Quarterfinals: Kazuyuki Takimura vs. Márcio Carvalho

Posted in Event Coverage on June 3, 2018

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.

Kazuyuki Takimura was already a Pro Tour champion. After earning victory at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar in 2015, Takimura leveled up by adding three more Grand Prix Top 8s—including two in team events—to the two he previously had. Takimura had grown in Japan's Magic community. Now, sixteen years removed from his Grand Prix debut at Grand Prix Utsunomiya, he was fighting for his second Pro Tour win in as many Top 8s.

Levelling up in a local community isn't unique to Japanese Magic though. Márcio Carvalho was a darling of Portgual, with two World Championship Top 8s; two Pro Tour Top 8s; and fifteen Grand Prix Top 8s—including three wins. Every time he makes the Sunday cut of an event, cheers from his teammates and countrymen echo across the stage. With a third Pro Tour Top 8, Carvalho could finally clinch a victory and decisively carve his name into Magic history.

The Decks

Mountains and Swamps would settle who could keep fighting for the trophy.

Carvalho's deck was Red-Black Aggro, one of the many decks built on a core of powerful red creatures. The most prominent and powerful was Goblin Chainwhirler, which could wipe away opposing small creatures and combine with Soul-Scar Mage to impressive effect. Rekindling Phoenix and Scrapheap Scrounger both required removal that exiled them to stop permanently. The threats were backed up by an impressive set of options, including Abrade and Unlicensed Disintegration.

And under all of that, Bomat Courier would slide in attacks to ensure your hand could be reloaded. What more could you ask for?

Takimura answered that with a different take on the red-black options: Red-Black Midrange. Takimura too played Goblin Chainwhirler, Rekindling Phoenix, Scraphead Scrounger, and Abrade. But the superficial similarities ended there. Takimura looked to strengthen his long game with cards like Karn, Scion of Urza and Arguel's Blood Fast. Those extra cards could always be fed to Hazoret the Fervent for even more damage potential.

The ability to go long when it counted was an advantage of the midrange build—as his match against White-Blue Control earlier in the tournament proved.

The Games

As the top seed, Takimura opted to play first. While Carvalho was down a card from a mulligan, he was first to the battlefield with a Scrapheap Scrounger. Takimura's Pia Nalaar was quick to block, but his Rekindling Phoenix was an even better option on the next turn. Carvalho used an Abrade to dim the Phoenix for a turn before piling in with a second Scrapheap Scrounger.

Takimura's Unlicensed Disintegration slowed Carvalho a step, but a Disintegration of Carvalho's own stopped Takimura's Phoenix from making its return. After all the volleys each player was down to just one card in hand, though Carvalho held a 15-8 life advantage with a Scrounger still doing work.

Glorybringer was a formidable blocker for Takimura, who held it back to stem the tide of Carvalho's Scrapheap Scroungers. They passed back and forth for two pairs of turns. Takimura found a way to gain advantage first: Karn, Scion of Urza.

Takimura used Karn to crew Heart of Kiran, and from there he picked apart the Scroungers on Carvalho's side while attacking in the air. Carvalho couldn't keep creatures alive, and Takimura turned the table to take the first game.

Team Kusemono's Kazuyuki Takimura seems well-dressed for a red-black showdown.

For the second game, Carvalho again had Scrapheap Scrounger on the second turn—but this time followed it up with Goblin Chainwhirler on the third. Takimura used Pia Nalaar to slow the damage down a turn, looking for answers to the rising threats.

Carvalho wasn't having it and cast Rekinding Phoenix to force Takimura into finding more. Takimura's Walking Ballista for just two counters looked even weaker when Carvalho added—then exerted—Glorybringer on his next turn.

Takimura shook his head, then cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Goblin Chainwhirler.

"You're at 5 life?" Carvalho asked. Takimura nodded before the next attack—with Abrade to boot—ended the game not five minutes after it started.

Márcio Carvalho moves to block during quarterfinal action.

With the score even, Carvalho and Takimura went to their sideboards before the third game. This time Takimura had the second turn Scrapheap Scrounger to attack early, and Carvalho had a Pia Nalaar to slow it down. Such is the tit for tat exchanges between red-black decks.

Takimura's Goblin Chainwhirler was matched by Carvalho's Rekindling Phoenix, but Doomfall took care of it—at least until Carvalho had another Phoenix to follow. Abrade was Carvalho's answer for the Chainwhirler, and once Scrapheap Scrounger joined the fray, the race was on.

Takimura cast Karn, Scion of Urza, drawing extra cards to hope to handle Carvalho's third Phoenix of the game. Doomfall exiled another Phoenix, but Karn still fell and Takimura's life dropped to 7.

Glorybringer had kept the tide in Carvalho's favor.

Cut // Ribbons answered the Dragon for Takimura, but that was the end of the string of answers. With enough creatures to keep going, Carvalho took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup.

The fourth game was yet another a flurry of exchanges. Carvalho's second turn Scrounger met Takimura's Magma Spray. Then Carvalho's third turn Chainwhirler met an Abrade. Carvalho tried Rekindling Phoenix on the fourth turn, but Takimura had Doomfall.

But Takimura was stuck on lands as expensive cards filled his hand. That was all Carvalho needed to see to tie it up and force a deciding fifth game.

Carvalho played first again, and Takimura started with a mulligan. Second turn Scrapheap Scrounger was solid for Takimura, but Heart of Kiran from Carvalho was nothing to sneeze at. Pia Nalaar gave Carvalho enough power to crew the Heart, then Soul-Scar Mage followed by Goblin Chainwhirler gave Carvalho the creature advantage to take out Takimura's Karn, Scion of Urza.

Takimura tried Hazoret the Fervent, but with Soul-Scar Mage out a Chandra's Defeat from Carvalho cleared that threat. Takimura's Rekindling Phoenix met a delay from Unlicensed Disintegration as Carvalho added Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to his full battlefield.

The two red-black decks filled the battlefield as quickly as they could clear it.

Takimura's Cut // Ribbons on Pia Nalaar was enough to hold Carvalho back—though the Rekindling Phoenix continued Carvalho's creature march. They passed back and forth, neither in a position to attack, until Carvalho had a second Goblin Chainwhirler and the -1/-1 counters it gave creatures thanks to Soul-Scar Mage.

Takimura's defensive options diminished, and Carvalho struck in with his fleet: Heart of Kiran, Goblin Chainwhirler, Rekindling Phoenix, and Kari Zev. It was a tremendous attack. Takimura quickly checked his cards, then extended his hand. Carvalho couldn't contain his excitement and clapped his hands together in relief. The semifinals awaited.

Márcio Carvalho defeated Kazuyuki Takimura, three games to two.

After a deciding game five and a handshake, Márcio Carvalho (right) looked upward and onward.

Márcio Carvalho—Red-Black Aggro

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Kazuyuki Takimura—Red-Black Midrange

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