Round 15: Jon Finkel vs. Bob Maher, Jr.

Posted in Event Coverage

By Randy Buehler

Jon Finkel vs. Bob Maher, Jr.

It doesn't get much better than this. The reigning World Champion versus the reigning Player of the Year in a rematch of last year's World Championship match. Furthermore, if the Swiss ended right now, Finkel and Maher would both be on their way back to the Top 8. With 11-3 records as they sat down, they probably need two more wins and a draw a piece to stay in the Top 8.

Finkel is playing a bizarre monoblue deck designing by William "Baby Huey" Jensen. Nicknamed "Baby Bluey," it uses City of Traitors to bust out fast threats like Thieving Magpie and Masticore which it can defend with a host of permission plus a variety of bounce spells (including little used (in Constructed) cards like Boomerang and Rushing River). Maher is playing "Maher-Oath," the white-blue-green Oath of Druids deck that he used to win the last Extended Pro Tour.

Finkel played out a turn 3 Magpie in game 1, but Maher promptly used Enlightened Tutor to get an Oath of Druids, which wound up in play as soon as Maher untapped. Finkel thought for quite a while on his next turn, and then decided to play a second Magpie! His other option was to Boomerang the Oath. Maher wound up with his Morphling when he Oathed and Finkel sent in both his Magpies, losing one to the Morphling, but drawing a card. After that, though, Finkel was reduced to watching Morphling, and then Treetop Village, cruise by his Magpie, taking large chunks out of his life total. He started to chump block Morphling to buy time for his Powder Keg to go up to five counters, but Maher summoned up a Seal of Cleansing with his second Enlightened Tutor and Morphling went the distance. All Maher could say was "You didn't have the greatest draw that game, did you." That and Finkel's deck looked very vulnerable to the card Oath of Druids.

Jon Finkel

Finkel busted out turn 2 Veiled Serpent thanks to City of Traitors and that gave Maher pause. He decided "that guy's a big beater" and he had to stop the beats with a Force of Will. Finkel had another on turn 3, but Maher had Counterspell ready. When Maher tried to Pyroblast Finkel's fourth turn creature, an Ophidian, Finkel felt it was time to fight. Force of Will got the Ophidian into play. Finkel only got to draw one extra card, though, because Maher soon had a Treetop Village available to play defense. Finkel did have Counterspell ready to stop Maher's card drawing - Sylvan Library - and with Maher down to one green mana, Finkel's Ophidian got him another card. Thieving Magpie came down next and Finkel was suddenly drawing two cards per turn.

That's when Finkel dropped the bomb: Back to Basics. Maher Forced, but Finkel had a Misdirection. It took a few turns for Finkel to deal 20 points damage, but they both knew the game was essentially over once that enchantment hit play. Bob's deck has a grand total of zero basic lands.

Bob Maher, Jr.

Finkel used his other sideboard card on the first turn of game 3 - Annul stopped Seal of Cleansing from coming into play. Finkel's had kept one land draw, but he drew the Ancient Tomb he needed to bust out turn 2 Ophidian. Maher went for Swords to Plowshares, but Finkel had a Force of Will. Finkel had no answer for Maher's Wasteland and h couldn't find a land to play despite hitting Maher with Ophidian twice, so Finkel had to start discarding. By then Maher had found a Treetop Village and Finkel was literally yelling at his deck, begging it to deliver up some land. Maher started attacking with not one, but two Treetop Villages, allowing Finkel to draw cards because he smelled blood. Finkel pounded on his deck. He had Back to Basics and Powder Keg in hand along with a Force of Will and two Misdirections available for defending them. With two life left, Finkel finally drew a second land. He forced Keg into play and took out one Village. Then with just one point of life left, he drew the land for Back to Basics. It resolved! He had to leave Ophidian back as a potential chump blocker for the last untapped Village, but then his Powder Keg resolved and suddenly the game completely turned around!

In the most spectacular comeback I have ever seen since Finkel took game 1 of the finals from Maher at last year's World Championship, Finkel rode his Ophidian to victory while Maher just sat there, doing nothing, paralyzed by one of the best sideboard cards in the entire Extended format. Finkel tapped to Force of Will a Plow, Annuled an Oath, and then played Veiled Serpent. Chris Pikula took a match loss in the Pro Tour Qualifier going on the other side of the tournament site, because he could not tear himself away from watching this game. Of course, Maher was still at 20 because Finkel was always drawing cards with his snake, never dealing damage. Eventually, Masticore came down to clean up. Maher managed to Plow it, but that woke up the Veiled Serpent. A second Back to Basics eliminated any miracles from Maher's imagination and he conceded shortly thereafter.

Wow.

Final Result: Finkel 2 - Maher 1

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