by Randy Buehler
Both players ran Necro-Donate decks in the Type 1 portion of the tournament, but this wasn't really a mirror match-up. Finkel's deck was more explosive, including off-color Moxes, mana Crypt, etc. while Pikula's deck tried to stick to just black and blue cards and mana. Pikula felt he was a slight favorite because he expected Jon to have to mulligan more due to bad mana.
Finkel had only a Mox Jet and a Mox Pearl for mana in game 1, but he kept it and duressed away Chris's Necropotence. Then Jon cast Demonic Consultation for Dark Ritual during Chris's 2nd turn end step. When Jon untapped and top-decked another Dark Ritual it gave him an amazing third turn: Ritual, Abeyance you, Ritual, Ritual, Yawgmoth's Bargain. Jon then drew 17 cards (going down to 3 life), but he didn't have enough fast mana to keep going. He picked out a perfect 7 cards and then said done. Chris tried to play a Necro, but Jon stopped it with Force of Will, of course. Jon then played Illusions of Grandeur, gained 20 life, and drew most of the rest of his deck. Chris asked Jon to show him a Donate and a Pyroblast so he could concede. Jon was happy to oblige.
Chris drew his hand for game 2 and couldn't help but exclaim, "Good Lord!" Chris first cast Duress and had to chose between Black Lotus, Necropotence, Duress and Force of Will. Sine Jon had no other blue cards, Chris took the Necro and then played a Lotus of his own and a Necro. Finkel did draw a blue card and Duressed Chris's Duress, but the power of Necro let Chris find all the permission and combo cards he needed to win game 2.
Jon had a really good hand for game 3. And once Jon used a first turn Duress from Chris's hand, Pikula didn't have much of anything -- just Demonic Consultation, an Illusions, and some mana. After Chris drew a card and played a land, Finkel untapped and cast Ancestral Recall. Chris countered it with Force of Will. Jon laughed about Chris's lucky top-deck. Chris then drew a Duress and used it to take away the Necro that Finkel was about to cast. On his next turn Chris drew and said his catch-phrase from this tournament -- "tight as hell". Finkel rolled his eyes because he knew Chris had just top-decked the perfect card for the third turn in a row. Pikula used his Consult to go get Necropotence and used the Dark Ritual he had just drawn to Ritual it out.
Finkel drew and cast a Duress, removing the Illusions of Grandeur from Chris's hand. Chris then Duressed Jon and, after Pyroblasting Jon's Force of Will, Chris took Jon's Pyroblast and saw that all Jon had left was an Illusions of Grandeur. Chris Necroed up some new cards but still didn't have one of his two remaining Illusions. He was thus forced to Consult for it. One was it the top 6 cards and the other was the bottom card in his library. With no library left but Necro in play, Chris played his Illusions. Finkel cast Abeyance as a response and drew a Pyroblast, but he didn't have any red mana. Finkel's next draw didn't yield red mana either and so Chris got to cast his Donate.
The game wasn't over yet, though. Finkel had lots of mana and Chris didn't have any cards left in his library or hand. Finkel played his own Illusions so he could gain 20 life and afford to let the Donated Illusions go. He lasted 7 turns looking for a Donate and upkeeping that Illusions, but he never drew any relevant cards. He did draw a Necropotence, but he'd lost too many mana Crypt coin flips to get enough cards to mount a defense.
This game could have gone a lot differently. If Jon had had a blue card in his opening hand, the initial turns would have gone differently and Jon might have gotten a Necro of his own into play. Then at the end of the game Pikula sat around doing nothing but say "go" while Jon tried to weasel out of the combo-kill. Jon earned that opportunity by Duressing Chris's Illusions and forcing Chris to use a Consult and potentially lose his library. But Chris drew all the right cards while Jon didn't.
Finkel - 1
Pikula - 2
Pikula leads overall series 2 matches to 1 (best 3 out of 5)
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