Quarterfinals Stage 2: (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Donald Smith (Mardu Vehicles)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 5, 2017

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had already won his first Sunday match in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Aether Revolt. One victorious match is a small milestone in the career of a Pro Tour Hall of Famer, but a big feat in the context of a Pro Tour Top 8, where it brings him one step closer to the trophy. Donald Smith came into the second round of quarterfinals fresh, thanks to his fourth place finish in the Swiss.

The players faced off at one of just two tables remaining on stage. Just beyond the curtains circling the feature match area, spectators chatted, their talk sometimes punctuated by moments of silence or applause as they followed the quarterfinal matches.

Damo da Rosa has been playing in Pro Tours for over a decade, since his first one in 2003. In 2011 he became the youngest player to reach 300 pro points, and in 2012 the first player from South America to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Donald Smith is a member of Team Lingering Souls who's played Magic since the Theros block. The 21-year-old player from Cut Off, Louisiana is playing in his fourth Pro Tour, but his accomplishments already include two Top 25 finishes, and now a Top 8. He has yet to drop a match of Standard this weekend, going 8-0-2 in the Standard portions of the Swiss rounds.

Both players brought versions of Mardu Vehicles, the deck of choice for many of the top teams in Dublin this weekend, as it has a favorable matchup against the Saheeli Rai combo decks. In the Top 8, however, they faced off against a field of other Vehicle decks, punctuated by a single copy of Black-Green Delirium.

With the build of Mardu Vehicles shaken up by the banning of Smuggler's Copter and the introduction of the powerful Heart of Kiran in Aether Revolt, the player's lists varied by a handful of cards. Smith's had a slightly more aggressive bent, with two copies of Bomat Courier, but also three copies of Aethersphere Harvester, good for swinging a race in his favor. Damo da Rosa's deck ditched the Couriers for two additional copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, an incredibly powerful card that's also double the mana cost of most other cards in the deck.

Sporting an experience range of a decade apart, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa faced off against relative newcomer Donald Smith, a player who has made a name for himself among the players for his consistent performance at Pro Tours that culminated in his first Top 8.

The Games

Smith was on the play thanks to his higher seed coming into the Top 8. He got rid of his first hand, but kept six cards. Damo da Rosa was happy with his opening hand, and the match began.

Damo da Rosa was on the board first, with a first-turn Toolcraft Exemplar. On turn two, both players added a Heart of Kiran to the board. This let Damo da Rosa get in the first three points of damage, as the vehicle pumped up his Toolcraft Exemplar for an attack.

Smith finally added a creature to the board in the form of a Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Thalia crewed the Heart of Kiran and Smith finally got in an attack for 4. Thalia, however, died to a Shock from Damo da Rosa, who crewed his own Heart of Kiran and attacked, though he didn't have a third land.

Turn four saw a Depala, Pilot Exemplar hit the table for Smith, who elected to once again crew the Heart of Kiran and keep attacking. A matching Depala for Damo da Rosa, however, meant an attack for 9 on his turn, putting Smith to 4.

With a Depala and a Heart of Kiran on the table, Smith passed his next turn back to Damo da Rosa without attacking or adding to the board. His opponent at 4, Damo da Rosa cast a Scrapheap Scrounger and attacked with a Heart of Kiran, a Depala, and a Toolcraft Exemplar, for 12 points of damage.

For a moment, it looked like Smith might survive when he crewed his own Heart of Kiran and used it to block, and Disintegrated Damo da Rosa's Depala, reducing the damage to just 3 points from the Toolcraft Exemplar, but Damo da Rosa showed Smith the Shock in his hand, and Smith scooped up his cards.

As the players shuffled for Game 2, they chatted about testing teams and preparation for the Pro Tour.

"Did you play in Prague?" Smith asked.

"Yes," Damo da Rosa replied, too polite to point out that he had, in fact, gotten second at the Grand Prix the previous weekend.

"Do you think it hurt your testing to play at the GP before?" Smith followed up.

"No," Damo da Rosa said. "If you go to the GP, it's helpful because you get a greater diversity of opinions and draft strategies."

Ready for the second game, the players drew their opening hands. Damo da Rosa took a mulligan, but got a six-card hand he was satisfied keeping.

Damo da Rosa might be known as a fierce competitor, but he's one of the warmest faces on the Pro Tour.

The game started with dueling Toolcraft Exemplars, but Damo da Rosa's was joined by a Heart of Kiran on turn two, making it a 3/2 on the attack.

On his third turn, Smith once again played a Thalia, Heretic Cathar. This time, Damo da Rosa sighed. On his own turn, he sighed again before playing a tapped Veteran Motorist, scrying both cards to the bottom, and attacking with his Heart of Kiran. The race was on, but unless he could do something about that Thalia, Damo da Rosa would always be a step behind.

Smith cast a Depala and a Bomat Courier, which he called the "worst card in the deck" as he laid it on the table. Worst card or no, it generated an extra 3 points of damage that turn from its own attack and from the boost given to Toolcraft Exemplar.

When Smith attacked with everything on the following turn, Damo da Rosa crewed his Heart of Kiran to block. A Fatal Push from Smith before declaring blocks, however, meant the attack was lethal, and the match score was tied.

"Now I get to take it out!" Smith said of the Bomat Couriers. "I don't even care that I'm giving you that information, I'm pretty sure you knew."

"It's actually pretty good against the Saheeli blue decks," he said a moment later, justifying the card's initial inclusion.

"Yeah, it's a cheap artifact to trigger your stuff," Damo da Rosa agreed.

Sideboarding finished, and both players kept their opening hands. With Damo da Rosa on the play, the game began. Only Smith had a turn one play in the form of a Thraben Inspector.

On turn two, Damo da Rosa casts a Heart of Kiran, Smith a Scrapheap Scrounger. Next, Damo da Rosa cast a Veteran Motorist and thought through his scry, tapping on the table as he counted out the mana needed for his next turns and the damage he'd be taking from Smith's creatures. Finally, he put both cards on top of his library, an ominous sign for his opponent.

When Smith attacked with his Scrapheap Scrounger, offering a trade for the Veteran Motorist, Damo da Rosa accepted.

Smith is proving himself to be a new, dominant force on the Pro Tour.

"Sure!" Smith said, sounding certain that he'd gotten the better end of the deal.

Smith refilled his board with a Veteran Motorist of his own, plus a Thraben Inspector.

Smith's need for, and dearth of, a Heart of Kiran became apparent on Damo da Rosa's following turn, when he attacked for 4 in the air and then played a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Smith was able to Fragmentize the Heart of Kiran, eliminating one of Damo da Rosa's threats, but still faced down a Gideon and a handful of other creatures.

When Damo da Rosa cast an Unlicensed Disintegration on Smith's Thalia two turns later, the game was over, as Damo da Rosa ran Smith over with Gideon.

Talk between the two plays was noticeably absent as they hunkered down with their sideboards, the end of the match palpably nearer.

Smith, on the play, kept his opening hand while Damo da Rosa went to six.

Smith began the game with a Toolcraft Exemplar, Damo da Rosa with a Thraben Inspector. Smith followed up with a Veteran Motorist on turn two, and a Heart of Kiran on turn three.

Across the table, Damo da Rosa had no second land. By the time he found one, he was already facing down nearly lethal damage, plus a Thalia that prevented any fresh creatures from being able to block. After Thalia entered the battlefield, Damo da Rosa took one more draw step, looked at the board, and scooped up his cards.

"Whew," Smith said as the players shuffled, "I was really afraid I'd get 3-0 stomped." He paused. "Or punt horribly."

Damo da Rosa smiled. "You're doing fine so far."

Both players went to 6, and both put their cards from the scry on the bottom of their libraries.

Smith began with a Toolcraft Exemplar, Damo da Rosa with a Veteran Motorist. The two creatures traded when Smith attacked on turn two after playing a Heart of Kiran.

Both players had follow-up creatures after the trade. Damo da Rosa cast a Depala, Smith a Scrapheap Scrounger that crewed his Heart of Kiran.

The next turn was a flurry of damage and spells, as both players got in hits with their vehicles, Damo da Rosa killed a Veteran Motorist with a Shock, and Smith Fragmentized Damo da Rosa's Heart of Kiran.

With no flier to match Smith's Heart of Kiran, Damo da Rosa then began attacking with his Depala and paying one mana for her ability, giving him an extra chance to find and cast the necessary vehicle. Over two attacks and two activations, however, Damo da Rosa couldn't find an answer to Smith Heart of Kiran, which attacked for lethal on turn six and prompted a handshake from Damo da Rosa.

Donald Smith defeats Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!

damo da rosa, paulo vitor - Mardu Vehicles

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Smith, Donald - Mardu Vehicles

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