by Randy Buehler
Kai Budde has had a rough year. He won the World Championship and the Player of the Year crown in 1999, but then he failed to put up any top finishes at Pro Tours or Grand Prixs for about a year. He even dropped his first 8 matches at the Invitational in Sydney two weeks ago. However, all of a sudden something changed. He won his last 7 matches to finish in the middle of the pack at the Invitational and then won the Swiss at Grand Prix Florence last weekend, eventually exiting in the semi-finals. Here at Pro Tour Chicago his 8-2 record was good enough for 12th place as round 11 began. He took his green/white Rebels deck into battle against 8-1-1, 4th place Rob Dougherty and Dougherty's Fires deck.
Dougherty went first and played a turn 2 Fires of Yavimaya and a turn 3 Jade Leech, but Budde had the answer: he Waned away the Fires as a response to the Leech so it wouldn't be able to attack him yet. Budde took one hit from the Leech while he got Lin Sivvi into play, but was then able to trade Defiant Vanguard for the Leech on the next turn. Dougherty had another threat ready: Saproling Burst. This time Budde did not have the answer and he took 10 damage from Saprolings before top-decking a Parallax Wave. The Wave got rid of all those Saprolings, but Budde felt very uncomfortable sitting on just 3 life against a deck full of Earthquakes, Rhystic Lightnings, and Ancient Hydras. However, he recruited Ramosian Sky Marshall and did his best to attack quickly and try to minimize the number of draw phases Dougherty got to find a lethal burn spell. On the last turn he held his hands together and said a prayer aloud "No quake, please." Dougherty played out Birds to start chump blocking with, but Budde just dropped another Wave and came over for the win.
Dougherty once again started out with a Bird and a Fires in game 2 and Budde once again had the enchantment removal he needed. Budde took a turn to play out Lin Sivvi and then used Seal of Cleansing to destroy a Saproling Burst. Burst #2 was dealt with via Parallax Wave as Budde seemed to have all the answers. With Lin Sivvi recycling two Defiant Vanguards Dougherty just couldn't bust through. The game would have gone very different if Dougherty had drawn any of the Flashfires that he sideboarded in, but he didn't and Budde's Sky Marshal once again flew over for the win.