It's a bit difficult to predict how well Jon Finkel will do with any given Pro Tour. A few years back, he was considered the best player in the world, and anything short of Top 8 was a disappointment. In recent years, he seemed to lose some motivation for the game, and missed a fair share of Day 2's. In fact, Finkel fell off the gravy train a few months back, and was only qualified for Chicago on rating. After not playing for well over a month, he showed up and made it to the Semifinals. The odd thing is, one would think that Jon can simply win when he's motivated enough to care, yet Chicago proved that he has the talent to just show up and dominate.
At Pro Tour Chicago after the first round had ended, Finkel and Kai Budde were in catering having lunch with the rest of the Top 8 and event crew. They would face each other for the first time in a Top 8, and for about ten minutes, lighthearted, sarcastic trash talking went back and forth. It became apparent that Finkel really wanted to win, but knew his chances were slim since Kai's deck was just better. The question is, did Finkel's motivation carry over to Yokohama, or did it only last for one Sunday in Chicago as Finkeltron wanted to prove that he could defeat the German Juggernaut who took his spot as the best player in history? So far, it seems that the Finkel of old is back. He swept his first pod 4-0, and is in prime position to be one of the leaders heading into tomorrow.
The second pack contained Snarling Undorak and Sparksmith, and after some brief contemplation, Finkel stayed on target and took the Undorak. Second pick was unimpressive, as the best card available was Screeching Buzzard. Barkhide Mauler followed third, and a pair of Wirewood Elves fourth and fifth. As Onslaught finished up, he got a total of three Tranquil Thickets as well as three Murkdivers to dominate any black decks after sideboarding. In Legions, Finkel opened Skinthinner, which gave him some badly needed removal. He took Sootfeather Flock second over Stonewood Invoker and Berserk Murlodont, and Spectral Sliver came third. From this point, good green cards kept coming. Canopy Crawler was drafted fourth, Krosan Vorine fifth, Needleshot Gourna sixth, and Nantuko Vigilante and Hundroog towards the end of the pack. Finkel was also happy to see Krosan Cloudscraper come back tenth.
(We sit down, and Finkel starts talking immediately.)
Finkel: The guy to the left of me (Tom Kelleher) totally took a good card from me. He looked at the pack, kind of shook his head and gave me the evil look like "I can't believe I'm going to pass you this. I opened up nothing for me and there's this good card here." He looks at me again, takes a card, puts it back, and there was nothing in there when it got to me. He took a card that was great for my deck and totally unplayable for him.
(Kelleher actually opened a very mediocre pack, and took Wooded Foothills as a first pick, which was the best card in the pack for his red/green deck. He was shaking his head because he couldn't believe he was going to first pick the land.)
Finkel: Is Shock better than Silklash Spider? I wish I had taken the Shock, although my deck is pretty good.
Sideboard: I was surprised that you took Thrashing Mudspawns so early. When you took the first one there was a Pinpoint Avalanche, Wirewood Elf...
Finkel: I wasn't going to take the Pinpoint Avalanche because I passed (Kelleher) Shock, so he was definitely going red. Maybe I should have taken the Elf, I don't know.
Sideboard: Well the Mudspawn pretty much put you into black.
Finkel: I was going into black. I passed him a Shock, so I know he's 100% red. I took green cards for the first few picks, and if I'm green I want black for my second color. I don't want white or blue.
Sideboard: Do you like the Mudspawns a lot?
Finkel: I mean he's okay. He's not bad. He'll be good in my deck because I've got a lot of big creatures and he's fast.
Sideboard: Tusker over Mauler, you just like it better?
Finkel: I guess. Is Mauler better?
Sideboard: I actually don't know.
Finkel: I thought Tusker was better, I don't know. I like having two Elves, two Tuskers and three cycling lands. My mana is going to be good.
Sideboard: Were you actually thinking about taking the Sparksmith when you opened the second pack?
Finkel: No, I can't take the Sparksmith obviously. I would have liked to. I don't know if this was the right pick (Sootfeather Flock over Stonewood Invoker). I wanted some flyers because I'm green/black, and there were three decent green cards, so I figured if I took the Flock that one of the green cards would come back. I got the Cloudscraper back, which I think is pretty good in my deck.
Sideboard: The green seemed to keep coming in Legions.
Finkel: Well I was getting a lot of green in the first pack, so I knew I'd get it in the third pack. I was taking a lot of black so that the guy next to me wouldn't take it. I wanted to get black in the second pack, but I didn't get much. The next best color would have been red, but I was taking green cards instead.
Sideboard: How do you think you'll do with this?