Good 'ol rock ... nothing beats rock.
In most constructed Magic formats, one defining deck evolves and the rest of the metagame dances around it. In Onslaught Block Constructed that deck is Slide. The red-white cycling deck is the most powerful in the format and everyone knows that. It's beatable by anyone who is willing to devote cards to beating it, but it's tough to build a deck that can beat it and still be good against everything else. That's the rock-paper-scissors that currently defines this format and over the course of this weekend we'll find out whether anyone found a hand grenade that can blow up everything else.
Justin Gary and Jon Finkel each chose to run Slide decks and each won his first round match. The two American PT veterans then ran into each other in a round 2 feature match. They've each been playing Magic against each other since they were barely teenagers and they shared a US Nationals Top 8 way back in 1997. They're still two of the most talented and successful players around.
Team Your Move Games, and Justin Gary in particular, seem very prepared for this tournament. They're playing three different decks, but that worked out just fine for them in Houston. They're also better at scouting the competition than any other team. Gary already knew what Finkel was playing before the round began because he had talked to the dealer that Finkel bought his cards from. Finkel, on the other hand, didn't know what deck Gary had chosen to run until on turn 2 Gary played a Lightning Rift and commented "now you know ..." On turn 3 Finkel sacrificed a fetch land and got an Island and Gary got to show off how well-prepared he was by commenting "That's good tech against beasts ..." Gary knew that Island meant Finkel had chosen to run Complicates in his deck. Finkel just smiled.
Game 1 was long, but not very complicated. Neither player showed any sign of any main deck enchantment removal (other than Akroma's Vengeance) and neither player seemed to have any other tech specifically devoted to the mirror match either. Finkel's tech was limited to those Complicates plus a green splash for Explosive Vegetation while Gary's deck is pure unadulterated rock. They took turns playing out Exalted Angels and killing the other guy's Angels. They also took turns trying to get Lightning Rift running and Gary's position was all the while complicated by trying to play around Complicate. Gary drew all four of his Lightning Rifts over the course of the game whereas Finkel drew only one of his own. In the end, that was the difference as the fourth one finally stuck. Gary also managed to resolve a Jareth at the end and after 30 minutes and 30 turns they were shuffling up for game 2.
Gary's sideboard seemed much better equipped for the mirror match. Whereas Finkel brought in Demystify and a couple copies of Rorix (and a seemingly random Insurrection) Gary got to bring in four copies of Avarax. The Slide mirror is usually about stamina, with each player sweeping the other guy's board with Venegeance or Starstorm, so Avarax is perfect technology. In fact, word on the street was that you couldn't find one to buy on Friday morning – all the dealers were sold out. In addition, Gary also had Akroma, Angel of Wrath in his sideboard and Rorix of his own. More importantly, Gary was able to take out all of his enchantments, thus turning Finkel's Demystifys into dead cards. Most players seem to be sideboarding out all their enchantments in the Slide mirror match (including Finkel) so they really need something better to bring in than enchantment removal. Avarax and Akroma seem like fine choices.
Finkel used Explosive Vegetation to gain a mana advantage early in game 2, but he wasn't able to do much with it. He did manage to stop Avarax with a (hard cast) Complicate, but Gary then played out an Exalted Angel. Finkel answered with Rorix and chose to send it in. Gary played a second Exalted Angel and that forced Finkel to leave Rorix on defense. His "block with Rorix" plan was foiled when Gary played Akroma's Blessing and chose red. That attack dropped Finkel down to 4 and sent Gary's life total up above 30. Finkel was forced to use Insurrection just to steal those Angels and gain eight life by attacking with them. Now that Finkel was up to 12 and still had Rorix on D, Gary was forced to commit a third Exalted Angel to the board and Finkel gained card advantage by sweeping them all away with Starstorm. However, when Gary calmly untapped and dropped Akroma, Finkel had no answer. One attack from the legendary angel and one draw phase later, Finkel was extended his hand.
Final Result: Gary - 2, Finkel - 0