Both of these players are veterans of the Pro Tour since "back in the day". Hovi was the first person to win more than one Pro Tour, and Kastle had many Top 8 appearances before the turn of the millennium. The past season has seen a resurgence in both of their Magic careers; Hovi made Top 8 at Worlds in Toronto and came one match away from Top 8 at Pro Tour San Diego, while Kastle had his first Top 8 in quite some time at Pro Tour New Orleans. Kastle is running a Zombie Infestation deck with Hermit Druid, while Hovi is using Oath. A victory here will bring one of these players a step closer to the Masters later on today, and a guaranteed payout of at least $2,000.
Kastle started off with Duress, which stripped away Hovi's Oath. Zombie Infestation followed, and a second Duress took Swords to Plowshares on the following turn. This was followed by one of Kastle's trademark creatures: Hermit Druid. These first three turns were incredible for Darwin, as he used all of his mana every turn, and disrupted Hovi to clear the way for two of his most important cards to resolve and do their thing. Hovi tried to get something going as he searched his deck with Impulse, followed by Brainstorm. Wasteland took out Bayou, which was Kastle's only green source. Unfortunately for Hovi, Kastle had Llanowar Wastes in hand, and activated the Druid on his following turn. The result was two Ashen Ghouls, Krovikan Horror and Squee all finding their way into the graveyard, and Kastle's deck was ready to produce an army of 2/2 Zombies. Swords to Plowshares took Hermit Druid out of the equation, but that one activation was all that was needed for Darwin to go on the offensive. Two Ashen Ghouls and a Zombie smacked Hovi for eight, and Elvish Lyrist followed. Hovi soon conceded, as Kastle admitted that his amazing opening hand only contained one land, but he decided to gamble and keep it. Obviously, that gamble paid off.
Hovi- 0 Kastle- 1
Kastle drew Lyrist in his opening hand and played it turn one, giving him an Oath of Druids insurance policy. Hermit Druid followed, but Hovi bounced back strong on his turn with a Plow for the Druid, and Powder Keg. Meanwhile, Darwin was stuck at two lands, with a third in his graveyard thanks to Hovi's Wasteland. A third land showed up soon after, but Kastle was already far behind. Fact or Fiction revealed an incredible five cards, and after some thought Kastle presented the piles as Oath of Druids, Force of Will, Wasteland and Counterspell, Morphling. Hovi took the two card pile. The Keg took out the Lyrist, and Kastle's Duress was Counterspelled. A second Keg showed up on Hovi's side, and another one of Kastle's Duresses was Counterspelled. Zombie Infestation was then cast, but Aura Blasted in response to being activated. A second Keg then came down on Hovi's side to give him more protection, and Morphling finished up the job with the help of a Spike Feeder, which made "Superman" bigger.
Hovi- 1 Kastle- 1
Kastle's first turn Duress revealed a pair of Counterspells, Brainstorm, Spike Feeder and Fact or Fiction; the Brainstorm was discarded. Hermit Druid was summoned on turn two, but Hovi had drawn Swords to Plowshares to remove it, which got a few laughs out of the crowd. Buried Alive resolved on the following turn, fetching two Krovikan Horror and Squee. All three creatures rose from the dead and went to Kastle's hand on the next upkeep, and Infestation hit play with the help of Pyroblast. This was bad news for Hovi, who had to find an answer soon, or lose to a massive rush of Zombie tokens. Fact or Fiction dug into Brainstorm, Counterspell and three lands, and Kastle made the split lands in one pile, spells in the other. Hovi took the two spells, untapped and played Brainstorm, This was followed by Call of the Herd.
Four Zombies were now in play on Kastle's side, and were joined by Ashen Ghoul. The resulting attack saw the Elephant trade with the Ghoul, as eight points of Zombie damage got through. Spike Weaver was then summoned, which would at least buy Hovi some time. All the while, Kastle's zombie army was growing, and Krovikan Horror joined their ranks. When Hovi activated the Weaver Kastle joked, "Yeah I figured you might do that. I'm on to you." The Horror shot down the Weaver on Hovi's next end step, clearing the way for a fatal attack.
Final Result: Hovi- 1 Kastle- 2