A year of competition. Dozens of Grand Prix and Magic Pro League matches and Mythic Players Tour rounds. Everything the 16 players at Magic World Championship XVI came down to this: Two finals players battling for the title of World Champion and the $300,000 prize that came with it.
It was the biggest moment in Magic history, and finalists Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Márcio Carvalho made sure it lived up to the hype.
Unbelievable finals coming up at #MTGWorlds. Two of the best if not the two best in the world right now playing off for the World Championship. Doesn’t get better than this.— Michael Sigrist (@MSigrist83) February 17, 2020
The finals was a matchup between two of the pre-tournament favorites. Carvalho is widely viewed as one of the best Limited players in the world, and Damo da Rosa is regularly mentioned as one of the best to ever play the game. It would be Damo da Rosa's Azorius Control against Carvalho's Jeskai Fires, and thanks to Damo da Rosa's dominant performance thus far—he had advanced directly to the Grand Finals by winning the most up to this point—he needed to win a pair of best-of-three sets, while Carvalho would need to win three.
In what may be the most memorable World Championship final ever, the unique format led to a showdown that went the absolute distance as the two played game after game, match after match, to determine the winner. For the biggest World Championship in the game's history, it was a fitting ending.
The first game demonstrated exactly why Damo da Rosa brought Azorius Control to the tournament. Carvalho played threat after threat, but the Tempo Storm pro had every answer.
It was a clinic in control.
The second game saw Carvalho fight back, resolving
Carvalho's back was up against the wall—he would need to win three straight matches to take the title. But he entered the tournament with a win-or-bust mentality, and he wasn't going to go down easily. He immediately stormed back in the second match, winning the first game thanks to a giant
And the comeback truly began.
The second game looked much like the first, and showed off the power of
Just like that, we had a match. Damo da Rosa may have been advantaged—both in the matchup and in the bracket—but Carvalho was going to go down swinging. He again found his back up against the wall when an instant-speed
But it wasn't meant to be. Starting on the play, Carvalho had his most aggressive start possible: two copies of
In the end, a desperate Damo da Rosa went searching for a
That brought it to a third game. A win for Damo da Rosa made him the World Champion, while a win for Carvalho would force a final match.
Once again the players traded early cards, but as Damo da Rosa struggled to find enough lands to use his resources Carvalho found an opportunity to go for it all: he played a
In an excruciating moment for the Portuguese pro, he missed. But when Damo da Rosa too missed what he needed on his own draw step, Carvalho took down the match anyway and forced a final deciding clash.
Any cushion Damo da Rosa might have relied on was now gone: The winner of the final match would become the next Magic World Champion.
The first game played out like most of the duo's firsts—both players deployed threats and the board slowly ground to a stall. Damo da Rosa had
But board stalls almost always favor the control deck, and when Damo da Rosa hit an incredible three cards off
Magic is a game of calculated risks, and it's a fundamental truth that games will be won and lost on those risks. Sometimes, entire matches or tournaments will be. And that applies to the World Championship as well.
That's what happened in the final game. Carvalho kept a hand with nearly everything he wanted —he had two copies of
Marcio’s 45% to hit red by turn 3. Think the keep wasn’t super atrocious (although probably still “correct” to ship), but feeling fatigued after like 9 bo3 matches vs the best players in the world is super reasonable.— Chris Mascioli (@dieplstks) February 17, 2020
Unfortunately, things don't always work out. Carvalho failed to find the land he needed, and as he drew uncastable five-drop after five-drop, Damo da Rosa steadily built a lead that a few turns later turned him into the World Champion, capping a career in which he's now won every title and accolade possible.
The conversation about the best Magic player of all time has been raging across the internet, and after the biggest victory of Damo da Rosa's career, it's hard to argue that he may have just earned that title.
"I started playing Magic when I was 8 years old, and you have no idea how many times I dreamed of this moment," an ecstatic Damo da Rosa said after the match. "I've gotten everything else but this moment, but finally I'm the world champion. Even people who don't play Magic know what that means. It's incredible."