by Anthony Alongi
This match featured two proven champions of high-profile events. Mike Long won Pro Tour Paris in 1997 and the Invitational in 1998; Kai Budde is the most recent Pro Tour Champion (Chicago) and World Champion in 1999.
The two drafted opposite each other in their draft pod, sharing white in typical across-the-table style. Kai took a blue-white approach that in the first round successfully beat the table's dreaded red-black Pyre Zombie and Plague Spitter monstrosity. Mike took a green-white (small red splash) approach that smashed a five-color green variant in that same round, with four Armadillo Cloaks.
Before they began, Kai took pains to let Mike know just how much better Mr. Long's deck was than his own. Crafty Deutcshlanders!
Both kept their opening hands; Kai went first. In typical white deck fashion, neither player did anything for two and a half turns. On his third turn, Mike gamely tried for a Pincer Spider - Excluded.
Kai then seized momentum with a kicked Prison Barricade and Atalya, Samite Master on his fourth and fifth turns, respectively. Mike used a Benalish Trapper and Shackles to keep Kai's life gain potential down, but the prison wall kept tumbling down for two damage per turn.
Once the prison guards were joined by a Ruham Djinn and Rith's Attendant, not even Mike's Power Armor could help him mount a sufficient defense. He lost a Kavu Titan and Armadillo Cloak in a devastating seventh-turn kicked Probe, and conceded in the midst of Kai's tenth turn combat phase.
Mike chose to play first. This time both sides found and played creatures quickly: Mike with Llanowar Knight, Pincer Spider, Verduran Emissary, and Kavu Climber within the first six turns; while Kai put out Dream Thrush, kicked Prison Barricade, Faerie Squadron, and Stormscape Apprentice over the same time period.
Two nice finesse plays defined this game. First, in Kai's seventh turn as he attempted to Shackle Mike's Kavu Climber, Mike showed a sideboard card - Liberate - which fizzled the Shackles, and then gave him an additional card at the end of turn, as the Climber came back into play.
The second play came on Kai's next turn. Seeing one of Mike's own Shackles on a Faerie Squadron, Kai used his Dream Thrush during upkeep to turn Mike's only available Plains into a Forest. He then waited until his main phase to cast Dismantling Blow on the Shackles, which was no longer retrievable.
During this time, Mike's early damage to Kai (through the Climber) slowed to a trickle, while the Faerie Squadron, freed of its bonds, worked together with the Stormscape Apprentice to fly over spiders and other annoying Long-legged fauna (please, save your groaning . . . this Pro Tour is still young). Even more despairingly to the American, Atalya came out on the ninth turn and began to repair the damage to Kai's sweater.
But the most impressive feat of all was Kai's ability to put out three, count 'em three, kicked Prison Barricades. This author doesn't know what the German term is for "breakout," but no doubt Kai was screaming it behind that calm façade.
There was a squabble between Mike and the featured match area Judge John Shannon regarding a warning issued for failing to follow instructions on the placement of permanents on the . . . yeah, you're right, we don't want to hear about it, either.