of Ob Nixilis Reignited, which firmly put Black in the driver's seat. The demon Planeswalker began drawing Black cards, while Essence Depleter and a hefty board proved to be insurmountable, and Rodrigues was forced to pack it in shortly after.
Sixth-Ranked Samuel Black
Rodrigues chose to draw in the second game, as Black went down to six and kept a land-heavy hand (albeit with Ob Nixilis, Reignited on top due to his scry). The hand panned out well, as Black was able to deploy multiple creatures with big toughness. However, he lost his Ob Nixilis to Rodrigues's Negate, and the game went from looking lopsided in Black's favor to the other way around. While Black had Oblivion Strike for Munda's Vanguard, it was Rodrigues who had the creature advantage with the likes of Kozilek's Pathfinder.
From there, the game quickly fell into a creature stall that favored Rodrigues, as the combination of Kozilek's Pathfinder and Coralhelm Guide offered a quick clock. Black, however, had deployed multiple Vampire Envoys by that point, and a Cliffhaven Vampire combined with them to offer Black a clock that threatened to be faster. Rodrigue moved to the defensive and deployed a few flying creatures, intent to make any attacks from Black a bad proposition.
That's when Dread Defiler hit the table for Black, off of a freshly cast Seek the Wilds. The devoid creature forced Rodrigues's hand, as he made his Pathfinder unblockable with Coralhelm Guide, attacking in for 5, before using Roil Spout to put the Defiler back on top of Black's deck. Black redeployed his creature, and then attacked with his flying force, draining Rodrigues for 2 through Vampire Envoy and Cliffhaven Vampire triggers, losing an Envoy to blocks, and going to 10 against Rodrigues's 15. Shoulder to Shoulder from Rodrigues made his Pathfinder a 6/6, and Coralhelm Guide let it attack for 6 unimpeded. With ten mana now available to him, Black conceded against the Guide's ability to clear a path.
Black, in the third and final game of the tournament, chose to draw, and matched Rodrigues's first play—Cultivator Drone—with Vampire Envoy. The Envoy gained Black a life when it was tapped for Holdout Settlement and let him cast Bloodbond Vampire. The tribal theme continued with Cliffhaven Vampire, as Black swung in with his Bloodbond and Envoy, gaining a life, growing his 3/3, and attacking Rodrigues down to 15.
But on the next turn, Rodrigues asked a curious question.
"Did you play a land last turn?" Rodrigues inquired. Black responded with a dead-panned, "Nope."
Black fell into the tank before aiming an Oblivion Strike at the awakened land and attacking with his Envoy for a 3 point life swing in his favor. Expedition Raptor gave Rodrigues a stronger air force, and the race was on. A Shoulder to Shoulder shortly after made his already supported creatures—a Thought Harvester and a Cultivator Drone—large enough to attack through Cliffhaven Vampire and Black's own Thought Harvester.
After a few turns of aggressive attacks from Rodrigues, Black found himself at 2 and left with just a Thought Harvester and Bloodbond Vampire as a 4/4 against Rodrigues's 4/6 Thought Harvester, Mist Intruder, and a Makindi Aeronaut. Path of Murasa recurred Black's Vampire Envoy, bringing him up to a more comfortable 8 life as he replayed his flying creature. It was a pivotal turn, trumped only by the Ob Nixilis Reignited that came down and dispatched the large Thought Harvester on Rodrigues's side.
Rodrigues reloaded, aiming to take out the last of Black's life with Gravity Negator, threatening 6 points of damage in the air.
It was at this point that Rodrigues's chances quickly faded away.
With Ob Nixilis online and two flying creatures to block, Black had a form of life gain with Vampire Envoy and Holdout Settlement, along with removal in hand for any potential flying assaults. Said removal—Plummet—dropped Rodrigues's Gravity Negator, and his opponent's freshly cast Coralhelm Guide traded for Ob Nixilis's minus three ability. Coastal Discovery provided more cards and a 4/4 land creature, a Roilmage's Trick provided a contingency against any surprises in a future combat phase, and Essence Depleter provided inevitability.
Congratulations to Samuel Black, the 2016 Super Sunday Series Champion!