It was a showdown of top Latin American talent to close out of the first draft. With two losses already counting against them the pressure is on to close out strong.
Mario Flores could find himself the de facto end boss of Mexico City Grand Prix if he keeps his Top 8 streak alive. He put up quarterfinal finishes here in both 2012 and 2014. His deck this draft is Abzan with a fine balance of monsters, tricks, and bombs.
His opponent is Brazil’s Eduardo dos Santos Vieira, a fixture on the South American GP scene. He finally took home his first championship last year at Grand Prix Santiago. He is on Temur beats.
Vieira began the first game hamstrung, having mulliganed down to five. Flores got on the board with Mardu Hateblade and then a Blossoming Sands on his second turn. Vieira turned up the heat with a third-turn Yasova Dragonclaw, and then the whole scene changed as Flores failed to find a third land.
Mario Flores (left) and Eduardo dos Santos Vieira (right)
Vieira stole the Hateblade and hit for five. Flores missed again and had to discard. Vieira decided to hold back a turn while he brought out Whirlwind Adept. That represented a ton of damage. Flores finally hit his land and brought out a morph but he was leagues behind. Vieira stole it and swung out, and when his creatures went unblocked he dropped Temur Battle Rage to end things with a quickness.
Vieira 1 – Flores 0
This time it was Flores’s turn to mulligan, but it seemed to serve him well. He opened with Mardu Skullhunter, then Abzan Banner into a turn-four Dromoka, the Eternal. Vieira was sitting on a morph and Frontier Mastodon. He attacked with the 3/2. Flores blocked with Skullhunter and Dragonscale Boon made the save.
Still, Flores was flying overhead for seven. He added a replacement Skullhunter that stole Riverwheel Aerialists. The 5/4 Mastodon hit again. This time Saltblast took care of it for good. Vieira played Force Away on Dromoka while he could still get his ferocious trigger, but answers were not forthcoming. The dragon hit play again, and a turn later Vieira was packing up his cards.
Vieira 1 – Flores 1
Both players kept their opening seven, so no blessed mulligans this time. They spilled creatures onto the board. Flores played Mardu Hateblade and Soul Summons. Vieira brought out Highland game, then swung in. Flores declined to block, and then Vieira summoned the dread Yasova Dragonclaw. Flores took a turn off to bring out Abzan Banner.
Vieira couldn’t Threaten his way to a clean attack, so simply hit for two with the Highland Game and summoned Longshot Squad. Flores played his fifth land but was clearly behind the eight-ball thanks to Yasova. After a hard think he passed the turn with five open. Yasova stole the manifested 2/2 and Vieira hit for two. He spent his last to mana growing his Longshot Squad, but Flores Throttled it. Things got worse for Vieira as Flores gave his manifested creature Molting Snakeskin, and after hitting for five, paid to regenerate and Savage Punch away Yasova.
Vieira untapped but couldn’t add anything to the board. He hit for two and passed. He took some more pain from Flores’s regenerator, then tried to speed up his clock with Dragonscale Boon on his following turn. Flores was ready with Sandblast. Vieira sank deeper into his chair. It didn’t take long for the game to end. He flipped over a hand of blue cards with a shake of his head.
Mario Flores defeats Eduardo dos Santos Vieira 2-1
The players wished each other well in the remainder of the tournament, but Vieira had taken the loss hard. Flores respectfully kept his excitement at still being in Top 8 contention to himself until he had gotten away from the table. He was definitely pumped up. I asked him if he thought he’d drafted a 3-0 deck. “Oh no. No, no, no,” he said with a laugh. I asked him if he was ready to sweep another draft, and he said that he could very likely draw into Top 8 if he wins his next two.