Draft 1: Jon Finkel
Jon Finkel and the Table of Death

Posted in NEWS on January 5, 2016

by Randy Buehler

Every Pro Tour draft seems to have one "killer" table with more than its fair share of name players. At Worlds on Thursday morning, table four was the killer table to end all killer tables. Seven PT regulars (including 6 with Top 8 experience, 3 PT champs, and 2 Players of the Year) sat down with one guy from Korea. Around the table it went Jon Finkel, Dan Clegg, Sang-Seok Lee, Zvi Mowshowitz, Kai Budde, Warren Marsh, Sigurd Eskeland, and then Terry Tsang. Wow. The gathered crowd felt that the only better table ever assembled was the one at the Draft Challenge in Orlando earlier this summer.

When Jon Finkel opened his first pack I'm sure he ran the gamut of emotions starting at exaltation and winding up with fear and dread. His rare was a beauty: Aerial Caravan, but his commons included both Waterfront Bouncer and Rishadan Airship. Clearly Finkel would get to draft a good blue card. However, there was no way for him to avoid sending a confusing message to his left and he might not be able to get much blue in Nemesis when the direction of the draft switched. Finkel quickly eliminated the Airship from consideration then took his time and finally decided on the (single-blue) Bouncer.

Pack two was remarkably similar. Terry Tsang passed him a pack where his choices were Drake Hatchling, Rishadan Airship, and Waterfront Bouncer! Finkel's decision was easy - Bouncer #2 - but now he had to suspect that Dan Clegg (on is left) would be drafting blue. With his third pick Finkel had to choose between Rishadan Airship and Ballista Squad. This pack confirmed a very clear signal from Tsang. Tsang was clearly handing blue to Finkel and Finkel was more than happy to play along. Meanwhile Ballista Squad continued on down the line.

The rest of Masques saw Finkel dip into black as his second color for Scandalmonger, Highway Robber, and Intimidation. He rounded out his blue with Saprazzan Outrigger and Counterspell. In case things weren't clear enough, Tsang passed him a playable blue card (Tidal Bore) 14th.

After Masques, I walked around the table to see what everyone else had drafted. Tsang took a first pick Squallmonger when he passed those three blue cards to Finkel. That makes a lot of sense even if he hadn't been feeding someone who he knew likes blue. Clegg, on Finkel's left, didn't touch any of those blue cards. He forced red/green from the get-go, selecting first pick Silverglade Elemental and then taking a Gerrard's Irregulars out of his second pack instead of that Aerial Caravan. He also took a Giant Caterpillar over the Airship in pack 3 and a Wild Jhovall instead of Ballista Squad. So those early blue bombs got passed on to Song-Seok Lee and then Zvi Mowshowitz.

At this point I figured Zvi was going to get wrecked since it must have looked like no one else wanted blue when he got passed 4th pick Aerial Caravan and 5th pick Drake Hatchling when in actuality the guy on his right and the guy three away were both heavily into blue. By the end of the draft, however, Zvi's deck looked amazing. Somehow, that Ballista Squad fell to him 6th and he then got passed two Dominates in Nemesis. He seemed delighted with the way his deck turned out, commenting that it looked like it could go 3-3 tomorrow (in block constructed).

On the other side of the table from all this action, Sigurd Eskeland was getting hooked up with an outstanding red/black deck. He opened Two-Headed Dragon and then got passed multiple good kill spells plus many solid creatures. He came up a few cards short in the end, but is reported to have 19 amazing cards.

Back to Finkel, his first Nemesis was pretty weak and all he got was a Submerge. He then solidified his black with Battlefield Percher and a couple of Vicious Hungers. Interestingly, five of his first six packs had Rootwater Commandos in them. He finally took one 5th and then got a gift 6th pick Rathi Intimidator and with his 8th pick he took Vicious Hunger #3. One of the Commandos came back, but the other three are all in Zvi's deck. Finkel does have three Vicious Hungers to kill them with, but those could be crucial if Zvi and Finkel play sometime in the next three rounds.

Prophecy went well for Finkel. He debated long and hard before taking first pick Withdraw over Plague Wind. He then took second pick Noxious Field over Agent of Shauku. I think in part he was worried about what might happen if someone else had the field against him and his two Bouncers. He then continued to neglect the Agent of Shauku by taking third pick Stormwatch Eagle instead of it. I think he planned to throw all his lands through his Bouncers and thus they wouldn't be in play to sacrifice to Agents. Fourth pick Coastal Hornclaw was nice and then 5th pick Withdraw made Finkel pump his fist. Sometimes it's good to be the king. With his 6th pick Finkel selected Chilling Apparition and then, somehow, a second Chilling Apparition feel into his lap 9th. Those Apparitions should be amazing given all the bounce in Finkel's deck. He can clear a path for it and then make his opponent discard the creatures that he's bouncing. (Bouncer/Scandalmonger isn't bad synergy either, by the way.)

All in all, Finkel's draft went extremely well. Many players could have been really hurt when so many good blue cards were opened around them, but Finkel's reputation as a blue player served him very well. It turns out that several other players on the other side of the table have amazing decks too so this will be a very interesting pod to watch for the next three rounds.