Quarterfinals: Ernest Lim vs. Gonçalo Pinto

Posted in Event Coverage on June 3, 2018

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

It's Goblin Chainwhirler's world. We're all just living in it.

All of us except Ernest Lim, that is.

The Singapore Pro is playing in his first Top 8 as the lone holdout against the whirl. While the seven other players have variations on Goblin Chainwhirler decks, Lim isn't playing a single Mountain. Instead, he's holding out the hope of control players everywhere with his Esper Control list.


Ernest Lim battling during the quarterfinals of Pro Tour Dominaria.

When the consensus best control deck coming into the weekend was White-Blue with four copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (win conditions may vary), Lim went against the grain and played essentially a Blue-Black control deck splashing for Teferi. Old friends Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God aren't quite dead yet.

So while Lim fights the good fight, he's going to have to slog his way through three rounds of Goblin Chainwhirlers, Scrapheap Scroungers, and Heart of Kirans to have a fighting chance. His first test was Gonçalo Pinto. He's on the aggressive end of the black-red spectrum, featuring seven one-drops, Pia Nalaar, and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. But his sideboard is what should be making Lim quake in his Scarab God-sized boots—Duress; Angrath, the Flame-Chained; Doomfall; and Siege-Gang Commander all give Pinto more angles of attack than simply "deal 20 fast."

It's difficult to have all the answers when the questions are so wildly different.

Game 1

Pinto didn't waste any time, dropping Bomat Courier onto the battlefield tapped on the first turn, bypassing the formalities of attacking. It's where it was headed anyway, and it set the tone for what he would be trying to do all match.

Lim's immediate struggles also set a tone. Lim kept a hand with no black mana sources besides an Aether Hub, and he used that early to Cast Down the first Bomat Courier. He planned to fix his mana with a Field of Ruin, but Pinto put Lim in an interesting spot simply by casting Kari Zev.

Kari Zev presented a quandary for Lim. Lim wanted time to fix his mana, but his only removal spell was Cast Down. Knowing that wouldn't work on the Legendary Pirate, he was forced to Syncopate, and his mana remained a problem. Lim was stuck with an Island, a spent Aether Hub, and that Field of Ruin.

For his part, Pinto was sitting on two mana for a long time as well. Let's just say it wasn't the smoothest game of Magic ever.

More Bomat Couriers jumped into the fray, and over the course of several awkward turns where both players found themselves short on mana, the Couriers accumulated a veritable treasure trove of cards. The awkwardness and 1-damage attacks left Lim at 10 life by the time he found five mana and could do much of anything.

That anything was The Scarab God. Imposing, sure, but also a magnet for Unlicensed Disintegration. The removal spell plus two more pokes from a pair of Couriers left Lim at 5 and desperately digging for answers. When Glimmer of Genius yielded none, Lim actually had to discard at the end of his next turn. And not in the good way.

From there, it didn't take much for Pinto to take Lim's last few life points away.


Gonçalo Pinto (right) hits the red zone (now in stylish gray) with Bomat Couriers holding many, many cards.

Game 2

Another game, another Bomat Courier hitting the battlefield tapped and attacking on turn one. Oh, and another on turn two, though that one Lim was able to Syncopate. The original then met a Fatal Push. This time, Lim was going to be able to play his game.

With both players hitting land appropriately, they each got to do their thing. Heart of Kiran and Goblin Chainwhirler applied pressure while Teferi, Hero of Dominaria did heroic things and Torrential Gearhulk did Gearhulk things.

Things looked good on the surface for Lim, but there was an undercurrent to his draw wasn't lining up well against Pinto. He was letting too many things happen, leaving too many attacks unchallenged while soaking up damage. Heart of Kiran and Rekindling Phoenix attacked without any attempt from Lim to keep them in check. Teferi might have been a hero on Dominaria, but in this match he was little more than a speed bump for Pinto's various creatures, which ran him over in short order.

Pinto even summoned a hero of his own in Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Using the extra mana from the fiery Planeswalker, he was able to Cut Down an already-damaged Gearhulk and keep Lim's board completely clear, all while applying pressure. Lim had some answers, but Pinto had all the haymakers.

Lim kept fighting, even as his life total kept dropping. Another Torrential Gearhulk let him close the gap on the board and gravely injure Chandra, but it also left him vulnerable.

Injured isn't dead, and, just like in the story, a very alive Chandra was able to pilot Heart of Kiran right into lethal damage. Not even Vraska's Contempt could save Lim, as Unlicensed Disintegration on that second Gearhulk dealt the final points of damage.

Game 3

No early Bomat Couriers appeared to greet Lim this time. This game affirmed the notion that sideboards made this a very different matchup. And that difference was apparent when Pinto started by firing off a dangerous Duress.

The Duress prompted Lim to cast Vraska's Contempt for Scrapheap Scrounger, but the discard spell spelled doom for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and a second Scrapheap Scrounger made its presence felt anyway. Disappointing, sure, but it just meant Lim would have to make do with The Scarab God on turn five instead. Unlicensed Disintegration moved it out of the way for the time being while Chandra, Torch of Defiance kept the pressure on.


Gonçalo Pinto looks to make his mark on the Sunday Pro Tour stage.

For every advance Lim tried to make, Pinto one-upped him. Lim never quite seemed to find the right answers to Pinto's every question. Lim just kept flipping through his hand as if hoping it would transform in front of him, perhaps revealing a much-needed removal spell or Torrential Gearhulk—a savior hiding behind the extra lands and awkward Syncopates.

Instead, it was Settle the Wreckage that managed to short-circuit Pinto, for a time. A follow-up Torrential Gearhulk on Vraska's Contempt took care of Chandra, but Lim's reprieve was short-lived. He was at 5 life. His Gearhulk had 5 power. And all it took was one Act of Treason aided by everyone's favorite angry Minotaur dad Angrath, the Flame-Chained to send Pinto to the semifinals.

Gonçalo Pinto defeated Ernest Lim, three games to zero.

Gonçalo Pinto—Red-Black Aggro

Ernest Lim Pei Jin—Esper Control

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