Heading into Sunday at Magic World Championship XXVI, two players stood out above the rest thanks to a weekend of dominance. Both Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Márcio Carvalho had sliced their way through the competition—Carvalho without losing a single match all weekend—and now found themselves just win shy of advancing to the Grand Finals.
In front of a live audience in Honolulu and tens of thousands more fans online, the duo played three close games. The winner advanced, while the loser would fall down into the lower bracket to face either Seth Manfield or Gabriel Nassif.
Damo da Rosa said it best in his postgame interview: there are several different "games" that the two decks could play against each other. Games that revolved around Fires of Invention. Games that came down to Teferi, Time Ravelers. Games that became about Archon of Sun's Grace. It's a sign of a healthy matchup with a lot of play to it, and both players were plenty prepared for whatever might unfold.
The first was all about Fires of Invention. After the players traded spells early – including Damo da Rosa forced into using a Banishing Light on Teferi – the door was wide open for Carvalho to resolve Fires of Invention along with a follow-up Cavalier of Gales.
Forced into being reactive, Damo da Rosa took out the Cavalier with Shatter the Sky, but that only left the board open for Carvalho to continue applying pressure. Dream Trawler plus Kenrith, the Returned King for Carvalho meant he could get a big chunk of damage in, and while a second Shatter the Sky gave Damo da Rosa hope, a second hasty Kenrith handed the first game to Carvalho.
On the back foot, Damo da Rosa took a calculated risk with his hand in the second game. He kept a two-land hand featuring Temple of Enlightenment and Castle Ardenvale. He had The Birth of Meletis to find another land, but he needed an untapped land off the top of his deck in order to deploy it on time.
Fortunately for the Hall of Famer, Field of Ruin was waiting, and that unlocked his hand. He countered Legion Warboss and then removed Teferi with Banishing Light. Damo da Rosa followed up with Archon of Sun's Grace, and when all Carvalho could muster with his Fires of Invention was his own Teferi, Damo da Rosa had the window he needed to take over. Banishing Light removed the Fires and thanks to the Archon came with a Pegasus, the Brazilian had control.
Carvalho tried to fight back with a hasty Cavalier of Flame to pressure Damo da Rosa's planeswalkers, but when a second Archon hit the board it ended the game and sent the pair into a decider.
After two wildly back-and-forth games, the third was a much more straightforward affair, the full depth of Damo Da Rosa's plan was clear. Carvalho had Teferi into Fires of Invention, but he couldn't find enough payoffs for all the mana he had unlocked. He was able to knock Damo da Rosa down to 9 life with a hasty Kenrith, but Damo da Rosa had the perfect response with Elspeth Conquers Death as an answer and Archon of Sun's Grace as a threat.
Between games, Damo da Rosa had already removed most of his reactive counterspells, like Dovin's Veto, to instead overload with threats like Archon of Sun's
Grace. Thanks to extra action that was already sorcery speed, Damo da Rosa could "ignore" Teferi and threaten Carvalho directly. When all Carvalho could draw was another land, he conceded and congratulated Damo da Rosa on advancing to the Grand Final.
Now just one round away from earning his first World Championship, Damo da Rosa opened up about his mindset as he looked toward the finals of the biggest Magic tournament of his life.