With three white-black drafters at the table, the odds did not seem to favor Jiachen Tao. Two other drafters wanted the same cards as Tao, which was certainly not a good sign. Despite the naysayers, the Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion cruised through his first two rounds only to be matched against Márcio Carvalho, who has done the same. If anyone could stand up to the seemingly unstoppable Draft Master, it was the Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion.
The talk of the town was about how Carvalho's deck was laden with bomb rares. Hate-drafting (the act of picking a card you don't need at the expense of picking a card you need) was not something that the World Championship players were willing to do. Improving your own deck against seven other players at the table was way more valuable than denying your neighbor a single card. While it is sometimes a correct strategy, the players at the table were more concerned about building the best deck they could rather than simply counter-drafting cards.
Because of a combination of these reasons, Carvalho ended up with not only Soul Swallower and Sage of Ancient Lore but also Burn from Within and Ulrich of the Krallenhorde. Splashing these red powerhouses was very doable thanks to Fork in the Road and double Primal Druid.
Tao's deck was also pretty powerful. Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Noosegraf Mob, Stitcher's Graft, and Bruna, the Fading Light were the highlights of his deck, which was also sprinkled with an assortment of removal spells such as Dead Weight, Blessed Alliance, Silverstrike, and Humble the Brute. Since his opponent had very few fliers (or Spiders), Tao hoped to soar through the skies with Haunted Dead, Spectral Reserves, and (eventually) Geist of the Lonely Vigil. The pair of Emissary of the Sleeplesses might also be more effective than usual.
Would Tao be able to capitalize on the weaknesses of Carvalho's deck and tear him down? Or would Carvalho triumph and go 3-0 once more, completing his 18-0 grand slam? Let's find out!
Carvalho opened with Primal Druid and Reckless Scholar, a creature that Tao was happy to immediately weigh down with Dead Weight. Allowing Carvalho a way to find his most powerful cards wasn't a good idea at all. Having no turn-three or turn-four plays, Tao quickly found himself under pressure from Backwoods Survivalists and Soul Swallower. With only Geist of the Lonely Vigil as defense, Tao was falling significantly behind.
When Backwoods Survivalists attacked, Tao killed it with Humble the Brute. Post-combat, Primal Druid was sacrificed and Mockery of Nature emerged. This play not only gave Carvalho access to his lone Mountain—it also shattered Tao's Clue before he could cash it in for an extra card.
Márcio Carvalho did everything he could to limit Jiachen Tao's card advantages.
Not that Tao needed the Clue, because Noosegraf Mob was about to flood the board with an army of Zombie tokens. Fork in the Road and Primal Druid from Carvalho gave rise to the first two Zombies. Wailing Ghoul, Cryptolith Fragment, and Abundant Maw from Tao created three more. Carvalho's deck might have had a lot of heavy-hitters, but it certainly did not fare well against a wide board.
Significantly behind, Carvalho cycled Confront the Unknown as a last-ditch effort to crawl back into the game. However, an alpha strike from Tao in combination with a couple of Cryptolith Fragment activations clinched him the first game.
In Game Two, Carvalho kicked off with Primal Druid, Geist of the Archives, and Backwoods Survivalists. Tao's army consisted of Desperate Sentry, Gavony Unhallowed, Haunted Dead, and the accompanying Spirit Token.
When it looked like Wretched Gryff would break the ground stalemate, Tao dropped Noosegraf Mob. History threatened to repeat itself. However, Tao had different plans and chose to attack with the 5/5 instead. Carvalho wasted no time pushing Backwoods Survivalists in front of it. If either player cast a spell, Noosegraf Mob would die too because it had already taken 4 damage.
Tao decided he couldn't pass the turn. The tempo loss was simply too great and the fact that Carvalho had blocked in that manner indicated that he was likely to have an instant-speed card. With that assessment, Tao tried Abundant Maw (sacrificing Haunted Dead), downgrading Noosegraf Mob into a 2/2 Zombie. Thereafter, Carvalho responded with Summary Dismissal to cleanly answer both the 6/5 and its cast trigger.
Jiachen Tao does not appreciate being summarily dismissed.
However, the long-drawn game was not doing Carvalho any favors. Spectral Reserves in combination with repeatedly reviving Haunted Dead helped Tao amassed a formidable flying force of five Spirit tokens. Despite Carvalho having Sleep Paralysis and Burn from Within to answer Faithbearer Paladin and Bruna, the Fading Light, Tao was still very much ahead in the skies. Thalia, Heretic Cathar meddled with any future blockers Carvalho could produce, and a second copy of Abundant Maw put Tao further ahead.
Seeing no way out, Carvalho dropped his hand of lands and extended his hand. Against all odds, the Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion took down the mighty Draft Master.
Jiachen Tao defeated Márcio Carvalho 2–0.
"I really wanted to win this one to continue my 17-0 winning streak. But I guess even the hottest flames do burn out," Márcio Carvalho bemoaned as he dropped to 8-2. He maintained his position as the sole leader, while Jiachen Tao moved up to 7-3 and second place in Swiss after Round 10.