Round 8: Christian Calcano vs. Jon Finkel

Posted in Event Coverage on July 28, 2017

By Chapman Sim

To be a champion, you have to see the big picture. Every win at this point will directly contribute towards the making of a Pro Tour Champion. In the final round of the day, two of New York's finest converge at the feature match area.

Jon Finkel is fresh off a Top 8 performance at Grand Prix Kyoto 2017, while Christian Calcano made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Amonkhet. Today, not only was he shooting for a consecutive Top 8 appearance, he was also the frontrunner in the race for Draft Master. With both players at 6-1, a win here would put them comfortably ahead of the pack.

The Decks

Finkel's weapon of choice was Ramunap Red, a deck which occupied nearly 25% of the metagame. Harnessing strength from Ramunap Ruins and Sunscorched Desert, the red aggro deck aimed to press early damage with hasty beats such as Village Messenger, Earthshaker Khenra, and Ahn-Crop Crasher, before closing the game with direct damage.

Calcano made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Amonkhet with Mono-Black Zombies, so it was unsurprising for him to be back for seconds. Changing little except swapping out some Swamps for Ifnir Deadlands and Scavenger Grounds, Zombies was the second most represented deck this weekend.

The public opinion was that Mono-Black Zombies was slightly favored in this matchup. However when you're playing against Jonny Magic, you never know what could happen. Who will emerge victorious? This matchup largely hinged upon Calcano surviving the early game, since his deck was the one with the stronger late game.

The Games

In Game 1, Calcano won the die roll, prompting Finkel to chuckle. “That seems bad," referring to his chances. Ideally, Ramunap Red wished to be on the play every single game, such that it could be ahead on the board to push additional damage before the Zombies take over. To make matters worse, Finkel had to go down to six cards.

However, he was first to bust out of the gates with Village Messenger and Earthshaker Khenra, preventing Calcano's first creature (Relentless Dead) from blocking. Already down to 16 life before he had played his third land, Calcano deployed Lord of the Accursed and wisely chose to keep both creatures home on defense. Incendiary Flow got rid of the Zombie lord, and Calcano declined to block Earthshaker Khenra, going down to 14. A second copy of Lord of the Accursed appeared.


Christian Calcano keeps his focus on what matters the most in this game.

Finkel summoned Hazoret the Fervent, but Calcano untapped to summon Cryptbreaker and fire off Dark Salvation to give the red God -4/-4, killing it. At this point, Calcano felt safe enough to attack with Relentless Dead, which Finkel double-blocked with both his creatures, erasing his side of the board. Calcano drew a card by tapping three Zombies including Cryptbreaker, and then pressed the advantage by swinging with his entire team. When Finkel traded Earthshaker Khenra with a 2/2 Cryptbreaker, Calcano replaced it with another.

At the end of his line, Finkel eternalized Earthshaker Khenra, only to have it killed by Fatal Push. Liliana's Mastery was the final nail in the coffin, and Finkel scooped up his cards.

In Game 2, Calcano's Cryptbreaker met with Shock before Finkel charged forward with Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher. However, Calcano dispatched both creatures with Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation, putting him ahead on the board despite having only a single Zombie token.


Jon Finkel attempts to navigate a difficult game against his Zombies opponent.

Thereafter, Calcano summoned a 3/3 Diregraf Colossus and then Dread Wanderer, generating a second Zombie token in the process. Finkel used spot removal (Abrade and Incendiary Flow) to toast both creatures, but the card disadvantage was apparent.

A second Diregraf Colossus—4/4 this time—coupled with Cryptbreaker, rebuilding the board almost instantaneously, and Finkel's eternalized Earthshaker Khenra did little to stop the incoming horde. With that, Finkel fell to 6-2, while Calcano advanced to 7-1.

Could Calcano make the Top 8 once more, or at least achieve 12-4 for the 15 Pro Points he needed to secure Platinum?

Calcano 2 - Finkel 0

 

Jon Finkel's Ramunap Red

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation - Day 1

Christian Calcano's Mono Black Zombies

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation - Day 1

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