Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
On any day but Sunday, it doesn't get much bigger than this. Two of the players who have at time swapped back and for the title of best Magic player alive are paired together in Round 15 with a Top 8 berth within reach of both. Both Luis Scott-Vargas and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa were also near the top of the heap in the Player of the Year race. This match could easily decide the fate of who wins the yearly award.
And to make it even more intriguing, if that was even possible, the teammates were facing down in a mirror match with da Rosa at 12-2 and Scott-Vargas down a notch at 11-3.
This round's feature match arena was positively littered with kitties thanks to the fact that a number of teammates all sporting the same or similar Zoo decks were all paired at the top of the standings and seeing success. The Blue Zoo or CounterCat deck, updated from Pro Tour Philadelphia with Snapcaster Mage and Tribal Flames, was the most played deck at the top tables.
Two players (make that teammates), known as among the best players in the game, are pitted against each other in a fight to stay in Top 8 contention.
Da Rosa won the die roll and opted to play first with his lighting fast deck, but had to mulligan to six. Scott-Vargas kept his seven. Obviously, if you ask him.
"I already mulliganed twice this tournament, I can't go above my average," Scott-Vargas said.
Both players played Ravnica shocklands into Steppe Lynxes, and da Rosa's hit first for the full four off a Misty Rainforest into Stomping Grounds. He followed up with a fully powered Wild Nacatl.
Vargas had a similar turn, attacking for four with the Lynx and playing a Nacatl, but one-upping da Rosa with a second Steppe Lynx.
The Nacatls traded on da Rosa's next attack, but the Steppe Lynx hit for another four, dropping Scott-Vargas to 7. He then landed a 2/3 Tarmogoyf and a second Steppe Lynx of his own. The life totals stood at 10-7 in da Rosa's favor at the start of Scott-Vargas' third turn.
Another fetchland and another attack with both Lynxes drew a chump block from the Brazilian pro's newest Steppe Lynx. Scott-Vargas thought long, and ultimately declined to crack his Scalding Tarn and just hit for two, instead playing a Tarmogoyf and passing back.
Now it was da Rosa's time to pause and think. He played Scalding Tarn and attacked with just the Steppe Lynx, which killed the Tarmogoyf in combat, and followed up combat with a Knight of the Reliquary.
Now with life totals tied at 7, Scott-Vargas played another Scalding Tarn and attacked with both of his Steppe Lynxes, either of which could grow to 6/7. Da Rosa was forced to chump block with both his Tarmogoyf and Knight of the Reliquary. Scott-Vargas fetched up an untapped Blood Crypt and a tapped Breeding Pool before casting Kird Ape and falling to 3 from fetching.
Da Rosa's only response was Knight of the Reliquary and an empty hand, prompting the American to play yet another fetchland and attack with everything. Lightning Helix from Scott-Vargas let one Steppe Lynx trade with the Knight, and Kird Ape got through. Scott-Vargas now held a slim 6-5 lead, and da Rosa appeared to be out of gas.
Fortunately for him, the top of his deck was kind and provided a Lightning Helix to let him kill the Kird Ape and live through the next Steppe Lynx attack. Still, he was dead on board with no cards in hand and his opponent was all the way up at five life...
...which is exactly how much the Tribal Flames off the top of da Rosa's deck dealt.
Scott-Vargas 0, Vitor Damo da Rosa 1
Once again, Scott-Vargas kept while da Rosa went back to his deck for a new hand of six.
Scott-Vargas led with a temporarily tiny Wild Nacatl off Breeding Pool while da Rosa played a Scalding Tarn and passed back after some consideration.
Lightning Bolt killed the Wild Nacatl and da Rosa followed up with Tarmogoyf, only to watch it burn to Tribal Flames . Scott-Vargas also had a Nacatl to follow up, but in a similar turn of events, da Rosa cast Lightning Helix on the Nacatl and played his own.
Tarmogoyf came down for Scott-Vargas as a 4/5, but was quickly sent on a Path to Exile, and the Nacatl was finally able to attack, putting Scott-Vargas at 11 while da Rosa sat at 16.
Ranger of Eos, however, changed the math considerably as it fetched up two Wild Nacatl, or approximately the eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh Wild Nacatls cast this game. Snapcaster Mage on Lightning Bolt killed the Ranger and allowed da Rosa to attack Scott-Vargas to 6.
That forced Scott-Vargas to burn a Tribal Vlames on Wild Nacatl before casting the green one-drop for himself.
Finally, Scott-Vargas had a turn that broke it open. Lightning Bolt killed Snapcaster Mage and a Mage of Scott-Vargas' own revived Tribal Flames. That plus a Steppe Lynx left him hellbent, but put da Rosa way down to 4 life.
Da Rosa's top the deck yielded a Kitchen Finks, and it looked like he might top-deck his way back into the game, but Scott-Vargas had his own good draw, as Path to Exile cleared out the lone blocker.
Vitor Damo da Rosa 1 – Scott-Vargas 1
Both kept for the deciding game between two of the world's absolute best. And it would not disappoint, as this was one of the most back and forth, everything dies matches of Magic this coverage reporter has ever seen.
Many cats died to keep Luis Scott-Vargas moving toward a possible Player of the Year title.
Basically, both players played creatures and killed creatures in equal measure.
Scott-Vargas played Wild Nacatl, da Rosa played Tribal Flames on it.
Both players cast Tarmogoyf, one died to Tribal Flames and the other to Path to Exile.
Ranger of Eos from da Rosa found some Wild Nacatl, but died to Lightning Bolt. Knight of the Reliquary from Scott-Vargas took a Path to Exile.
Steppe Lynx and Wild Nacatl entered the battlefield for the Brazilian, but no lands left the Lynx inert, and Wild Nacatl died to a Lightning Bolt brought back by Snapcaster Mage. Meanwhile, a Tarmogoyf died to da Rosa's flashed back Path to Exile thanks to his own Snapcaster Mage. The the carnage continued when the Mages traded in combat the following turn.
Now Scott-Vargas made Ranger of Eos and cast one of the Wild Nacatls he searched up. Da Rosa still had a Steppe Lynx.
Oh, and life totals were 14-13 in favor of Scott-Vargas, entirely from lands up to this point.
More stuff died as Lightning Helix stopped a double block on da Rosa's fetchland-powered Steppe Lynx.
But then more stuff died in a hurry when dueling Deathmarks from both sides killed Tarmogoyfs over the next few turns as well as the Steppe Lynx.
Then, something happened. Da Rosa ran out of removal. A Wild Nacatl and Knight of the Reliquary had survived all of the carnage and started taking massive chunks out of da Rosa's life total.
When no more creatures and no more removal surfaced near the top of da Rosa's deck, he, finally, had to extend his hand to his teammate at the end of an epic battle that could eventually be looked back upon as a turning point in this weekend.
Scott-Vargas evens his record with da Rosa at 12-3 with three rounds remaining.
Scott-Vargas 2, Vitor Damo da Rosa 1
Luis Scott-Vargas's CounterCat
2011 World Championships - Modern
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's CounterCat
2011 World Championships - Modern