Adam Benn, newcomer from Ottawa, was competing in his second Grand Prix ever this weekend. His first Grand Prix was Calgary earlier in the year, a result of his return to the game during Return to Ravnica block. While Benn came back after a long break, he first picked up the game during Ice Age, making him familiar with the game despite his resume of events.
His opponent, No. 2 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton, offered up a unique challenge. The relative local player would have a chance to take down one of the best players currently competing on the Pro Tour, and at the very least, it would be a great learning experience and something to talk about back home.
Benn was first to act with Leafcrown Dryad, which looked to do the trick when Utter-Leyton had no third land. It was joined by Favored Hoplite, and again Utter-Leyton had no land, forced to discard Nimbus Naid. Shortly after seeing Celestial Archon come down against his two lonely Islands, Utter-Leyton quickly conceded the first game.
Utter-Leyton actually had his Esper based landed in the second game, along with an Opaline Unicorn and a Wavecrash Triton to hold down the fort. Benn pressed on, however, with Favored Hoplite attacking in with represented tricks while a Wavecrash Triton of his own sat back to block.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel came down on Utter-Leyton's fourth turn, but Benn had instant speed action in the form of Horizon Chimera. It continued the attacks, dropping Utter-Leyton to 17. However, Utter-Leyton was able to go on the offensive with a bestowed Nimbus Naid on his Wavecrash Triton, which locked down Benn's Horizon Chimera.
Utter-Leyton continued to be in the driver's seat with another Wavecrash Triton. He passed with Hero's Downfall and Griptide in hand and enough mana to cast either. However, Benn wasn't biting with any major plays, and the game slowly moved into draw-go mode, with Benn adding creatures to the battlefield but being unable to attack through Utter-Leyton's creatures profitably.
At this point, while Benn was drawing creatures to add to his board, Utter-Leyton started drawing nothing but lands. However, when he found Helio'ds Emissary, he began to go onto the offensive by bestowing it onto his non-enchanted Wavecrash Triton. It attacked in and was not blocked, but thanks to Benn's Horizon Chimera, the 2012-2013 Player of the Year had a long way to go.
Benn, however, had some tricks. At the end of Utter-Leyton's turn, he had Lost in the Labyrinth targeting his Wavecrash Triton, which tapped Utter-Leyton's Triton that was bestowed with Nimbus Naid. When Benn went to his combat step, Griptide sent Calvary Pegasus to the top before Benn sent his flying creatures (and what would have been his humans as well) into battle. This warranted Hero's Downfall on Benn's Precient Chimera from Utter-Leyton, leaving Utter-Leyton at 12 after the dust settled, and in much better shape than what he could have been in.
Thassa's Emissary on the untapped Wavecrash Triton with the bestowed Heliod's Emissary gave Utter-Leyton a decent threat, and put Benn into chump-block mode to prevent Utter-Leyton from drawing cards. Benn sent in his flying creatures along with the Battlewise Hoplite on the next turn, but Ray of Dissolution shrank the Hoplite when it destroyed the bestowed Leafcrown Dryad.
Benn had a tempo swing in the form of Sea God's Revenge, which left Utter-Leyton with some suddenly unbestowed creatures, but the damage had been done. Utter-Leyton was only at 10 life after attacks on that turn, and the Wavecrash Triton that was bestowed with both Thassa's Emissary and Heliod's Emissary kept coming in. A replayed board and another Gray Merchant of Asphodel put Utter-Leyton in good shape, and it soon became Benn's turn to start drawing lands.
After a few turns with Utter-Leyton making calculated attacks, Benn found himself with a smaller board, then a smaller life total, and then 1-1 as Benn scooped up his cards for the third game...
...which ended up being uneventful, as it was Benn's turn to have mana troubles. When he passed with no plays on the fifth turn and only blue and white mana available, the message was clear: Benn had a grip of green cards.
"Lot of green cards, huh?" Utter-Leyton inquired when Benn drew, played a land, and passed again with no action. "Yep," Benn acknowledged. "A lot of them." Griptide on Benn's Vaporkin didn't help matters following that.
When a Forest wasn't waiting on top shortly after that, Benn offered the handshake.
Benn 1 – Utter-Leyton 2
After the match, I talked to Utter-Leyton about his deck. Three colors in the format can be ambitious, and I asked if it was due to the depth of his colors.
Turns out, it was the opposite. "Basically, I had to play all three colors. I have two Opaline Unicorns and the Traveler's Amulet, so with those I figure I can be a little more ambitious with the [white] splash," he exlained. "I'm basically splashing for Celestial Archon."
He went on to explain further. "I could have been more conservative with my splash and simply splashed two green cards [for Reaper of the Wilds and Nessian Asp] instead of having a bunch of white cards. White isn't really a splash since the main card is Celestia Archon." This is the reason Utter-Leyton's deck was so heavily committed to all three colors. It was either play the best cards of all three colors, or cut the white and play some underwhelming blue and black cards that ultimately didn't make the cut in his place.
However, he knew that it needed to be done, and so far today, it has served the 2012-2013 Player of the Year well.