Round 13: Jon Finkel vs. Kai Budde

Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2015

By Matthew Vienneau

In a battle of the old guard versus the new, Jon Finkel, often proclaimed to be the best player in the world, hopes to prove that he still has what it takes against Kai Budde, the person everyone is calling "the new best player in the world". Jon is playing with "The Lord" deck (full of, unsurprisingly, Lords), built by Daniele Rosso and starting each game with seven cards and seventeen life. Kai is playing "The Crew!" deck (full of Legends), built by Shotaro Mori, and starting each game with five cards and ten life. While Kai's deck has a host of exciting cards and decisions to make, Jon's deck seems surprisingly simple for someone who should benefit from a deck full of tricks and options as it lacks any real advantage outside of Volrath's Laboratory and Unnatural Selection. Both players, however, feel that Jon's deck has the potential to come out early with over-priced Lords and defeat Kai before he can start taking advantage of his difficult to cast, but vastly superior, cards. Jon is not having his best tournament with a 5-7 record going into this round, while Kai is fighting to stay in the lead and get a spot in the finals at 9-3.

Game 1

Budde chose to draw with a chuckle as he needs the cards much more than he needs the early momentum. Finkel led with Reflecting Pool but Kai more than matched that with Forest and a Lay of the Land for a Plains. This was followed with Mountain, Mox Ruby and Starke of Rath on turn two. Starke faced a turn three Zombie Master and I think it can be safely said that that is the first time these particular creatures have faced off in Professional Magic. A Keldon Warlord soon joined the Zombie Master and Jon's mana was looking pretty good with two Reflecting Pools, Taiga and Underground Sea. Kai's mana was also looking good with a second Lay of the Land that got him another Plains for Orim, Samite Healer.

The gathering of Lords continued on Jon's side with a Goblin King and a second Keldon Warlord. Throwing away the Goblin King in an all-out attack, Jon followed up with Elvish Champion and Lord of the Undead. Kai had a very puny-looking Hanna, Ship's Navigator on his side with no artefacts or enchantments in his graveyard.

By just playing over-costed creatures and attacking, Jon was able to dominate the game due to Kai's extremely low starting life total of ten life. With only a few attackers getting through, Kai was at three and things were looking grim as he drew Tahngarth, Talruum Hero. Was the Hero a turn too late?

Jon taunted Kai with the one card left in his hand, promising that it would kill him, and he was probably right when he played his Volrath's Laboratory naming Zombies for the Lord of the Undead and the Zombie Master. At first it appeared as if Jon was rewriting the script for "Night of the Living Dead" with his ability to churn out 3/3 regenerating undead that could swampwalk. But everybody's favorite Minotaur Hero put a stop to that by successively shooting down the Zombie Master followed by the Lord of the Undead, leaving Jon with a host of 2/2 black zombies.

Ironically for one with so much play skill, the Lord deck just didn't give Jon enough options for him to outplay Kai. All the deck does is play a creature and/or create one each turn. Meanwhile Kai had managed to build up a board of Tahngarth and a Master Healer, giving him a very difficult to kill recurring source of direct damage. In fact, there is nothing in Jon's deck that can take down the Hero unless Kai allows it.

Kai's next draw just reinforced his position as he used Eladamri's Call to search out some more help. At first he went for a second Tahngarth and slapped it into play in the same manner as Dan Clegg had slapped down a second Dromar the previous day against him. But being a bit more aware of the Legend status of all his permanents, Kai wisely chose instead to go and get Captain Sisay. Sisay is the key to his deck as it essentially gives him a Demonic Tutor every single turn. With the Domain in play, he could get Legacy Weapon, or he could just search out Gerrard and Mirri to take control of the board and maybe regain some much-valued life.

Kai chose to search out Mirri, Cat Warrior as it allows him to simultaneously attack and block against such fear-inspiring Lords as Kobold Overlord and Elvish Champion. Jon played his last Keldon Warlord, his most dangerous threat at this point, making them both 6/6. To defend against it, Kai searched out Karn, Silver Golem as the Golem's eight toughness was more than adequate on defence.

Kai then searched out Sword of the Chosen and suddenly realized - he forgot to attack the previous turn! And these are the best in the world? But it didn't look like it would matter as Kai played a Squee to perpetually block Keldon Warlord while attacking with Squee and keeping the Sword back to giant-size his Legends. Interestingly, Kai appeared a bit nervous as he continued to dominate the game, while Jon just sat there resignedly waiting for Kai to kill him.

Finally all of Kai's plans came together as he used Karn to animate the Laboratory, used Sword of the Chosen to make Tahngarth 6/6, and then shot the Laboratory to stop the creation of zombies each turn. With Jon now behind by over half a dozen cards, Kai rapidly rode Mirri and the Sword of the Chosen to victory.

Budde - 1
Finkel - 0

For the second game Jon chose to draw first, despite being the aggressive deck, as he hoped to capitalize on Kai's low starting hand. Kai did point out that despite the five card starting hand, his deck does have thirty mana sources, so he shouldn't have as many mana problems as players expect.

Despite that, he still chose to mulligan a hand of Last Stand, Legacy Weapon and three land. Jon kept a hand of four land, Chaos Lord, Volrath's Lab and Goblin King as he figured with only Kai having only four cards; he would still have time to beat down. Kai burst out with a turn two Sword of the Chosen followed by a Lay of the Land off the top for Mountain. Jon played the Goblin King only to have Kai ask, "that affects all goblins right?" as he played Squee and began serving with a 2/2 Mountainwalker that could wield the Sword of the Chosen. Suddenly Jon was playing with the defensive deck!

Strengthening his position, Jon played a Caller of the Hunt naming lords. But Kai just followed up with a Mox Pearl and Orim, emptying his hand. Jon had six cards, but still wasn't winning as Orim plus Sword of the Chosen was able to hold off the ever-increasing Caller of the Hunt (now a 4/4).

Drawing off the top, Kai played a Birds followed by Karn, solidifying his defence so Squee could continue to attack with the Sword. Forced to take risks, Jon played out Chaos Lord, a 7/7 beast that may or may not be on your side! But with Volrath's Lab in play, he is always able to control the number of permanents, making it a much safer play.

Playing a second Caller of the Hunt gave Jon two 6/6s and a 7/7 but Karn is big enough to stop any of them and Kai was able to attack again to knock Jon down to three. With one turn left to live, Jon needed an answer. But first, who gets to control Chaos Lord? They put the effect on the stack and it was an odd count, so Kai animated his Mox Ruby to kill it (it has a 0 toughness) to even it back out. Jon could create a goblin with the Lab, but Kai could just animate one of his other two Moxen and make sure the 7/7 becomes his. Due to the treachery of the Chaos Lord and the Goblin King, Finkel was forced to concede as his own deck betrayed him.

Final Result: Budde 2 - Finkel 0

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