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Finals: Kenji Tsumura vs. Gadiel Szleifer ($10,000): Gifts Given and a Title Received

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Both players were already looking a little beat as they sat down to the most important match of their Magic career. Kenji Tsumura and Gadiel Szleifer had shown why they merited their reputations as stars -- despite how both were only teenagers -- and now one of them would walk away a Pro Tour Champion.

Game 1

Tsumura's opening hand was Tendo Ice Bridge, two swamps. plains, Hideous Laughter, two Final Judgment. He wasted no time before shuffling it back in. He stayed at six. Szleifer kept his opener. They waited for the cameras to zoom in so they could start.

After a brief light show both players started with land, Top. Tsumura used his on upkeep to find a forest, and saw that Kodama's Reach was waiting for him as well. Szleifer's third turn had nothing more than an Ice Bridge to go with his two swamps. Tsumura had no action on his fourth turn and watched as Szleifer took away his Cranial Extractions with one of his own. Tsumura's hand was Time Stop, land, Meloku, Myojin of Seeing Winds.

Tsumura Topped up a Sakura-Tribe Elder, played it, and passed it back. Szleifer had no play on his four lands, refusing to replay his Top in anticipation of an end-of-turn Gifts Ungiven. Tsumura rigged his deck and passed it back. He shut down the Gifts with Time Stop. Szleifer spent his turn digging up a forest by sending his Top back onto his deck.

Tsumura plucked Hana Kami and got his Kodama's Reach back, since the top of his deck had no action. Szleifer busted out Ink-Eyes, but Tsumura was ready with Final Judgment. He also had Sakura-Tribe Elder, in case his deck needed to be worked over. Meanwhile, Szleifer had to shuffle his Top back into his deck just to get some mana with Kodama's Reach. Tsumura dug himself up a Heartbeat of Spring with his Elder, then untapped.

Gadiel wanted to Take Back Sunday for the U.S. Magic scene.

He rained on Szleifer's play by tapping out for Myojin of Seeing Winds. Szleifer dug up a Gifts Ungiven and got himself Hana Kami and Stir the Grave, putting Cranial Extraction and Soulless Revival in the yard. Szleifer passed it back.

As expected, Tsumura drew 13. Among them was Myojin of Night's Reach. He played his Mana Flare, searched out a pair of lands, used Wear Away on a Sensei's Divining Top (back to the top of Szleifer's deck, anyway), then busted out the black god. During his upkeep, Szleifer played Sickening Shoal for two, splicing on Hideous Laughter to clear Tsumura's team. In the process, he lost his hand.

He held on for a couple of turns, but when Tsumura brought out Meloku, Szleifer's attempt to Sickening Shoal it met with Time Stop. He decided it was time for Game 2.

Tsumura 1, Szleifer 0

Sideboarding:

Tsumura

-1 Wear Away
-3 Gifts Ungiven
-3 Heartbeat of Spring
-3 Hideous Laughter
-1 Hana Kami
-1 Myojin of Seeing Winds
-1 Horobi's Whisper

+4 Nezumi Graverobber
+3 Kodama of the North Tree
+1 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
+2 Cranial Extraction
+2 Hero's Demise
+1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

Szleifer:

-1 Horobi's Whisper
-3 Hideous Laughter
-2 Cranial Extraction
-1 Wear Away
-1 Hana Kami
-1 Stir the Grave
-1 Ethereal Haze
-1 Soulless Revival

+4 Nezumi Graverobber
+3 Kodama of the North Tree
+1 Myojin of Night's Reach
+1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
+1 Keiga, the Tide Star
+1 Forest

Game 2

Tsumura started with a Top and watched as Szleifer pounded out Elder (which he kept around for beats) and Reach. Tsumura had a Kodama's Reach of his own, so things would heat up quickly.

Szleifer hit for one again and tapped his five mana for Kodama of the North Tree. Tsumura sent them both home with one of his own, though he needed to slow his mana with a dual to do it. Szleifer finally searched out a land, untapped, and dropped Meloku, recharging his Ice Bridge to make a spirit.

The finalists' combined age is 34.

Tsumura's next play was a disappointing Cranial Extraction on Extraction. Szleifer revealed a busty hand of Keiga, Ink-Eyes and Graverobber. He made another token before untapping, then swung in and snuck out Ink-Eyes, earning himself a North Tree in the process. Tsumura packed quickly.

Tsumura 1, Szleifer 1

Sideboarding

Szleifer:

+3 Cranial Extraction
-2 Gifts Ungiven
-1 Plains

Tsumura:

No changes

Game 3

Tsumura led with Sensei's Divining Top and Sakura-Tribe Elder. Szleifer had his own Top, but followed up with Nezumi Graverobber. Tsumura swung in for one and played a 'robber of his own. Szleifer decided to mirror the board completely with his own Elder, and sat back on both. Tsumura Topped, and passed.

Szleifer sent out for a land, watched Tsumura flip his Nighteyes the Desecrator, then untapped and dispatched it with Sickening Shoal. Tsumura thought hard and decided to get an additional mana and a fresh set of three cards. He drew up Stir the Grave, reanimated his Graverobber and played another Sakura-Tribe Elder. Szleifer agonized over how to set up his deck before untapping. He gave the turn back to Tsumura with six mana up.

Tsumura frowned at the Ink-Eyes in his hand and his single swamp before firing his Elder to get a second. He Topped into Time Stop, flipped his Graverobber, and waited. Szleifer untapped, Shoaled away the Desecrator and hit for two. Tsumura played an Elder, who stood in the way of Szleifer's incoming 4/2. Tsumura tried to take it down by playing and activating a Graverobber of his own, but Szleifer had Sickening Shoal to keep his around. He hit for four before losing his reanimator to Final Judgment.

Neither player made a move. They kept digging. Finally, Szleifer blinked. He sent his Top back onto his deck to get at a Cranial Extraction, and fired it off looking for the North Tree. He saw in Tsumura's hand Ink-Eyes, Time Stop, and Final Judgment.

Kenji used Time Stop well all weekend.

Down came Ink-Eyes. Szleifer played his Top and looked at three more cards. He had no answer. Tsumura hit and got himself an Elder for free. All Szleifer could do was summon an Elder of his own, sparing himself five points. Tsumura took the opportunity to Extract all of Szleifer's copies of the legend and sat back on Time Stop. He caught himself a Meloku.

Another five and another free Elder to refresh the top of his deck, and Tsumura was giving it over to Szleifer. He traded his Top for Gifts Ungiven at end of turn, and cast it, showing Tsumura Myojin of Night's Reach, Keiga the Tide Star, Sickening Shoal and Nezumi Graverobber. He scored Myojin and Graverobber.

He untapped and dropped Graverobber. Tsumura swapped his Top for Time Stop and put an end to that nonsense. He hit with Ink-Eyes to get Keiga, and showed Cranial Extraction to take the game.

Tsumura 2, Szleifer 1

Sideboarding
Tsumura:

-1 Stir the Grave
+1 Myojin of Seeing Winds

Szleifer:

No changes

Game 4

Tsumura led with Sakura-Tribe Elder, but Szleifer had no play until a turn-three Kodama's Reach. Tsumura sent out for a Swamp to go with his two Forests, untapped, and dropped Tendo Ice Bridge and Nezumi Graverobber, opting to flip it immediately.

Szleifer looked at his five lands and paused, eventually tapping five for Kodama of the North Tree. Tsumura sat on his five mana and waited. Szleifer Extracted away Tsumura's Final Judgments, seeing a hand of Soulless Revival, Meloku, Plains, Forest, Sakura-Tribe Elder. He then played a Top and peeked, then swapped it for Sickening Shoal, pitching Cranial Extraction to get rid of the reanimator. Tsumura brought back his Elder and took five from the incoming Tree.

Tsumura played Meloku with two mana open. Szleifer untapped and Shoaled him away. Tsumura made one token and took six from the North Tree. He swung for one and played out a pair of Sakura-Tribe Elders, but things were looking dire. He chumped with both and was down to five. Then Szleifer showed him Meloku. Tsumura went looking through Szleifer's deck with Cranial Extraction before scooping, moving them on to a huge fifth game.

Tsumura 2, Szleifer 2

Sideboarding
Tsumura:

-1 Kodama of the North Tree
-1 Soulless Revival
+2 Heartbeat of Spring

Szleifer:

No changes

Game 5

Tsumura opened with Nezumi Graverobber and no play on turn two. Szleifer went mana-crazy with Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach. Tsumura forced Szleifer to sacrifice his Elder when he went to remove the Reach, and then Extracted Szleifer's Extractions.
What he saw was not a pleasant sight. Szleifer's hand was Ink Eyes, Kodama's Reach, black Myojin, Island, Ice Bridge, Gifts Ungiven. To his credit, Tsumura didn't even flinch.

Szleifer played a freshly drawn Kodama of the North Tree, forcing Tsumura into the tank. He swung in and flipped his Graverobber to trade. Then he played a replacement. Szleifer took things slow. He Reached, than played Gifts Ungiven for Graverobber, Meloku, Sickening Shoal and Kokusho. He got the two black creatures.

Szleifer is the first U.S. PT winner since the beginning of last season.

Tsumura untapped and ripped Hero's Demise. He Extracted Ink-Eyes, but saw that Szleifer had no shortage of skullpunchers in hand. First up was Myojin of Night's Reach, who robbed Tsumura of his hand and got hit with Hero's Demise for his troubles. Next came an avalanche of Elder, Graverobber and Kokusho. The land that Tsumura drew wasn't pulling its share of the weight.

Szleifer's team charged. Tsumura cleared out Szleifer's graveyard, forcing him to sacrifice his Elder to keep the Graverobber unflipped. They traded 2/1's, and the dragon got through. Down came the North Tree.

Tsumura drew another land.

The match was clearly Szleifer's at that point, but he won it with style, dropping a second Kokusho for a 10-point drain and swinging for the fences with Kodama of the North Tree. With that, a $10,000 prize and a place in history was his.

Congratulations to Gadiel Szleifer, Pro Tour-Philadelphia champion!




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