Semifinal Feature Match: Raphaël Lévy (France) vs. Jesper Manne Thrane (Denmark)

Posted in Event Coverage on September 2, 2015

By Mark Wraith

Jesper Manne Thrane vs. Raphal Lvy

"Gentlemen, kick each others butt". Even the head judge Jaap Brouwer was in a jovial spirit as the event moved into the final four players. Raphaël is certainly a well-known name who hasn't done anything significant for a while; his most recent success was when he came second behind Noah Boeken at the European Championships last year. Having a Danish player in the Top 4 of European Grand Prix is nothing new, but usually it's Trey van Cleave. Lévy's opponent is a fairly new name.

Raphaël was contented with his opening draw, but his opponent had to think for a while before deciding to keep his. Lévy played a creature on his first turn, one of his collection of tappers - a Thornscape Apprentice.

The Apprentice did a couple of damage to Jesper, who used a Prohibit to stop Lévy's attempt to give it an Aggressive Urge. The Frenchman was obviously surprised by this play but didn't seem too scared. All the Dane could cast was Dream Thrush, while Lévy summoned a Pincer Spider.

This was more than enough to attack past a Glimmering Angel, and while Jesper was tapped out to summon it, Raphaël took advantage and cast a Kavu Climber. Thrane was still doing pretty well, though, as he used the Dream Thrushes ability to give him access to Green mana and enchanted the Glimmering Angel with an Armadillo Cloak.

Now he could attack and it looked like he was winning the race, although Raphaël summoned a 5/5 Sabertooth Nishoba immediately. The Dane's hand was pretty good though, with both Repulse and Stormscape Battlemage. Neither of these could deal with the Nishoba because of its protection from Blue, but they looked pretty good anyway.

Jesper didn't cast the Battlemage immediately, as he cast a main-phase Worldly Counsel instead. The Angel brought Raphaël down to twelve, and put Jesper up to eighteen lives.

Lévy cast a Fact or Fiction to try and find an answer, sacrificing his Irrigation Ditch to do so, since Jesper attempted to turn it into a Forest with his Dream Thrush. Jesper divided the piles up with a Questing Phelddagrif in one of them, and Nomadic Elf and Island in the other, hoping that Raphaël did not have another source of blue mana.

When Raphaël attacked his Kavu Climber was Repulsed, and the attack only brought Jesper down to ten. He couldn't replay the Climber as he only had one Forest untapped, so he played a Quirion Sentinel and an Alpha Kavu instead. His creature base was looking impressive, even though Thrane was gaining four life with every attack from the Angel.

Now the Stormscape Battlemage made an appearance however, killing off the Pincer Spider. Luckily for Raphaël, the Dane did not have enough mana to play the second kicker and gain three life as well.

Stormscape Battlemage traded with the Quirion Sentinel, and Lévy's attack was only enough to put Jesper on seven lives, although he still had just a Dream Thrush and a Glimmering Angel in play. Raphaël summoned a Llanowar Knight, giving him five creatures in play as he also recast the Kavu Climber. His life total of eight meant that he was just two attacks away from losing the game, however.

Jesper did indeed attack, and summoned a Sawtooth Loon, returning the Dream Thrush and casting Tower Drake as well before passing the turn for what would be Raphaël's last chance unless he drew something relevant like an Armadillo Cloak of his own.

Even a Gerrard's Command would be enough for Raphaël to win, since he could use his Benalish Trapper to tap one of Jesper's blockers and attack for the win. He had nothing though, and his attack forced the Dane to chump-block, but was only enough to put him down to four life.

After a futile attempt to tap the Glimmering Angel - of course Jesper just tapped an Island to make it untargetable - Lévy scooped up his cards and the players moved on to game two.

Game Two

Lévy went first in the second game, but it was his opponent who played the first creature - a Sky Weaver. Raphaël had to wait until the third turn before he was able to cast a Thornscape Apprentice - his lands up until that point had been Irrigation Ditch, and a Plains.

Luckily for him Jesper only had two lands, and summoned a Benalish Trapper. Raphaël took a chance on his opponent not top-decking land and having bounce in his hand, as he sacrificed his Ditch to enable him to summon Questing Phelddagrif. He was still short of an Island to recast it if the Dane managed to remove it.

He gave it an Armadillo Cloak on his next turn. Jesper had managed to draw a land but Lashknife Barrier wasn't close to being an answer to the Hippo. The Phelddagrif's attack was the first damage dealt so far in the game.

Thrane even had a second Lashknife Barrier, but it was of no relevance at that point in the game. Raphaël was using his Thornscape Apprentice to keep the Benalish Trapper from stopping his Hippo.

It looked like a really mean Hippo on Raphaël's second attack, since as well as having an Armadillo Cloak, it received a Gerrard's Command, and put the Dane on five. Jesper finally drew an answer to the Hippo on his next turn, as he Repulsed it - but he was unable to stop himself from dying anyway - Raphaël attacked with the Llanowar Knight and gave it a Gerrard's Command for the win.

Game Three

Both players seemed pretty satisfied with their grips in game three. Raphaël played a Thornscape Apprentice, and Jesper a Dream Thrush. The Thrush tried to block the Apprentice, but this proved to be a mistake since Lévy had an Aggressive Urge ready.

The Dane played a Lashknife Barrier on his third turn, but didn't do anything - not even laying a land - on his fourth turn, after Raphaël had summoned an Alpha Kavu. Jesper Repulsed the Kavu when it attacked, and took another point from the 1/1 to go down to eighteen life.

The Repulse didn't give him a fourth land, but it did give him a Riptide Crab that forced Raphaël to hold off with the Alpha Kavu. When Thrane did draw his fourth land it seemed pretty key as it allowed him to cast a Benalish Heralds.

Jesper Manne Thrane

Lévy summoned a Stone Kavu and when he attacked with both Kavu, the Dane surprisingly decided to block with the Heralds - while he was still tapped out. As always Lévy was ready with Gerrard's Command to kill off the card-advantage engine. Perhaps the Dane would have been better off holding back for a turn until he could draw some cards, but perhaps he was worried that he would have to use them in his upkeep every turn because of the Thornscape Apprentice.

Jesper used a Wash Out to return all Green creatures - but it seemed almost irrelevant since Raphaël had the mana to replay Alpha Kavu, Thornscape Apprentice, and Llanowar Knight.

Thrane paused for a long time on his next turn. "What are you thinking about?" asked Raphaël. "I am trying to remember something", replied Jesper. "Remember something? Ask me, maybe I can help."

"What is the name of that Kavu you just had in play?" There was merriment from the watching crowd, but eventually Jesper decided to play Meddling Mage naming 'Stone Kavu', which was indeed the correct nomenclature.

Alpha Kavu became a little larger courtesy of Armadillo Cloak, but it only attacked once before it's days of attacking were over - as Jesper enchanted it with Shackles. Still Raphaël was looking quite good - his opponent's only creatures were the Riptide Crab and a Meddling Mage, while he himself get dropping green guys - a Kavu Climber joining his force.

Jesper's hand was pretty good though, as it had Atalya, Samite Master and a Benalish Trapper. He did play the Master, and Raphaël played a Fact or Fiction utilizing his newly summoned Nomadic Elf to get the blue mana. It wasn't the best Fact or Fiction ever by any means - three lands, Pincer Spider, and Gerrard's Command.

Jesper put all the land with the Pincer Spider, since Raphaël now had all the lands he could use, and the Command was probably the better spell. Lévy had to try and kill Jesper before Atalya got out of hand - although at least he could control it a little with the Thornscape Apprentice.

After the Fact or Fiction, Raphaël swung in with Kavu Climber, Nomadic Elf, and Llanowar Knight. Jesper used his Master to block the Nomadic Elf, and Meddling Mage to block the Knight - Lévy killed the Knight with Gerrard's Command - allowing him to recast the Stone Kavu which had languished in his hand for the past four or five turns.

Even so it seemed like Jesper might be able to solidify his position. He cast a Benalish Trapper of his own, and a Sawtooth Loon. The Loon gave him a source of black mana, although he was forced to put his Cavern Harpy on the bottom of his library. Raphaël needed to get through some damage as quickly as possible before Jesper could gain too many lives with the Atalya and with the Dane on twelve it looked unlikely that Raphaël could kill him in the near future.

Raphaël certainly thought for a long time about his play - and he was obviously unhappy with his board position as he muttered to himself in French. All he did after five minutes or so of thought was to attack with Kavu Climber - it was blocked by Riptide Crab, and recast the Stone Kavu.

He had the Gerrard's Command in his hand, so possibly he could have attacked with the Llanowar Knight as well in the hopes that it would be blocked by Atalya, or even he would have been happy to take out the Benalish Trapper. At the least he would have got two damage through.

He tried to use the Gerrard's Command on his next turn to untap the Armadillo Cloaked Alpha Kavu, but unfortunately Jesper was ready with Confound, which he could not have cast if Raphaël had used the Command the previous turn.

Jesper's Sea Snidd seemed to seal up the ground pretty well, and it was difficult to see how Lévy was going to get through the last nine damage. He top-decked a pretty large creature though, as a Sabertooth Nishoba joined his force. Raphaël then drew a Phelddagrif, which once again he was unable to cast due to an absence of blue mana sources. Jesper.

Thrane looked through the Frenchman's graveyard to count just how many creature enhancers had already been used up. He blocked the Sabertooth Nishoba with Atalya, and used her ability to save her - the Nishoba trampled over for one which put the Dane on ten.

Jesper top-decked a pretty good card here - Stormscape Battlemage allowing him to kill the Thornscape Apprentice and gain three life. Bizarrely he used Sea Snidd to get the black mana, even though he had in play a Dromar's Cavern - but still - he was looking pretty good at this point.

Raphaël attacked and the Nishoba got through to put Jesper on eight. Raphaël added his second Nishoba (!) and passed the turn. Thrane decided to move Shackles across from the Alpha Kavu to a Sabertooth Nishoba, and Lévy sent all of his Kavu's. The Dane would struggle to kill any of them because of Alpha Kavu's special ability, but they didn't really seem to be able to get through much damage either - Alpha Kavu was double-blocked by Glimmering Angel, Kavu Climber was blocked by Sea Snidd, and Stone Kavu was blocked by Riptide Crab.

The double-block seemed pointless as it achieved nothing except killing his own Glimmering Angel - Jesper had forgotten about the Alpha Kavu's 'special' ability which meant that Raphaël could keep all of his guys alive.

Thrane replayed his Sawtooth Loon, which - as well as improving his hand - allowed him to return Stormscape Battlemage to his hand. It was a good job for Raphaël that Cavern Harpy was somewhere at the bottom of Jesper's library from an earlier sort with the Loon, otherwise it would be able to kill all of his creatures except the Nishoba's - one at a time.

Raphaël's next attack was probably the first turn of the match that he didn't get any damage through, as the Lashknife Barrier and Atalya easily stopped his guys. If Raphaël had sideboarded in the Aura Blast and had drawn it at this point he would have been able to basically remove all of Jesper's blockers - and drawn a card - but unfortunately he could only say "Go".

The Battlemage's reappearance dealt with Alpha Kavu, and put Jesper up to twelve. Raphaël finally managed to find one of his two Islands and cast a Questing Phelddagrif - but it all seemed a little late since Jesper had gained almost complete control by now. Raphaël managed to get through another two damage with Sabertooth Nishoba since Jesper decided to tap the Phelddagrif instead.

Jesper went down to ten - but went back up to fourteen again since he now enchanted Tower Drake with an Armadillo Cloak of his own. Since the Dane had a Benalish Trapper to keep the Stormscape Apprentice under wraps, it looked like Raphaël might die to the Tower Drake sooner rather than later.

Jesper probably didn't need to tap down the attackers any more, as between Tower Drake and Atalya he could gain potentially nine lives each turn. Raphaël sank into thought for a long time again - eventually prompting Jaap Brouwer who had started to observe the match to give him an official warning for slow play.

Raphaël gave his Questing Phelddagrif an Armadillo Cloak, hoping to allow himself to hold off the Tower Drake, and it seemed like the game was seriously stalled. Jaap gave Jesper a warning for slow play as well, reminding both the players that the next time it would be a game loss.

Despite the seeming stall, Lévy had to keep attacking - as his Fact or Fiction meant that he would get decked about four turns before Jesper would. The Questing Phelddagrif attacked, and Raphaël calculated how big the blocking Tower Drake could become.

Raphal Lvy

In his initial calculations he forgot that Jesper could use the Sea Snidd to get another white mana - but he spotted this, and kept pumping the Phelddagrif up to a 12/12. Jesper pumped his Tower Drake's toughness to prevent some Trample damage. The end result was that Raphaël went up to thirty-three, and Jesper down to ten.

Thrane drew his second Lashknife Barrier, and Raphaël had only four turns to kill his opponent now. Since he was forced to play faster - he made an obvious mistake here and attacked with Sabertooth Nishoba. The Nishoba was only able to kill one of the tokens put into play by his Hippo, however.

Next turn Raphaël attacked with his Phelddagrif again - it was blocked by Sawtooth Loon and ten damage trampled through. This was almost irrelevant, however, since Jesper had enough mana to gain six life.

Then Jesper drew the Cavern Harpy that he had put on the bottom of his library right at the start of the game, and returned the Stormscape Battlemage to his hand. Raphaël conceded at this point, thus finishing the longest semifinal of a Grand Prix I have ever witnessed.

Final Result: Jesper Thrane defeats Raphaël Lévy 2 - 1

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