Saito you know. His Round 9 opponent, Rodrigo Lopez, you may not. Lopez is a Santiago local and widely regarded as one of the best Limited players in Chile. He attended World Magic Cup 2013 on the Chile team. Outwardly calm against his impressive opponent (fun fact: Lopez didn’t recognise who Saito was!), Lopez won the roll and elected to play.
Lopez went on the beatdown early with a Leaf Gilder and a Deathbridge Shaman. Saito tried to slow the attack, trading a Elvish Visionary for the Leaf Gilder and landing a Hitchlaw Spider, but Lopez cleared the path using a Wild Instinct and continued to press his opponent.
Rodrigo Lopez and Tomoharu Saito square of in the final round of Day 1 of GP Santiago.
Saito managed to slow the assault with with a Llanowar Empath, scrying for a Dwynen’s Elite. Lopez then proceeded to fly over the top using an Angel's Tomb. Saito played a Nissa, followed by the Dwynen’s Elite, producing an elf token, and backed it up the following turn with a Volcanic Rambler. However Lopez continued to deal three damage in the air every turn, triggering the Angel’s Tomb with creature after creature.
Saito tried to race with his red elemental but Lopez was having none of it. A Gilt-Leaf Winnower destroyed the Rambler, and a Consecrated By Blood on the Elf Warrior finished Saito off.
Lopez 1 - Saito 0
Two big surprises appeared early in Game 2: Lopez had sided out black for blue, whilst Saito’s Red/Green deck had also splashed a Plains. The two traded blows until the game state revolved around Saito’s Volcanic Rambler, Boggart Brute and two Dragon Fodder Tokens, versus Lopez’s Angel’s Tomb, Somberwald Alpha, and Disciple of the Ring, with two instants / sorceries in Lopez’s graveyard.
Rodrigo Lopez considers his options.
Lopez swung his Disciple of the Ring into Saito’s team. After none of his blockers were tapped, Saito snapped his three Goblins in front of the Disciple. Lopez pointed at his Wolf to indicate the +1/+1 trigger and Saito’s eyebrows raised. Then Lopez tapped a mana to remove one of his two instants from the graveyard and give the Disciple another +1/+1. Saito surveyed the scene. There was one instant left in Lopez’s graveyard and Lopez had one mana left over. Meanwhile Saito had two mana open and a Titanic Growth in his hand. Saito was trapped; if he cast the Titanic Growth, Lopez would counter it. Saito stayed silent, let his goblins die and the Disciple live.
Despite taking the Disciple down the following turn with the Titanic Growth, Saito again failed to outrace the Angel’s Tomb and eventually shook his opponent’s hand.
Rodrigo Lopez and Tomoharu Saito shake after a hard-fought battle.
“I forgot the Wolf’s triggered ability.” Saito admitted afterwards, “It probably cost me the match. It was a mistake. I thought with two mana, Lopez could pump twice and then I could Titanic Growth. But the +1/+1 from the Wolf meant he only needed to pump once and could still leave counter-magic up. Very bad.”
Lopez 2 - Saito 0