FINALS: IVAN FLOCH VS. JACKSON CUNNINGHAM

Posted in PRO TOUR MAGIC 2015 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on August 4, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Winning a Pro Tour means earning a few things: Immediate promotion to Platinum status with the benefit carrying through the next Pro Points season, a $40,000 cash prize, and a chair in that year's ending World Championship.

No big deal, right?

The Players and Decks

Ivan Floch had long been one of the strongest players without a Pro Tour Top 8. Adding the Sunday feather to his cap was a hurdle a long time coming for him. Taking his White-Blue Control deck through the paces meant both playing it efficiently – the deck could take a lot of time to win if you weren't quick enough during timed rounds – and correctly. Floch had deftly handled numerous threats, thanks to a suite of removal, Quicken-powered sorcery like Planar Cleansing and Supreme Verdict, and Elixir of Immortality to ensure it all happened as many times as it needed to.

Jackson Cunningham made it farther than most players dream to in their first Pro Tour. Having secured Silver status in the Pro Players Club just by winning his way into the Finals, the best that Cunningham could do now would be to win, warping to Platinum and a seat at the most prestigious tournament of the year. His White-Green Aggro deck had proven resilient, thanks to Voice of Resurgence and Ajani, Caller of the Pride: Both provided staying power against removal and explosive potential damage, finding wins when opponents otherwise felt safe.

Both players had put on a show making it to the last match of Pro Tour Magic 2015. Many games ended up swinging unexpectedly, and even competitors rooted for each other.

"I was thinking how I would beat Planeswalker Jund with three Rakdos's Returns and suddenly I'm rooting for you," Floch said.

While Cunningham's first Pro Tour has been a memorable one, Floch came too far to back down in the finals.

Cunningham smiled. Making it to the finals seemed to take the edge off things as both players were playing for the same things: the title, glory, and World Championship seat.

The Games

As in so many games leading up to this Cunningham came out quickly, using the perfect mana from double Mana Confluence to cast Soldier of the Pantheon, Fleecemane Lion, and Voice of Resurgence. The Lion was countered, but Voice of Resurgence wasn't, putting Floch in a tougher spot. His deck wanted to cast spells on the opponent's turn and until the Voice was dealt with he'd be at a disadvantage.

While Cunningham put Floch to 12 life, he didn't have more lands for several turns. Jace, Architect of Thought might have slowed Cunningham's aggression, but Selesnya Charm for a Knight token and another Voice of Resurgence meant Cunningham wasn't stopping.

When Cunningham attacked Jace on the next turn, Floch finally cast both Quicken and Supreme Verdict to reset the board to just two Elemental tokens, joined post-combat by Fleecemane Lion. Floch dipped Jace to 1 to "draw" Sphinx's Revelation in the split before casting another Supreme Verdict to put Cunningham back to square one.

Floch has had more than a few revelations throughout the tournament.

After that, Floch answered every threat Cunningham tried – Fleecemane Lion, Experiment One, Sunblade Elf, and more – as he cast Sphinx's Revelation multiple times to pull further and further ahead. Eventually, Cunningham had enough and decided to try being on the play.

Floch 1 – Cunningham 0

Cunningham took aim early, with Experiment One leading into Soldier of the Pantheon. Floch was ready with multiple copies of Last Breath, however he could only exile one creature before Ajani, Caller of the Pride started pumping Cunningham's army.

Nyx-Fleece Ram presented a sturdy blocker for Floch, who seemed content to wait until Cunningham committed more to the battlefield. Cunningham continued to pump his Soldier, even scoring an unblocked hit against Floch, but when Cunningham used two Ajani's in one turn to create a 6/5 flying, double strike Soldier of the Pantheon the unexpected happened: Floch had no response.

Cunnningham calls on some powerful Planeswalkers to combat Floch's seemingly endless stream of tricks.

"Ah.... yup." Floch said as he began to scoop up his cards.

Floch 1 – Cunningham 1

The early game started as a Planeswalker showdown: Cunningham with Ajani, Caller of the Price ticking up as Floch used Jace, Architect of Thought and counted down. Supreme Verdict bought time for Cunningham against one Loxodon Smiter, and the second required Azorius Charm.

Advent of the Wurm threatened to do work with Ajani, but Floch had a timely Planar Cleansing to clear them both before Cunning recast the Smither and a second Ajani. When Floch cast his second Supreme Verdict there were no creatures on Cunningham's next turns. Sphinx's Revelation began to do its thing, refilling Floch's hand and life total beyond what Cunningham could keep up with, despite Ajani using his ultimate ability to create twenty-one 2/2 Cat tokens.

Supreme Verdict doesn't care how many creatures there are.

Eventually, Floch cast Elspeth, Sun's Champion and began to assemble his own army. Protecting her from everything Cunningham tried, Floch used her ultimate ability to finish Cunningham from 19 life.

Floch 2 – Cunningham 1

Cunningham came out of the gate swinging again, with Solder of the Pantheon into Fleecemane Lion. Floch dropped to 11 in the next two attacked, thanks to hard work by Ajani, Caller of the Pride.

"There he is again!" Floch said when Cunningham cast it, like clockwork, while he was tapped out. Supreme Verdict took care of the Lion, but Loxodon Smiter just replaced it. Archangel of Thune appeared for Floch, something that had been relatively unseen throughout the Top 8. Cunningham was left unblocked when he attacked with an oversized Loxodon Smiter, putting Floch to 5. After digging with Jace, Architect of Thought Floch ended his turn tapped low and missing a land drop. Banishing Light cleared the angelic blocker and Cunningham attacked for lethal.

Floch 2 – Cunningham 2

"These match-ups just seem like if your draw's good enough you get there," Cunningham said, waving at Floch's deck.

"It also depends on your draw." Floch said.

"Yeah. It's so draw dependent."

With the final game underway there wouldn't be more time to consider. Experiment One began Cunningham's game, with Fleecemane Lion not far behind, but Floch played two copies of Nyx-Fleece Ram to sit as blockers. Cunningham valiantly began attacking with his now 3/3 Ooze and double Fleecemane Lion, but adding 2 life each turn with an Archangel of Thune would add up quickly.

Advent of the Wurm was Cunningham's response at the end of Floch's turn, but missed growing Experiment One. He powered out the same attack plus the 5/5 green Wurm token. Cunningham then cast a post-combat Advent of the Wurm, missing out on having a 5/5 Experiment One blocked by a 0/5 Nyx-Fleece Ram. All of Floch's creatures were upgraded by two +1/+1 counters on his next upkeep, then with one more during combat when he attacked Cunningham to 11 life with Archangel of Thune. Floch was left with two 3/8 Sheep to defend with.

Cunningham attacked all-in again, using Ajani's Presence to make his blocked Fleecemane Lions indestructible. Azorius Charm put Experiment One on top of Cunningham's library and let Floch survive with 10 life. Adding two more +1/+1 counters on his creatures on his upkeep again, and Cunningham tapped out, Floch turned his Sheep and Angel sideways: two 5/10 Nyx-Fleece Rams and an 8/9 Archangel of Thune were more than enough to raise Cunningham's hand.

Floch met his grasp and shook.

Ivan Floch defeated Jackson Cunningham, 3-2, to become the champion of Pro Tour Magic 2015!

Congratulations to Ivan Floch, Pro Tour Magic 2015 Champion!

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