Magic: The Gathering Team Challenge 2000 Semifinals
by Randy Buehler
The top four teams in the world squared off against each other Saturday night with $30,000 in prize money at stake. Team Antarctica (comprised of Jon Finkel, Steve O'Mahoney-Schwartz, and Dan O'Mahoney-Schwartz) took on reigning Team Pro Tour champions Team Your Move Games (Darwin Kastle, Dave Humpherys, and Rob Dougherty). The teams had met once before, in the semi-finals of Pro Tour DC last fall, with Your Move winning and moving on to the finals. The other Team Challenge match pitted Game Empire (Alan Comer, Brian Selden, and Kurt Burgner - the team that was the #1 seed going into the finals in DC) against Black Ops (Antoine Ruel, Olivier Ruel, and Florent Jeudon). Black Ops won Grand Prix Cannes and the French National team championship in addition to placing in the money in DC.
Antarctica won the toss and elected to go first. Team Rochester draft lines up all three teammates in a row, starts with the middle player on one of the teams, and the rest proceeds like a normal Rochester draft (with the exception that hand signals and showing the cards you've already drafted in perfectly legal in Team Rochester). Finkel took Drake hatchling out of the first pack and Steve took Kris mage, thus leaving a Spidersilk Armor for Your Move. Your Move gave Rob the Armor while Humpherys took Sailmonger and Darwin took Wild Jhovall. The second pack gave Steve an enormous bomb: Thrashing Wumpus. The other interesting aspect of pack 2 was that Your Move led both Invigorate and Snorting Ghar fall to Dan because they preferred to take Snuff Out, Blockade Runner, and Devout Witness.
Over the course of the next few packs Humpherys and Finkel both settled into blue/white. Both players are legendary for their experiences running blue decks so that matchup promised to be a beauty. Steve stuck with red and black and was rewarded with a Volcanic Winds out of pack #6. Kastle (Steve's opponent) tried to go red/white, but didn't get a lot of white and ended up splashing a third color (black) when all was said and done. Meanwhile Dan and Rob scooped up all the green. Dan supplemented his with some white tricks, like Arrest and Wishmonger, while Rob drafted a number of black removal spells.
While building their decks Team Antarctica seemed confident. All three were convinced that Steve should crush Darwin - he even picked up a late Ancient Hydra to go with his Wumpus and Winds. Finkel felt his deck was decidedly mediocre, but Humpherys didn't get any power cards either and Finkel was the only one of them with a Waterfront Bouncer. Finkel's best card was probably the Rootwater Thief that he got right at the end of the draft. Antarctica's plan was to ride Mike Long into the finals!
Steve's match with Darwin was a lot closer than expected. Both games were extremely close and Darwin would probably have won game 1 if he had drawn his second Swamp. Of course, that'll happen when you're forced to play three colors. Dan (and his 2 color deck) got color screwed in game 1 and got destroyed by Snuff Out in game 2 against Dougherty so it all came down to Finkel and Humpherys. Their first game was a marathon. They were still in game 1 long after both other matches had finished. Humpherys came 4 cards from decking Finkel, but Finkel managed to use Waterfront Bouncer for something like 15 consecutive turns, alternating between bounced Humpherys' Trap Runner and Voice of law. With Wandering Eye assuring him that the coast was clear, Finkel poked through for a very slow 20 points of damage.
In game 2 Finkel spent much of the early game trying to play around a Last Breath that Humpherys didn't actually have in his deck. His team misremembered exactly what Humpherys had gotten in the draft. Finkel got his Rootwater Commando Toppled, but that cleared the way for Rootwater Thief. First Jon took Sailmonger. That left Humpherys with just 2 cards left in his deck that could potentially block the Thief - Voice of Truth and Rishadan Airship. Humpherys promptly drew the Voice off the top of his deck before Finkel (and Long) could strip him of any more resources. That's when Finkel finally put his all powerful Waterfront Bouncer on the table. For 9 of the next 10 turns, Finkel bounced Humpherys' Voice of Truth and attacked with Mike Long. Long burgled most of the good spells out of Humpherys' deck before a Cloud Sprite joined in on the attack. Humpherys did get a Blockade Runner into play and the race was kind of close, but by examining Humpherys' deck each turn, Finkel could deduce the contents of Dave's hand! Nothing really tricky happened at the end. Finkel won, giving Team Antarctica a berth in the tomorrow's final match.
Their opponents would be either Black Ops or Game Empire. Brian Selden couldn't make it to New York in time to compete in this weekend's pro Tour, but he did fly out to play in this event. He and his Two-Headed Dragon won their match against Florent Jeudon, but Comer dropped 2 straight to Antoine Ruel. It all came down to Kurt Burgner and Olivier Ruel, which all came down to game 3. Ruel was playing 3 colors (as were his teammates). Their strategy was to take all the removal spells they possibly could no matter what color they were, thus ensuring that their opponents' decks would be weak. Ruel drew 2 each of all Forest, Swamp, and Mountain in the deciding game and Burgner's spells just weren't as good as Olivier's. Thus Black Ops advanced to the finals where they will take on Team Antarctica.
The winning team tomorrow will receive $15,000 while the losers still take home $9,000 for their efforts. Both Your Move games and Game Empire will receive $3,000 ($1,000 for each team member) for playing and losing today.
Antarctica - 2
Your Move Games - 1
Black Ops - 2
Game Empire - 1