Wait...it isn't 1999. Let me double check...nope, definitely 2012. Then I must have heard incorrectly. You say Jon Finkel is playing in his second back-to-back Pro Tour Top 8? Maybe that's the issue: I'm losing my hearing. You mean it's true? This is his fourteenth Pro Tour Top 8? Is that even a real number? You know what? Screw it. I know he registered for the event, so I'm just going to assume that he made Top 8. It's only fair at this point, right?
I know what you're thinking, that it's going to take some sort of divine intervention for Canadian Alexander Hayne to beat Finkel, right? Some sort of miracle. Well fortunately for him, Hayne came prepared. Of all the decks in the Top 8, Hayne's White-Blue Miracle deck, named Hallelujah, has just enough stalling power in Devastation Tide and Terminus that it might prove to be the biggest challenge for Finkel's UGw Tempo Geists deck. It was Finkel and his Geists of Pro Tours past versus Hayne and his divine miracles in an epic spiritual showdown. May the best Unsolved Mysteries episode win.
Jon Finkel and Alexander Hayne get started in a battle of Geists versus Miracles.
Finkel won the die roll and chose to go first. He opened with an Invisible Stalker that quickly suited up for a Spectral Flight. Hayne dropped to 17. Then to 14. After that, Hayne managed to miracle a Devastation Tide, returning Finkel's Stalker and his pants to his hand. Despite the temporary setback, Finkel merely replayed them both on his next turn. Hayne didn't have anything to answer them on the following turn, and took a hefty beating when Finkel used an Increasing Savagery to make it 8 points of damage, reducing Hayne to 6.
Finkel crashes in with his ghostly army.
"Looks like I need a miracle," Hayne said with a smile as he reached for what may be his final card of the game. Rather than a hail Mary, all Hayne got was a ticket to Game 2.
Jon Finkel 1, Alexander Hayne 0
"We joked around last night about how we thought we could write a computer program to figure out how often that deck wins," Finkel said with a playful smile after the game.
"You really run your odds when you play this deck," Hayne agreed. "Sometimes you don't get there."
Between games, there was nothing but silence marred with the occasional rip of cards being shuffled.
"I'll play first," Hayne said as he reached for Finkel's deck for the obligatory shuffle.
"Heh, sounds like a good idea to me."
Hayne found his opening draw to his liking, while Finkel did not, opting to try six instead. When his next hand didn't have a creature, he went down to five.
"The seventh card is really a bonus card anyways, right?" Haney asked him as he was shuffling his deck.
"Yeah, six is fine. Five is enough," Finkel admitted.
Finkel's five-card hand held an aggressive start. Avacyn's Pilgrim preceded Strangleroot Geist, and both smashed in to put Hayne at 17. Hayne made a creature of his own, a Geist of Saint Traft. Finkel chose to smash in with his Geist rather than leave it home to deal with Hayne's Geist. Hayne was scared of losing his Geist to the Avacyn's Pilgrim Finkel had left home to guard the fort, or that Finkel might drop a Wolfir Avenger into play, which would put him in quite a bind, so he chose instead to just pass the turn back to Finkel.
Finkel untapped and then used a Geist of Saint Traft of his own to clear away Hayne's, opening the way for his Strangleroot Geist to drop Hayne to 13. Hayne tried to Think Twice into a miracle but found nothing, taking the damage. On his turn, Hayne made a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, on his turn, using it to lock down Finkel's lone Island, leaving him with only two Forests and an Avacyn's Pilgrim for mana sources. Finkel attacked Tamiyo down to three loyalty and passed the turn with three mana up. Hayne wisely used Tamiyo to lock up one of Finkel's lands before using Terminus to clear the board.
With the path now clear, and Finkel struggling for lands, Hayne put the screws to him. He began using Tamiyo to lock Finkel at two lands before playing a Geist of Saint Traft which began to attack. Finkel never found a fourth land as Hayne hit him for six-point chunks, eventually casting Entreat the Angels for five. Finkel drew one more card before casually conceding the game to Hayne.
"I think you've got this one."
Jon Finkel 1, Alexander Hayne 1
Both players went back to their sideboards between Game 2 and Game 3, either swapping cards for the new change in priority, or at least doing a good job of making it look like they were. After a minute, they began to pile shuffle their cards back out on the table in silence, just as before the last game. The Feature Match area as a whole was eerily quiet, especially compared to the bustle of the previous days, as well as previous Pro Tours. In this time more than any other, the exclusivity and gravity of the event became painfully apparent.
Breaking the silence, Gaudenis Vidugiris called over from his match, having just ended a game, to ask how Finkel was doing. After filling his teammate in on the match status, Finkel turned back to shuffling.
"I'll play first," Finkel announced as he reached for his freshly shuffled and cut deck.
"You sure?" Hayne asked?
"No, but I'll do it anyway," joked Finkel.
"It's a mistake," Hayne urgently warned him!
Finkel started with a first-turn Avacyn's Pilgrim, attacking with it on the second turn. He played a couple of Abundant Growths, cycling through his deck and helping fix his mana. Hayne helped his mana just the same, using Evolving Wilds to fetch a Plains before dropping an Island, ready for any miracle he may summon to the top of his deck. Finkel tapped out on his next turn, including his Pilgrim, to put five counters on it with Increasing Savagery. Hayne drew his non-miracle card on his turn and passed the turn back to Finkel.
Finkel swung for 6, dropping Hayne to 13. With a handful of cards, he had no other play, content to skirt Hayne's mass removal with the single-threat approach. For his part, Hayne appeared to have nothing to do. He drew his card and thought for only a minute before passing the turn back. Finkel decided to add another creature to his side, a Strangleroot Geist, before attacking. Hayne used a Snapcaster Mage to chump block the large Pilgrim, keeping himself above 10. No miracles awaited him on top of his deck this time either. He had a full seven cards in his hand, but all he could do was make a Geist of Saint Traft. Finkel confirmed that Hayne couldn't play a sixth land before choosing to Dissipate it.
Over the many years of becoming familiar with the Pro Tour Sunday stage, Finkel remains stone cold when playing his matches.
All Finkel needed was a haymaker here to finish things off, and his deck had more than enough of them in it. Wolfir Silverheart, perhaps the best card in Avacyn Restored came down to pump the Strangleroot Geist to lethal, and he sent his team. Hayne had one last ditch chance at a miracle. He played a Thought Scour, leaving one Plains untapped. Entreat the Angels and another Scour hit the bin. He peeked at his top card and...
If nothing else, you can say that Hallelujah has some epically intense moments. Hayne packed up his cards and moved to Game 4, Finkel ahead by one.
Jon Finkel 2, Alexander Hayne 1
"It looks like it's time for another Miraculous Recovery," Hayne said with a smile.
"You spent a lot of time figuring out all of the jokes didn't you?" Finkel asked. "Gaudenis was doing the same thing last night, thinking he was clever. He's the master of the single entendre," Finkel said with a glance over his shoulder and a nice laugh.
Hayne quickly mulliganned his hand, while Finkel spent some time looking at his hand before deciding to keep.
"Got a speculative one?" Hayne asked.
"They're all speculative ones," Finkel deadpanned.
After a bit more shuffling, Hayne smiled, saying, "One of the best parts of this deck is how tilted some opponents get when you miracle them."
Finkel just smiled. "I'm pretty good at not getting tilted. When you've lost as many times as I have..." Considering the length of his career (he made his debut at the Juniors' event held at the first Pro Tour!), he was definitely speaking the truth.
Uncharacteristically, Finkel had no play for turns one, two, or three, which played right into Hayne's need to extend the game. Finkel finally made a threat with a fourth turn Garruk Relentless, making a Wolf as soon as it resolved. Garruk was an interesting problem, as only Devastation Tide was the only mass removal spell Hayne had to deal with it. Instead, Hayne use Entreat the Angels for one to make an attacker to kill Garruk. Before he got the chance, however, Finkel used a Wolfir Silverheart to make the Wolf very large, as well as making another Wolf.
Hayne untapped and killed Garruk with his Angel. He then used a Feeling of Dread in Finkel's upkeep to tap down the soulbonded creatures. When Finkel tried to make another Wolfir/Wolf pair with his second Wolf, Hayne stopped them once again with his Feeling of Dread. Hayne attacked for 4, dropping Finkel to 16. He then used Temporal Mastery to set up another turn, and another draw step.
Miracles come to those who wait, and in Hayne's case, he doesn't ever have to wait too long.
Hayne seemed distressed. He stared at his hand for quite some time with a furrowed brow before playing Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and using her to tie up a Silverheart. He then passed the turn with two mana available, possibly trying to set up a Thought Scour into Terminus on Finkel's attack. Finkel confirmed that Hayne was at 14 before playing a Spectral Flight on a Wolf and going to his attack. Hayne used Feeling of Dread to stop the flying Wolf and the other Silverheart, only allowing the other wolf through. When Finkel chose to attack Tamiyo, Hayne threw his Angel in the way to protect her. He needed her to stick around and draw four cards.
His draw step brought him a miracle: Temporal Mastery. He then used Tamiyo to draw four cards, starting to get that advantage he needed. He used the remainder of his turn to play a Geist of Saint Traft and a Snapcaster Mage, choosing not to replay anything. On his new turn, Hayne began by attacking Finkel for 8, dropping him to 8. All Hayne needed was one more turn. Hayne used Tamiyo to draw four more cards before casting his third Time Walk of the game, prompting Finkel to pick up his cards. That initial lack of aggression was definitely a root in Finkel's loss in this fourth game of the match.
Jon Finkel 2, Alexaner Hayne 2
Well, the player on the play had won every game in the match thus far, and it was now Finkel's turn to go first.
"I'll play first this game," Finkel decided.
"It's worked out so far. Whoever's played has won," Hayne observed.
"No, you won the first game," Finkel responded.
"No, you did. You do forget things apparently," Hayne said with some amusement.
"Yeah, but mostly things that don't matter, like who won Game 1," Finkel said.
Apparently, Hayne forgets things, too. As he realized as Finkel returned his deck to him after shuffling that he had presented a 65-card deck, forgetting to remove the cards he had added for sideboarding.
"I'm fine if he just removes the five cards," Finkel said to the Head Judge as he approached, not wanting Hayne to pick up a game loss for something clearly so innocuous.
"Of all the mistakes I thought I'd make today, that is not one I had thought of," Hayne joked.
"Yeah, I bet. I know you weren't trying to get an advantage or anything. Things just happen," Finkel consoled him.
"I'm going to triple check this time," Hayne laughed as he shuffled his now 60-card deck.
"No worries. Time to take a look at this bad boy," Finkel said as he peeled his opening seven cards.
Both players kept their initial seven cards for this fifth and deciding final game. Once again, Finkel's draw was a bit on the slow side, much as it had been in Game 4, which he lost. He had no play for the first three turns, just as he had in the last game. The big difference here was that he was on the play. When the fourth turn rolled around and he still had no play, Hayne looked confused.
For his part, Hayne was just playing lands and saying go as well. The first contribution to the board came when Finkel made a Geist of Saint Traft on Turn 5, which Hayne Dissipated. The first that stuck was Hayne's Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, which he used to lock down Finkel's lone source of white. When Finkel played a Wolfir Silverheart, Hayne switched gears, locking down the monster-to-be. Hayne then found a miracle Entreat the Angels for three on his next draw, passing the turn back to Finkel.
Finkel used an Abundant Growth to dig a little deeper, but still didn't have a play. Hayne attacked him down to 8. Finkel took one more crack at what was probably zero outs before conceding to Hayne.
Hayne's countrymen congratulate him on his victory against Jonny Magic.
Jon Finkel 2, Alexander Hayne 3
Alexander Hayne wins 3-2 and advanced to the semifinals!