Finals Feature Match: Jon Finkel (USA) vs. Ben Rubin (USA)

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By Josh Bennett

History casts this match in a cruel light. Jon Finkel is "Mister First Place," having won the U.S. Championships, Worlds and the Invitational this year, whereas Rubin is "Mister Second Place," having done some stuff like that, too. He even suffered defeat at Finkel's hands in the finals of this year's Invitational, two weeks ago in Australia. For him, revenge would be sweet no matter how it was served.

Finkel has drafted an incredibly aggressive B/r deck with gobs of removal and quick creatures, even solid finishers in the form of Soul Burn and Ghitu Fire. Rubin's W/u/g deck is the polar opposite. With many tappers and quality blockers like Prison Barricade, he hopes to effect a ground stall and win with one of his three Glimmering Angels. He uses Armadillo Cloak and the sometimes-substandard Strength of Unity to make sure they can bust through any resistance.

Rubin mulliganed game one, but had a near-perfect six-card hand. By third turn he had a Prison Barricade and a Benalish Trapper, as well as all three types of basic land, while Finkel attacked in the air with Phyrexian Battleflies. Finkel stalled at three land, and watched while Rubin cast Stormscape Apprentice, and then, later, Glimmering Angel with blue mana to protect it. He dropped Strength of Unity on the Angel and smashed Finkel for five.

Finally, Finkel hit his fourth mana. With the Angel's untargetability keeping him from dealing with his immediate problem, Finkel developed his army with Ancient Kavu. Rubin sent the Angel in, Excluded Finkel's next play of Phyrexian Slayer and beat again, bringing him to five. Finkel cast Soul Burn on the Trapper to buy himself a turn, but it wasn't enough.

Rubin's sideboarding was somewhat unorthodox. He needed to bring in the amazing Obsidian and Crimson Acolytes, as well as Tidal Visionary and Orim's Touch. To do so, he removed the very slow Wayfaring Giant, but also his first-pick Thornscape Apprentice, and excellent blocker Prison Barricade. Finkel removed his Mournings and Maniacal Rages, bringing in two Cursed Flesh, Defiling Tears and Hypnotic Cloud. These would help against the tappers, as well as punishing Rubin's reliance on high-cost spells.

Finkel led game two with two Mountains, but found a Swamp and cast Cinder Shade on his third turn. Rubin developed his mana with the much-maligned Seashell Cameo while Finkel summoned Hate Weaver and Battleflies. Rubin cast a Glimmering Angel, and Finkel attacked him to thirteen.

Rubin had the Strength of Unity again, creating a vicious blocker and forcing Finkel to hold back. Neither player could break through. Rubin busted out a second Cameo and a Benalish Trapper. Finkel answered with Ancient Kavu.

And then Rubin dropped the bomb: Obsidian Acolyte. Now he could protect his other creatures from most of Finkel's removal. This meant that his Trapper and fresh-cast Stormscape Apprentice could lock up Finkel's army with impunity. As soon as the tappers were online he swung with the Angel and playing out another of his mocked cards, Horned Cheetah. Finkel looked at the protected tappers and seven points of beatdown, shaking his head.

"I've got to be honest with you: I'm not winning this game." - Jon Finkel

acing certain death next turn, Finkel Soul Burned Rubin, needing the life and unable to target Rubin's dudes. It was his only play to last an extra turn. Rubin swung again, and Finkel extended the hand.

Final Result: Ben Rubin defeats Jon Finkel 2-0 to become the Chicago Masters Series Champion

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