Rui Mariani has been long known as one of the best players in Portugal. He has numerous Grand Prix top 8 finishes and has played on the Tour a number of times, but this is the closest he's come to a Pro Tour top 8 so far. Much better known is his opponent, owner of Your Move Games stores Rob Dougherty. Dougherty pretty much invented Benzo (mono-black Reanimator) and very few people in the world have as much experience with the deck, so it is no surprise that his plan is to animate large men and attack with them this weekend. Mariani brought The Rock variant to the table.
Dougherty spent his first turn Tutoring for Reanimate. On turn two he pulled off the Entomb/Reanimate combo and suddenly Mariani's Bird of Paradise was being stared down by a Symbiotic Wurm. Wurm got Edicted away, leaving seven 1/1 creatures in its wake. Mariani then cast a Vampiric Tutor in response to Dougherty's Duress, showing him nothing but four lands. Pernicious Deed Mariani tutored for reset the board, leaving Dougherty with no non-land permanents in play and only ten life points to work with.
Playing off the top of his deck, Dougherty drew Exhume and put the Wurm back into play. Mariani kept playing lands and cast another Pernicious Deed. He was two turns away from being able to Deed for eight. He could also combo the Deed with another Edict to take out the tokens. To prevent that, Doughery cast Entomb getting a Nether Spirit into play.
Down to nine life points, Mariani had to use his Deed to kill Nether Spirit, and then Edict away the Symbiotic Wurm. That still left seven 1/1's to worry about. Dougherty used Last Rites to take the last card in Mariani's hand, but it was just a land. Mariani played the land on his turn, and cast a Bird he just drew. Nothing but Pernicious Deed would save him from dying on the following turn. He drew Recurring Nightmare instead, and conceded game 1.
Mariani opened with Bird of Paradise, and Dougherty cast a first turn Duress. Revealed were Cabal Therapy, Living Wish, and Coffin Purge as well as Spiritmonger and Swamp. Dougherty opted for Living Wish. Mariani's Cabal Therapy took out an Exhume and Dougherty's got rid of Spiritmonger. Mariani drew a Llanowar Elf, cast it and used the Bird to flash back Cabal Therapy and take out a Faceless Butcher. Finally, Dougherty closed off the "strip your opponent's hand" chapter of this game by Duressing and getting Mariani to cast Coffin Purge on the Faceless Butcher in response.
Doughery also made Mariani flash back Coffin Purge when he tried to reanimate his opponent's Spiritmonger. Having taken a few points of Elf beats, Dougherty looked ready to go on the offensive with Nether Spirit, but Mariani top-decked a Treetop Village a turn after Spirit entered play. The Spirit was now absorbing most of "Bobtown's" damage, allowing the Portuguese pro to deal one point per turn. Mariani soon drew Ravenous Baloth, now able to speed up the clock. He also Duressed Dougherty, finding Last Rites and a pair of Entombs. One Entomb down, Dougherty was still waiting for Exhume or Reanimate to "go off".
He did not have to wait very long. The very next card was an Exhume – an excellent draw for the American, who was running low on the life points. Dougherty animated a Visara. Mariani had an option of sacrificing Baloth for four life and putting it back into play. Instead, he chose to put Birds of Paradise back into play, perhaps in order to ensure that he could Deed for enough if he ever drew one.
Dougherty was quickly establishing control of the board. He cast Engineered Plague on Birds to take out a pair of them and used Visara to murder Ravenous Baloth. With Nether Spirit on defense, he was now able to race attacking for five points of damage against a single point of trample damage that Treetop Village could force through.
Mariani summoned Yavimaya Elder, only to have it trumped by Stronghold Taskmaster on Dougherty's side of the table. Although it made both Visara and Nether Spirit smaller, it forced Mariani to sacrifice the Elder right away and would be able to trade in combat with Treetop Village. That is precisely what Mariani did – attacking into the Stronghold Taskmaster. Dougherty had no problem trading. Dougherty's Duress got Mariani to cast Diabolic Edict in response, getting rid of Nether Spirit now that there were multiple creatures in the graveyard.
Down to seven life points, Mariani summoned a Spiritmonger – inviting Dougherty to spend a turn destroying it with Visara rather than attacking for five. At ten life himself, Dougherty had to settle for that option. One attack later and down to five life points, Mariani revealed the top card of his library face up, preparing to concede. It was a Living Wish. Once again hopeful, Mariani cast the wish and spent a while browsing through his sideboard to eventually come up with Spike Weaver. He attacked with Llanowar Elves and moved one of the counters to deal two points of damage rather than one. Mariani drew yet another in a long string of lands and was finally out of options.
Final Result: Dougherty 2 – Mariani 0