Semifinals: It's Good to Be the King

Posted in Event Coverage on May 18, 2014

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

Andrea Mengucci vs. Nam Sung Wook

Patrick Chapin (Junk Midrange) vs. (13) Josh Utter-Leyton (BUG Control)

Yuuki Ichikawa vs. Nam Sung Wook

"May the winner of this match win the Pro Tour," Chapin said as the cameras closed in for the opening shot.

"I like it," Utter-Leyton replied with a grin.

Somehow, neither Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin nor reigning Player of the Year and No. 13 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton have managed to win a Pro Tour during their very impressive careers. They've both come close, each making it to the finals of a Pro Tour, but that last little bit has always eluded them. And this battle couldn't come at a more appropriate time. With one Pro Tour remaining on the schedule, both of these players are desperately trying to lock up a spot at the World Championship later this year.

Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and No. 13 Ranked Player Josh Utter-Leyton: two players with incredible records and a desire to earn their first Pro Tour title.

The Decks

Between rounds, Josh Utter-Leyton sought out his teammates' help in testing this match-up. With Bob Maher, No. 22 Ranked Player Eric Froehlich, and No. 4 Ranked Player Ben Stark offering their advice, Utter-Leyton seemed to be having a fairly easy go of things, routinely crushing Stark in game after game. The ChannelFireball Prime BUG Control list is certainly geared a bit more towards the slower decks in the field, which is certainly on his side, but the lack of Reaper of the Wilds, which has proven to be fantastic against Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz, King of Oreskos, can't be overlooked.

Chapin didn't seem to think that the match-up really went in the favor of either player. His Junk Midrange deck is a bit more aggressive and creature-heavy than the other decks of this archetype. Opting to play a handful more creatures than opponents, and difficult to kill ones at that, ensures that Chapin's deck will generally be able to outmatch the removal from the Control deck. That's how he beat Jamie Parke's BUG Control deck in the Quarterfinals, and it's almost certainly how he plans on taking things here against Utter-Leyton.

The Games

Chapin had earlier said that one of the things that makes or breaks this match-up is whether or not the BUG deck gets an early Sylvan Caryatid. Utter-Leyton did, and even managed to follow it up with a Courser of Kruphix. This fantastic start petered off very quickly, however, as his deck revealed a string of cards that weren't lands on the top of his deck. Stuck on lands, Utter-Leyton quickly found himself in danger from Chapin's aggressive draw.

Chapin's deck is able to punish slower control players with some brutal beaters early on.

While Utter-Leyton was struggling to find lands, Chapin was assembling an army. Brimaz, King of Oreskos, joined Fleecemane Lion on the board and quickly set to dismantling Utter-Leyton's life total. The wrecking ball came after Utter-Leyton Thoughtseized an Elspeth, Sun's Herald, out of Chapin's hand. Chapin drew his card, giving him one mystery card to go with his two Coursers of Kruphix and his Plains. When he attacked with his team, Chapin revealed that his freshly-drawn card was Silence the Believers, as he used the instant to break up an attempted double block on Brimaz.

Utter-Leyton failed to find a fourth land for multiple turns, drawing Sylvan Caryatids in their place. A second Silence the Believers to take out Utter-Leyton's Courser gone, there was no longer a creature on the table capable of safely blocking the Brimaz. The King went to town, bringing a new kitten alongside him every turn. Brimaz is notorious for getting out of hand very quickly, and he soon had three extra attackers coming across every turn. Utter-Leyton couldn't find a Hero's Downfall to literally save his life, and he was eventually overrun by a legion of adorable kittens.

The second game looked like it was all in Utter-Leyton's hands at the outset. His first-turn Thoughtseize revealed that Chapin had potentially gotten a bit greedy, keeping a one-land hand. He had two Fleecemane Lions, a Sylvan Caryatid, Temple of Silence, and a couple copies of Hero's Downfall. Utter-Leyton thought for a minute about what to take before deciding to strip away one of the Lions.

Utter-Leyton is not one to let awkward draws and hands stifle his ability to find a way to win.

Chapin played his Temple of Silence on the first turn, peeked at the top card of his deck, and then placed it on the bottom. At seeing this, Utter-Leyton allowed himself a tiny little pump of the fist, causing the gathered audiences outside the stage to burst into laughter.

Utter-Leyton aimed a second Thoughtseize at Chapin on the second turn, taking the Caryatid away from a hand that had gained a Brimaz, leaving Chapin needing to draw an untapped land to truly run away with this game.

The audible gasp from the audience that came during Chapin's draw step was deafening.

The reaction from Chapin's teammates was booming when Chapin's draw yielded him an untapped land to cast his Fleecemane Lion.

Chapin looked sheepish as he slowly slid a Forest into play alongside his Temple. This let him cast the remaining Fleecemane Lion in his hand to a shrug from Utter-Leyton. He was having his own mana issues, unable to find anything other than the pair of Swamps he started with to add to the board.

When the crowd erupted once more during Chapin's draw step, Utter-Leyton shot him a look that said, "Really?" Chapin just shrugged and played one of the two Plains in his deck. He had the courtesy to look embarrassed about his luck as he added Brimaz to his team.

"You probably don't mind the crowd giving away your draw step if it was those two cards, do you?" Utter-Leyton laughed.

Chapin laughed at that and nodded his head. When he attacked on the following turn, with Utter-Leyton still sitting on a mere two Swamps, Chapin earned his victory, accepting Utter-Leyton's concession.

In the second game, fortune favored Chapin when he and Utter-Leyton needed to draw lands, earning him a quick second game as well as the match.

"Good luck in the Finals," Utter-Leyton offered as he shook Chapin's hand.

Patrick Chapin defeats Josh Utter-Leyton 2-0 and advances to the Finals!

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