Semifinals: Ben Hull (Red-White Vehicles) vs. [7] Shota Yasooka (Grixis Control)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 16, 2016

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Ben Hull's tear through to the semifinals of Pro Tour Kaladesh was a dream unfolding. Arriving and playing ill, without testing, at one's first Pro Tour isn't supposed to end well. Instead, Hull steered his Vehicles to a Top 8 berth, then raced through two impressive opponents: French standout Pierre Dagen and Lee Shi Tian, the latter of who earned an impressive fifth Pro Tour Top 8 appearance.

It was an unbelievable story for the newcomer, and the pressure continued to climb as his opponent defied the odds as well.

Shota Yasooka, legendary Pro Tour Hall of Fame player, picked up a career fourth Pro Tour Top 8 by slicing through a field with a unique control deck of his own design. Like all of Yasooka's success, his defining characteristic of working alone to attack a tournament of the game's greatest paid off, as no one saw his deck coming. Finishing second in the Swiss standings, Yasooka earned a warp to the semifinals, and a two-match chance at earning another Pro Tour victory.

He was arguably Hull's most difficult opponent yet. Coming from opposite sides of their careers, only one would advance to face Carlos Romao in the finals.

The Decks

Hull's Red-White Vehicles deck was right off the shelf of the biggest Standard tournament before the Pro Tour. Packing Fleetwheel Cruiser and Smuggler's Copter, the deck used Vehicle-enhancing creatures like Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Veteran Motorist to hit fast and hard with artifacts. Thraben Inspectors and Toolcraft Exemplars came down early, providing pressure from the second turn forward in the deck's singular focus to speed over opponents.

Yasooka's Grixis Control was on the opposite end of Standard design. With few creatures—a pair Torrential Gearhulks and a playset of Thing in the Ice—Yasooka relied on having the answer to everything. Harnessed Lightning, Unlicensed Disintegration, Void Shatter, Galvanic Bombardment, Negate, Essence Extraction, all backed up by Painful Truths, Radiant Flames, Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius. It was nearly every best solution available in Standard packed into one deck. The sideboard had even more, like Weaver of Lightning to light up small creatures and stop Smuggler's Copters cold.


Ben Hull, competing in the Top 8 of his very first Pro Tour, faced his greatest challenge yet in Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka.

The Games

Thraben Inspector faced off against Thing in the Ice to start their first game. Declaration in Stone exiled Yasooka's blocker before Selfless Spirit and another Inspector joined the fray. While Yasooka had Harnessed Lightning to kill the Spirit, another came down for Hull, followed by Smuggler's Copter.

Yasooka had more answers.

Galvanic Blast sent the Selfless Spirit packing, but Depala, Pilot Exemplar kept the pressure on. Unlicensed Disintegration destroyed Hull's Copter but his Inspector had pecked Yasooka down to 14 life. Harnessed Lightning nailed Depala before a third Selfless Spirit appeared.


Hull looks for an opening that his Vehicles can barge through.

Again, Harnessed Lightning was the answer, but Yasooka used Wandering Fumarole to block. Pia Nalaar was another threat for Hull as Yasooka finally seemed out of solutions, but the land continued to block as Hull's army grew.

Void Shatters nailed Hull's next Smuggler's Copter as well as Depala, but his creatures kept chipping away at Yasooka. At 3 life, Yasooka needed to answer a battlefield full of creatures as well as a third Smuggler's Copter.

He couldn't, and Hull took the lead.

The second game started similarly, with Yasooka's Thing in the Ice being hit by Hull's Declaration in Stone. This time Yasooka had another, and this one stuck around.

Transgress the Mind cleared away Hull's Depala, Pilot Exemplar before she could arrive, but Pia Nalaar and two Thraben Inspectors filled Hull's side all the same. He began attacking, then tried to cast Smuggler's Copter. It resolved before Yasooka started to massage his draws with a Glimmer of Genius.

Radiant Flames was found, resetting almost all of Hull's hard work.

Using his Clue tokens, Hull drew into a Toolcraft Exemplar that crewed the Copter. Once it was a creature, Yasooka cast the final spell needed to transform Thing in the Ice to Awakened Horror. Harnessed Lightning ensured Hull's Copter died before attacking on the next turn, and with Negate for the follow-up Copter after that, Yasooka firmly took over the game.

At 6 life, Hull was forced to chump block with his Needle Spires. Thraben Inspector into cracking a Clue wasn't enough for Hull to get back into it after that.

Yasooka had evened up the score as both players began to sideboard their decks. With different, and likely better, answers for Yasooka as well as a different configuration of threats for Hull, it was back to a best of three to determine who would advance to the finals.

But Hull shook his head as he shuffled up for their third game.

Smuggler's Copter was Hull's in opening, but he opted to use Declaration in Stone on his second turn instead to remove Thing in the Ice from Yasooka. Finally, Toolcraft Exemplar appeared for Hull as Yasooka had just a Weaver of Lightning to block with. While Anticipate alone wasn't enough for the Weaver to kill Toolcraft Exemplar after combat, it did set up another Thing in the Ice for Yasooka.

After falling to 16, Yasooka just played a land and passed. He wasn't under a ton of pressure, but that looked to change when Hull cast Depala, Pilot Exemplar. Weaver of Lightning and Harnessed Lightning helped clear out Hull's creatures proper, but both Copters soared over thanks to a phantom crew. Again, Weaver of Lightning was key to slowing Hull down.


Yasooka looks for his prime opening to turn the game around.

Another Depala and a Veteran Motorist appeared next for Hull, who was allowed to crew both of his Copters with them. 9 power swung out in the air, but Unlicensed Disintegration changed the actual damage to just 4.

Hull was again left without creatures to crew his Copters.

Another Motorist arrived to power a Copter. Yasooka took 4 from the attack, but having Negate for Hull's Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was another exchange that left Yasooka in command.

Transforming Thing in the Ice off Anticipate and attacking uncontested with Wandering Fumarole put Hull to 5 life, then just 1 on the next turn when Smuggler's Copter had to get in the way of the Horror.

Veteran Motorist gave Hull one more set of scry to work with, and Hull crewed his Copter to keep digging. He couldn't find anything to stop Yasooka.

The fourth game was now for Yasooka's match point, and Hull continued to think and shake his head shuffling up for the game. Yasooka's disciplined look offered nothing to the observer; It was one of his famous qualities.

Smuggler's Copter was Hull's second turn play, sliding in before Yasooka's arsenal of answers could come online, though Thing in the Ice was waiting next. Hull missed his third turn land and didn't cast a creature, then again on his fourth turn. His fifth turn was a Needle Spires, which enters the battlefield tapped. By the time Hull had something else to do, Yasooka was waiting with two copies of Thing in the Ice and plenty of open mana.

The Canadian's impressive run finally faltered.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar came down, only to get pinched by To the Slaughter. While Copter came crashing in, it was already too late. Radiant Flames cleared away the Knight Ally token, and left one of the Thing in the Ice with just one counter on it. Galvanic Blast killed Depala, Pilot Exemplar and sent Smuggler's Copter away.

A third copy of Thing in the Ice was the icing on Yasooka's victory, but it was the second one transforming that attacked for lethal.

"You got it," Hull said, extending his hand. "Good luck in the finals."

Yasooka simply nodded back. "Yes."

Shota Yasooka defeats Ben Hull 3-1 and advances to the finals!

Ben Hull - Red-White Vehicles

Shota Yasooka - Grixis Control

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