After winning their respective quarterfinals, both (7) and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Yam Wing Chun found themselves playing yet another red mirror. Just to recap what was at stake, Damo da Rosa needed a win here to tie Márcio Carvalho to force a Player of the Year Showdown.
Or, he could just win the Pro Tour and secure that title outright.
One step at a time, though.
As for Yam, he reached Gold before even headed for Round 16, but admitted that he had only one shot at Platinum and a slot at the World Championship. Basically, every win here would gain him additional prize money, but only a Pro Tour victory could allow him to bag it all. In order to advance to the finals, he had to try his best in beating the titan across him.
While Paulo Vito Damo da Rosa was playing for a shot at Player of the Year, Yam was looking to go all the way to turn a great finish into something even better.
The dominance of Ramunap Red was felt even during the final throes of the tournament. Despite an overlapping core, there were obvious differences between the two builds. For example, Damo da Rosa's version had Abrade in place of Incendiary Flow, while Yam maxed that out and was also the only player to run the full four copies of Collective Defiance and Soul-Scar Mage in his 75. In addition, Yam chose to eschew Chandra's Defeat, a card which was effective against Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer, but not the most important.
In the end, it still boiled down to a certain red God.
“I don't think playing extra removal spells is the way to beat the mirror," Yam said. "In our playtesting with MTG Mint Card and MTG Bent Card, we wanted to maximize the amount of burn so that there's a lot of reach, and the most important card in the mirror was still Hazoret the Fervent."
In a sense, Damo da Rosa's build was the more “controllish” of the two, since he had the Pia Nalaar, Aethersphere Harvester, and Sand Strangler in the sideboard, and he was the one with the stronger late game.
Once both players were happy with their opening seven, Damo da Rosa busted of the gates with triple Falkenrath Gorger and Bomat Courier. Yam's copy of Falkenrath Gorger jumped in the way, while his Kari Zev, Skyship Raider was killed by Damo da Rosa's Abrade. Significantly ahead in terms of board position, Damo da Rosa pressed the advantage with Earthshaker Khenra, knocking Yam down to 10 life.
Since Yam was land-flooded, the best he could do was to summon Bomat Courier and attack with it before discarding two Mountains to try and catch up. However, in the face of Damo da Rosa's ballooning Bomat Courier (with four cards tucked away) and four other creatures, there was little Yam could do to recover.
Damo da Rosa keeps his cool, his twelfth Pro Tour Top 8 showing his experience playing on Sunday.
In Game 2, Yam led with a second-turn Soul-Scar Mage which Damo da Rosa tried to Shock. Yam responded with a Shock of his own, triggering Prowess and keeping it alive. A minor kerfuffle occurred when Yam pointed Incendiary Flow at Earthshaker Khenra. Since Soul-Scar Mage was on the battlefield, Incendiary Flow did no damage (putting -1/-1 counters instead) which meant that Damo da Rosa's Earthshaker Khenra could sit in the graveyard instead of being exiled. However, Damo da Rosa killed Soul-Scar Mage with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, only to have Yam's Bomat Courier take her down. With one card in hand, things looked terrible when Damo da Rosa presented Hazoret the Fervent. Yam sacrificed Bomat Courier for one card, in a desperate attempt to find his own Hazoret.
When Yam failed to do so, an eternalized Earthshaker Khenra mopped things up a turn later.
After sideboarding, both players had a slow start, which could only favor Damo da Rosa since his end game was stronger. Hoping for the quick kill, Yam opened with Falkenrath Gorger, and pointed Shock at his opponent when he had no turn two play. Ahn-Crop Crasher was next, but Damo da Rosa burnt it with Abrade, before untapping to summon a turn-three Pia Nalaar.
Nonetheless, Yam continued to press damage, even if it meant the loss of card advantage. Collective Defiance on Pia Nalaar and trading away the Thopter token restored the board to nothing, but not for long.
Damo da Rosa summoned Hazoret the Fervent with four cards in hand. Playing a couple of lands and offloading a couple of removal spells, Damo da Rosa finally reduced his hand size down to one, which meant Hazoret was online from every single turn going forward.
2016-17 was the first season Yam achieved Gold in the Pro Club. Two more wins would upgrade that to Platinum.
However, since Yam was able to press a lot of damage in the early game, Damo da Rosa was down to 2 life, and Ramunap Ruins from Yam was able to steal the game from the jaws of death.
In Game 4, Yam's Falkenrath Gorger, Earthshaker Khenra, Ahn-Crop Crasher, and Soul-Scar Mage all met with Damo da Rosa's burn spells. Stuck on two lands, he could only put up Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to buy some time. Meanwhile, Yam arrived at six lands, but found nothing to do with all that mana.
Except eternalizing Earthshaker Khenra, of course.
When Damo da Rosa found a third land, he offered Pia Nalaar to chump block, but Yam used Collective Defiance and Incendiary Flow to clear the way for his 4/4 Zombie Jackal Warrior. With double Ramunap Ruins and double Sunscorched Desert on the battlefield, winning was inevitable, but the process was accelerated when Yam drew a second Collective Defiance. I hear that Searing Blaze was pretty good in these matchups.
Coming back from an 0-2 start, Yam managed to equalize the score. Damo da Rosa would be on the play in the deciding game, which could prove to be the advantage he needed.
Damo da Rosa Shocked Yam's Falkenrath Gorger before summoning Earthshaker Khenra to crash in for 2 damage. Yam mirrored that play, and the race officially began. However, Pia Nalaar messed up the combat math. Yam summoned Ahn-Crop Crasher, but Damo da Rosa killed it and counterattacked with his entire team, knocking Yam down to 8 life in a blink of an eye.
As Yam's chances slipped away, Hazoret the Fervent came a little too late, but better late than never. Another all-out attack knocked Yam down to 4 life, as Damo da Rosa sat at a comfortable 11 life.
But in this matchup, 11 life is never quite enough, especially when facing down Hazoret the Fervent with no blockers. Yam was holding Incendiary Flow, and when Yam top-decked Collective Defiance, the crowd roared wildly! 5 damage from Hazoret, combined with six damage from Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance was exactly enough to beat Damo da Rosa.
However, in the midst of his overexcitement, Yam made a huge blunder.
Forgetting to cast the sorceries before combat, Yam declared attackers, only to have Damo da Rosa stop him, saying that he had two cards in hand. Since Yam had already moved into the combat step, there was no way for him to go back to his first main phase.
Sensing death, Damo da Rosa held back both his creatures and five mana, for two activations from Ramunap Ruins would do the trick. When Yam failed to draw a relevant spell to recover from his blunder, all Damo da Rosa had to do was sacrifice Sunscorched Desert to Ramunap Ruins and hope for any land, any direct damage spell, or any two-or-greater-powered haste creature.
When Damo da Rosa flipped over Chandra, Torch of Defiance to lock in the final 2 damage, Yam extended the hand and wished Damo da Rosa good luck in the finals.
It was a painful and unexpected ending, but without anything left, Yam offered the handshake, as Damo da Rosa continued his pursuit of Player of the Year.
After the match, Yam retreated to a silent corner and wiped his tears away before sharing some of his heart-felt thoughts with us.
“If you had asked me before this weekend whether I would have been happy with a Top 8 performance, the answer would be a resounding yes," he said. "I could have advanced better if I played better, but the Top 4 has exceeded my expectations to begin with. I'm just truly, truly sorry to have let my teammates down."
The Pro Tour has been the highest pinnacle of professional play for over two decades, and it is also where the lights shine the brightest. This incident served as a reminder that experience counts for something, and the ability to remain composure even in the most dire of times can lead to a victory. A warrior must be calm in the thick of a battle, and Yam's story will serve as a life lesson as he matures as a Magic player.
Storms make people stronger and never last forever. As Yam was whisked away by friends and teammates, we are confident that he will return much stronger. Meanwhile, Damo da Rosa demonstrated why he is one of the game's very best, as his composure let him weather the storm to move on.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa defeats Yam Wing Chun 3-2, advancing to the finals!