As soon as he sat down at the Feature Match table, Brett Thompson had a question for his opponent: "So you're famous, right?"
Josh Utter-Leyton laughed. "For some defintions of famous, yeah."
"Are you in the Top 25 Rankings?"
"Yeah, I'm number two."
Wow is right. Josh Utter-Leyton, reigning Player of the Year and backbone of Channel-Fireball's constructed playtesting, is a fearsome foe. He's come to Vancouver armed with a Blue-White-Red control deck that keys off powerful spells like Sphinx's Revelation and Jace, Architect of Thought.
Brett Thompson will have his work cut out for him. An Alberta native, Thompson moved to Vancouver five years ago. HeHe's enjoying his first Grand Prix, having spent the past year honing his skills at West Coast Stamp and Coin in Nanaimo, and watching event coverage to learn from the masters. He earned his 3-0 without the luxury of byes, dispatching Mono-Black, Esper Midrane, and Mono-Red with his Mono-White Aggro deck.
Welcome to the Big Leagues!
An inauspicious start for Thompson, who had to mulligan his first hand. It got worse as his first threats, Precinct Captain and Boros Reckoner, were matched by Last Breath and Detention Sphere from Utter-Leyton. Thompson had to pass his fourth turn with nothing more than a scry land, which gave Utter-Leyton an opportunity to play Jace, Architect of Thought and minus it for cards. Thompson split Supreme Verdict verus two lands. Utter-Leyton thought for a moment, then scooped the Wrath.
Thompson's troubles continued as his next turn was just a Soldier of the Pantheon. Utter-Leyton used up the last of Jace's loyalty to get more cards, then replaced him immediately. He was in total control. Soon he was resolving Sphinx's Revelation for three while Thompson could only play out lands. Ætherling hit the table, and a turn later Jace Ultimated, allowing Utter-Leyton a look at Thompson's deck. He noted some surprises - Archangel of Thune and Heliod, God of the Sun, then took Elspeth, Sun's Champion for himself. Thompson, a true gentleman, even provided him soldier tokens with which to defeat him.
Utter-Leyton 1 - Thompson 0
Game two kicked off with another mulligan for Thompson, but at least his deck came off the blocks faster. He led with Dryad Millitant into Boros Elite into Boros Reckoner. Utter-Leyton took a moment on his third turn, before deciding on Detention Sphere for the Reckoner. Thompson hit for three more and played another Reckoner, mentally crossing his fingers.
It wasn't a Supreme Verdict, but the Fiendslayer Paladin that Utter-Leyton put down was enough to convince Thompson to keep his troops home. Thompson played Heliod, God of the Sun, and passed. With a shrug, Utter-Leyton cleared the board with a Verdict. Thompson passed and empty turn, planning to rely on Heliod for troops. A Detention Sphere from Utter-Leyton meant he would only get one. Another Fiendslayer Paladin for Utter-Leyton was soon joined by Archangel of Thune, and the +1/+1 counters started to pile up. Thompson's draws provided no solution, and soon he was extending the hand in defeat.
Josh Utter-Leyton defeats Brett Thompson 2-0
Brett Thompson was unfazed by his loss, and eager to move on to the next match. The players exchanged good luck wishes for the rest of the event.
I asked Utter-Leyton about his deck choice this weekend. He was confident in its ability against the expected field. Assemble the Legion is backbreaking against Mono-Black Control. He said that you can't plan to just answer black's threats, because their Thoughtseizes and Duresses will make sure they can land a threat that you don't have an answer for. Instead, you play a threat that trumps their whole deck. I asked him about running Counterflux over Dissolve, and he said that the advantage Counterflux gives in Game Ones of blue-white matches is enormous. The opponent is simply unable to resolve their threats.