Quarterfinals: (18) Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa (Atarka Red) vs. Jon Finkel (Dark Jeskai)

Posted in PRO TOUR BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR on October 18, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.


Jon Finkel's answer to the prompt for "Previous Magic accomplishments" in his Top 8 profile wasn't a fluke of wit. The Pro Tour Hall of Fame member notched his fifteenth Pro Tour Sunday here. As a point of comparison, players that earn just four will rank at the top of annual Hall of Fame ballot discussions. With wins at every level of play and in just about every competitive format there has been, Finkel is a player that has continued to etch his name into Magic's history.

And then there's this other guy.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is similarly a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Currently ranked eighteenth with a wonderful run of Grand Prix Top 8s, including a win at São Paulo this year, Damo da Rosa picked up a just-as-astonishing tenth Pro Tour Top 8. After breaking his cold streak of underperformance late in 2014, Damo da Rosa continued to rise to the occasion as a prolific Hall of Fame performer.

Combined they had over 1,000 Pro points and a staggering $800,000 in lifetime earnings. Only one would advance toward increasing the most difficult of stat categories: A Pro Tour win.

Hall of Famers Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Jon Finkel had a combined 25 career Pro Tour Top 8s between them.

The Decks

Finkel's deck of choice, like many of his teammates, was Dark Jeskai. A holdover from the Standard of before, Battle for Zendikar's new dual lands made black a free addition to the deck. Crackling Doom was one of the additions Finkel had with him in the main deck, great for fighting powerful creatures, alongside Kolaghan's Command, with Duress in the sideboard for more controlling opponents.

Among the most critical of cards, outside the core of Mantis Rider and Dig Through Time, was Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Digging through cards and providing a flashback utility to powerful spells was a hallmark of how the deck could dominate games.

Damo da Rosa had a deck that was unusual in his hands. Atarka Red was an aggressive, combo-oriented deck totally unlike the blue-based control decks he was known for playing. Built with speed in mind, thanks to Zurgo Bellstriker, Monastery Swiftspear, and other early creatures, cards like Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage could turn just a tiny opening into lethal damage. An array of burn as removal spells ensured openings could be made.

Forcing opponents to carefully consider each block as well as making them answer each creature that entered the battlefield meant Atarka Red could win games before other decks could finish setting up.

The Games

"I think you can get rid of the Sarkhan emblem," Finkel said, surveying the tokens and Planeswalker emblems sitting aside for the match.

"I don't even know how many it takes," Damo da Rosa admitted. "I don't think we've ever gotten an ultimate Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh in testing. If you flip Chandra, you just keep adding loyalty."

"Alright Paulo, you want to roll to see who goes first?" Finkel asked, with a wry smirk.

"I'll go first," Damo da Rosa answered, taking advantage of the higher seed he earned and wanted with his aggressive deck.

Damo da Rosa has been in this situation before. Even with a lot on the line, he was light of heart playing against a friend.

Zurgo Bellstriker led the way for Damo da Rosa in the first game, but he missed his second turn play. Fiery Impulse killed the legendary Orc, and just Monastery Swiftspear followed it up.

Damo da Rosa's aggression seemed slow in comparison to the explosive action the deck is capable of.

Finkel continued to play and pass, waiting for Damo da Rosa to attack. The Swiftspear came in again but Crackling Doom replied. This time there was no follow up creature from Damo da Rosa.

Mantis Rider was the first play actually made on Finkel's turn as Damo da Rosa continued to flood out with his fifth land and nothing cast. Soulfire Grand Master joined Finkel's army before Dig Through Time took advantage of another empty Damo da Rosa turn.

Without any further resistance from Damo da Rosa, Crackling Doom and a final attack took the first game for Finkel. The second game featured Damo da Rosa on the start again, though a mulligan to five meant his hand had to be excellent.

Finkel's resume is legendary, and another Pro Tour win would etch another tally on an already astounding resume.

It wasn't.

Without first or second turn play across from him Finkel went up to 23 life with Arashin Cleric, one of his sideboard options to stymie decks just like Damo da Rosa's.

Damo da Rosa's Abbot of Keral Keep—exiling Rending Volley instead of a Mountain to play—made Finkel's Mantis Rider on the following turn even more dangerous. Monastery Swiftspear joined the team for Damo da Rosa and Finkel declined to block, comfortably resting far ahead in the race.

Another Swiftspear was countered by Ojutai's Command, and Finkel blocked the incoming Swiftspear with his Cleric on Damo da Rosa's attack. Fiery Impulse made the block lethal to the defender and Finkel dropped to 16 life. Damo da Rosa fell to 9 before the turn passed back to him.

This time Damo da Rosa didn't have an attack, finally out of the meager offense his hand could afford. A second Mantis Rider left Damo da Rosa at just 3 life. After drawing a card for his turn a handshake was all he could offer.

Finkel let out a small sigh, dodging the worst of one of the best decks from the tournament. One of the mega matchups of the year was over in just ten minutes.

Damo da Rosa 0 – Finkel 2

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's Atarka Red - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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Jon Finkel's Dark Jeskai - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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