by Michael Aten
This feature match pits the current U.S. and World Champion and the consensus best player in the game, Jon Finkel, against the winner of this summer's booster draft Masters tournament as well as last year's PTLA and the world's top-rated limited player, Trevor Blackwell. With two of the world's best competing in the first round, there's a lot at stake; because of the prize distribution of the Masters tournament, this is essentially a $2,000+ ante match.
Both players are extremely focused from the outset, and after a minimal amount of pre-match banter, Jon wins the toss and opts to play. When he drops an Island and sends the turn over to Trevor, it is obvious that Jon is playing his signature deck, Forbidian. Trevor plays a second-turn Priest of Titania, indicating that he is playing an Extended variant of Trinity Green, similar to the deck Brian Schneider piloted to some success in the earlier Gateway tournament. At the end of Trevor's turn, Jon Impulses for an Ophidian, drops it on his turn, and proceeds to Forbid-lock Blackwell out of the game. After a few turns of Blackwell casting threats and Finkel responding with Forbid with buyback, however, Jon makes a crucial mistake. He chooses not to counter Blackwell's Rofellos, which ends up costing him the game. On his next turn, Blackwell drops a Quirion Ranger, which, in combination with Rofellos, gives him the ability to produce a ridiculous amount of mana. He first casts a Skyshroud Poacher to draw out Finkel's Forbid, then a Natural Order which resolves. Blackwell sacrifices Rofellos to bring out a Verdant Force, which effectively ends the first game in his favor.
Blackwell 1, Finkel 0.
Jon again chooses to play first and opens with a couple of Islands and a Powder Keg. Blackwell's second-turn Null Rod resolves, thus nullifying Jon's Keg as well as virtually all of his deck's ways for dealing with permanents. Trevor is unable to apply any pressure, however, mustering only a Deranged Hermit, which is met with a Forbid. Finkel sees his window and uses his next turn to cast Morphling with Force of Will backup as well as a second Morphling in hand. Blackwell's attempt at a Choke is countered by the Force and it appears that Jon is in excellent position. But when Blackwell taps three more mana, Finkel knows what is coming. "Another Choke?" Blackwell responds in the affirmative, and although he makes a couple of minor mistakes in subsequent turns, running his Squallmonger directly into Finkel's Masticore and forgetting to attack with a couple of creatures for a couple of turns, Jon cannot recover from the Choke and extends the hand a few turns later.
Blackwell 2, Finkel 0.