This match pit against one another two World Championship first-timers who had both gone 3-0 in Draft: Draft Master Márcio Carvalho and Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion Jiachen Tao.
"It's a nice start for us," Carvalho said as the players were shuffling up.
"Yeah. Now I have some losses to give," Tao replied.
"Better no losses to give!" Carvalho laughed.
Márcio Carvalho and Jiachen Tao enjoy back-and-forth Banter.
Carvalho was coming off of an incredibly hot run in Limited, having gone 15-0 in the Draft rounds of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, and now the 2016 World Championship. The big question would be whether the Draft Master would be able to hold his ground in Standard. He did spend the majority of his prep time on Constructed, ultimately settling on Bant Company as his deck of choice. Peculiar inclusions in his deck were two copies of Elder Deep-Fiend and three copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in his sideboard.
Jiachen Tao, who had put a lot of preparation into Limited instead, selected Green-Black Delirium for the Standard portion. Interestingly, his list had zero copies of Grim Flayer, instead going for more of a toolbox package with 1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and 2 Vessel of Nascency in his main deck.
The matchup would likely be a long and grindy one, as both players had access to Tireless Tracker and Nissa, Vastwood Seer to simultaneously affect the board and generate card advantage. However, where Carvalho had powerful three-drop creatures like Reflector Mage and Spell Queller to dominate the mid-game, Tao had Ruinous Path and Liliana, the Last Hope to buy time and Emrakul, the Promised End to lock up the end game.
Nevertheless, Tao fought back with removal spells and a big Tireless Tracker over the course of the next few turns, turning it into a close game. There were plenty of trades and creatures generating card advantage as both players jockeyed for position.
Jiachen Tao, seen here jockeying.
The deciding factor, however, was Carvalho's Spell Quellers. By finding the right spots to play the instant-speed Spirits, Carvalho managed to exile Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Transgress the Mind, and Liliana, the Last Hope, while Tao had already spent all of his removal spells on other creatures. With three of his spells locked under Carvalho's fliers, Tao could only look on as they soared to victory in the air.
After sideboarding and shuffling up, neither player was happy with their opening hands.
"Mulligan," Tao said.
"I'll mulligan too. So you don't feel lonely," Carvalho replied.
"Thanks, appreciate it," Tao laughed.
Both players kept their six-card hands and the game got underway. After the typical opening salvos of creatures and removal spells, Tao used a Languish to clear the board. He followed it up with a Liliana, the Last Hope, which promptly ticked up on Carvalho's Noose Constrictor.
Carvalho then tried to take down the 4-loyalty Liliana by attacking it with Lumbering Falls and his 0/1 Noose Constrictor, discarding Reflector Mage to turn it into a 1/2. But it was to no avail. Grasp of Darkness took down Noose Constrictor, and Liliana stayed alive.
Over the course of the next few turns, Carvalho played more creatures while Tao killed them all with his removal spells. But the longer the game went, the more Tao became favored, as his deck had the best top-end in Standard: Emrakul, the Promised End.
Eventually, Tao cast the 13/13 for eight mana and had some fun during the Mindslaver turn. He forced Carvalho to do the following:
- Take 3 by tapping his Yavimaya Coasts
- Sacrifice a Clue
- Activate Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to get an emblem, killing the planeswalker in the process
- Activate Lumbering Falls, then suicide it into Emrakul
- Leave Carvalho with a bunch of creatures in hand
Having devastated Carvalho's board position, Emrakul attacked for the win on Tao's next turn.
Márcio Carvalho does not like being Mindslavered.
Carvalho, on the play in Game 3, passed on his first three turns without making a single play. Tao smelled that something was up and declined to cast any of his three-drop creatures, unwilling to allow Carvalho to counter any of his spells with Spell Queller. Carvalho cast Spell Queller anyway, and it fell to Grasp of Darkness.
A turn-four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was pretty good for Carvalho, however. Tao fought back with Tireless Tracker, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow. But just as it was beginning to look like we would be in for drawn-out game, Carvalho won out of nowhere.
Facing as many as six blockers, Carvalho tapped four of them with Elder Deep-Fiend at the end of Tao's turn, untapped, then cast Tamiyo, Field Researcher to tap the remaining two. Carvalho then made a swinging motion with his hands, prompting Tao to extend his hand in defeat as he was facing more than lethal damage.
Márcio Carvalho defeats Jiachen Tao 2–1.
"Thanks for the games. Good luck in the next rounds," Tao said after the match.
"Thanks," Carvalho replied as he let out a big sigh. "There are so many options with Bant! You have to set everything up. It's absurd."
When asked about the matchup in general, Carvalho claimed that it was close, but he felt that his card choices made a difference. "I think it's pretty even. But Elder Deep-Fiend is insane. It doesn't die to anything, at least not to Languish or Grasp of Darkness. And if he has Ishkanah, Grafwidow and thinks he has the game, I can just tap his board like I did in the last game."