Over the last five years, Luis Scott-Vargas (LSV) has been one of the most consistently successful players on the Pro Tour. He goes into every tournament with a great understanding of what to expect piloting a carefully sculpted deck that he knows inside and out.
While LSV's innate proficiency at the game certainly plays an important role, the fact that he and the rest of team ChannelFireball function as a hyper-efficient testing machine designed to maximize tournament success is really what puts him (and his teammates) over the top.
Inspired by the dominance of team ChannelFireball, a contingent of Canadian players headlined by Alexander Hayne decided to form their own team that they hope will become an international powerhouse of its own.
Despite only working together seriously for a few months, their efforts are already paying off in a serious way as Pascal Maynard has made multiple Grand Prix Top 8s and, most notably, Hayne was able to win Pro Tour Avacyn Restored.
On one side, the winner of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. On the other side, one of the most consistent players in the game and a member of Team ChannelFireball. Who will come out on top in the first round of the Magic Players Championship?
Before the match, the players were given access to each other's decklists. After studying Hayne's black-green deck that featured Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare, Griselbrand, and Kitchen Finks, LSV knew that he would need some quick starts with his Mono-Red Burn deck to take the match.
"The matchup seems pretty swingy. If I open on Goblin Guide and Shrine of Burning Rage, then that's a lot different for me than if I don't. And if you have Kitchen Finks, that could be really rough..."
LSV won the roll, and both players began with a mulligan.
Hayne opened on Joraga Treespeaker, followed by Survival of the Fittest, while LSV spent his first few turns casting an Ankh of Mishra and using a Char to kill off the Joraga Treespeaker. When Hayne cast a Recurring Nightmare (to go along with his Survival of the Fittest) on his third turn, LSV knew that he wouldn't have much time to burn out his foe.
LSV started off behind, and was in dire need of outracing
Hellrider gave LSV a very good damage source, but Survival of the Fittest found a Kitchen Finks that helped Hayne buy himself a lot of time. And while LSV was able to get Hayne to as low as 6 life at one point, he just didn't have the firepower that he needed to put Hayne away before Recurring Nightmare brought back Griselbrand and put the Canadian pro off to a one game lead.
Hayne 1, Scott-Vargas 0
LSV kept his opening hand in the second game while Hayne had to mulligan down to five.
LSV threatened to put Hayne away quickly with a Tin Street Hooligan and Vulshok Refugee, but Kitchen Finks was enough to completely hold off LSV's offenses.
Recurring Nightmare came down for Hayne a turn later, and while the Canadian pro didn't have the Survival of the Fittest to go with it this time around, it still gave him the ability to bring his Kitchen Finks back from the grave at a moment's notice.
Grim Lavamancer, Genju of the Spires, and Teetering Peaks allowed LSV to punch through a bunch of damage, but Hayne (unsurprisingly) used his Recurring Nightmare to turn his Treetop Village into Kitchen Finks and buy himself a bit more time.
LSV was eventually able to knock Hayne down to 5, but before LSV could finish the job, a Massacre Wurm left him without any creatures and in desperate need of some burn spells to deal those last points of damage.
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded helped LSV dig for a finisher, but Griselbrand left LSV with only a one turn window to draw a miraculous out that would allow him to force a third game.
LSV drew a Char to go with his 5 lands, and his Bonfire of the Damned, but with Hayne on 5 life, he ultimately fell just short of killing him.
Hayne 2, Scott-Vargas 0