The German decks are reminiscent of Panzer Tanks - they're extremely well built and contain powerful cards. The Americans are the underdogs in this match-up based on pure deck power, but their decks are also strong.
This match-up is key because it gives Germany a chance to take the lead. Germany is 20 points down coming into the round. With a sweep, they will gain 24 points while the Americans will gain zero.
A friend of mine was a big fan of Michael Jordan. He would only watch basketball when Jordan was playing and even then he would watch Jordan, even if his "airness" didn't have the ball or was on defense. The logic was he wanted to study Jordan and learn from the best.
For the same reason, people love to watch Jon Finkel. He was paired up against German Champ André Konstanczer. André had a White/Black Rebel deck, the black for Removal in the form of Snuff Out and Vendetta. Finkel had the worst deck on his team, an aggressive Black/Red deck featuring "powerhouses" like Parallax Dementia.
André opened in typical Rebel fashion with a Sergeant. Finkel answered with Thug and Brute and Andre Muzzled the Thug and searched for a Lieutenant. Finkel tried to Wipe André out with Warmonger but it was Vendetta'd before it could do any mongering. Finkel played Arms Dealer, but André's constructed deck continued to drop bombs with Parallax Wave. Finkel killed the Lieutenant with the Dealer but André had the Vanguard in hand and played it and searched out a Reveille Squad. Finkel played a Keldon Berserker but when Thermal Glider joined the Rebel force, Finkel couldn't recover.
Game 2 was a vintage Mercenary-Rebel match-up. André had a Lieutenant while Finkel had Rathi Fiend. While André was searching for one Rebel a turn, going up the chain, Finkel was going down the chain, getting Intimidator, then Cateran Brute and Spineless Thug, while André got Vanguard, Nightwind Glider and Reveille Squad. Finkel snuck a Rhystic Syphon in and served with the Intimidator until André played Volrath! Finkel calmly searched for Agent of Shauku and alpha struck, dealing 8 additional damage with his unblocked Thug, via the Agent. This would tie the match, setting up a pivotal game 3.
Chris Benafel from the US has had a great PT Rookie year. With a 2nd place finish and LA and a 2nd at US Nationals, he's come on the scene fast. His Green/Blue deck is a beating with 2 Gahr, 2 Airship, 2 Bouncer and Hunted Wumpus. He faced off against Yann Brinkman, who had a Red/Green deck featuring a great mana curve and many direct damage spells. Game 1 was all Benafel who played turn 2 Trellis and then started busting out the 4 drops - 2 Gahrs and a Wumpus. Then his bouncer took over and Yann had no answers. Benafel boarded Jolrael's Favor in, over Wild Might.
Brinkman would take the offense early with a Shock Troops with Flaming Sword. But Benafel returned the favor with an Airship. Vine Trellis was huge slowing down Brinkman. Finally Benafel dropped a Silverglade Elemental and put Treetop Bracers on it and Yann went down 2-0.
Pundents feel than Frank Hernandez is the weak link on the America Team. If he is, then he certainly didn't show it against Wolfgang Eder. In a battle of white/red decks featuring powerful rares, Frank won 2 straight games. Game 1 Frank played Troubled Healer, then Scoria Cat, then Laccolith Titan. Eder's 2/2's and 4/2's couldn't stop that! Game 2 Eder started fast with Spur Grappler and Irregulars, but Hernandez held them off with his Rebel Engine and started building up his force. He played his Titan and started serving immediately due to his Battle Rampart. For overkill he cast Troubled Healer, and Panic Attacked, sending it and his forces for the win.
In Eder's defense, he too had bombs, like Jeweled Spirit, Avatar of Fury and Negotiations, but never drew them in the match. Frank drew his Titan and it was huge for him.
Kai Budde, the reigning World Champion (for today at least), faced off with Aaron Forsythe. Both players had Black/Blue decks. Aaron opened with Ribbon Snake and Hornclaw while Kai Seals the Snake and dropped Chimeric Idol and then Death Pit Offering! Aaron Snuffed the Idol out and served with the creatures. Kai tried to cast consecutive creatures but had them met with Counterspell and then Thwart. Kai ran out of creatures and lost the 1st game.
In game 2, Kai Dazed the turn 3 Belbe's Armor and dropped turn 5 Greel. Aaron had a Stormwatch Eagle that kept serving while Kai destroyed his hand. Finally Kai Stole Strength from the Eagle and Greel'ed it away. Aaron drew well and was able to cast Stinging Barrier, Spiketail Hatchling and Cackling Witch. Kai had to throw his mediocre creatures like Wandering Eye to Greel and was left defenseless against the attackers, and lost 2-0. In Kai's defense he played well and didn't get the best draws. His deck was solid, with Seals of Doom, Bouncers and lots of flyers. I do think Kai should have kept Wandering Eye. First off it blocks all the weenies, and secondly it works well with Greel so you can see the opponent's draw and then choose whether or not to activate Greel.
With the Germans down 3-0, their hopes of overtaking the Americans came down to trying to save some pride. They needed André to win game 3 against Finkel. André, playing first, mulliganed a one land hand and got another one land, this one featuring a single Swamp with power white cards like Nightwind Glider and Ramosian Lieutenant. He kept it but didn't draw land on his first draw phase. But Finkel was also mana tight, as he stalled at two swamps and had to discard. Andrew drew Swamp, Plains and Swamp and got his Lieutenant up and running. Finkel played Agent and Intimidator, but Andé cast Maggot Therapy on the Rathi and searched for a Vanguard. Finkel played a Rathi Fiend but Andre searched a Lightbringer out to kill it, in effect making Finkel bolt himself. Finkel played a Wild Jhovall that he tried to trade for André's newly searched Reveille Squad, but André had Sivvi's Valor to save it. Finkel dropped a Kris Mage and a Thug, but Andre Muzzled the Mage and searched out a Thermal Glider. Finkel played Coffin Puppets to try to stabilize the ground, but that was met with a search for Lightbringer #2 and André had enough damage to win. André showed off his Soul Strings in hand to go and fetch the Lightbringers for some more fun.
That win was huge. Not only did Germany avoid the sweep, but they cracked Finkel's armor. If the finals are indeed Germany versus the US, Konstanczer will at least have the confidence that he beat Finkel once. A claim not a lot of people can make.