Team Finals: Arho Toikka vs. Justin Gary

Posted in Event Coverage on August 10, 2003

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

After the draft, Justin was concerned about his deck's lack of two-drops. If Arho got an aggressive draw, Justin could be in trouble. His opponent had Wirewood Symbiote and Timberwatch Elf along with a number of cheap elves.

The two players had grown familiar with each other over the course of the tournament and they chatted comfortably about the long wait between the draft and the chance to play. "I will never watch another side draft in my life." Arho was obviously kidding but he had seen so many cards drafted over the last hour or so that they were blurring together with the cards in this much more important draft.

Justin recalled that he had an overwhelming lead but Arho remembered things differently. Justin nodded, "There are cards in your deck that are a real problem but I still like my chances."

Game 1

When Arho hesitated when looking at his openers, Justin hoped for the mulligan, "How's it looking?"

Arho wasn't sure, "Thinking about it."

When Arho shipped it back Justin exclaimed to his teammates, "We've got a mulligan here."

Gabe came back with, "Was it yours?"

Arho had no turn two play but Justin had a Goblin Grappler off of the top. Arho put a morph down and Justin had to main phase Mountaincycle for his third land. He could have done nothing turn two and cycled but with the utility creatures in his opponent's deck he wanted to get the provoker down and hopefully draw the third land.

Arho sent the morph in and made another after Justin took two. Gary had his fourth land and played a mystery man of his own. Arho played a Crested Craghorn and took out the face-down Woodcloaker. Justin fell to fourteen.

He sent the Grappler in for a point and played a Krosan Vorine. Arho did a quick morph check and attacked. There were no blocks and he flipped up a Spitting Gourna and took Justin down to nine.

Justin took down the remaining morph with his Vorine and saved it with Vitality Charm. Flamewave Invoker joined his team. "That's a big man," said Justin when staring at a freshly made Krosan Tusker.


Both Josh and Gabe were down a game at this point. Josh claimed mana flood while Gabe pleaded mana screw. Justin urged both of his teammates to not let it happen again. Josh may be the captain of the team but there was no doubting who their leader was.

Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 0
Tomi – 1 Joshua – 0

Justin looked to his deck for an answer and found a Snarling Undurak. Justin was on six life and when Arho attacked with both Tusker and Gourna Justin weighed the blocking options—none seemed especially inviting—and he decided to kill the Tusker with Vorine and Flamewave. Arho played a straight-up Titanic Bulvox.

"Now it's time for my deck to give me some help," Justin needed to cope with the 7/4 trampler. "That helps!" Justin crisped the Bulvox in a Torrent of Fire but he could not attack.

Arho had no such compunctions though and Justin was on his heels when Arho attacked. "Charge on in, huh?" Arho sent the Gourna into the red zone with only a freshly drawn card in hand and eight mana open. Justin threw his guys in the way and the Snarling and the Gourna traded leaving Justin only the lowly Grappler. When Arho cast a Treespring Lorian he had just drawn that turn Justin was almost out of breath, "You're always tapping so much mana..."

"Let's see if my deck can keep up." A Timberwatch Elf promised to offer some help but not this turn and the Grappler threw itself in the way of the Lorian. Gary hit six mana and contemplated his three card hand. He finally decided to send in the Timberwatch Elf and played a Brontotherium.


Gabe announced that he and Tuomo would be playing a Game 3.

Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 1
Tomi – 1 Joshua – 0

The two beasts traded in combat and Arho played his own Timberwatch Elf. Justin wanted more elves in play but not that one. He Carbonized the elf and swung in for one, "I've got the clock on you. Fourteen turns later it will all be over.

Vorine stopped the clock with Arho at twelve. Justin had no other action and the two creatures stared at each other across the red zone\for several turns. Justin finally drew something and he played a 6/6 Wirewood Guardian.

A morph and land number twelve hit play for the Finn and he sent the turn back to Justin who played land number ten. "Sigh," was Justin's reaction to Wellwisher. His deck's reaction was land number eleven. Justin had the win but failed to see it. He was holding Wave of Indifference and Wirewood Pride. He could have Waved the Wellwisher, cast Wirewood Pride for +3/+3 and then another +3/+3 would come from the Timberwatch. For whatever reason, he just missed it.

A Torrent of Fire off the top of the Finn's deck put an end to the game before he would have another turn to figure it out.

Arho – 1 Justin – 0
Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 1
Tomi – 1 Joshua – 0

In order to accommodate getting as many matches as possible into the broadcast, Justin and Arho were held up by the spotter to wait for the outcome of Tomi and Josh's next game.

While they shuffled they discussed Justin's spectacular win over Arho in round one of the team event yesterday. "Do you think that was the right play? Waving the team?"

Justin explained," The Wave was fine, you just didn't need to send with you whole team."

Gabe Walls heard the conversation and gave his teammate a sharp stare and put his finger to his lips to 'shhhh' him. "No coaching."

Arho: "I really want to win this to be the World Champion of something. It would be nice."

Justin: "I just want to win this one for all the women. The Magic groupies you get if you win this thing are ridiculous." (Note to Justin's girlfriend: Justin was kidding, there are almost no Magic groupies,)


Joshua Wagener lost in two straight to Tomi Walamies. If either Arho or Tuomo won another game the title would go to the Finnish team.

Arho – 1 Justin – 0
Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 1
Tomi – 2 Joshua – 0

Game 2

Both players kept their opening hands. Arho led off with the dreaded Wirewood Symbiote and followed it up with Wellwisher. Justin made a morph on his third turn and Arho matched it with his own face down creature.

Justin cycled a Forgotten Cave on his fourth turn and played a Mountain. He took a while to think about his plays and Arho prompted him, "Are you going to race Wellwisher?"

"That's not easy, not easy at all." Justin sent his morph in nonetheless and Arho had no blocks. Justin flipped up a Snarling Undurak and got in for two when you deducted for the Wellwisher.

Now it was Arho's turn to think. "Is it my turn?" Justin half asked/half hoped.

It was but he had no play.

Neither did Arho.

Both players played lands and stared at each other but Arho was undoing the little damage that Justin had done so far with his Wellwisher. Justin played a Brontotherium and hoped to more than a little damage over the next few turns. Running over the Symbiote before any more elves showed up would be a good start.

Both players had plenty of land and Justin toyed with an attack phase—he could not quite let go of his Brontotherium. He tentatively nudged the Snarling Undurak toward the red stripe as well. Ultimately, he sent only the provoker demanded that the Symbiote block. Arho put his morph in the way as well and Justin seemed to sense that it was Patron of the Wild.

Arho did have the Patron of the WildGiant Growth with buyback thanks to the Symbiote. Damage was not on the stack yet and Justin mulled his options. He could only get his beast to five toughness with the Snarling Undurak. He would need a Wirewood Pride to have his man live. Before the match, Justin talked about how important Wirewood Pride was when your opponent also has elves. He had it and made his man an 8/6.

Arho gained some life and returned the Patron before the Symbiote went away. Wirewood Guardian was the next play from Arho, "Huge," admired Justin. He swung in with both and provoked the Guardian. He pumped both of his beasts once and this time used Vitality Charm to regenerate the Brontotherium. Arho gained two life before it hit the bin.

Arho had eight lands and he played a morph. Neither one of the players missed any drops--Justin played his ninth land putting three activations of the Snarling Undurak at his disposal. Justin provoked and when Arho flipped up a Patron before damage he made it an 8/6.

"Who said Bront wasn't good in this match-up?" He shot a look in Gabe's direction who shrugged at him. "Oh yeah. You just better win yours."

Justin was starting to feel more confident about forcing a Game 3 and when Arho cast Rush of Knowledge with only Wellwisher in play, Justin laughed, "You've got two cards. Good splash, good splash!"

Justin attacked and targeted the Wellwisher. When Arho used the ability he elected not to untap it and he rumbled across into the red zone. This game was Justin's turn to finish him off with a Torrent.

Arho – 1 Justin – 1
Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 1
Tomi – 2 Joshua – 0


The cameras swung across the stage and Justin urged his teammate to exact some revenge for the last two losses Gabe suffered at Tuomo's hand. "Just win and make this game interesting!"

Gabe went to work and overwhelmed a mana-flooded Tuomo—he had four more lands in hand when the game ended. The third game of Arho and Justin's match would determine the World Team Championships.

Arho – 1 Justin – 1
Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 2
Tomi – 2 Joshua – 0

Game 3

"Now it gets exciting! I'm charged up now! The third and final game deciding the World Championship—that is pressure." Justin was pumped up and may have been trying to get inside his foe's head.

Arho remained calm and assured Justin, "I can handle it."

Gabe came over and high-fived his teammate and said, "GL bro."

The Finnish players came over and said some words of encouragement to their teammate in Finnish—one can only presume it was a regional variant of, "GL bro!"

Arho kept his hand but Justin was undecided. Finally, he threw it back announcing, "I'm not going to let the World Championships be decided on this hand. You won a game where you mulliganed. There is no reason I can't do the same."

Justin rubbed his hands together and picked up his cards, "I'll run this.

Wellwisher came down on turn two and Arho started to poke a Justin who was keeping track of his life totals on a pad. "Are you consulting your draft notes?" Justin showed him his pad and an icy stare.

Grappler came down a turn too late to keep Wellwisher off the board but Arho had no turn three play and Justin sent his Grappler into the red zone and put provoke on the stack. Arho gained a life and the Grappler got in but it was a wash. "Oooh that's going to be good," announced Justin as he played a Timberwatch Elf.

There was no turn four play from Arho as well—with a provoker and a Timberwatch he could lose anything with less than four toughness. Justin played a Flamewave Invoker with green open.

Land number five from Arho meant he could play a face-up Spitting Gourna. "Don't play an elf," implored the Finn.

"You mean this one?" He showed him the Elvish Warrior and shouted at the beast, "Fight me right now!"

Land number six from Arho equaled nothing. He was holding Wirewood Symbiote, Rush of Knowledge and a Canopy Crawler. Justin continued to whittle away with his creatures racing against life gain of three a turn from the Wellwisher.

Arho's hand swelled to five cards. Finally, he played a morph and the Symbiote—which had the potential to make the math interesting. Justin attacked with his Grappler, Elvish warrior and Flamewave Invoker. He provoked the morph. It was Arho's only block and it turned out to be a Birchlore Rangers. Arho gained some life and returned the elf to his hand with the Symbiote's ability. "That's a nice one. It's a lot to keep you busy with though—in the meantime I will just keep playing creatures." Arho slumped in the face of Brontotherium. Once again, Justin teased Walls about not wanting him to play with the beast.

Arho played the Crawler—revealing a Bulvox—and the Birchlore Rangers face-up. He had one green open. Justin attacked with everyone and demanded that the Canopy Crawler do battle with the Grappler and the Symbiote fight the trampler. Justin pumped his Grappler and was prepared for damage but Arho was not. He went through his motions and gained some life forestalling his demise.

Justin was putting on a show for his supporters, "I'm glad you have the Wellwisher. It gives me a lot more time to show off." After combat, Justin had dealt four after subtracting for the Wellwisher. Justin triumphantly announced that he would be playing the other card his teammates did not want in his deck and played a 15/15 Ancient Ooze.

Arho played a morph and on Justin's next turn he attacked for the win. He also had the eighth mana for his Invoker but it wasn't necessary and Arho extended the hand. Justin was besieged by friends and supporters. Mark Rosewater offered his congratulations with a sarcastic, "Well done, I know it didn't matter to you."

Justin finally let out a sigh and basked in the glow of his World Championship title.

Arho – 1 Justin – 2
Tuomo – 1 Gabe – 2
Tomi – 2 Joshua – 0

Final Result: Finland – 1 USA - 2

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