Thales Santos Navarro must have been feeling pretty good. He made it through the quarterfinals thanks to his team of red hasty creatures and his white and black supporting friends. He was one of the top-performing Brazilians on the weekend (although there were two more in the other semifinal match), and he had just qualified for the Pro Tour.
But in the semifinals was when the nerves might kick in. Navarro was going up against the big man in the Top 8, the Grand Prix machine, Pascal Maynard. The man was basically five-for-five in Grand Prix Top 8s last winter, and then made national headlines during the Top 8 of Grand Prix Las Vegas.
This is the first year that Maynard has clinched Gold level Pro Player status, and Platinum is actually within his reach. This weekend he was embroiled in a cross-world arms race with fellow Canadian (22) Alex Hayne, to see who could earn an invite to the World Championship in the Grand Prix slot.
At the beginning of the day, Maynard said to me, “Well, Alex earned one point [at Grand Prix Singapore], so I need to win the whole thing to tie him.” He paused only for a moment then said, “I can do it,” and shrugged his shoulders.
Who is Navarro to stand in front of this train? To add insult to injury, Navarro said that the match-up is really bad for him, and Maynard told me he hadn’t lost to Mardu Dragons in the last nine matches, across two Grand Prix. But maybe, just maybe, Navarro could be the one to take this monster down.
The first game saw dueling Thoughtseizes. Pascal Maynard took Stormbreath Dragon from Thales Santos Navarro, and Navarro took Satyr Wayfinder from Maynard. You know there will be aggression soon to follow when you take a 1/1 for two away from your opponent. Maynard had agonized over his pick. He knew that leaving the Thoughtseize allowed Navarro to take the Wayfinder, Navarro would have had to have drawn an untapped land to make it a viable, good play.
Maynard took a gamble and lost. He had very little forward momentum from that point on, and needed a lot more land and turns to make something happen. And not even discussing the damage Navarro was planning to inflict, Maynard was doing that just fine himself. He had two Llanowar Wastes, and used the Abzan Charm “Draw 2” mode to find another pain-giver Windswept Heath. With nothing more than a Soulfire Grand Master to Navarro’s name, Maynard was already down to 7 life. That’s very bad against a deck full of hasty monsters.
Maynard needed total control. He used a Thoughtseize (after gaining precious few life from Siege Rhino) and saved his second Wayfinder from a Kolaghan's Command with Abzan Charm—netting the returned Stormbreath Dragon for his troubles. But he was on the back foot.
The Quebecois was still facing down Navarro’s hand consisting of Goblin Rabblemaster, Foul-Tongue Invocation, and Haven of the Spirit Dragon. The life totals were 15-7 in Navarro’s favor and the Soulfire Grand Master was still on the field.
Maynard had multiple Elspeth, Sun's Champion in his hand, so he was just trying to make it to six mana, but it was a struggle. Even after an End Hostilities, another Rabblemaster just showed up. The Mardu beats kept coming. Maynard had tried, but every since that Thoughtseize, he was never really in it. He had to pack it in.
Navarro was one game away.
The second game, saw each player trading blows. Removal spells were aplenty. But the one constant was a Seeker of the Way that kept surviving. As Goblin Rabblemasters died around it and dragons hit the waste bin, the Seeker just kept on keeping on. So Navarro made the totals 18-10 in his favor, even though otherwise things wouldn’t have looked so lopsided.
But Maynard tried to correct that imbalance himself with a resolved Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Navarro had been able to play stuck on four land until now, but with the planeswalker around, Maynard began to push hard on the Brazilian.
Navarro couldn’t recover and this was going to game three.
Thales Santos Navarro
In the last match, just like the others, it went creature-removal-creature-removal-creature-removal. Both players had mulliganed, to which Navarro remarked, “Well, it looks like it will be a good game,” but really it was. Navarro was getting slightly disheartened at the percentages of this match. He felt he really had to draw well to win. But he only needed to draw well one more time.
On the battlefield, the only threat that stuck around in the early- to mid-game was a Satyr Wayfinder, if you could even call that a “threat”. So there was some semblance of parity to the game.
Just like it always was, the planeswalker left unchecked, can populate an entire battlefield—and it did. Navarro played his heart out, grasping at every inch to take this final match. He used a timely Anger of the Gods and wiped everything away, and reset. Then he followed up with a hasty dragon, knowing that if Maynard had an answer, he was toast. Could he topped the Canadian beast?
Sadly for the Brazilian, Maynard had an answer, and Navarro was toast. Navarro extended his hand to Maynard with a smile on his face.
Pascal Maynard continues his reign of terror, in hopes of earning precious points and dethroning (22) Alex Hayne as the “King of the North.” If Maynard wins the next round, he’ll tie Hayne in Pro Points. We’ll find out soon enough.