As the World Championship stepped into Day Three, it moved into the Modern portion. Luis Scott-Vargas and Thiago Saporito are both at 6-4 and would likely need to win out for a shot at the Top 4. Both players are piloting Abzan midrange decks with exciting Eldritch Moon additions Collective Brutality and Grim Flayer.
In Scott-Vargas's case, he had the full playset of both as opposed to his opponent's three copies, and he also brought a pair of Mishra's Baubles to more easily enable delirium. The main distinction between both builds was Scott-Vargas's inclusion of triple Noble Hierarch. While that affects threat density a little, it does makes his deck faster and helps in situations where Grim Flayers and Tarmogoyfs face off against each other.
However, one potential focal point of the matchup was the cards that cost more than three mana. Since both players are running Abrupt Decay and Inquisition of Kozilek, that might result in someone stumbling as a result of being unable to answer any card that costs four mana or more. For instance, Scott-Vargas will need to heavily rely on Thoughtseize or the singleton Maelstrom Pulse to answer Saporito's Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. The same is true for Scott-Vargas's two Gideons. Saporito also has Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which could come in handy in this grindy matchup.
Alternatively, it could simply boil down to a contest between Lingering Souls, the main reason why both players opted for Abzan over Jund. One small edge Saporito has was swapping out the fourth copy of Liliana of the Veil for a single copy of Liliana, the Last Hope, in addition to putting a second copy in the sideboard. Should the game state head in that direction, Saporito definitely has the edge with a different version of Liliana that ticks up while killing Spirit tokens. Oh, he's got Gavony Township whereas Scott-Vargas doesn't, but after sideboarding, the Hall of Famer has the single Zealous Persecution that could make a huge difference!
"Everyone who has mulliganed against me this tournament has beaten me, so I guess you're off to a good start," Scott-Vargas chuckled as Saporito sent back his opening seven. The Brazilian pro was happy with his replacement six and both players were ready to go.
Scott-Vargas led off with Inquisition of Kozilek to get rid of Path to Exile, ensuring that the coast was clear for his 3/4 Tarmogoyf. However, the creature was short-lived since Saporito drew into a second Path immediately. Thoughtseize and Collective Brutality from Scott-Vargas binned Liliana, the Last Hope and Lingering Souls respectively, cleaning out Saporito's hand entirely.
Thiago Saporito tries to get something going after Luis Scott-Vargas cleans out his hand.
However, hand-disruption spells don't do a very good job at preventing topdecks. Saporito ripped a second copy of Lingering Souls, which meant that things spiraled out of control very quickly when Saporito found a fifth land with which to activate Gavony Township.
Scott-Vargas could only cast whatever the top of his deck offered him (Grim Flayer and Scavenging Ooze) and Saporito duly deflected those with Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay. Two Gavony Township activations and two attacks later, Scott-Vargas scooped up his cards, unable to deal with a horde of oversized Spirit tokens.
In Game Two, it was Scott-Vargas's turn to go down to six cards, and the first play of the game was his Grim Flayer. Saporito used Collective Brutality (escalated by discarding an excess land) to kill the Flayer while taking Path to Exile away.
Both players dropped Tarmogoyfs but met with each other's removal spells. Saporito summoned Scavenging Ooze, which Scott-Vargas sent on a Path to Exile. On his next turn, Scott-Vargas then cast Lingering Souls and immediately flashed it back. The board was four Spirit tokens for Scott-Vargas against Saporito's empty side. For Saporito to get out of his plight, he would need Engineered Explosives or Lingering Souls of his own. Liliana, the Last Hope wasn't good enough despite taking one Spirit down, because Scott-Vargas did have Shambling Vent to finish her off.
The tokens continued to chip away at Saporito's life total, and when Scott-Vargas successfully connected with Grim Flayer, it ensured that he would be drawing much better than his opponent from that point onward. Scrying is pretty powerful in this matchup, I hear.
Funnily, the player who mulliganed won their respective game. With the first two games predominantly decided by Lingering Souls and the ability to deal with tokens, the third game did not deviate by much.
In Game 3, it was Saporito's turn to open with Grim Flayer, forcing Scott-Vargas to kill it with Path to Exile. This was a telltale sign that Scott-Vargas not have Abrupt Decay, meaning that Saporito's Liliana, the Last Hope went uncontested. Lingering Souls from Saporito meant that he was ahead, but Scott-Vargas ate up the sorcery with Scavenging Ooze before it could be flashed back. Saporito had another copy, and was soon up to six tokens.
Luis Scott-Vargas calmly faces down an army of Sprit tokens.
Patiently lying in wait until the perfect time, Scott-Vargas finally pulled the trigger on Zealous Persecution. This was huge because it cleared away six Spirit tokens to allow Scott-Vargas to attack with Grim Flayer and Scavenging Ooze. Saporito's Damnation restored peace to the board, aside from the fact that Scott-Vargas still had to deal with Liliana, the Last Hope. He had Abrupt Decay for it, but Saporito replaced the planeswalker with the other version of Liliana.
However, it was Scott-Vargas who trumped with the "better" planeswalker: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. After Gideon churned out a couple of Knight Allies, Saporito found himself hanging by a thread. He tried to fight back with Lingering Souls to kill Gideon and drew his own copy to flip the tables. A second copy of Lingering Souls pretty much sealed the deal in favor of the Brazilian player.
"I'm so good at drawing Lingering Souls! I got really lucky there by topdecking Lingering Souls, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and then Lingering Souls again. Otherwise, I would be dead to Luis's Gideon in just one or two more turns," said Saporito as he advanced to 7-4.
With three more rounds to go, Saporito's shot at the Top 4 was still alive. On the other hand, the dream was likely dead for Scott-Vargas. "I have terrible tiebreakers since I started out 1-3. I don't think I will be able to make it even if I win out, but I'm still going to try! Good luck Thiago!"
Thiago Saporito defeats Luis Scott-Vargas 2–1.