by Josh Bennett
The cliché of the "must-win" match provides the tension in most of the literature of sport. It is the culmination of all the preparation and struggle, serving as a focus for all the minor victories and losses that have come before. This is precisely because there will be nothing after. Win or lose, it is decisive. The player who must win out may be heroic, but the real drama comes when they need just one more win.
It is true that after the cut to the top eight comes the actual play of it, but there is such palpable relief in the air following the announcement that the knowing seems reward enough.
Except, of course, for the money.
This explains why consulting the tiebreaker oracle is so important. With proper divination, one can be sure of the course of action most likely to secure a place in the top eight. Kai Budde and Arto Hiltunen found themselves in a strange situation in that respect. Their decision whether or not to intentional draw depended on the match of neighboring competitors Zvi Mowshowitz and Alex Shvartsman. However, that match couldn't begin on time because of a rules question and so, not knowing if Shvartsman and Mowshowitz would draw, the two decided to play it out, thereby ensuring one of them a place in the spotlight.
Game one was quick and brutal. Hiltunen stopped laying lands after two Ardakar Wastes, despite Opting. Budde played out a Chimeric Idol and started to attack. Hiltunen found a Plains after falling to fourteen, but Budde had managed to summon a Steadfast Guard and another Idol. Without enough artifact removal, Hiltunen soon succumbed.
Game two started with a flurry of threats from Budde. This time around, Hiltunen's mana kept pace with his turns, and he was able to counter two Idols and Last Breath a Sergeant. Budde's third Idol made it into play. Hiltunen cast Fact or Fiction, revealing a full plate of Wrath of God, Counterspell, Disenchant, Tsabo's Web and Island. He ended up receiving the Wrath and Counter. He had another Disenchant in hand for the Idol.
Having cleared Budde's side of the board, Hiltunen tapped out for Blinding Angel. Budde Wrathed it away, and on his next turn tried to bring out Mageta, the Lion, but Hiltunen had the Absorb. He also had another Blinding Angel. Budde attempted the same trickery as before, but this time Hiltunen Thwarted.
For many turns it was all about the Angel. Hiltunen used two more Last Breaths to keep Budde from searching, while the Angel very slowly stole back the life given. Gurney Halleck would be proud.
Hiltunen let an Armageddon through, allowing Budde to rebuild a small army while he rebuilt his mana base. At five mana he played Mageta, and Budde was without answers. After clearing the board, Hiltunen Dominated Budde's Lin-Sivvi and attacked for the win.
In the course of game two one of Hiltunen's sleeves split. Terrified of a game loss for having a marked deck, he was granted an extension so he could buy fresh sleeves for game three. With Hiltunen calmed somewhat, the match proceeded.
Budde opened game three with a turn-one Ramosian Sergeant. Hiltunen played Tsabo's Web and watched as Budde recruited a pair of Steadfast Guards. He brought out a Blinding Angel to block. Budde brought out a third Guard and on his turn played Parallax Wave. He removed the Angel from the game and attacked Hiltunen down to five. Hiltunen disenchanted the Wave and Dominated the Sergeant, which recruited a Defiant Falcon. Budde's next attack brought him to one. Unable to escape, Hiltunen conceded.
Final Result: Kai Budde defeats Arto Hiltunen 2-1 to advance to the Top Eight