by Randy Buehler
What a match-up! Jon Finkel is the leading money winner of all time and Mike Long is in the top 5. Jon Finkel is the consensus best player in the game and Long is the consensus most hated player in the game. Their decks also made for an interesting matchup. Both were running Rebel decks, but they approached the archetype is radically different ways. Long's version is extremely aggressive. He uses 4 each of Steadfast Guard and Fresh Volunteers along with multiple Sky Marshals and Jhovall Queens. That creature set allows him to make great use of his maindeck Ramosian Rallies and Reverent Mantras. Finkel, on the other hand, uses Distorting Lenses along with Lightbringers to add a controllish feature to his deck. Finkel also plays other slow, controllish cards like Story Circle. Since Finkel intends to win long, slow games, he doesn't use any copies of Reverent Mantra or Ramosian Rally.
The word on the street is that aggressive Rebel decks (like Long's) should trounce controllish rebel decks (like Finkel's). Allegedly, slow rebel decks have no way to deal with Reverent Mantra (which can give all creatures protection form white, thus making them unblockable for a turn). With the extremely heavy presence of both types of Rebel decks, this matchup will be played out many times over the next few days and may define the tournament.
Long won the coin flip, but his 7 cards included only 1 land. He commented "I love it when people keep this draw" and promptly mulliganed. His 6-card draw was even worse so he began game 1 with only 5 cards to work with. He did manage to come out pretty fast -- Steadfast Guard, Ramosian Sergeant, and fresh Volunteers all hit by turn 3. Long play-acted his Fresh Volunteers bellowing "wazzzuuup" in the general direction of Justin Gary (who was playing Nicolai Herzog at the adjacent feature match table). Justin replied '"Playing Magic, Drinking a Bud, True ... true" and then they went on with their respective games.
Finkel blocked Steadfast Guard with a Glider in an attempt to trade creatures and slow the game down. Long used Ramosian Rally to save his creature and deal extra damage (the Rally has great synergy with the "does not tap to attack" Guard). Long was applying some serious pressure with his 5-card draw, but Finkel played Lin Sivvi and blocked with her. Long didn't have another Rally so Finkel was able to begin stabilizing his position. Finkel next played parallax Wave and phased out Long's Sergeants so Long couldn't recruit any more rebels until Finkel was ready for them. All Long needed to do was draw Reverent Mantra or Parallax Wave, but his deck wasn't cooperating. Finkel's Story Circle "white" meant Long also needed a Disenchant. Long did draw Disenchant, but he was forced to use it on Finkel's Distorting Lens or else Finkel would go into full Lightbringer recursion mode. Eventually, Finkel won with fliers. Long drew almost half of his deck but never did draw one of his three maindeck Reverent Mantras.
Game 1 lasted 32 minutes, but game 2 lasted only 3 minutes. Long went first and played 2 Sergeants, Steadfast Guard, and Fresh Volunteers ("wazzzuup") by turn 3. When Finkel tried to block, Long wrecked him with Rally and then Dust Bowled away Jon's Rath's Edge. Jon then tapped out for Story Circle, but this time Mike had enchantment removal ready and Jon was basically helpless.
Long went 2nd in game 3, but Rishadan Port allowed him to get Lin Sivvi into play before Jon had 3 mana during his main phase. Finkel calmly set p his Lens/Lightbringer combo using a Falcon to recruit his Lightbringer, but Long Disenchanted Jon's Distorting Lens. Finkel played out Rappelling Scouts and Jhovall Queen to prevent Mike from attacking while Mike hoped desperately to draw his 6th land so he could recruit his own Jhovall Queen. Mike disgustedly cast the two Sky Marshals that he had drawn (he would much rather have fetched them with Lin Sivvi, but he drew them both). Jon then cast Wave of Reckoning and killed everything on Mike's side of the table except Lin Sivvi. On his next turn Jon used Last breath to kill Lin Sivvi and played one of his own. Mike dumped the rest of his hand into play and Jon promptly killed 3 more creatures with a 2nd Wave of Reckoning. That left Jon in complete control and he won a few turns later.
The turn before he died Long drew and placed reverent mantra in the middle of the table. All he could do was repeat over and over again "3 in the main, 4th in the side." Yet this was the first mantra he drew in the entire match. It could have effectively countered Wave of Reckoning if he'd drawn it earlier in game 3 and it could have won him game 1 if he'd drawn it at almost any point. But he didn't. meanwhile the two Waves of Reckonings in Finkel's sideboard look very useful in this matchup. Most of the creatures in the aggressive rebel deck die to it yet very few of his do.
Finkel - 2
Long - 1