I have this image of Kai in my mind... in it, he is sitting in a throne on one side of the Feature Match table, crown slightly askew, scepter in hand... he raises his fist and shouts to his entourage, "Bring me a challenger!"
Kai is certainly no tyrant of a man, but his stranglehold on the world of pro Magic is nothing short of oppressive. Just earlier today he reminded Jon Finkel of the current pecking order, and with the troublesome Bram Snepvangers already out of the way, it looks like Kai will drink from the victory cup again today.
The man who has to stop him is Nicolai Herzog. Herzog, a Pro Tour fixture, wants to follow in the footsteps of his countryman Eivind Nitter, and win a draft PT with Kai in the Top 8. Nitter did it in Nice with Beast Attack, and now Herzog will try to do it with Elves.
Game 1 started out with a bunch of fact 2/3's—Herzog had back-to-back Elvish Warriors, and Kai played a Thoughtbound Primoc.
Kai added his Cleric Combo of Rotlung Reanimator and Cabal Archon to the table, and Herzog had a third Elf, this one Symbiotic. Kai hit for four, and then Herzog attacked with his team, getting four through, but trading his Symbiotic Elf for the Archon. Herzog got two Insects in the exchange, but Kai got a two-point Drain Life and a Zombie out of the deal. The life totals stood at 14-12, with Kai in the lead.
Herzog took another hit from Kai's team, and dropped a Wellwisher to try stabilizing his life total. But Kai had a morph and a Shepherd of Rot which threatened to make things sticky when combined with the Rotlung Reanimator.
"Man, that Reanimator is good," lamented the Norwegian.
"This is true," replied Kai, continuing with the face-smashing.
Herzog's Elves had to play defense for a turn, and he had to use his Tribal Unity just to get a 1-for-2 with the Charging Slateback Kai revealed.
Herzog still had a Wellwisher and a 2/3 when he dropped his Doom Cannon (or Elf Cannon, as the case may be). Kai kept hitting with the Primoc, and would occasionally activate the Shepherd of Rot, but Wellwisher was keeping Herzog at around 3-4 life, and neither player was drawing much business.
Kai eventually added a Nantuko Husk to his side of the board, and Herzog was lucky to draw a Wirewood Herald, capable of powering the Cannon and fetching a buddy. Herzog blocked the Husk with the Herald and sacrificed it to shoot down the Primoc. He fetched Elven Riders and the game looked to be turning around.
Kai, surveying the board, decided his best option was to play for a draw. He used the Shepherd to bring them both to three, and hoped to draw one of his four Shocks or Misery Charms.
Instead he drew Searing Flesh and won the game outright, much to the shock of Herzog and the crowd.
Budde's draws were weak at the end of the game, partially because he had to play three cycling lands early in the game, meaning he was more prone to draw regular land late. But he got the one he needed, right when he needed it.
Budde 1 – Herzog 0
Herzog sided out his black for the remaining games, going with a sleek, aggressive mono-green Elf deck. His plan was to come out quicker than Kai and flood him with creatures.
Budde came out rocking in Game 2, deploying Festering Goblin, Sparksmith, and two face-down guys in the first four turns.
Herzog tried to slow things down by playing higher-toughness creatures, such as Elvish Warriors and Elven Riders, but in the end, his draw—eventually tallying 9 forests and 6 spells—could not match up with Kai's.
Budde 2 – Herzog 0
Herzog swallowed hard as he kept the two-forest hand for what could be the final game of this event. He drew lands three and four (both forests) right on time, and put out Wirewood Herald, Everglove Courier, and Leery Fogbeast in succession.
But once again, Kai's board was better: Festering Goblin, Severed Legion, Goblin Taskmaster, and Rotlung Reanimator. Fallen Cleric came down on the next turn, and it looked like the Reanimator would lord over this game. Herzog seemed deflated. Green cannot race when it cannot afford to trade.
Herzog was in no position to attack, and eventually the game ended when Kai played out about seven creatures and then cast Dirge of Dread.
It wasn't pretty, but Kai Budde has now won his 7th... SEVENTH... Pro Tour. Bob Maher may have to wait another season for his second Player of the Year Award.
Final Result: Budde 3 – Herzog 0
PT Chicago Top Eight Draft: Red-Black
PT Chicago Top Eight Draft: Green-Black