By Peter Rawlings

Hall of Famer Raphael Levy arrived in Boston hoping his Mono-Red Burn deck would be able to scorch aways his opponents' life totals fast enough to earn him the last pro points he needs to secure platinum status for next season. Sitting on 40 points, a top-16 finish here would lock Levy for platinum by simply showing up at next weekend's Pro Tour Magic 2015.

His opponent Anand Khare made the trip from New Jersey with his Kiki-Pod deck in tow. Khare only recently returned to the game about a year ago, but will see Levy again at the Pro Tour, as a PTQ win last season earned Khare an invitation to Portland. Both players entered the round at 8-2, needing a win to stay alive for Top 8 contention.

The Games

Khare mulliganed down to six cards in Game 1, before keeping a two-lander with some mana-accelerating creatures, a Restoration Angel and Chord of Calling. Levy led off with a first turn Rift Bolt.

A Wall of Roots and Noble Hierarch were followed by a Kitchen Finks on Khare's third turn, but Levy had a Skullcrack in hand to prevent Khare's gaining life from the mischievous Ouphe, dropping the Kiki-Pod player to 14.

On his third turn Levy played a land and went into the tank. After considering his possible plays he decided to suspend his second, third and fourth Rift Bolts while letting out a chuckle.

Another Kitchen Finks—the second, and last in his deck—appeared for Khare. There were no Skullcracks in sight this time, allowing him a bit of breathing room. Khare passed the turn and Levy went into his upkeep with nine points worth of burn set to come out of suspend. "You, you, you," Levy said as he cast his Rift Bolts in quick succession. He seriously threatened Khare's life total, but Khare had a Restoration Angel to blink the Kitchen Finks and help stem the bleeding. When Khare followed-up with a Chord of Calling to fetch Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on Levy's end step, Levy scooped up his cards and went to Game 2.

"You had that all along, right?" Levy asked. Khare commented that Levy must play poker, improving his ability to read people. "Well, when you're always thinking on my end step..." Levy said with a grin.

Khare 1 – Levy 0

Anand Khare

Levy kicked off the second game with a turn-one Grim Lavamancer and followed it up with an Eidolon of the Great Revel. The Pyrostatic Pillar ability of the enchantment creature quickly proved its worth, countering the life gained from Khare's Kitchen Finks the following turn. With a reserve Eidolon in hand, Levy sent the original into Khare's Finks and followed up by cracking Arid Mesa to provide his Lavamancer enough food to zap away Khare's Birds of Paradise.

On turn 4 Khare laid a Fire-Lit Thicket and passed the turn with just a Wall of Roots and Birds of Paradise in play, indicating a potential Chord of Calling and wondering aloud what cards he might have. But there was no Chord in sight, with the Pod player going for a Gavony Township on Levy's turn.

"Ah, you have nothing, that's what you have," Levy said. He cast a Flames of the Blood Hand and sacrificed another fetch land to resupply his Grim Lavamancer and kill off the persisted Finks before the Township trigger resolved.

Raphael Levy

Khare continued beefing up his creatures with Gavony Township, while Levy continued attacking. His second Eidolon met its end in combat, and a third Eidolon soon met a similar fate, attacking into a 2-power Wall of Roots. Soon after, Khare began taking to the offensive with the normally innocuous Birds of Paradise, now swooping in for four damage a turn.

A Magma Jet on Khare's end step from Levy scryed into a Flames of the Blood Hand, which went to the top, and a redundant Smash to Smithereens, which went to the bottom. On his turn Levy attempted to take Khare's life total perilously low, but Khare's two untapped lands were no bluff, and he had the Negate.

A follow up Kitchen Finks brought Khare back up to 7. Another Township activation and a land off the top from Levy gave Khare the match.

Anand Khare defeats Raphael Levy 2-0

The Aftermath

After the match Khare admitted he had to draw very well to mitigate the effects of his mulligan to 6 in Game 1. He only runs two Kitchen Finks—arguably his best card against Burn—in his Birthing Pod deck, and he drew them both naturally in the first game. For Game 2 he brought in three Negates and a singleton Obstinate Baloth with the aim of countering Levy's key burn spells. The strategy, backed by Gavony Township, worked and enabled him to take the match.

Levy commented that contrary to many people's conceptions his Burn deck is very difficult to pilot, with sideboard choices in the complex Modern format proving especially difficult. During sideboarding, Levy went back and forth about what combination of Molten Rain and Smash to Smithereens to bring in. "After board I have three Searing Blood and three Searing Blaze to deal with his Birds, so the Molten Rains can help kill his mana," he said. "I don't want too many Smashes because there's only the one Pod to destroy." By bringing in narrower cards like Smash to Smithereens the Burn player risks ending up with irrelevant cards--exactly what happened to Levy in Game 2 as he sat with a useless copy of Smash to Smithereens in his hand.