Pro Tour Fate Reforged Deck Diaries: Josh Utter-Leyton

Posted in NEWS on February 18, 2015

By Event Coverage Staff

Among the candidates selected for the Pro Tour Fate Reforged Deck Diaries was twenty-fifth-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton. He and the rest of the ChannelFireball team started down a similar route as that of eighth-ranked Ari Lax. However, the results were far from the same. Take a look at Utter-Leyton's process from the Banned & Restricted List announcement to the day before the Pro Tour below!

Twenty-fifth-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton

January 19

We are mostly back to old Modern minus Birthing Pod, with the top decks being: Jund variants, Twin, Zoo, Affinity, Infect, Storm, Burn, and Jeskai. Scapeshift and Tron just lost their best prey, and are not happy to see a field that looks like this.

The big new additions to old Modern: Monastery Swiftspear, Become Immense, Monastery Mentor, Siege Rhino, Jeskai Ascendancy, and maybe other delve cards. I'm not sure if Ascendancy without delve is any good, and certainly our World Championship deck doesn't work without Dig Through Time, but that's still what I want to start trying out. Swiftspear is the most important new card, and it makes Burn the best deck in my opinion. If I was guaranteed to see zero anti-Burn sideboard cards in the Pro Tour, I would lock in on playing the deck right now. I can't imagine not playing those sideboard cards myself, in any deck.

So my Day One deck of choice is what I think is the format's default best deck, Burn. While a more normal Burn deck is likely the optimal build, I want to start testing with something a little different:

Josh Utter-Leyton's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 19

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January 22

Steppe Lynx impressed me in the Tribal Flames deck. The mana-base, however, did not. The deck needs to get Godless Shrine for enabling Tribal Flames, but having a non-Red producing land is a big hindrance. The mana is also excessively painful; there's enough great two mana burn spells that I don't think it's worth it to try to play Flames. I'm interested in exploring other atypical builds of Burn, and to that end Matt Nass and I put together a Brozek Burn deck, built to maximize Steppe Lynx and Zektar Shrine Expedition. It's less consistent. Flagstones of Trokair and Ghost Quarter can lead to some real nice opening hands, but it's much more explosive, and is probably the best turn 3 goldfish deck in the format.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Brozek Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 22

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January 24

Most everyone assembled yesterday for testing in San Jose, and today was the first full day together. Which of course meant that all we did was draft!

At this point we have dismissed the Brozek deck as the way to build Burn. You don't need or want to have higher highs and lower lows with burn, as the normal game plan is already good enough when everything is going well. You just want to optimize for consistency. So even though the deck had some powerful stuff going on, it also had a lot of draws involving Ghost Quarters or Flagstones that were embarrassing. That leaves me on a fairly normal Burn list with Steppe Lynx.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 24

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January 26

Steppe Lynx is unfortunately not working out. It's great at goldfishing but against an interacting opponent you don't really want a card that they can answer without taking damage. We have successfully tuned Burn to...a completely stock Burn deck.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Burn – PTFRF Deck Diary January 26

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January 27

Hayne put together a sweet looking Esper Midrange deck. The initial list was fairly aggressive, built around Geist of Saint Traft, but that proved pretty ineffective against Abzan's large creatures and Lilianas. He replaced those with Lingering Souls which were excellent in that match-up, and we added Lilianas to go along with them. If the Pro Tour were tomorrow, I would still be playing Burn, but this is the deck I'm most interested in working on right now.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Esper Midrange – PTFRF Deck Diary January 27

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February 3

The Esper deck is coming along nicely. The list before had some glaring problems: it needed more lands, and it dealt a ton of damage to itself. The damage was especially bad because the deck doesn't have a fast clock to close out games and was very at risk of getting burned out by not just Burn and Zoo but also decks like Jeskai Control. Casting Cryptic Command is doable for the deck, but has a huge cost in the amount of damage you have to take to do so. I'd much rather just be able to fetch basic Swamps and Plains all the time, and turn to something else as the high end spell: Batterskull, which has been fantastic. At this point, I'm optimistic that this deck is good enough to justify playing over Burn.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Esper Midrange – PTFRF Deck Diary February 3

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February 4

I'm off Esper. I'm not likely to play Burn, as the impression I get is that people know how good the deck is and are respecting it. That leaves me with Abzan as the deck I am most likely to play. I liked Esper because I thought it was a better Abzan deck, but that's proven to not be the case. In Game 1 Esper is a favorite against Abzan because you make their Lilianas and Abrupt Decays so bad, but once they get to board out the dead cards for good ones it's clear that the Abzan cards are where you want to be in the head-to-head. It's a classic battle of threats versus answers; it's much better to be on the threats side.

Abzan's more proactive game-plan and faster  clock make it more appealing to me than trying to play Esper's somewhat more controlling game-plan. It's also very telling that Abzan can easily win when it draws fewer Lingering Souls but Esper never can. I expected Esper to have the better sideboard between the two, with blue giving better generic anti-combo cards than Abzan has access to, but after actually building the sideboards for both decks, that's not really the case. Negate or whatever other counterspells aren't really any better than just discard spells, and there are so few slots available for dedicated combo hate anyway. It's not that the Esper sideboard is bad, it is great, but it's just that it's not any better than Abzan's.

We do have a Abzan list that has some improvements over stock. I threw a single Noble Hierarch in my first build of Abzan because I had a slot and wanted to try it out, and it over-performed. Mike Sigrist has been working on the deck and went up to two copies, and I think I like even more with Gavony Townships and a Batterskull to go with them.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Abzan – PTFRF Deck Diary February 4

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February 5

After talking through the deck with everyone on the team, here's my final deck and sideboard, along with my sideboard plans for most matchups:

Josh Utter-Leyton's Abzan – PTFRF Deck Diary February 5

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Vs. The Mirror:

play:

-3 Inquisition of Kozilek

draw:

-3 Liliana of the Veil

+2 Zealous Persecution

+1 Batterskull

Vs. Jeskai Control:

-3 Path to Exile

-3 Abrupt Decay

-1 Noble Hierarch

+4 Fulminator Mage

+1 Batterskull

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Choke

Vs. Affinity:

-2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

-2 Scavenging Ooze

-1 Batterskull

-3 Liliana of the Veil

-1 Siege Rhino

+2 Stony Silence

+1 Creeping Corrosion

+2 Zealous Persecution

+4 Fulminator Mage

Vs. Twin:

-4 Siege Rhino

-1 Batterskull

-1 Lingering Souls

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Choke

+4 Fulminator Mage

Vs. Storm:

-4 Lingering Souls

-1 Batterskull

-2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

-1 Siege Rhino

+4 Fulminator Mage

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+2 Leyline of Sanctity

+1 Choke

Vs. Scapeshift:

-1 Lingering Souls

-1 Batterskull

-3 Path to Exile

-3 Abrupt Decay

+4 Fulminator Mage

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+2 Leyline of Sanctity

+1 Choke

Vs. Amulet:

-4 Lingering Souls

-1 Batterskull

+4 Fulminator Mage

+1 Liliana of the Veil

Vs. Tron:

-3 Lingering Souls

-2 Scavenging Ooze

-1 Dismember

-1 Batterskull

+4 Fulminator Mage

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+2 Stony Silence

Vs. Zoo:

-3 Thoughtseize

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Timely Reinforcements

+1 Batterskull

Vs. Burn:

-3 Thoughtseize

-1 Lingering Souls

+2 Leyline of Sanctity

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Batterskull

Vs. Hexproof:

-2 Scavenging Ooze

-2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

+1 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Batterskull

+2 Zealous Persecution

Vs. Dredgevine:

-3 Liliana of the Veil

+1 Batterskull

+2 Zealous Persecution / Deathmark

In the end, while Josh Utter-Leyton's performance didn't get him into Day Two of the Pro Tour, his teammates were able to do well for themselves, as the final deck that Utter-Leyton's team arrived at placed multiple players in the Top 75.