After three grueling days of play, only two players remained in the Magic Online Championship Series. Tied at the beginning of Day 3 and then tied again at the end of it, Reid "reiderrabbit" Duke, the MOCS Player of the Year, and Florian "flying man" Pils, the Season three winner, had proven that they deserved to meet in the finals. After only dropping one match in each format, the two Magic Online masters separated themselves from the pack.
Today offers a little wrinkle in the way things usually go for a finals. While the format was Modern, the players had an opportunity to play a different deck for the finals. This created a sort-of Blind Man's Gambit. Players were not informed whether or not their opponent switched, so any decisions they made would have to be done with no information. Ultimately, only Duke switched decks, opting to run a fairly standard Jund list rather than the CounterCat mirror that would have happened had they each stuck with their original decks. Duke changed decks because he wanted to play a deck that Pils might not expect, and one that was reasonable against everything, since he wouldn't have any idea what Pils was playing until the first game.
Florian "flying man" Pils stuck with his CounterCat deck for his final match of the tournament.
The first game started with an uncharacteristically slow draw from Pils. No kittens on the first couple of turns for him, but he was able to cast Lightning Bolt on the Dark Confidant Duke played on his second turn. With that taken care of, Pils was able to draw and cast a 5/5 Knight of the Reliquary on his third turn, presenting a massive threat.
Fortunately for Duke, he had the best three-mana Diabolic Edict in the game: Liliana of the Veil. The planeswalker came down and immediately took the Knight out. Pils made a planeswalker of his own on the next turn, his Elspeth, Knight-Errant, immediately making a token.
After drawing an Inquisition of Kozilek for his turn, Duke went into the tank for a little bit. He eventually went to cast the spell, stripping a Lightning Bolt from Pils. After that, he activated Liliana to knock Pils down to just a Path to Exile. He then sent his Treetop Village after Elspeth, knocking her down to two loyalty.
Pils returned the favor, using his Soldier and Kessig Wolf Run to finish Liliana off. After that, he took advantage of the fact that his planeswalker was still alive to make another token. Duke tried to attack with his Treetop Village, but Pils was ready with the Path to Exile to kill it. That left Duke to Lightning Bolt so he could kill off the Elspeth, passing the turn with a Punishing Fire and Tarmogoyf in hand.
Reid 'reiderrabbit' Duke chose to switch things up for the final match with a Modern Jund deck, not wanting to face off in a CounterCat mirror match.
At this point, Pils was out of steam. Inquisition and Liliana had left him with no resources, and he was drawing lands. While he was floundering, Duke was shining, adding a Tarmogoyf and a Grove of the Burnwillows to his side, enabling his Punishing Fire engine. Pils was fortunate enough to find a Path to Exile on the top of his Library to deal with the Tarmogoyf, clearing the way for his Soldiers to get through. The next couple of turns progressed with Duke using his Grove of the Burnwillows to continue to recur Punishing Fire, using it to clear out Pils's board before starting to aim it at his face. Duke eventually added a creature to the board, a Dark Confidant, prompting Pils to use Snapcaster Mage to flash back a Lightning Helix to deal with the Bob Maher Invitational card.
Duke just continued to plug away with Punishing Fire. Things progressed with Pils's life slowly ticking away until he found himself a massive Knight of the Reliquary. At the end of the turn he cast it, duke revealed that he had found a second copy of Punishing Fire, allowing him to make up much more ground with his Grove of the Burnwillows than a single point per iteration. With all of the Fires flung, the turn ended with Pils at 11 and Duke at 14.
Despite having a clear long-term strategy, Duke still had the short-term to consider, and a very angry Knight to deal with. He drew and cast a Tarmogoyf, though it was quickly sent packing with a Bant Charm. That cleared a path for the 8/8 Knight to drop Duke to 6. A second massive Knight hit the table for Pils, and it looked like things were completely locked up. Duke knocked him to 8 at the end of turn with some Punishing Fire shenanigans, but it wasn't going to be enough. After Pils attacked on his turn, Duke went for a Lightning Bolt triple Punishing Fire finish, but a Bant Charm stopped the dream from being realized. Duke had drawn an Inquisition of Kozilek, but was a mana short of being able to piece together the whole thing.
Duke 0, Pils 1
Up a game, Pils has to be feeling good.
After the first game, some Kitchen Finks and their buddy Gideon Jura made their way into Pils's deck in exchange for some Noble Hierarchs and a couple of Qasali Pridemages. On the other side of the match, Reid Duke added Thrun, the Last Troll, and Kitchen Finks to replace some Dark Confidants and Inquisition of Kozileks.
Pils had the first opportunity for a creature but opted against playing a 2/2 Wild Nacatl on turn-one in order to protect it from Punishing Fire. The pretty kitty came down the turn after, bolstered by both a Plains and a Mountain, which was good considering the pair of Punishing Fires sitting in Duke's opening draw. Pils followed that up with a Knight of the Reliquary on the third turn. Duke wasted no time in using both of his copies of Punishing Fire to toast the 4/4 Knight before it could get any bigger. Pils was still happy having a 3/3 attacker and set the Cat loose on Duke. After returning from the scratching post, Pils made an Elspeth, Knight-Errant, which got him a Soldier before ending the turn. Duke untapped and cast Jund's trademark Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into Lightning Bolt, using it to hit Elspeth. A Deathmark dealt with the intervening Soldier, and Bloodbraid crashed over to finish Elspeth off.
With Elspeth gone, Pils switched back into creature mode, playing a second Nacatl and a Knight of the Reliquary that he had just drawn. Another Bloodbraid Elf came down, hitting the perfect card yet again. This time Terminate killed the Knight, but Duke didn't attack with either of his Elves, leaving them back for defense. Pils tanked for a minute before playing Path to Exile on one of the Bloodbraids before attacking. Duke took it, dropping to 4. Pils had drawn a Gideon Jura but was stuck on four lands and unable to play it. He passed the turn.
Duke pulled himself back from the brink on his turn, using Obstinate Baloth and Kitchen Finks to put himself back up to 10 as well as clog the board with creatures. Pils made a Finks of his own, putting himself up to 19, and he also made a third Wild Nacatl. Duke had a Tarmogoyf join his team the turn after, and it looked like the great creature stalemate had begun. Pils found his fifth land but opted not to play the Gideon Jura, hoping to induce Duke to attack first, allowing Gideon to kill a creature. Duke obliged, sending his Tarmogoyf in and dropping Pils to 16. A second Kitchen Finks joined soon after, making Duke even safer.
With Tarmogoyf freshly tapped, Gideon finally made his appearance, immediately putting some justice to the Goyf. At the end of his turn, Duke started to eat away at Pils's creatures, killing one Nacatl off with his pair of Punishing Fires. Pils drew a Lightning Helix for his turn, used Gideon to force the attack, and then passed the turn. Duke launched a Blightning at Pils, getting a Lightning Helix in response, and he redirected the damage to Gideon. After attacking Gideon and using Punishing Fire to continue his assault on Pils's team, things looked locked up. After a couple more turns of double Punishing Fire lock, Pils conceded.
Duke 1, Pils 1
With Punishing Fire playing such a big part in that last game, Pils rethought his sideboard strategy, replacing some of the Finks and Helixes in his deck with a new package of Spell Pierces and Negates. Duke kept things more or less the same.
On the play this time, Pils felt safe making a 2/2 Nacatl on the first turn, knowing that he'd be able to make it a 3/3 before Duke hit two mana. That is exactly what happened as a Misty Rainforest turned into a Steam Vents, hitting Duke for three. Pils followed the attack with a Tarmogoyf and passed the turn. Duke made a matching Goyf, and passed it right back. Pils forced a huge swing, using a Lightning Bolt to kill Duke's Goyf, clearing the way for a six-point swing. Duke slowed things down a touch with Liliana of the Veil, which forced Pils to sacrifice his Nacatl.
Pils's turn took a little time to play out. He wavered back and forth between attacking Liliana or Duke, Liliana or Duke, over and over again. Ultimately, Duke won the honor of being smashed by Tarmogoyf, dropping to 8 in the process. A Kitchen Finks after combat gave him a pretty strong advantage. But, as anyone who has played against Jund can tell you, advantages can be fleeting, all because of one card. Bloodbraid Elf came down on Duke's turn, cascading into a Lightning Bolt. The Bolt took the first of the Finks' two lives, giving Pils yet more life. Liliana, who survived the last turn, went to work on the players' hands, Duke discarding Thrun while Pils discarded Gideon Jura, making Tarmogoyf even stronger.
Sick of Liliana, Pils sent his creatures at her. Duke was more than happy to trade his Bloodbraid Elf for the last of the Finks' lives, but he couldn't stop the Tarmogoyf from punching his special lady. Other than that, Pils couldn't really do anything. He was stuck on three lands, and all of the cards he held required more mana. He was feeling the crunch as his advantage slowly started to slip away due to his inability to increase his pressure.
Duke had no such trouble. He made another Bloodbraid Elf, this time cascading into a Kitchen Finks, putting six power of creatures onto the table for a mere four mana. He was one mana away from casting the Grave Titan in his hand, too, which was sure to lock the game up. Pils drew his card and did nothing. Unable to find a sixth land, Duke had to play a Blightning instead of the Titan. Blightning hit a Gideon Jura that Pils was two mana away from and a Snapcaster Mage, which he couldn't use effectively without more lands.
Pils drew a Lightning Bolt and considered his attack. He decided to send his Goyf in, hoping that Duke would double block, allowing him to blow Duke out. When Duke obliged, Pils used his freshly-drawn Lightning Bolt to kill the Bloodbraid Elf, allowing his Goyf to finish off the Finks for the first time. Duke finally hit his sixth land on the following turn, and his Grave Titan drew a chuckle from Pils. From that point, it was elementary. The mana-screwed Pils didn't draw the Path to Exile he needed to expunge the Grave Titan, and the relentless and crushing tide of Zombies flooded over him soon thereafter, making Reid "reiderrabbit" Duke the 2011 Magic Online Champion!
Congratulations to Reid Duke, the 2011 Magic Online Champion!
Duke 2, Pils 1
Florian Pils / flying man
2011 Magic Online Championship Final, Modern
Reid Duke / reiderrabbit
2011 Magic Online Championship Final, Modern