Round 15 was another theme round in the feature match area. All four matches pitted a Pro Tour champion against another Pro Tour champion. Furthermore, all 8 players were still in Top 8 contention with just 4 rounds to go. (Of the 15 PT champs in attendance, 11 remained mathematically alive as round 15 started). Tommi Hovi is still the only person to ever win two Pro Tours and is trying to make it three this weekend. He squared off against #2 in the career winnings list Mike Long.
(In other Feature match action this round, Darwin Kastle lost the Your Move Games mirror matchup to Dave Humpherys, Bob Maher moved into first place by taking out Jon Finkel in a black/green versus black/green match. And Sigurd Eskeland took out Kyle Rose in another match full of Player of the Year race implications.)
Hovi is running a mono-black Mercenary deck and is the only person near the top of the Swiss playing Mercs. His plan is to recruit as many cheap Mercs into play as possible and either swarm his opponent to death or cast Dark Triumph and beef his creatures up enough for the kill. Long is running a ultra-aggro blue deck that he claims he got from the French about 18 minutes before the tournament began. His lineup includes Cloudskates and Withdraws in addition to the more typical blue creature set.
Hovi kept a one land hand in game one, and didn't draw a second land the entire game. He did cast two Unmasks and 3 Rampart Crawlers, but he just couldn't race without a second land. Long played out three Rishadan Airships and asked "How could you keep that draw? And you call yourself a double Pro Tour champion - shame on you!"
Hovi was the one laughing during game 2. He used Snuff Outs to kill Long's first two creatures. Paying the alternate casting cost of 4 life each allowed him to use his mana to build an army of Cateran Persuaders and Rampart Crawlers. He even killed an Airship by recruiting Molting Harpy into play after Long attacked with it! When Hovi recruited his last two Crawlers, untapped, and declared his attack phase Long smelled Dark Triumph and used Ensnare to prevent Hovi from killing him. The problem was Long just didn't have any flying beatdown. He bought a turn and then used Withdraw to try to buy another turn, but Hovi just killed him with Dark Triumph anyway.
Hovi kept another one Swamp draw in game 3. This time he was drawing so his odds were a little better, but he once again failed to play a second land on turn 2. He did use a pair of Unmasks, saw that Long was stuck on two land, and took away Long's Gush and his Withdraw. Hovi then used Dark Ritual to cast Rathi Intimidator and said done. Long had many three casting cost fliers in his hand, but didn't draw a land. Hovi had no land in his hand, Intimidator and one land in play, and promptly drew Swamp off the top of his deck. Long was visibly upset. Long did then draw land #3 and started casting fliers, but Hovi's Mercenary chain was just too fast for him. That one Intimidator was the only spell that really mattered. Hovi soon drew a third land so he could recruit with both the Intimidator and a Persuader. Long asked Hovi how many Swamps were actually in his deck and Hovi's response was perfect: "Three." Vendetta and Snuff Out made sure the race wasn't close and Hovi moved to 3-0 so far on Friday while Long dropped to 1-2.
Hovi 2 (now 11-4)
Long 1 (now 10-5)