Magic Esports has 25 years of history. World Championships are packed with unforgettable stories. Years ago we compiled a playlist of many of competitive Magic's amazing moments. Every event's Top 8 features moments that resonate across the game.
Top 8 playoffs are packed with these standout memories. Players, decks, bluffs, and, of course, cards all contribute to pushing ordinary competition to extraordinary plays—such as the legendary showdown between Magic Hall of Famers Brian Kibler and Jon Finkel.
Clash of the Titans
Let's set the stage: after two full days of play, both Jon Finkel and Brian Kibler earned their way to another Top Finish with the Top 8 of Pro Tour Dark Ascension in 2012.
Kibler had returned to the game a few years prior to earn his way into the Magic Hall of Fame—and did so by rattling off a stunning stretch of success including a pair of Top Finishes at Pro Tour Honolulu 2009 then Pro Tour Austin 2009 (which he also won). He joined the Hall of Fame in the class of 2010.
And he was eager to keep adding to his career with more.
Jon Finkel is one of Magic's truly legendary players. Long considered one of, if not the, best players to ever play Finkel's record was already stunning by Top 8 of Pro Tour Dark Ascension. Finkel became the first Hall of Fame member to win another top event—Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur in 2008—and seemed live to make Top 8 in every event he competed in.
After navigating their quarterfinals matchups, the two battled in a truly back-and-forth match. Each player had a deck that they were comfortable with: Kibler playing Wolf Run Ramp that builds up to big hits with big creatures, and Finkel with Spirit Delver tempo deck built on making (and powering up) flying Spirits backed up by counterspells to protect your lead.
The entire match went to five games as they rallied back and forth, Kibler taking the first and fourth games and Finkel taking two back-to-back in between. It was a battle every step of the way—as you'd expect from two Hall of Famers—and it was a tight fifth game that featured Kibler get pushed back as Finkel turned the corner on the deciding game.
But something extraordinary was about to happen.
As Kibler fell behind, he persisted in attacking and chipped 2 life away each turn. Finkel's Spirits took over the game and eventually dropped Kibler to 4 life and set up a game-ending attack on the following turn. However, Finkel is renowned for his methodical approach to the game and knew exactly how he could potentially lose in Kibler's final turn:
With four copies in Kibler's deck, it wasn't just reasonable to assume Kibler could have a copy in hand but possible for him to even have two. That math—how likely an opponent is to have something—is a hallmark of how the best in the game approach a difficult decision.
Finkel, confident with a copy of
The rest of the tale became Magic history you have to watch to believe.
Dispatching Finkel, Kibler went on to win Pro Tour Dark Ascension and add his second Pro Tour trophy to his outstanding career.
The Players Tour Finals Top 8 playoff streams live on twitch.tv/magic and begins with the bracket reveal at 12 p.m. PDT Friday, July 25 followed by a full day of live coverage beginning at 9 a.m. PDT Saturday, August 1 (all times in PDT). History will be made again.