Quarterfinal - Anton Jonsson vs. Markku Rikola

Posted in Event Coverage on August 29, 2010

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

An all-Scandinavian quarter final sees Finland's Markku Rikola take on the potential Hall of Famer from Sweden, Anton Jonsson. While Rikola is in his first top 8, his opponent has an illustrious history. This is Jonsson's ninth Grand Prix top 8, and he has five Pro Tour top tables to go with it, highlighted by finishing second at Pro Tour Nagoya in 2005.

Rikola opened proceedings with a Plains, while Jonsson opened on Elite Vanguard, which traded the following turn for Rikola's Ajani Pridemate. Stormfront Pegasus and Infantry Veteran joined the Swedish team, and Jonsson's Island allowed him to Negate a Condemn. Siege Mastodon for Rikola was next, and Excommunicate sent it packing.

'Time Walk!' yelled Jonsson, sotto voce, before dropping his Finnish opponent to nine. Augury Owl hopefully sent some land to Jonsson's aid, although he was still attacking profitably. At six life, Rikola dropped Wild Griffin to stem the bleeding somewhat, but Jonsson had indeed sent a mana to the top of the deck. That meant four mana. That meant Ajani Goldmane. Suddenly everything got bigger, and Rikola was in a world of Planeswalker pain.

Anton Jonsson 1 – 0 Markku Rikola

Markku Rikola

Ajani's Pridemate opened game two for Rikola, with Jonsson taking to the air (and the top of his deck) with Augury Owl, joined by Cloud Elemental. Rikola was aggressive, with Pacifism for the Cloud Elemental, Black Knight hitting the battlefield, and both Ajani's Pridemate and a Palace Guard coming in, with Jonsson at fifteen.

Æther Adept bounced the Black Knight, before trading with Ajani's Pridemate, Rikola adding Nether Horror to his board, making efficient use of all his mana. Jonsson continued to nibble away with the Augury Owl, supported by Infantry Veteran. Howling Banshee shortened the clock, though, as Jonsson now stood seven to fourteen behind. Intriguingly, he used Excommunicate to deal with the Banshee, then cast Stormfront Pegasus. Clearly he was unafraid of another three point drain on both players.

Nine to three was Rikola's lead as Jonsson untapped once again. A second Augury Owl sent everything to the bottom of the library, and Jonsson used Sleep to gain the tempo advantage. That advantage didn't last long, however, with Rikola spending five mana on Serra Angel. Æther Adept bounced the Serra back to hand, and now it was five to three in favor of the Finn. Down came Serra Angel once more. Phantom Beast was the play from Jonsson, leaving Rikola to spend six mana. On Triskelion. With Anton at three life.

'I'm specializing in really expensive Lightning Bolts today' said the Finn, having done the same thing to Bram Snepvangers on three life with Inferno Titan. Sometimes, you just have to pay the price to get the job done.

Anton Jonsson 1 – 1 Markku Rikola

Anton Jonsson

Elite Vanguard was the perfect opener for Jonsson. Stormfront Pegasus was a pretty good turn two, although Black Knight on the other side could be problematic. The Pegasus flew in for two, while Rikola took to the skies with Liliana's Specter, forcing Jonsson to discard. His choice? Negate. Water Servant added to the board for Jonsson, whose fast start had been quickly stunted. Rikola further complicated matters with Blinding Mage.

A big turn for Jonsson saw the reappearance of Ajani Goldmane, putting a counter on Elite Vanguard, Stormfront Pegasus, and Water Servant, allowing him to go on the attack. Quag Sickness killed off the Stormfront Pegasus, meaning the path was clear for Liliana's Specter to take two Loyalty chunks out of Ajani's hide.

Foresee saw Jonsson take his time over his choices, eventually casting Augury Owl and Scrying once more. In theory, he could protect Ajani with Augury Owl. He could gain two life. Or, he could let the Planeswalker leave the battlefield, with three more counters spread across his team. That was the choice, with Water Servant leaving Rikola at seven life. Three mana was still all Rikola had to work with. Six cards, but only three mana. It didn't look like it was going to be enough.

Blinding Mage tapped down the Water Servant, robbing Jonsson of a worthwhile attack. The Swede added to Rikola's problems with Cloud Elemental. Rikola's deck added to Rikola's problems with no fourth land. Again.

This time Rikola was prepared to let Jonsson into the red zone, without activating Blinding Mage. Æther Adept put the white tapper back in Rikola's hand, causing the Finn to abandon that plan for at least a turn, choosing instead Palace Guard. At least he now had four mana to work with. Jonsson piled in, with Condemn from Rikola netting the Swede a whopping eight life. More importantly, though, Rikola was down to five. Howling Banshee left the totals at twenty five to just two in Jonsson's favor.

Blinding Mage and Ajani's Pridemate looked to begin the comeback. Sleep time from Jonsson. Nighty-night.

Anton Jonsson 2 – 1 Marrku Rikola

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