As the Race for Draft Master nears the finish line, Márcio Carvalho is out in front by a nose and a hair, probably a nose hair. Right behind him is Christian Calcano, who would be battling Brock Parker on a nearby table. Carvalho will also be leading the Portugal National team at the World Magic Cup later this year. Evan Esposito, playing in his first Pro Tour after winning a Magic Online qualifier, took a seat across the table from Carvalho.
"One more win [across two rounds], I think I win Draft Master 99.9%," Carvalho explained as they shuffled up.
Carvalho set the pace of the match with his green-white deck by attacking early with a Thraben Inspector and a Lambholt Butcher. Esposito's red-white deck tried to hide behind a Thermo-Alchemist and a Nearheath Chaplain, but Carvalho took out the Chaplain with Angelic Purge.
Evan Esposito was forced to rebuild his board after the Purge.
Esposito struck back with a full-strength Collective Defiance on the Butcher and flushed his hand for a better one. Carvalho continued his attack with a Might Beyond Reason on his Thraben Inspector, and rebuilt his team with Geist of the Lonely Vigil and a Lone Rider. When Carvalho flipped the Rider with a Borrowed Grace a few turns later, Esposito could not recover.
Both players mulliganed going into Game 2. Esposito was the first to come over the top of the horde of creatures on either side with Assembled Alphas. Carvalho read the card.
"Is that for every creature that blocks it?"
"Yeah, did you see LSV's play yesterday?" Esposito asked, referencing the match where Luis Scott-Vargas played Give No Ground on his Alphas and blocked seven incoming attackers, dealing 21 to his opponent.
As Carvalho conferred with a judge, Esposito jokingly whispered to me, "I hope it blocks with everything!"
Unfortunately for Esposito, Carvalho only blocked with It of the Horrid Swarm and threw a Woodcutter's Grit into the mix to ensure they traded. Both players continued to play out creatures, but Esposito again had the upper hand, Carvalho's eyes going wide as Esposito tapped his Cryptolith Fragment for green.
"Oh, that can't be good."
Sure enough, it was not good for Carvalho. Esposito played Sigarda, Heron's Grace and soon overran Carvalho.
Márcio Carvalho stares down the competition.
As they shuffled for Game 3, Christian Calcano's match against Brock Parker behind them concluded with a victory for Parker. Unbeknownst to Carvalho, the race for Draft Master was practically within reach.
Esposito mulliganed again and Carvalho made him work for it by feeding a Dawn Gryff to It of the Horrid Swarm on turn four. Esposito fought back valiantly, taking the Swarm down with Borrowed Hostility and playing a Faithbearer Paladin.
Carvalho was now on the back foot, with little in play to rival Esposito's Paladin. Down to just 10 life, Carvalho played a Lone Rider and clawed his way back into the game with a Might Beyond Reason to flip the Rider. Suddenly, Esposito was facing down a 6/6 first strike lifelink trampler, and Carvalho's life total was climbing above 20.
Faith Unbroken from Esposito reset the Rider to its factory settings, but Carvalho had Borrowed Grace to again set it to dangerous. Esposito found his Sigarda, Heron's Grace, but it wasn't enough and Carvalho took the match.
Márcio Carvalho defeats Evan Esposito 2–1.
Once Carvalho had heard Calcano's match result, he leapt from his chair with a jubilant cry, having locked up the race for Draft Master for this season.