It's been a weekend full of ambitious deck building, marvelous combos, great game play, and tons and tons of energy as Kaladesh Sealed and Booster Draft finally hit the Grand Prix stage. Over 1,500 players flooded the Atlanta World Congress Center, eager to test their Sealed inventions.
It's late in the evening on Day 2, but the focus and quiet enthusiasm of the players and their friends eagerly awaiting the final match doesn't flag. It only builds as Carlos Romao and Cash Turner take their seats under the cameras for the final match of Grand Prix Atlanta.
Carlos Romao is a Sao Paulo pro on his way to Honolulu via Atlanta. Romao has been playing Magic for over fifteen years. His first GP Top 8 was at another Limited GP, in Sao Paulo in 1999. Six years ago he earned the title of 2010 Magic Online World Champion, and, in addition to a number of other accomplishments, he's already been in the finals of another GP earlier this year, when he and his team took the title at Team Limited GP Sao Paulo.
Cash Turner has been on a nearly unbelievable hot streak this weekend. It's believable only because it can't be denied – at the end of Round 14, Turner's record was a perfect 14-0, 42 points next to his name on the tournament standings. He drew into the Top 8, where he has so far continued his perfect record. Turner is from San Jose, California, where he drafted Kaladesh “like crazy” with a group of friends and players he lovingly refers to as the “scallywags.” This is Turner's first GP Top 8, and he's already excited for Pro Tour Aether Revolt in Dublin.
Before the start of the semifinals, the remaining players all agreed that Romao had the best deck at the table. It was a base-green deck with a single white card in Skywhaler's Shot and a single black card in Aetherborn Marauder.
Romao also had two copies of Renegade Freighter, one of Kaladesh's best vehicles, and the coveted Longtusk Cub, the card nearly every member of the Top 8 named as their favorite uncommon. Added to that were the rares Bristling Hydra and Deadlock Trap, as well as a herd of other mana-efficient green creatures.
Turner drafted a white-black deck that was able to finish off his first two Top 8 opponents without dropping a game. His deck had a little bit of everything – a few combat tricks, a few removal spells, the ability to go wide with fabricate creatures and servos, or to take to the skies with fliers like Foundry Screecher and Propeller Pioneer. It also had access to Inspired Charge out of the sideboard.
Turner chose the play, both players kept their opening hands, and the first game was off to a quick start.
“I'm real afraid of what you're going to play” Romao said as the second set of Goggles hit the table.
“I think I like your Abzan deck better than my Goggles deck,” Turner said as Romao hits Forest, Plains, and Swamp in his first three land drops and played a Ghirapur Guide.
On Romao's next turn, however, the guide met an untimely end at the hands of Turner's Impeccable Timing. Romao shrugged off the loss of his 3/2 and added a Deadlock Trap to the board. What he failed to add, however, was a fourth land to his trio of basics.
Turner's side of the board was looking empty until he cast a Propeller Pioneer, attached both pairs of Goggles to it for free, and made a servo. A Skywhaler's Shot from Romao took care of the Pioneer, but didn't stop him from taking damage from a servo wearing two pairs of goggles over the next few turns.
Romao hit his fourth land and cast a Highspire Artisan, and then his fifth to cast a Riparian Tiger. The tide began to slowly turn in his favor, as he still had a handful of spells, while Turner had only a single card remaining.
Once Romao had five lands to work with, his creatures quickly outclassed Turner's.
“Tigers for days” Cash said as Romao played a second Riparian Tiger, and then an Arborback Stomper a turn later. The Stomper bumped Romao's life total above Turner's for the first time since the start of the game.
Romao then began to use his Deadlock Trap to aggressively tap down Turner's potential blockers, rather than using it to stop attacks.
“I'd just like to pretend I can do something about this,” Turner said as the pair of Riparian Tigers attacked.
A turn later a Hunt the Weak cleared away one of Turner's blockers, Deadlock Trap locked up the other, and Carlos Romao took the first game.
Romao hit the board early, playing a Sage of Shaila's Claim on turn two and following it up with Longtusk Cub on turn three.
That's when Romao's Bristling Hydra made its first appearance.
Both players keep, and Romao starts with a Sage of Shaila's Claim
“Yep, card's great, card is a delight.” Turner said, staring down the green rare and Romao's supply of energy.
Turner declined to block or trade, however. Instead, he battled back in the air, swinging for five points of damage a turn.
“It's a million, give or take, right?” Turner asked when Romao swung back with his beefy green creatures. Still, he declined to block.
Both players were at 6 life, and it was Romao's first main phase. Turner had a servo and a Herald of the Fair available to block, and a suspicious pair of lands untapped – one Plains, one Swamp. Romao had seen both Impeccable Timing and Rush of Vitality in game one.
Romao deliberated before casting a Hunt the Weak targeting his Highspire Artisan and Turner's servo. It drew out Turner's Rush of Vitality. Faced with an indestructible, lifelinking blocker, Romao passed the turn back.
Turner paused before swinging with his team. Roman lined up blockers, but an Inspired Charge on Turner's creatures was just enough to deal lethal. Turner took a swift and volatile game two.
“Did that make for good coverage?” he asked, as echoing shouts from the coverage booth reach us 30 feet away.
“Your deck is insane,” Turner told Romao as the players shuffled up for game three.
“My deck?” Romao asked.
“Yeah,” Turner insisted. “It's a bunch of big scary guys!”
Romao took a mulligan. As he shuffled the two players chatted about the venue. Turner recommended going upstairs and finding the windows that look out over the hall.
“It's one of my favorite expeditions, to find one of those windows and stand there and just nod menacingly like ‘yes, this is how it's supposed to go!'” Turner said as Romao drew a fresh six cards.
Turner then added a Propeller Pioneer and a servo to his side of the battlefield, while Romao's Seedsculptor stood alone amongst Romao's mono-Forests.
The players traded damage, the Pioneer and the Seedsculptor chipping away at each players' life total a few points at a time.
“It's better than a land,” he reasoned.
Turner was ready to apply more pressure to Romao's life total, but Romao then cast his single black spell, Aetherborn Marauder, and moved the counter from Kujar Seedscultor onto it to make a 3/3 flier with lifelink.
“I just heard a toilet flush,” Turner said. “Is that alright? Is that normal?”
Normal or no, Turner's chances of victory were all but doomed. Romao continued to lock up the board with Deadlock Trap.
Romao didn't even need the Trap to deal with the Automaton, however, as he had an Appetite for the Unnatural in hand. That and an Arborback Stomper brought his life total back to 20. With his 3/3 flier in the air and a Ghirapur Guide to make his creatures on the ground all but unblockable, Romao's board was just too much for Turner's dwindling forces to handle.
Turner extended his hand, and the match was over.
Winning the finals 2-1, Carlos Romao is your 2016 Grand Prix Atlanta Champion!