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Pro Tour-Chicago 1999
Round 1 Feature Match

Jon Finkel vs. Steven O'Mahoney Schwartz


Jon Finkel's Hand

Round 1 of a Pro Tour isn't usually quite this exciting, but thanks to the joy of radom pairings there were four amazing feature matches featuring a total of 23 Pro Tour Top 8's and 26 additional Grand Prix Top 8's amongst the 8 competitors. (The total goes up from 49 to 57 if you count reporters!) Kastle v Price, Rade v Krakower and Levy v Slemr were all interesting, but how could I pass up Finkel, Jon versus O'Mahoney Schwartz, Steven?

Both players are using card for card identical decks in this tournament -- mono-blue control decks featuring Ophidian, Powder Keg, Morphling, lots of deck manipulation and lots of permission. Finkel invented "Forbidian" for the 1998 US Nationals, but he hasn't played these two cards in any major tournament since then. Steve never has.

Steve won the flip before game 1 and Finkel had to mulligan. Finkel's 6-card hand included 1 Island and a Brainstorm so he kept it. When his first draw phase came and that Brainstorm didn't show him any land, Jon knew he was in trouble. Things got even worse when Steve played a Thawing Glacier. Jon finally played his second land -- a Thaw of his own -- on turn 5, but Steve immediately Wasted it. Finkel's next land (a Dust Bowl) was also Wasted and Jon decided to go ahead and concede game 1 to the power of Steve's Thawing Glacier. Steve commented while picking up his cards that "Morphling was about to pay a vist." Finkel's sarcastic reply was "Oh yeah ... that mattered."

Game 2 also began with Jon forced to mulligan. Steve used Force Spike to counter Jon's turn-2 Impulse, but Jon top-decked a Thawing Glacier anyway. Of course, Steve had a Wasteland for it. With no land in his hand Jon Impulsed and then surprised me by taking Counterspell over the other 3 land he had to choose from. Finkel did then draw a Dust Bowl to briefly give him 3 land in play, but Steve used another Wasteland to knock him back down to 2 for a while. When a Finkel Brainstorm showed him no land and Steve then dropped a Thawing Glacier, you could feel the game swing in Steve's favor. After two turns of Steve thawing and Finkel discarding, Steve used Counterspell and Force of Will to force out an Ophidian. With Steve tapped down to one mana, Jon tried to summon a 'Phid of his own, but Steve had another Force of Will.

Finkel did top-deck a Wasteland to cut into Steve's Thawing Glaciers advantage, but he knows he can't let that Ophidian hit him many times. Without land and playing mono-blue, Finkel didn't have any answers. After several hits with his Ophidian, Steve continued to be the man with all the answers this match by trying to Whisper with buyback during Jon's end step. Finkel casts Counterspell and then so does Steve. Finkel Counterspells again and Steve is content to let his Whisper go now that he has Finkel tapped out. Steve untaps and goes for Morphling, leaving 5 mana untapped. On his turn, Jon has to try to get Nevinyrral's Disk into play. He's got one Force of Will to defend it with, but Steve has both Counterspell and Forbid so the Disk doesn't resolve. Finklel's last prayer is a Treachery on his next turn, but Steve casts Forbid with buyback. I hear Forbid-Ophidian is a good combo. With Morphling about to end the match anyway, Jon concedes rather than let himself get hit by Ophidian anymore.

Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz - 2
Jon Finkel - 0

-Randy Buehler



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