With a long, three-game showdown against Hall of Fame player Paul Rietzl behind him, Artur Villela was ready to turn his third Grand Prix Top 8 in three years into a victory. His first visit to the Top 8 was in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 where in a moment of camaraderie conceded the finals to his friend, putting the player into Gold status for the Pro Players Club.
This time, there would be no concession. With arguably one of the greatest players in the world behind him, Villela looked forward to finishing what he started two years ago in his home country.
For Michael Majors, also in his third Grand Prix Top 8, there was no backing down. With his last-ditch deck available, dragging along a friend getting married the followed weekend, Majors had put on an impressive show. Starting out undefeated on Day 1 and carrying that momentum into a top-of-standings appearance for Top 8, Majors too was looking to add a victory to his cap.
Only one would get to add a feather.
“This is the first time I'll actually play against this deck,” Villela said, looking over Majors's list. The Blue-Red Tutelage deck went undefeated in Majors's hands on Day 1, and it went on to earn him top seed in Top 8. Now, in the finals, the power of Sphinx's Tutelage backed by Treasure Cruise, Tormenting Voice and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. It was soundly successful throughout the Top 8 and Majors felt it would continue in the finals.
“I like this match a lot better than the last,” Majors said, referring to his semifinal showdown against Esper Dragons. That match went to three games.
Villela had a version of the Green-White Constellation deck Kyle Boggemes played to the Top 25 of Pro Tour Magic Origins, only this version layered in the power of Abzan with enchanting cards like Brain Maggot, Doomwake Giant, and Thoughtseize. With plenty of ways to disrupt decks and slow down aggression, Villela's plan was one of the two decks vying for Top 8 in the last round: Ninth place was the Swamp-free version of the deck that played Starfield of Nyx.
Majors's early plays of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Sphinx's Tutelage began to go to work against Villela in the first game, who began to set up his enchantments with a third turn Eidolon of Blossoms and fourth turn Starfield of Nyx.
With surprise on his side, Michael Majors moved quickly to put his centerpiece, Sphinx's Tutelage, to work winning the game.
Attacking early would have to be Villela's goal: Majors wasted no time pushing the clock ahead. A second Sphinx's Tutelage came in and Majors began to draw away. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy transformed into its Telepath Unbound form and Majors looked unstoppable. Two turns later and that was fact.
The second game was a similar start, with an early Jace, Vryn's Prodigy for Majors, but Villela's Brain Maggot delayed the third turn Sphinx's Tutelage in waiting. On the fourth turn Majors deployed the second one he drew that game, beginning down the same winning pattern he used in the first battle.
Artur Villela worked hard to find a way around the major pain of Sphinx's Tutelage across the way.
Infinite Obliteration took out any future Jace, Vryn's Prodigys from Majors, assuming Villela could take care of the first one. Transforming his creature into a Planeswalker, Majors began to eat away at the library in earnest. Digging down thanks to Jace's flashback-like ability for Tormenting Voice, Monastery Siege was next in play and Villela began running out of time.
Treasure Cruise into Tormenting Voice made Villela's library smaller than his graveyard. Negate protected Majors from Banishing Light, but Villela's Doomwake Giant began to attack by taking Jace out first.
Villela's plans fell apart as fast as his graveyard began filling up.
There were 21 cards left in Villela's deck as Majors untapped. Using the turn to kill off the Giant, Majors took the pressure off his life total but lost a Treasure Cruise to Villela's last-ditch Thoughtseize in reply. It was a futile effort as the second Sphinx's Tutelage already in hand ensured Majors finished milling his victory through on the next turn.
Villela extended his hand then dug into his backpack. “Do you mind signing one for me?” he asked Majors, passing his own copy of Sphinx's Tutelage over. Standard Tutelage had just begun.
Michael Majors defeated Artur Villela 2-0, becoming champion of Grand Prix San Diego!