This was a crucial match for both sides. Australia had dropped its first round to Iceland, and Brazil had gotten an unfortunate draw with Slovenia. Only one of these teams would have a shot at the Top 16.
Australia and Brazil were down to the wire. Another loss would eliminate them from advancing to the Top 16.
Captains Justin Cheung and Willy Edel clashed in the middle seat, both playing aggressive decks. Cheung's Boros deck came out fast, but Edel's Rakdos weathered the storm and set up an overloaded Street Spasm for two that demolished Cheung's board. Brazil had scored the first game win.
Australia's Matt Anderson Selesnya deck had started out with an impressive beatdown force of Voice of Resurgence and assorted tokens. Enzo Real's Blue-Green-Black concoction eventually put up a defence and cleared out Anderson's hand with Down. Anderson needed to top-deck to punch through.
Sasha Markovic and Carlos Montenegro were forced to sit by and watch while they waited for a deck check. When it was over they dove in, and it was Markovic's Blue-Black-Green that had the early advantage thanks to Call of the Nightwing serving up a bunch of tokens. Montenegro's Orzhov deck had the ground locked, but he needed to stop the growing flier army.
Anderson may not have been able to break through, but he didn't seem to be in any danger. That is, until Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker hit play for Real. Anderson frowned at his conspicuous lack of fliers. When he failed to draw an answer, he conceded rather than give away the total contents of his deck. Brazil was up in two matches.
Team Brazil locks away a few quick games early on.
Cheung had better luck in the second game against Edel, his Hazada Snare Squad making it hard for Edel to defend. He was forced to keep his powerful creatures leashed to keep Cheung from running away with it.
Meanwhile Markovic was getting farther and farther ahead of Montenegro. Montenegro's life total was kept high thanks to extortion, but when Markovic started sacrificing tokens to his Undercity Informer he too conceded to preserve hidden information. Australia was finally on the board with a game win.
Another followed shortly, as Cheung's deck switched roles from aggro to control. He locked Edel out of attacks with Sunhome Guildmage and Court Street Denizen, and then a sideboarded Boros Battleshaper showed up to dictate victory.
Brazil wouldn't let these celebrations last. Real had played out a turn five Mirko Vosk in game two, and followed it with Putrefy on Crocanura, Anderson's only blocker. It attacked and milled two potential answers: Arrest and Gift of Orzhova. Another attack and then the seldom-seen third mode on Dimir Charm to make sure Anderson would draw a blank, and Brazil had taken the first match point.
Australia 0 - Brazil 1
The bad news kept on as Cheung stumbled on mana early for Game 3, and Edel's curve punished him.
Markovic looked to be in control of the second game. Vraska, the Unseen had taken care of Ogre Slumlord, and Montenegro's board looked anemic. So it seemed that it would all come down to Edel vs. Cheung.
Australia doesn't let go, effectively bringing the battle to a showdown between team captains.
Cheung had finally started to draw out of his predicament, thanks in part to Hazada Snare Squad doing its best roadblock impression, but then Edel played Carnage Gladiator. Cheung couldn't get anywhere against it, and it ground him down, giving Brazil overall victory.
Australia 0 - Brazil 2
Captain Willy Edel pre-empted the interview because of the burning question on his mind: did Iceland win? If Iceland defeated Slovenia, then Brazil would be locked up to advance to the Top 16 pools. Sadly, I had no information for him.
I asked him about their Sealed build. "We made two mistakes. I think we built two very good decks, but the third was just a train wreck. Since it was already bad, we should have made it even greedier, five-color instead of three. That was mistake number one," he said.
"Mistake number two was me playing the black-red deck. It makes sense, my match goes fast so that I can help my teammates. The thing was, our Orzhov deck was set up to play long, grinding games, and I play much faster than my teammates. Our draw in Round 1, the Orzhov games took so long that it ran out of time in Game 3. I think it would've won that game eventually, so if I had been playing it I would've been fast enough. That would give us a win instead of a draw."
Edel laughed. "These team events are so breathtaking. Look at me, talking so fast, I'm so pumped up. Every round is so intense. I'm so excited for our team."
The tone was naturally different over at Team Australia, now eliminated. It seemed like a tough way to go out, but the team wasn't grousing. "It happens," said Matt Anderson with a smile, "You know, it's just variance."
I asked Justin Cheung about his hand in Game 3. "It was two Plains, two Azorius Arrester, Hazada Snare Squad, Wojek Halberdiers and probably Electrickery. It's not ideal, but it's a keep. I was on the draw, and the Snare Squad is so important. He has a lot of three-power guys and it works on both offense and defense. Even if I missed, I had two early plays."