Round 16: (7) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa vs. Ben Rubin

Posted in Event Coverage on February 4, 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.

It was the final round of the Swiss portion of Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and the more than 400 competitors whittled down to a final few still able to earn a spot in the Top 8.

On one side of the hall, the players who made Day Two played their final round. Some jockeyed for a finish good enough for an invite to the next Pro Tour, others for an additional pro point for their team.

On stage, two members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, Ben Rubin and seventh-ranked Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, faced off at one of three feature match tables circling the Pro Tour trophy. The stage and the players alike were quiet, players' heads bent over their decks as they shuffled. Time in the round hadn't started, and as a judge walked by, Damo da Rosa stops him.

"Can I text someone?" he asked. "I told them I was out."

It wasn't certain that the winner of Damo da Rosa and Rubin's match would have a spot in the Top 8, but they at least had a chance, a valuable shot at playing tomorrow that neither wanted to throw away, though it would be far from either player's first time in a Pro Tour Top 8.

Ben Rubin and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa have over 30 years of high-level competitive Magic experience between them. Rubin's first Pro Tour Top 8 was in 1998 where, at the age of 15, he made it to the finals. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008 and, after several years away from the game, returned in 2015.

Damo da Rosa's first Pro Tour came in 2006, and it marked the beginning of a career of firsts. 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.

Together, Rubin and Damo da Rosa have nine Pro Tour Top 8s and 25 Grand Prix Top 8s. To these impressive stats they were presented the opportunity to add one more Top 8 if the matches—and the tiebreakers—are in their favor.

The two titans of professional Magic had slight chances at a Top 8 with a win, as they clashed in the final round of swiss.

The Games

In Game 1, Rubin took the play. He went to six and took his scry, electing to keep the card on top.

An untapped Concealed Courtyard allowed Rubin to cast a Fatal Push on Damo da Rosa's turn one Toolcraft Exemplar. Rubin then added his own creature to the board in the form of a Scrapheap Scrounger. Damo da Rosa answered with a Heart of Kiran, though he had no creatures to crew it with.

On his third turn, Rubin began to apply pressure to Damo da Rosa's life total, casting a Rishkar, Peema Renegade, putting a counter on the Scrounger, and attacking for 4. Damo da Rosa answered by casting a Thraben Inspector and a Scrapheap Scrounger, which let him crew the Heart of Kiran and attack for his own 4 points of damage.

Damo da Rosa stands above many as one of the game's very best players, only rivalled by Jon Finkel and Kai Budde in that debate.

Both players contemplated their turn four plays, searching for how to best develop their board in what was becoming a quick race with the chance to turn in either of their favors.

Rubin finally Traversed the Ulvenwald for a Swamp, then tapped everything, using his Rishkar and his Scrounger to generate two additional mana, to cast a Verdurous Gearhulk. He ended his turn with a full 15 points of power on his side of the board, but without dealing any damage that turn.

Damo da Rosa opted to crew his Heart of Kiran with the Scrounger and attack for another 4, then cast a Pia Nalaar.

Rubin pushed all three of his attackers into the red zone, threatening to send Damo da Rosa to 1 if he didn't block. Damo da Rosa paused and considered. He counted the possible attackers on his side next turn, and the 15 points of combat damage coming across the board at him.

Decks similar to Rubin's were running Walking Ballistas, and not blocking and going to 1 would mean dying if Rubin had the Aether Revolt artifact in hand. Blocking would leave him without lethal damage on board, and would at best be a trade of the Heart of Kiran for a Scrapheap Scrounger.

Damo da Rosa didn't block. Rubin played a Winding Constrictor, paused, and passed the turn.

On turn five, at 1 life, Damo da Rosa cast another Thraben Inspector, sacrificed the clue to Pia Nalaar's second ability, and made the Winding Constrictor unable to block. He attacked for 11, and a pump on the Heart of Kiran from Pia's first ability made it a lethal 12.

Players' eyebrows furrowed as they rifled through their sideboards and selected the cards they need to make a final leap for the Top 8. Teammates, finished with matches, began to pace along the perimeter of the feature match area.

The long-time competitor Ben Rubin fought as he strived to stave off elimination in the final round of swiss.

Rubin again took the play, and again took a mulligan to six. His scry moved a card from top to bottom.

Rubin opened with an Aether Hub and immediately cast a Traverse the Ulvenwald, finding a Forest and signaling that his hand was likely mana-light. Damo da Rosa again cast a turn one Toolcraft Exemplar, and this time it lived to see subsequent turns.

Rubin cast a Sylvan Advocate, but Damo da Rosa didn't wait to see if he was willing to trade it with the Toolcraft Exemplar, as he killed it with a Fatal Push of his own, played a Thraben Inspector, and attacked for 3.

Rubin had no land turn three, and no play. Damo da Rosa attacked for 4, added a second Thraban Inspector to his team, and passed the turn. His creatures were diminutive, but they were adding up to an insurmountable advantage.

Rubin finally found a third land, a Swamp that allowed him to cast a Grim Flayer, which quickly traded with the Toolcraft Exemplar during Damo da Rosa's next attack. Things might have begun to even out, but Damo da Rosa added a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to the board before passing the turn back.

Rubin's Rishkar was nothing but a flimsy wall that met with an Unlicensed Distigration, and an attack from Damo da Rosa with everything put him to 1. A Walking Ballista with a single counter wasn't enough to save him, and a Pia Nalaar refused to let the Ballista block anyway.

The spectators seated on the other side of the stage, many of them also South American pro players, erupted, and his teammates shouted congratulations from the sidelines.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 2 – Ben Rubin 0

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa - Mardu Vehicles

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Ben Rubin - Black-Green Delirium

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