Quarterfinals Stage 1: (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Jan Ksandr (Black-Green Delirium)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 5, 2017

By Tobi Henke

Jan Ksandr was the latest name in a long line of young talent coming out of the Czech Republic. Every year there seemed to be a new one, climbing the levels to the pinnacle of the game. In the 2014–15 season Ondřej Stráský made the Top 8 of two Pro Tours; last season Petr Sochůrek joined Stráský at the Platinum level. This season it was Jan Ksandr's turn apparently, and sure enough Stráský and Sochůrek had been the first to congratulate Ksandr when he won in the penultimate Swiss round to clinch a Top 8 berth early.

The 24-year-old from Prague had previously finished in the finals of Grand Prix Sydney 2016, yet had narrowly missed the 18-point threshold for the Silver level. In the 2016–17 season, however, Ksandr had already gathered ten Pro Points, four of them by going 13-2 at Grand Prix London last year, which requalified him for the Pro Tour. With an additional fifteen points awarded just for reaching the quarterfinals at this event, the half-way point of the season, he now found himself in a position to consider a run for Gold or Platinum.

Of course, for anything beyond said fifteen Pro Points, Ksandr would have to get past his opponent in the first stage of the quarterfinals, and his opponent was a tough one. While only five years Ksandr's senior, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa was a true veteran of the Pro Tour. With ten previous Top 8s, including a victory in San Juan in 2010, he had been the second most accomplished player in the room all weekend long.

Naturally, Damo da Rosa had been a member of the Platinum club for a long time, a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame since 2012, was a member of one of most prominent teams in Channel Fireball Ice and among the Top 25 ranked players too, although the number (7) next to his name was bound to change for the better after this. He had 29 Pro Points to his name before the event and was expected to make it to the requisite 52 points for Platinum with relative ease.

Because Ksandr had drawn into the Top 8 in Round 16 and because Damo da Rosa had squeezed into it as the sole player with a record of 12-4, the two of them found themselves in fifth and eighth place respectively after the Swiss rounds. In the new system of modified Top 8 playoffs, this meant they squared off in Stage 1 of the quarterfinals, with the winner facing another elimination match in Stage 2, only then playing to advance to the semifinals.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa squared off against the latest in a series of up-and-coming Czech pros Jan Ksandr in the first stage of the quarterfinals.

Damo da Rosa, clearly representing the establishment here, also came equipped with the most popular and most successful deck of the tournament. Several major teams had discovered that the time was right for Mardu Vehicles, powered by new additions Heart of Kiran and Spire of Industry, and the Top 8 featured six of them.

Ksandr brought Black-Green Delirium, one of the few viable decks considered to have a decent matchup against the Vehicles. Then again, opinions on this differed, and it was going to be a close race in any case.

The Games

Things went off with removal spells picking off creatures on either side, as Fatal Push met Heart of Kiran, Grim Flayer was introduced to Shock, and Depala, Pilot Exemplar found herself shaking hands with Grasp of Darkness.

This left Damo da Rosa with Scrapheap Scrounger and eventually another Heart of Kiran, whereas Ksandr went to work with two 2/2 Walking Ballistas. When Ksandr summoned Rishkar, Peema Renegade to get his Ballistas to 3/3, Damo da Rosa intervened and pointed Unlicensed Disintegration at one of them, losing Scrapheap Scrounger in the process.

With no creatures on the battlefield, and none in hand, Damo da Rosa passed without a play, facing lethal damage. His Scrapheap Scrounger returned from the grave to crew Heart of Kiran, but the latter got caught in another Grasp of Darkness before it could block, and Ksandr took the lead.

The second game began with a blisteringly fast opening: Toolcraft Exemplar on turn one, Veteran Motorist on turn two, Pia Nalaar on turn three. Ksandr meanwhile had taken a mulligan, failed to play a land on turn two, and conceded by turn three.

Damo da Rosa elected to play the blistering fast Mardu Vehicles deck this weekend.

Ksandr took another mulligan for Game 3, then another, and subsequently failed to play anything but lands on his first three turns. Thankfully, Damo da Rosa didn't have a quick start to punish him.

What Damo da Rosa did have after his first-turn Thraben Inspector was a series of big threats—a pair of Cultivator's Caravans and multiple copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar—as well as sufficient removal to deal with Ksandr's Mindwrack Demon and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

Ksandr's mulligans meant he was out of gas before long and was easily overpowered.

Now it was time for Damo da Rosa to mulligan. His six cards only included one Aether Hub for mana plus tough color requirements in Thraben Inspector and two Veteran Motorist, only somewhat made up for by Scrapheap Scrounger and Cultivator's Caravan. He thought long and hard before deciding to keep and his scry put a card to the bottom of his library.

While the players waited for the cameras to return to their match, circling like vultures in anticipation of a possible kill, Ksandr addressed Damo da Rosa.

"Can I ask you, how long have you been playing?"

"Since I was eight," said Damo da Rosa, pausing to do a quick calculation, or rather to appreciate the result that calculation yielded, "... so for 21 years."

"So almost from the start?"

"Well, it was a few years later I think."

Still Ksandr was visibly impressed. "Well, how long have you been playing?" Damo da Rosa asked.back.

"Three to four years, but I didn't play tournaments for the first couple of years."

"How old are you?" Damo da Rosa wanted to know. "Eighteen?"

Ksandr chuckled. "I'm 24."

"I couldn't tell whether you laughed because you're much older or much younger. You could have told me you were fifteen."

The players got the signal to start and went back to business. Damo da Rosa failed to play a land on his second turn, while Ksandr led with Grim Flayer, Winding Constrictor, and Mindwrack Demon on turns two through four. With a turn's delay, Damo da Rosa managed to cast Veteran Motorist followed by Cultivator's Caravan. When the 6/6 Caravan blocked the 4/4 Grim Flayer, however, Grasp of Darkness reduced the Caravan to a measly 2/2, and the game was over moments later.

Ksandr was a fresh face to the Pro Tour, and the third or three young Czech players to emerge in the spotlights in the last few years.

It all came down to the fifth game to decide who would advance to the second stage of the quarterfinals. Damo da Rosa came out fast again, with Thraben Inspector, Heart of Kiran, and Pia Nalaar.

On turn three, Ksandr put Winding Constrictor next to his Grim Flayer and passed with one Swamp untapped. Damo da Rosa thought for a bit but crewed Heart of Kiran anyway. Ksandr didn't have Fatal Push and fell to 10. Post combat Damo da Rosa expanded his fleet with a Cultivator's Caravan.

Ksandr summoned Mindwrack Demon, attacked with Grim Flayer, and passed his turn. However, it didn't really pass before Damo da Rosa's Fatal Push had taken care of Winding Constrictor, leaving Ksandr with just the Demon for defense.

Ksandr could read the writing on the wall, and in this case, it was some mean scribbles about Unlicensed Disintegration and Veteran Motorist waiting in Damo da Rosa's hand, enough to take Ksandr well below 0 life. He picked up his cards and extended his hand in concession.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 3 - Jan Ksandr 2

After the match, Damo da Rosa divulged his assessment of the matchup. "It's about even," he said. "Before boarding it's better for me, and afterward it gets worse, because then he gets to board in additional copies of Fatal Push, whereas I don't really have much to bring in."

"Overall, whoever is on the play has a huge edge," he said. This was very much on display, at least in the final game. "Then again, we didn't play a lot of real games because of all these mulligans," he continued, which was definitely true as well.

Ksandr wished Damo da Rosa good luck for his next match in stage two of the quarterfinals, where he'd meet Donald Smith for the first of a series of mirror matches.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa defeats Jan Ksandr 3-2 and advances to the second stage of the quarterfinals!

damo da rosa, paulo vitor - Mardu Vehicles

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Ksandr, Jan - Black-Green Delirium

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