by Michael Flores
This quarterfinal match of the 2000 US National Championships pitted former PT Champ Jon Finkel against Aaron Forsythe of Pittsburgh, PA. While Finkel is considered one of the best players in the world, Forsythe is a longtime veteran, and a member of a productive Pittsburgh-based playtest group that produced former PT greats Randy Buehler and Erik Lauer, and put both Elliot Fung and Mike Turian in this same Top 8. Finkel played a mono-black Vampiric Tutor deck, and Forsythe played the G/R "Angry Hermit," an Avalanche Riders/Plow Under deck with fatties aplenty.
Finkel, going first, nearly draws a card to start the match! He doesn't, though, and the game continues with a Forsythe Llanowar Elves (Vicious Hungered) and a Finkel Skittering Skirge (hit by Arc Lightning). Finkel plays a more-or-less useless Stromgald Cabal, and then stalls on land.
Forsythe comes across with a couple of Avalanche Riders, compounding Jon's mana problems; Jon casts Vampiric Tutor for Yawgmoth's Will, re-plays a lost land, and stabilizes. Forsythe then plays "the Master," Masticore, but Finkel destroys it by fetching a Stupor with Yawgmoth's Will. The Masticore goes down fightning, though, and shoots Skittering Skirge out of the sky. Aaron, now low on life, throws an Arc Lightning at the Stromgald Cabal, and goes into topdeck mode.
At over ten life, Finkel assembles the hand to win the game (Dark Ritual and Thrashing Wumpus with three land in play), but Forsythe's Angry Hermit gives him the only card it can to win: an Avalache Riders off the top. Finkel never draws a third land again, and the Wumpus sits in his hand.
Finkel 0, Forsythe 1.
Finkel opens with a Swamp, Forsythe with a Birds of Paradise. The Birds of Paradise is destroyed by Vicious Hunger; Forsythe's next play is a Yavimaya Elder. Finkel wows the crowd by casting Eradicate on the Elder with Forsythe tapped out... not only will all of Aaron's Elders be removed from game, but he will not be able to draw land or cards for it.
Forsythe hits a Finkel land with Avalanche Riders, but Jon cast Vampiric Tutor for Phyrexian Processor and starts spitting out 6/6 Minion tokens...
Finkel 1, Forsythe 1.
Forsythe opens up with a Yavimaya Elder and Blastoderm. Finkel thought he had a solid hand with multiple Vicious Hungers starting, but those cards are not very good against these creatures. Finkel casts Vampiric Tutor, getting a Rishadan Port (not a Perish!), and Eradicates the Elder. Forsythe answers with the Master and starts bashing Jon.
Finkel at this point casts a Plague on Beasts and ineffectively Vicious Hungers the Masticore, but doesn't stop Angry Hermit's monsters.
Finkel 1, Forsythe 2.
Game 4 is all Finkel. With a Dark Ritual, Skittering Horror on turn 1, Finkel has a very quick clock. Forsythe's only green source is a Treetop Village, and he fails to play 1GG on turn 3, preventing him from playing his Yavimaya Elder to both block and get much-needed land. Finkel uses his Dust Bowl to destroy the Treetop Village; his hand is too creature-kill heavy for Aaron's mana problems.
Finkel 2, Forsythe 2.
Forsythe has an incredible draw in Game 5, with a LLanowar Elves and mutliple game-winning bombs, including multiple Arc Lightnings and huge monsters.
Forsythe's Elves starts bashing Finkel, as Finkel is holding the expensive spells off with a Rishadan Port. The players start trading creatures and creature removal. Forsythe plays an Ancient Hydra; Finkel casts a powerful Yawgmoth's Will to destroy the Hydra and get back a Skittering Skirge. He follows up with one of the best Stupors ever, ripping a Deranged Hermit and Blastoderm out of Aaron's hand, putting him into topdeck mode.
A few turns go by and the players once again trade spells. Finkel gets out his Thrashing Wumpus, but is dangerously low on life. He can't take a single damage for fear of a top-decked Arc Lightning or Ancient Hydra. True to fate, Aaron pulls his third Arc Lightning off the top of his deck. He aims it at the Wumpus.
At this point, both players are at 4 life and Aaron has nothing but land and a Birds of Paradise in hand. Jon has a Yawgmoth's Will. He can kill them both... or play for the win. Jon chooses to play for the win and gets back the Wumpus with his Yawgmoth's Will.
Forsythe plays a Birds of Paradise to block, but Jon picks up a Vicious Hunger. He swings for 3 and shoots for 1.
FINKEL 3 - Forsythe 2.