Charlie Gindy is a seventeen year old kid with three Pro Tour points to his name, and yet this weekend he has been an absolute mastermind at Team Rochester draft. Everyone who has watched him has been impressed by his knowledge of a format that even few Pro Tour players fully understand. In this finals matchup he was paired with Magic's mad scientist, Zvi Mowshowitz. Watching the draft and talking to the teams during deck construction, it looked like Zvi had managed to outmaneuver Charlie on this one, as Charlie would need a very fast flier draw with his U-R deck in order to kill Zvi before the Onslaught of Green and Red beasts took his life total to zero.
Gindy wins the coin toss and chooses to play. Before the match he was a little concerned about his matchup with Zvi's R-G deck, and it was Zvi's intent that he should be. Illuminati's drafting strategy is reactive, so Zvi essentially picked his deck to matchup against Charlie's, and while the other two matchups were a bit more up in the air (or downright abysmal in the case of Alex Shvartsman's), the feeling was that this one should be difficult for Zvi to lose.
Zvi started the action by cycling a Tranquil Thicket and then playing a Stonewood Invoker on turn 2. Charlie had an answer to the elvish groundpounder in Raven Guild Initiate, and stabilized the board.
Zvi attacked, and Charlie blocked with the Initiate saying, "You got me" as he blocked, but Zvi said "Just checking," and didn't have any combat tricks to take down the Wizard.
A morph blocked the Invoker on the next turn and managed to take it down without injury as Wall of Deceit was unmorphed and revealed by Gindy. Zvi followed with a Snarling Undorak and a morph, then dropped another Invoker and yet another morph while Gindy had a morph of his own teaming up with the Wall and the Initiate to hold things down.
Keeneye Aven hit the board on Charlie's side with Zvi at six land in order to try and apply some pressure before the Invokers got frisky, but the next turn saw Zvi drop a Crown of Fury on his Undorak and he began to bring some noise, dropping Gindy's life by 5 a swing. Charlie dropped a Rock Jockey on the board, and then Echo Tracer made a welcomed appearance as Gindy blocked the Undorak with his Wall, forcing Zvi to pump the Undorak in order to kill the wall, and then returned it to Zvi's hand before damage was dealt.
Rock Jockey entered the red zone along with the Keeneye Aven, but was blocked by a Zombie Cutthroat. Between the morphing of the Cutthroat and the damage taken from the Aven, Zvi's life rapidly dwindled to 11.
Frenetic Raptor came into play on Charlie's side, while Zvi placed a Timberwatch Elf and a Krosan Tusker down on his own side, followed up by a second Snarling Undorak. Zvi then got busy on the attacking end, bringing the might of a Timberwatch-and-Snarling-Undorak-powered Krosan Tusker (that's not a moon, it's a space station!) to bear and dropping Charlie to 8. The next turn saw Gindy swing with his own 6-powered beast, while Zvi chose to block with the Cutthroat, a Morph, and an Invoker. Damage was assigned, and all the attack gained was one less Invoker on the board. It did manage to tap Zvi's Timberwatch though, which was subsequently Frozen Solid, thus simplifying the combat math a bit.
Zvi's turn saw him continue to apply the beatings, as both the Undorak and the Tusker entered the Red Zone. Three creatures blocked the Undorak, while the Initiate became a speed bump for the Tusker. While damage was on the stack, Charlie cast Chain of Vapor on his Echo Tracer and copied it to his Keeneye Aven as well, returning them both to his hand.
Zvi again brought in the Tusker, except this time he was accompanied by the Zombie Cutthroat and an unknown morph that turned out to be a Bloodstoke Howler, dropped Charlie to a lowly 5. The same trio brought the noise again the next turn as Gindy could find no answers. A morphed Echo Tracer blocked the Tusker and bounced the Howler, while the Cutthroat dropped Charlie's life total to two. Gindy again had to pass the turn, and one final swing sealed the deal for Zvi.
Mowshowitz 1 – Gindy 0
"Kid how you doing?" came from Jamie Duguid over in seat C. Gindy looked up and said "Oh, are you asking me a question? I got demolished!" Jamie replied "I got my teeth kicked in!" Everything was going according to Illuminati's plan.
While shuffling up, the two players discussed how the draft turned out. Charlie said he didn't want to be in U-R and doesn't particularly like it in this format, to which Zvi replied that he planned it to turn out exactly that way. He admitted that Illuminati's primary strength as a team is that they are able to improvise, and it was that exact quality that resulted in this favorable matchup.
Things got worse for Gindy as he had to paris down to six, but his second hand was better, and he dropped a third turn morph to follow another early Mowshowitz Stonewood Invoker.
The results of Match A were announced from a spectator to which Zvi and Justin Gary replied in stereo "Shvartsman won a game?!? Holy crap, Go Alex!"
Proteus Machine was flipped over as a Wizard and Lavamancer's Skill was cast in him, killing a morphed Woodcloaker. Zvi impassively decided "Why kill the enchantment when you can just kill the guy?" and Naturalized the Machine. Wall of Deceit and Keeneye Aven quickly followed behind the artifact though, and were joined a turn later by a Mistform Seaswift, as Gindy pressed his advantage before Zvi could find answers. Two morphs soon entered the fray from Zvi's side and attacked as soon as they were able, and Gindy chose to block one each with his Glintwing Invoker and Wall of Deceit. Zvi seemed unhappy with the blocking arrangement though, muttering "You chose wisely" as he paid 5 life to flip over a Zombie Cutthroat and kill the Invoker. Aven and Seaswift entered the fray again, dropping Zvi to 3, and the Your Move Gamer was finished with the next attack phase.
Gindy 1 – Mowshowitz 1
Over in the A seat, Shvartsman won the apparently unwinnable matchup, and Justin Gary lost the second game to even the Seat C match at one game apiece.
This time, both players kept their draws. Zvi didn't have a two drop for this game, but he did drop a morph on turn 3, matched by Gindy's Raven Guild Initiate. Another morph on each side was cast, and Zvi started swinging, knowing that Gindy couldn't kill his kids, and making Charlie think about what the morphs might be. A third morph dropped onto Zvi's board, and Zvi said "Let's play the guess the morph game." Charlie stated he didn't really want to play that game, but Zvi contested correctly that he really had no choice.
Zvi's three morphs now charged relentlessly forward as Charlie said, "I'm really getting sick of this game." Zvi asked what he was going to do about it, and Charlie decided to block. Battering Craghorn was flipped up and made a morphed Mistform Seaswift die, but Chain of Vapor saved a morphed Ascending Aven that killed Zvi's morphed Woodcloaker. Zvi dropped yet another morph to groans from Gindy and passed the turn. Charlie remained stuck at 4 land, so couldn't ramp up to the full 6 mana needed to cast Slice and Dice in his hand. Zvi attacked with the Battering Craghorn and two morphs, while Charlie chose to block a single morph with his Raven Guild Initiate. Before damage was on the stack, he also cycled Slice and Dice, looking to take down both the Craghorn and the blocked morph unless Zvi had some bigger tricks up his sleeve.
Unfortunately for Charlie, Zvi was David Copperfield in this game, as he flipped over another Woodcloaker to kill the Initiate, and a Tribal Forcemage naming "Beast", turning what looked like a two for one for Charlie into the mere loss of a Forcemage on Zvi's part while Charlie lost his only remaining blocker dropped to 13. Crested Craghorn provoked the Woodcloaker the next turn, taking it down, but the Zvi's Battering Craghorn was doing his dirty work, eventually dropping Charlie all the way to 4. Zvi followed the attack with another "guess the morph," while Gindy could only drop a Mistform Shrieker and pass the turn, hoping that Zvi's morph wasn't any number of creatures that could kill him.
Zvi continued to play his morph game, and brought the morph and the Craghorn into the red zone one more time, and flipping over Bloodstoke Howler (a card that was considered as a possible cut during deckbuilding) before damage was on the stack, and doing lethal damage.
Final Result: Mowshowitz 2 - Gindy 1
It probably would have been Zvi's match no matter what, but how fitting that the Howler should be the card to bring home the Grand Prix Pittsburgh title to Illuminati, a team that just barely made Day 2, and then just barely made the Top 4. The victory also gave Zvi a slice of his second Grand Prix win in 2003.