It was particularly hard to pick a feature match this round. Mark Rosewater had chosen four matches that were all pitting Pro Tour champions against each other. I sat next to Finkel and Maher because they're also first and second in the swiss, both at 12-2 after 14 rounds. Besides pride, this game has another valuable ante: a guaranteed slot in the Top 8 for the winner.
Both of them were playing nearly identical versions of the Black/Green deck. This deck features large creatures from 3/3 to 5/5 and lots of black removal to clear the way. I was expecting a fast, raging and furious match. Looks like I was right.
Game one, Maher won the roll and played. Bad luck struck him as he didn't play lands on turn three and four. In the meantime, Jon Finkel was dropping lots of creatures, Chimeric Idol first, then 3 Silt Crawlers in 3 consecutive turns. Adding Vendetta and Seal of Doom to the slaughter, Jon eradicated all hope of recovery for Maher who conceded on turn 6.
Game two, Bob played again and Finkel had to mulligan once. Both players did nothing for the first three turns. Bob had the first play with a turn 4 Seal of Doom, Jon replied with a Blastoderm. Bob dropped a Wumpus, Jon a Saproling Burst. Bob put down his own Saproling Burst, hoping to stop the Blastoderm and/or Jon's tokens for a while. Jon attacked with the Blastoderm and two 4/4 tokens, clearing the way with Snuff Out and Vendetta on Maher's 5/5 Saprolings! Maher had to create two 3/3s and double-block the Blastoderm to avoid taking too much damage. He also Sealed one of Jon's tokens, and ended up taking just 4 damage.
On his turn, Maher dropped his own Blastoderm. Jon answered with a Cateran Slaver! 5/5 Swampwalk looks good in this match-up. However, Jon had to start defending on the next turn, as Bob attacked with everything, clearing the way for his creatures with Snuff Out, Vendetta and a Wumpus activation for one! Jon has to trade his Slaver for Bob's Blastoderm. Bob plays a Crawler and passes the turn. Jon plays a second Slaver, but it looked like he had to defend or die. Bob attacks again, trades the Wumpus for the Slaver. Being very low on life, Jon draws a land and concedes.
It all came down to game three where we saw both player's sideboard. Bob led the game with a turn two Distorting Lens. The Lens is particularly good in this match-up, because it negates your opponent's black removal (by making your creatures black) and makes yours target black creatures (by making them any other color). Jon also had a turn three Distorting Lens and a Turn 4 Blastoderm. Bob had a turn three Idol and a turn 4 Blastoderm, which he happily traded with Finkel's. On turn 5, Jon made the decisive play: he played Distorting Lens #2. With 'Lens advantage' he could just control the whole game. Bob followed with a Wumpus, trying to apply some pressure, but the Lens allowed a Snuff Out to destroy it. Finkel then dropped yet another sideboard card: Woodripper, and used it to immediately get rid of Bob's Lens. Bob played his own Woodripper, but it got Sealed on Jon's turn. Bob played a Saproling Burst, but it was too late when Jon dropped an invincible Cateran Slaver. When Jon added his own Burst to the board on the next turn, Bob had no more hope and conceded the game and match.
Jon Finkel makes top 8. Again.