Keys to Our Success -Remember the Prophecy?-

Sebastian Pozzo

Sebastian Pozzo

Hello to everyone, this time I’m here to bring you the story of how this happened in Grand Prix Santiago 2018:

Pozzo, Salvatto and Lucas

Sebastian Pozzo, Luis Salvatto and Lucas Esper Berthoud
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

So, for the very first time since I started playing this game, I had the delight to come back home with a trophy. I won’t focus much on the games since I think that’s pretty boring to read, but I will tell you what I think where the keys to our success and some fun anecdotal content.

So, let’s start from the beginning: why did we team up together? Well this comes to months ago, the three of us are in the same team for the Pro Tour Team Series (Hareruya Latin) and since the formation of the team we have decided that we would be playing together for the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary (and Thiago Saporito, Carlos Romao, Marcio Carvalho would be in the other team).

Luis Salvatto

Image Copyright:Wizards of the Coast

I’ve played with Luis Salvatto a couple times and we are very good friends, but none of us had experience playing with Lucas Esper Berthoud.

Lucas Esper Berthoud

Image Copyright:Wizards of the Coast

So, we thought doing some teams Grand Prix prior to the Pro Tour would be perfect to start gaining confidence and ensuring we would feel comfortable in terms of communication during the tournaments.

In high level teams, usually players don’t help each other about in-game decisions other than mulligan or keep. I believe this is mostly because it’s very hard for someone who doesn’t have the exact information about the sequence of all the actions of the game to be more certain of a play than the one who was actually playing the game. Maybe when your opponent is in “topdeck mode” it can be good to consult of teammate’s opinion, but usually it isn’t when they have cards in hand. However, I was more interested in us working as a team in terms of being supportive when we lose, helping each other if someone punted a match and be able to carry on, etc.

So, before going into the tournament I will tell you about “the prophecy” and the pre-game hype.

Our friend and teammate bolov0(Thiago Saporito) put in some spice the week before the tournament and loyal to my style I kept it humble and realistic. However, I knew we had a very good team, Luis is in his best moment ever:

As preparation we didn’t do much specific testing for trios. Only some online simulated online pools and some with paper cards. We relied on what we already knew by testing the format for the Pro Tour and applied the general “trios theory”. Where you know you will face a higher density of bombs, not many decks will lack a decent curve, etc.

Grand Prix Santiago 2018

Day 1

So, into the tournament. We opened a medium pool I would say. Red was unplayable with only 1 《Bombard》, 1 《Reckless Rage》 as good cards (we had 1 《Forerunner of the Empire》 with no good targets). Green was also quite weak beyond 《Tendershoot Dryad》. Lucky for us we had some Merfolk cards that we could mix with some blue Pirates to make a decent UG deck that I piloted:

Draft Deck 1

Sebastian Pozzo – “UB” (Day 1 Sealed)

The deck played fine, the strategy was clear: don’t fall behind and keep the pressure. 《Forerunner of the Heralds》 + 《Tempest Caller》 is an amazing piece of technology that closed many games after my opponent started to stabilize.

The second deck was the perfect deck for Luis:

Draft Deck 2

Luis Salvatto – “UW” (Day 1 Sealed)

This deck was full on Ascend mode. We decided to not make full use of card advantage (check 2nd 《Secrets of the Golden City》 and 《Kumena's Awakening》 in the sideboard) since we thought that the deck was already well packaged against slower decks and would suffer more against aggressive decks that would force you to trade and make it harder for us to Ascend. It was basically a “combo” deck where all you needed is to make a 3/3 Hexproof Lifelink Unblockable and survive until it gets the job done.

Lucky for us it turns out most of the times the most experienced player in our opponent teams played the more controlish deck in the middle, and Luis won a lot of “mirror matches” where he did a lot of sideboarding. Once he was crushed game one by a UW Ascend that splashed green for not one but two 《Tendershoot Dryad》. There the 4 red cards made an appearance alongside card draw and reverted the match.

There the 4 red cards made an appearance alongside card draw and reverted the match.
Twilight ProphetElenda, the Dusk Rose

As for Lucas I’m sorry I don’t have the pictures of his decks, but in day one he had a very solid Vampire deck with not many Vampire synergy but a good amount of black removal and 《Twilight Prophet》 and 《Elenda, the Dusk Rose》 as the fancy mythics.

Our losses came in round 4 and 6. In round 5 Lucas had a game loss due not de-sideboarding properly from the last match and mana screw game 2 but Luis and I carried without problems and showed no weakness to support our teammate. In round 4 Luis took his only loss of the day to a very good Merfolk deck with the mentioned “combo” of 《Forerunner of the Heralds》 + 《Tempest Caller》. It was a bit frustrating for me because I won my match that round.

Forerunner of the HeraldsTempest Caller

In round 6 both Lucas and I lost, and we played the last 2 rounds of the day thinking that a loss would mean to be out of the tournament. But that turned out not being true since something strange happened by the end of the day, it turns out the rule to make the cut to day 2 is the following: “Every team with 18 points or more advances, but also all players in top 40 or tied in match points with 40th advance”.

And with a field of 262 teams the team in 40th place had 15 points and therefor all teams with 15 match points made the cut. In my opinion this was the big fault of the organization of this GP, since a lot of teams dropped out after being X-3 and it must have felt really bad for all those who specially dropped at 4-3. They bearly announced it and it was not even clear.

Lucky for us we won the last 2 rounds and advanced at 6-2 knowing we had to crush on day 2 to make the cut to Top 4.

A highlight from the end of the day: Lucas was playing against a GWR Dinosaur ramp deck with a much stronger late game.

Arterial Flow

Twice on the draw he sideboarded in 《Arterial Flow》, with the reasoning that the ramp deck would need every resource to lay out his Dinosaurs. On those games, 《Arterial Flow》 discarded: 《Burning Sun's Avatar》, 《Sun-Crested Pterodon》, 《Zetalpa, Primal Dawn》 and 《Zacama, Primal Calamity》.

Burning Sun's AvatarSun-Crested PterodonZetalpa, Primal DawnZacama, Primal Calamity

Not bad!

Day 2

Day 2 provided an amazing pool. We opened a ton of bombs, and even a bad rare like 《Mastermind's Acquisition》 was able to search for a 《Tetzimoc, Primal Death》 in Lucas’ BW. And our checklands from Ixalan served a good manabase to splash the 《Huatli, Warrior Poet》 in Luis’ UW. For me, I played with this pure power:

Draft Deck 3

Sebastian Pozzo – “RG” (Day 2 Sealed)

Not only had great beasts but also two 《Reckless Rage》 who did some absurd tempo+card advantage.

Luis played this UW on day 2:

Draft Deck 4

Luis Salvatto – “UW” (Day 2 Sealed)

This deck had a much better defense than the one from day 1, the only card that didn’t make much sense was 《Territorial Hammerskull》, it’s likely that Lucas should have played it.

I don’t have his deck, but it was yet another time a BW Vampire without much Vampire synergy. This time the lack of a lot of good removal was compensated by 《Tetzimoc, Primal Death》 + 《Acquisition》, and Lucas himself felt that the deck was quite better than the one from Saturday.

Tetzimoc, Primal DeathMastermind's Acquisition

A highlight from day 2 was in an early round game 3, on the draw, against a much stronger deck, Luis took a calculated risk and kept a hand with a single land and no card that cost less than 3. We estimated on the fly he had less than 35% to find two lands in the first three steps. However, the spells he did already have were perfect for the matchup, and based on the last two games he felt he wouldn’t to be able his opponent’s bomb heavy deck with an average 6-card hand. He ended up drawing the lands and we won the match!

All that being said let’s go back to the prophecy. We were 4-0, loving our chances. On the other hand, my friend Saporito alongside Willy Edel and Juliano Gennari Souza were 2-2 after crushing day 1 undefeated (8-0).

I went to talk to Saporito before pairings are posted and told him I really wish we don’t have to play the next round, and he replied:

Saporito talk

No worries, we both win next round and then get paired in the last one for an intentional draw”

We shaked hands, and that was exactly what happened.

So, while we had lunch it turned out for no one’s surprise Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – Carlos Romao – Guilherme Medeiros Merjam won their win and in and the Top 4 was super stacked. I didn’t do the math but someone else did it: 5 Platinum, 2 HoF, 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 5 Pro Tour titles, 22 Pro Tour Top 8s, 16 GP wins, 45 GP Top 8!

Also, a big shout out for the first time a team of 3 player from Bolivia make the Top 4 of a team event.

A nice little troll occurred when we found out all 5 attending players from our team Hareruya Latin had made the cut in 3 different teams, and the 6th (Marcio Carvalho, limited specialist) decided to play constructed in Grand Prix Madrid 2018 instead:

Of course, Madrid is 10 times closer to his hometown than Santiago, so there’s that.

Going to Final -Remenber the Prophecy?-

Going into a competitive team draft for the very first time in my life it turns out all I know is “counterpick true bombs and value rough power a bit more than synergy”. This is because whatever you pass, your teammates’ opponents can take it, and synergy could be more difficult to make it pay off since there are 6 less packs to be opened in the table.

But before we started to draft my good friend Saporito came and told me,

Saporito talk

Remember the prophecy? If we play in the finals we are going to win”

And I replied,

Pozzo talk

“Ok, but if we play in the finals against the other team we can take it down”

He agreed and we shook hands again.

So, into the draft my pack 1 pick 1 was waiting with a nice Vampire lord(《Legion Lieutenant》), and despite I knew a 6 pod won’t be able to support two Vampire drafters I took it because it was just better than anything else. I was very lucky I guess because I was finally the only Vampire deck in the table and my deck was very good:

Draft Deck 5

Sebastian Pozzo – “BW” (Semifinals Draft)

However I played against a grindy UB control. Game 1 I won, but game 2 I started to flood and the game went very long. I ended up losing without lands in my deck and only 3 or 4 cards in my opponent’s library. By that time Lucas had lost his match but Luis had won with this not very good deck:

Draft Deck 6

Luis Salvatto – “RG” (Semifinals Draft)

I like the fact that the deck made good use of 《Aggressive Urge》 which usually doesn’t make the cut in good decks. The lack of 3 drops was it weakest point by far, alongside one being that bad equipment.

So, into game 3 of my match it was 3 vs. 3. I had a good start curving 2, 3, 4 on the play. Then he had a little tempo swing negating an 《Impale》 of mine, but a second closed the deal and we were into the finals!

There was Saporito and his Squad ready to battle and he obviously reminded about what we had talked about. We had some laughs but deep inside of me I really wanted to win. Of course, a 2nd place was already fantastic for me, but once about to play the finals I had nothing to lose. Also, it was not just me, I had the great company of Luis and Lucas who are natural champions and they would never resign the taste of simply finishing on top of all.

That being said I started the draft with 《Waterknot》 and in that very same pack a 《Sailor of Means》 wheeled giving me the signal that blue was very open. I tried to make a good Ascend deck but I didn’t get the finishers but instead picked some aggressive cards. So, the deck ended up being ok, but without making much sense since it was half aggro cards half defensive cards, at least the aggro cards had evasion:

Draft Deck 7

Sebastian Pozzo – “UR” (Finals Draft)

Luis this time had good cards but he had to play 3 colors:

Draft Deck 8

Luis Salvatto – “RWB” (Finals Draft)

And Lucas had what he thought was a poor GW deck, but he was very lucky that his opponent Saporito was also playing GW but with a slightly lower curve.

As I started to play I got crushed by Willy’s fast BR Pirates deck. I guess I should have asked better to my teammates what cards Willy could have and figure he would have an aggro deck and build mine better prepared for aggro.

However, in game 2 Willy mulliganed a lot and with a decent start from me he had no chances.

By the time we were finishing game 2, Lucas had already won his match because Saporito drew way too many lands. And Luis and Juliano were into game 3. Juliano stumbled on lands and Willy and I didn’t even start to play game 3 because if they didn’t draw land soon it was going to be over. When he fails to draw land, he asks Willy what he should play, and Willy simply makes the handshake gesture, it was over.

Even though I had never experienced it before it was something I was dreaming about and knew how great it would feel. Putting so much effort into something you love and then getting all of that back it’s an amazing experience. What really doesn’t cease to impress me is how amazing is to encourage other players from your country and region to do well, and how happy they are for you every time you have a good result. So once again thanks everyone for the support!

I hope you enjoyed reading and see you next time!

Pozzo

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