by Randy Buehler
To draw or not to draw? That was the question facing Jon Finkel and Waiken Soo. They each had 5-0 records going into round 6 and a draw was clearly not the right thing to do within the context of Nationals, but a draw would ensure both players of a seat at the $20,000 Draft Challenge. The allure of a guaranteed prize somewhere between $1,000 and $8,000 was tempting enough that Soo offered an intentional draw. Finkel declined. He figured his chances of winning this match and getting to the table anyway were good enough that he shouldn't do anything to hurt his chances of (also) making the U.S. Nationals team.
Soo won the die roll and exploded out of the starting blocks with turn 2 Vine Trellis and turn 3 Mungha Wurm. The Wurm only allows him to untap one land per turn, but at 6/5 for 4 mana he's well worth it, especially on turn 3 and with Vine Trellis in play providing more mana. Finkel played a turn 3 Ribbon Snake, took 6, and then calmly played Coastal Piracy to start looking for an answer. Soo added Rushwood Dryad to his attack and hit Finkel with 6 more points of Mungha Wurm damage. Finkel next attack with Ribbon Snake did give him a short-term answer to Mungha Wurm in the form of Withdraw, but he decided to play Cloud Sprite and Defender en-Vec instead. Finkel then blocked the Wurm with the Defender and used up two counters to save itself and one more counter to stop the Dryad damage. Soo summoned a Deepwood Drummer.
Finkel then attacked with his two fliers and drew two amazing cards: Seal of Removal and Withdraw #2. Lesser players might have panicked after getting bashed in the face by a turn 3 Mungha Wurm, but not Jon Finkel. His play in this game was flawless and the next turn was pure brilliance. When Soo attacked him with the Dryad and the Wurm, Finkel put Defender en-Vec in front of the Dryad and tempted Soo to use his Deepwood Drummer. Jon was at 8 life and had one counter left on the Defender. Soo elected to try to save his Drummer and make sure the Defender died. Finkel cast Withdraw, choosing to bounce the unblocked Mungha Wurm and choosing Defender en-Vec as the second target for Withdraw. The second part of Withdraw doesn't resolve if the controller of the targeted creature pays one mana. Soo reread the card and realized that he couldn't pay to counter that half of the effect. Thus the Wurm was sent home and so was Finkel's Defender.
On his next turn the tables had clearly turned. Finkel served with everyone, drew three cards, and brought out a fresh Defender. Stinging Barrier and Seal of Removal prevented Soo from establishing any more pressure and Soo scooped before Finkel even got around to casting Withdraw #2.
Game 2 was short and bloody. Mungha Wurm once again came out fast -- this time it was turn 4. Finkel's draw was mediocre, but he was starting to stabilize until Soo drew Flame Rift and Rhystic Lightning on consecutive turns. On to game 3.
That was the first game Finkel had lost all weekend.
Game 3 was a classic. Waiken offered the draw once again, but Finkel declined. Finkel kept a 2-land hand, playing first, and failed to play a land on turn 3. Things looked bad since Soo had a turn 2 Vine Trellis, but all Soo had for early beats was a 1/3 Rib Cage Spider. Soo didn't cast a 3rd creature until a turn 6 Nesting Wurm, but by then Finkel had draw some more land. That gave Finkel time to cast Coastal Piracy and Defender en-Vec. When Soo played his Nesting Wurm he opted to search for his other one. That's pretty good card advantage, but Finkel's deck was much more about time advantage than card advantage. At 6 mana, those two 4/3 tramplers were hard to keep in play against Finkel's 4 (yes 4) Withdraws. Over the course of the next several turns Finkel used 2 Withdraws and an Ensnare so he could keep attacks with Spiketail Hatchling and sometimes Defender en-Vec despite Soo's Spider. The extra cards he drew from Coastal Piracy allowed him to continue playing a time advantage oriented game.
Finkel pulled the whole "bounce your guy and my Defender" trick 2 more times! That same Defender en-Vec came into play 4 times over the course of game 3 and that bought Finkel enough time to play out Ramosian Sky Marshall and Spiketail Drake. Soo did manage to deal 8 points of Trample damage thanks to Wild Might, but that only got Finkel to 5. The fourth Withdraw was a heartbreaker for Soo as it allowed Finkel to kill him with fliers before those 4/3 trampling nesting Wurms could ever slog their way through Finkel's lone Defender en-Vec. What a game. Finkel's back.
Finkel 2 (now 6-0)
Soo 1 (now 5-1)