Pedro Carvalho came into the semifinals packing a graveyard-based strategy built around Whip of Erebos. The Brazilian's deck looked to dump high-impact creatures like Dragonlord Atarka and Hornet Queen into the graveyard with Satyr Wayfinder, and then recur them for massive lifegain and value with Whip.
Sky Mason, a Level 2 judge from nearby Massachusetts, had already dispatched an opponent with a multicolored, Dragonlord-based deck in the quarterfinals. Mason was playing a Red-Green Devotion deck that was likewise designed to abuse Dragonlord Atarka. But rather than returning the 8/8 flier from the graveyard, he would try to cast it ahead of schedule thanks to mana accelerators like Rattleclaw Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Carvalho started with a mulligan to five cards, keeping a hand with a Courser of Kruphix, a Thoughtseize and three land. He instantly ripped a copy of Xenagos, the Reveler from Mason's hand with the sorcery, leaving behind a Rattleclaw Mystic, Polukranos, World Eater, and Dragonlord Atarka.
Mason jumped out to an early lead in the semifinals, courtesy of Carvalho's mulligan to five.
The Rattleclaw Mystic came down as a morph. When it unmorphed the following turn to cast Atarka, and snipe down a Courser (which itself showed no help on the way) that was enough for Carvalho to quickly scoop up his cards. “I don't want to waste anybody's time,” he said.
Mason 1 – Carvalho 0
Mason came quickly out of the gates in Game 2 with an Elvish Mystic and a Rattleclaw Mystic, but Carvalho calmly cast a Drown in Sorrow to reset the board. “I should not have played into that,” Mason muttered, shaking his head.
Losing two creatures to a single spell would ordinarily be bad enough, but it was shown to be even worse than that when Mason missed his third land drop. He eventually found a second copy of Rattleclaw Mystic, but by that point Carvalho was summoning Dragonlord Atarkas. The first killed the Mystic and the second (returned form the graveyard with Haven of the Spirit Dragon) killed a 4/4 Genesis Hydra.
That was one Atarka too many for Mason, and in only slightly more time than Game 1, the players were off to a deciding Game 3. “Yup, I shouldn't have played into that Drown,” Mason muttered for emphasis.
Mason 1 – Carvalho 1
Mason started off yet again with two mana-facilitating creatures, but these two—Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix—wouldn't leave him vulnerable to Drown in Sorrow this time. Meanwhile Carvalho had his own Sylvan Caryatid, which he used to cast a Whip of Erebos ahead of schedule on his third turn.
Carvalho used Sidisi, Undead Vizier to try to summon up an answer to Mason's board.
Mason soon added a Whisperwood Elemental to the board, all while his Courser of Kruphix foretold of still more monsters to come for Carvalho (namely Dragonlord Atarka and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon) should he manage to deal with the Elemental. On his turn Carvalho responded with Sidisi, Undead Vizier, sacrificing his Caryatid in order to search his library for something, anything, that could catch him back up with Mason.
He chose a Crux of Fate and when he cast the 5-mana wrath, Mason had to think. Ordinarily, players would immediately sacrifice a Whisperwood Elemental in order to salvage some of their board presence in the form of 2/2 colorless creatures. Instead Mason opted to let the Crux resolve, deciding he very badly wanted the Genesis Hydra he could see waiting for him on his next turn, and which would be unable to flipped up once manifested.
Mason cast the Hydra for 4 on his next turn, but whiffed, giving Carvalho a window to begin establishing a board presence of his own, which he did in the form of a face-down Den Protector and a Satyr Wayfinder. But Mason had the seventh land to cast Atarka on his turn, as yet another haymaker swung the momentum back in his favor.
When he followed that up with Ugin things looked perilous for Carvalho, but he quickly slammed a Dragonlord Silumgar to the table, stealing the 8-mana Plansewalker for himself. Then Carvalho had to think. “I think you have Plummet in your deck after sideboard,” said Carvalho, trying to decide whether to tick Ugin up or down and what to target. “Well if you have Plummet I guess I'm dead anyways,” he said, and chose to deal 3 damage to his opponent.
Mason didn't have Plummet in hand at that particular moment, but after his next draw step he sure did (along with a back-up Ugin). He struck down Carvalho's Silumgar, taking the original Ugin back again, and Carvalho extended his hand.
Mason 2 – Carvalho 1