Round 6: Jon Finkel (Black-Green Control) vs. Luis Scott-Vargas (Black-Green Aristocrats)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 22, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

"If we both dropped our decks together, it would be a mess," Pro Tour Hall of Famer Jon Finkel said to fellow Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas in the feature match area. The two were playing completely different deck archetypes, but where both in the colors black and green.

These two players mean more in the hearts and minds of most Magic players than can be contained in this room. These two's casual demeanor with each other, just sitting down and joking around like it's just another Magic game, would explode some heads, Scanners style.

"Yeah, I'll Seasons Past back my Zulaport Cutthroat." They both smirked. Part of the humor was that there was precious little that overlap between the two decks, apart from Forests and Swamps.

Finkel's deck is full of removal, card draw, discard spells, and more card draw. The entire Pantheon crew was on this very long-game deck that tops at the powerful Seasons Past. Once the first two waves of aggression are stopped, Dark Petition usually finds Seasons Past, which then recurs Dark Petition, along with all those cards that were used to stop the waves. Then, just search for another Seasons Past and the cycle begins anew.

On the other side of the table, Luis Scott-Vargas' deck was full of little creatures, ways to get more little creatures, and ways to leverage those little creatures into something bigger. It's a Black-Green Aristocrats build. "Aristocrats" is the shorthand for the decks with small creatures which gain advantage from being sacrificed, reminiscent of the Pro Tour Gatecrash winning deck that had a similar strategy featuring cards that—you guessed it—had Aristocrat in their name.

Though the deck's namesakes were the cards Cartel Aristocrat and Vampire Aristocrat, here Scott-Vargas uses the analogue Nantuko Husk to sacrifice his small armies for increasingly beneficial effects. It's basically the Rally the Ancestors deck without the Rally.

"Who's advantaged in this?" Finkel asked. "You've definitely tested this match-up more than me."

"I have no idea," Scott-Vargas said. "We did build that deck, but it did not make it out of the 'Sharpie stage', let's just say that." He clarified, "I'm not saying the deck's bad, we were just never in a spot that we thought to work on it more."

Two Hall of Famers are also two of the most comfortable players under the feature match lights.

Though at first glance, it might look like the Languish deck would obliterate the 1/1-creature deck, Zulaport Cutthroat, instant-speed Collected Company, and other built-in resilience could allow Scott-Vargas to have the edge.

The Games

Jon Finkel's starting hand was mostly land and discard. If he could get the key spells out of Scott-Vargas' hand, and just leave the 1/1s, it would hopefully buy enough time for him to draw into his big controlling answers like Languish, and put a halt to the Aristocrats creature-spew.

On successive turns, Finkel took a Nantuko Husk and a Liliana, Heretical Healer from Scott-Vargas' hands. These are the exact type of key spells Finkel wants to keep from the battlefield. Scott-Vargas knew this, and each time he was targeted, just put the predicted discard in his graveyard before even splaying his hand. Just like that, one, two.

Though those plays slowed Scott-Vargas considerably, Finkel had drawn nothing but land. Now the little 1/1s that weren't important enough to take—three Elvish Visionary—had been cast and were all attacking. The straight Visionary beats took Finkel to 14 life. Once Scott-Vargas added Catacomb Sifter, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Zulaport Cutthroat (thanks in part to Collected Company), he became basically Languish proof.

Finkel's Black-Green deck goes long with Dark Petition and Seasons Past.

Even when the Cutthroat was killed and the board subsequently wiped by Languish, Scott-Vargas reloaded with ease. He had been refilling his hand with the Visionaries already, and his Blisterpod left behind a Scion. Finkel was at 7 life with had nothing but land left in his hand. He was hobbling along on Hissing Quagmires, that were taking out a 1/1 each attack step.

But Finkel's resources were tapped. He had drawn land and land, and there was nothing to follow up his board sweeper. Even a Languish hitting ten creatures had barely put a dent in Scott-Vargas' clock. Luis swung for lethal and Jon packed it in.

Unlike before the match began, during sideboarding, the two were silent. They were in game mode.

Sadly, the second game was very similar to the first. Opposite in nature, but similar in result. This game Finkel kept a two-land hand. He was on the draw, and the hand was chock full of goodness, but all his spells started at three. Things like Read the Bones, Ruinous Path, Languish were all staring at back at Finkel with dispassionate, cardboard glares.

Scott-Vargas's Black-Green deck goes wide and hits hard with lots of small creatures and Nantuko Husk.

Scott-Vargas did exactly as his deck usually does, casting a bunch of little dudes. Finkel did something different than his deck usually did. He not play lands, then discarded on his end step.

Though Finkel hoped that the damage to him would at least be slow, Nantuko Husk meant that Finkel would have to draw a Swamp on his next draw step, or Scott-Vargas could simply sacrifice all his creatures to it and steal the remaining life from Finkel in one fell swoop.

Jonny Magic chuckled as he drew his card. It was a Hissing Quagmire. He was wishing for a land, and just like the genies do, he was granted his wish in the worst possible way.

Finkel laid the land down, then died.

Again, the two were silent after playing. Surely part of this was the imperfect draws on Finkel's part. He had all the goods and three draws to hit land, He just didn't get there.

It goes to show kids. Even idols have rough beats sometimes.

Finkel sat, shuffling his cards back into his sideboard, as Scott-Vargas signed his win slip and walked off.

Finkel 0 – Scott-Vargas 2

Jon Finkel's Black-Green Control - Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad

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Luis Scott-Vargas' Black-Green Aristocrats – Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad

Download Arena Decklist

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