Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
(Wolf Run Ramp)
In a star studded Top 8, it was always going to be difficult for Japanese player Mamoru Nagai to dodge powerful players. In his quarterfinals he had faced Lukas Blohon and emerged victorious. For the semifinals, he was up against Blohon's teammate Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. While it might be Nagai's first time playing on a Pro Tour Sunday, the same can not be said for PV. With nine Top 8s in 30 attempts, PV is currently running 30% on making Top 8 at any Pro Tour he plays, a statistic that few can get close to. Fellow top 8 competitor Jon Finkel is batting only a little above 20%, and he is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time.
Mamoru Nagai took out Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's ChannelFireball teammate in the quarterfinals. Can he continue his winning streak in his first Pro Tour Top 8?
Each player began the match with not one, but two mulligans, an inauspicious start. Considering that the game began with a five card grip on each side though, the openings looked polished: a pair of copies of Rampant Growth from PV, and a single Rampant Growth followed by Ratchet Bomb from Nagai.
PV ramps up his mana-hungry deck early on, despite starting off with five cards.
The ramp just kept on coming from PV, who was able to power out Primeval Titan in short order. Nagai had a Solemn Simulacrum and Birds of Paradise, but less to use all his lands on poisonous attacks. PV cracked back with some Kessig Wolf Run powered poison attacks, and used Primeval Titan to come in for more regular damage. Without some sort of removal, Nagai looked on the ropes, apt to drop the first game fast. The answer the Japanese player found was a Grave Titan, bringing two Zombie tokens with it. These were little defense though as PV went to the air with Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run to secure the poison victory.
Mamoru Nagai 0, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 1
For the second game, Nagai had to mulligan yet again, while PV had a smile and a keep. "Finally!" he said with a smile, looking at a seven that he liked. In his 3-0 sweep of Jelger Wiegersma, PV had not had a lot of luck with seven card hands, though he was certainly not complaining about where his six card hands had got him.
Nagai ultimately went all the way down to four cards on the play, which seemed likely to be an insurmountable disadvantage in the second game. He did have a turn one Birds of Paradise though, and hit his first five land drops to enable a turn five Primeval Titan.
PV's start also included some acceleration in the form of Rampant Growth and Sphere of the Suns, meaning that he was quick to follow with a Primeval Titan of his own. The two titans traded (which worked out well for the aggressor, Nagai), after which the Japanese player played a Grave Titan.
The big plays just kept on coming, as PV cast Karn Liberated and used it to exile Grave Titan. Nagai was able to kill Karn with the Zombie tokens, once an Acidic Slime had destroyed the one Inkmoth Nexus PV had left back to block. Nagai looked ahead briefly, but PV still had more action. A Huntmaster of the Fells would soon mop up many of Nagai's creatures given the chance. Nagai had to get damage in where he could, using a Kessig Wolf run on his attacks to take PV to 9. Nagai, meanwhile, took his first damage of the game to go to 18 when Huntmaster of the Fells flipped.
PV's planeswalker liberates Nagai of some permanents.
PV wanted to ensure that his Huntmaster flipped as much as possible, and used an Ancient Grudge on Nagai's Sphere of the Suns, responding to it with another, to hit the two spells per turn requirement.
Nagai, with a Ghost Quarter in play, was comparatively safe from Kessig Wolf Run shenanigans in the second game, but Huntmaster of the Fells continued to be a threat. PV forced Nagai to crack it by pumping a Nexus which would otherwise be too dangerous to leave around. With Ghost Quarter gone, all sorts of big Wolf Run swings were possible. Nagai got stuck in to take PV to 5, while being on 12 himself.
An Acidic Slime from PV took out an Inkmoth Nexus on Nagai's side of the board. It looked that Nagai would be able to strike in for the final points of damage using Kessig Wolf Run and Solemn Simulacrum, but PV had one last trick up his sleeve. A Naturalize on Solemn Simulacrum after Nagai had gone for the full pump was enough to leave him tapped out and exposed to an alpha strike for lethal.
Mamoru Nagai 0, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 2
It was not until game three that Nagai got to keep a seven card hand, and he did so as PV took a mulligan himself. The Japanese player had acceleration in the form of Sphere of the Suns on turn two, while PV languished without green mana to achieve much in the way of acceleration early on. What he did have was Ancient Grudge for Sphere of the Suns, which could potentially be flashed back on a Solemn Simulacrum cast by Nagai the very next turn.
Finally, PV found the Forest to get his motor running. He used it to cast Rampant Growth, finding another Forest. By this point though, Nagai was casting Grave Titan. Not to be outdone, PV went for a Primeval Titan, bracing for impact on attacks the following turn.
Nagai takes to the driver's seat in the third game.
The impact was bigger than PV could handle as it turns out. While he was not in great shape with Primeval Titan in play, when a Go for the Throat killed it off, it was time for the Brazilian to drop his first game of the Top 8.
Mamoru Nagai 1, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 2
As Nagai took yet another mulligan, PV made a little roll of his eyes. While the Brazilian pro would almost certainly be happy that he had the edge of playing against an opponent with one less card, all that shuffling before the game was clearly wearing him down a little. Nagai went down to five, but both players started with a Rampant Growth, meaning that at least there would be some play in the game.
PV continued his acceleration with Green Sun's Zenith for Birds of Paradise, while Nagai's came in a Solemn Simulacrum. It seemed that both players would be at titan mana fairly fast. In an effort to make this reporter a liar, PV played Green Sun's Zenith for five, to find an Acidic Slime to destroy an Inkmoth Nexus on Nagai's side of the board. This was a mere speed bump in Nagai's mana development though, as Rampant Growth and Sphere of the Suns replaced it.
After a little thought, PV decided that merely casting a titan wasn't going to be good enough. He tapped seven mana and cast Karn Liberated, using it to remove one of Nagai's lands. He kept back Acidic Slime to block with, and didn't seem too disheartened to see a replacement Simulacrum coming down in short order from Nagai.
An Inferno Titan came from PV, who used Karn to start clearing out his opponent's hand. He couldn't get every card, meaning that Nakai was able to use Green Sun's Zenith to find Primeval Titan, but with Karn active, and the red Titan ready to get stuck in, PV was able to put Nagai on a very short clock. Nagai went from 17 to 3 in one set of swings and pumps. If Inferno Titan lived, it would all be over in one attack step.
Nagai dropped his hand on the table and extended his hand in a handshake.
Nagai succumbs to PV's onslaught, allowing the ChannelFireball player to move on to the finals!
Mamoru Nagai 1, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 3
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa win 3-1 and advances to the finals!