Semifinals: Lucas Esper Berthoud (Mardu Vehicles) vs. Eduardo Sajgalik (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.

The second semifinals at Pro Tour Aether Revolt was Eduardo Sajgalik's third match of the day, and Lucas Esper Berthoud's first. But it doesn't matter what matches are behind them, because before them is the match that leads to the finals. Both players stand ready to clear this penultimate hurdle between them and a Pro Tour title.

Eduardo Sajgalik is a member of Team MTG Mint Card. He played in his first Pro Tour a decade ago, in Geneva, and has played in 17 of them since, earning his first Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. Though currently representing Montreal, Canada, he's done a lot of globe-hopping, living in France and England as well.

Lucas Esper Berthoud, from Taubate, Sao Paulo, is a member of Team DEXThird and the Brazilian Magic community, who were enthusiastically cheering for him from just offstage before the match began. After making his professional debut at the 2005 World Championship, Berthoud was also the 2007 Brazilian National Champion.

Berthoud and Sajgalik were two of six players in the Top 8 piloting Mardu Vehicles, a deck Berthoud chose because, as he said, "I always liked racing cars." Berthoud raced those cars, or, in this case, planes, to a perfect 10-0 record in the Standard Swiss rounds. Sajgalik trusted the recommendations of his MTG Mint Card teammates, who assured him that the deck was good.

No two Mardu Vehicle builds are quite the same, and Berthoud's build is primed to be as aggressive as possible, including three copies of Inventor's Apprentice and two Pia Nalaar, as well as four Unlicensed Disintegration and two Shock. Sajgalik's deck, on the other hand, runs the four Unlicensed Disintegration, but also a full four copies of Fatal Push and no Pia Nalaar.

While both decks have a playset of Heart of Kiran, Berthoud's other vehicles are two Aethersphere Harvester, while Sajgalik plays three Cultivator's Caravan. This helps Sajgalik's deck with it's blue splash for sideboard cards like Metallic Rebuke, which Berthoud's build forgoes in favor of a Mardu-colored sideboard.

Both players had competed in their first Pro Tour-level event over a decade ago, as the two battle to see who will still have a shot at claiming a trophy for themselves.

"Good luck, have fun" Berthoud said when the players were finished shuffling. The two shook hands, and the match began.

The Games

Berthoud began with the classic first-turn Toolcraft Exemplar, which got a Fatal Push from Sajgalik when a Scrapheap Scrounger joined it.

The two players traded turns as Berthoud developed his board with an Inventor's Apprentice and a Veteran Motorist, and Sajgalik stymied him with an Unlicensed Disintegration on the Motorist.

On turn four Berthoud finally broke the board open with a Thraben Inspector and a Pia Nalaar, accompanied by her usual Thopter. Sajgalik attempted to stabilize with a Heart of Kiran, but Pia Nalaar made the crewed vehicle unable to block during Berthoud's next attack.

Though Sajgalik Disintegrated the Pia Nalaar on his next turn, another attack from Berthoud put him to 1, and an Aethersphere Harvester sealed his fate.

The two players chatted about fatigue and nerves in the Top 8, and how much more difficult it is to be in these seats and play well than while watching at home. A combination of long days and everything feeling a little unreal, Sajgalik said, makes it difficult to play your absolute best.

With Sajgalik on the play, both competitors kept their opening hands. Remarkably, neither played a creature on turn one. On turn two, however, both cast creatures with decidedly aggressive inclinations, a Scrapheap Scrounger for Sajgalik and a Veteran Motorist for Berthoud.

Both players followed up with Vehicles, though not the ever-present Heart of Kiran. Sajgalik cast a Cultivator's Caravan, Berthoud an Aethersphere Harvester. Despite the lifelinking flier, Berthoud was on the back foot when Sajgalik got rid of the Veteran Motorist with a Fatal Push. When Sajgalik cast a Veteran Motorist and attacked for 9—more than half of Berthoud's life total—the Canadian player cemented his lead.

Berthoud has demonstrated some solid skills throughout the event, pressing through a difficult three days of competition to make it this far.

Berthoud played a Thraben Inspector and passed with both mana up and cards in hand, and Sajgalik knew something was up. Rather than crewing his Vehicles, he filled out his board with another Veteran Motorist, a Heart of Kiran, and a Thraben Inspector, forcing Berthoud to start casting spells or die. Accordingly, Berthoud cast an Unlicensed Disintegration on one of the Veteran Motorists. The premium removal spell from Kaladesh wasn't quite enough, however, as a full attack from Sajgalik, backed up with an Unlicensed Disintegration of his own, was more than enough to finish Berthoud off.

"Yeah, you guys have the best list," Sajgalik said as the two players looked over one another's decklists and filtered through their decks, choosing sideboard cards.

When the game began, Sajgalik lead with a turn one Toolcraft Exemplar that Berthoud removed with Fatal Push. Sajgalik tried again, with another Toolcraft Exemplar. The second one stuck. On his side of the mat, Berthoud played a Heart of Kiran, followed the next turn by a Veteran Motorist and a Toolcraft Exemplar. With these creatures, Berthoud began pressuring Sajgalik with huge chunks of damage.

The Toolcraft Exemplar stood alone on Sajgalik's side of the board, unable to stop the onslaught. Sajgalik drew his next card, but with too many lands and not enough ways to stop the beat down from Berthoud, he scooped.

Sajgalik is making 2016-17 his breakout season.

Looking grim, Sajgalik had to mulligan his opening hand, but kept the next one.

The opening turns were an exact mirror, as both players cast Toolcraft Exemplars followed by Heart of Kirans. Sajgalik broke the mirror with a Scrapheap Scrounger and an attack for 7. Berthoud declined to block, and instead tried to attack for his own chunk of damage. He was foiled, however, when Sajgalik cast a Fatal Push on his Heart of Kiran.

Berthoud tried to claw back into the game with a Pia Nalaar, but Sajgalik had an Unlicensed Disintegration for her. Berthoud survived the attack by throwing a Thopter in front of a Heart of Kiran, but he was just too far behind.

Sajgalik laughed good-naturedly as a chant from Berthoud's Brazilian friends and teammates swelled just beyond the curtain surrounding the stage.

"Have to see if I can break serve," Sajgalik said, referring to the fact that so far, whomever had the play won the game. "So far it doesn't seem like either of us can do it!"

The opening turns of this game varied from those that had come before, as Sajgalik cast a pair of Thraben Inspectors, and Berthoud a Heart of Kiran. On his third turn, Berthoud elected to destroy one of Sajgalik's clue tokens in exchange for a single Gremlin with a copy of Release the Gremlins.

"Release the Gremlin! ... On the ... clue!" Sajgalik said, and chuckled. He had no follow-up and, unable to attack into the 2/2 gremlin with his pair of 1/2s, he passed the turn.

When Berthoud tried to cast a Scrapheap Scrounger, however, Sajgalik flashed in a Spell Queller, nabbing the creature and giving himself a flier with which he could push through damage.

But on his next turn Berthoud had a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. He made a 2/2, then used the Gideon to crew the Heart of Kiran. Before it could deal him any damage, however, Sajgalik sacrificed his remaining Clue token, then cast Fatal Push on the attacking Vehicle.

On his following turn, Sajgalik cast his own Gideon and immediately made an emblem, then used his now 3/4 Spell Queller to finish off Berthoud's Gideon and keep the 2/2s at bay with his 2/3 Thraben Inspector. It looked like Sajgalik had swung the game decidedly in his favor, but then Berthoud cast a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. It killed a Thraben Inspector and loomed over Sajgalik's remaining, much smaller, creatures.

Sajgalik cast another Gideon, but then Berthoud Disintegrated the Spell Queller, crewed his Skysovereign with the freed Scrapheap Scrounger, and attacked, wiping away the entirety of Sajgalik's board. The next turn dealt with most of Sajgalik's remaining life total, and with no way out, Sajgalik extended his hand.

Lucas Esper Berthoud defeats Eduardo Sajgalik 3-2 and advances to the finals!

Esper Berthoud, Lucas - Mardu Vehicles

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Sajgalik, Eduardo - Mardu Vehicles

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