Round 4 Feature Match: Jon Finkel (USA) vs. Alex Shvartsman (USA)

Posted in Event Coverage

By Anthony Alongi

THE MATCHUP

Hep me, hep me, I'm being kept captive by Wizards staff who insist I need to tell you who these people are over and over... can't we all remember what these people did as Pros? Jon and Alex are two terrific players; they both belonged in this match. Trust us.

Jon had drafted a red-black monster that featured bombs with such names as Ghitu Fire, Cinder Shade, and Goham Djinn. His supplementary removal included Reckless Spite, Agonizing Demise, Soul Burn, Scorching Lava, and two Mournings.

Alex had drafted a "quirky" green-white-blue deck that featured quality creatures like two Kavu Chameleons, Faerie Squadron, Pincer Spider, Ruham Djinn, and Thicket Elemental. It also had tricks including two Exclude, Angelic Shield, and Aggressive Urge.

THE MATCH

Game 1

Jon's turn two Firebrand Ranger was quickly joined by a Hooded Kavu. Alex tried to set up a wall against the beats - or perhaps a threatening counterpunch - with Tower Drake and Llanowar Knight; but a Mourning on the Drake kept Alex on the defensive. A late game Pincer Spider actually made things worse, since Jon was looking for a second (not pro-black) creature to unleash Reckless Spite. With Maniacal Rage on the Hooded Kavu, Jon brought Alex quickly down to 4 life, where he was easy pickings for Ghitu Fire.

Game 2

This game was actually longer than the first one; but in this reporter's opinion it was not as close. Another turn-two Firebrand Ranger got maniacally angry and began swinging for four each turn. After a Cinder Shade hit the board on turn four, Alex's unkicked Benalish Lancer and Pincer Spider looked slightly troubled. Alex was not helped by a short spell of color-screw; when Jon asked him on turn five, "How are those blue cards treating you?" Alex looked down at his four Forests and one Plains and responded, "Pretty good." Mr. Shvartsman remained undaunted by the creature disadvantage, however, and kept sending his horseman and arachnid over to beat Jon down. Jon swung harder, and by the end of five turns, Jon was at 14 life while Alex was at 6.

Alex's only hope was Jon's restriction by only three lands. As he plopped down a Thicket Elemental, it was fair for him to hope that he might be stabilizing the board.

But Jon hit his deck really hard, which apparently snapped it back into line because it spit a Mountain off the top. That was enough for an (unkicked) Agonizing Demise on the Elemental, which let the raging Ranger and Cinder Shade through. Alex let the Griffin die at the Ranger's hands; and with no mana to pump the Shade, Jon simply ticked Alex down to 5.

Alex still had a shot at stabilizing the board and held back the Spider and Lancer as he waited for his deck to show him the same groveling cooperation that Jon's had. An Angelic Shield didn't hurt; but Jon was putting out new threats such as Phyrexian Battleflies. Since the Shade and the Battleflies had to share three black mana, Jon could not put the finishing blow on Alex easily. It took brute Ranger force to remove the Spider, pump and sack Shade tricks to remove the Lancer, and even then Alex was able to put up a kicked Faerie Squadron as his life total slowly ground down to 1.

Faced with a big flyer, Jon did what any enterprising beatdown mage would do: he found two smaller ones. The Phyrexian Battleflies, when joined by a Phyrexian Slayer, were finally enough to finish the game that had looked bleak for Alex from the second turn. Kudos went to Alex for the smart plays that gave him a fighting chance; and kudos also went to Jon of course, who will now face Ben Rubin in a rematch from the Sydney Invitational.

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