If there's one thing that Magic players like, it's value. Card advantage, enters-the-battlefield triggers, and two-for-one trades in cards.
You know. Value.
And value is exactly what we saw in this match.
The match pitted two of the workforces behind team ChannelFireball, Eric Froehlich and Josh Utter-Leyton, against each other. Both were coming off the back of a great season. Froehlich posted a 27th, a 4th, and a 10th place finish at this season's three Pro Tours. Josh Utter-Leyton, as the Player of the Year, managed to score even more pro points.
Now, the two heavyweights of American Magic, both sitting at 1-1 records, had to face off in Modern Masters draft.
Both Eric Froehlich and Josh Utter-Leyton had incredible seasons. The two ChannelFireball teammates looked to start off the new season right with a solid finish early on in the 2013 Magic World Championship.
The Draft and Decks
Before the games, the players got a peek at each other's draft pools, and they discussed each other's picks.
Utter-Leyton started off his draft with a first-pick Cloudgoat Ranger, arguably the best uncommon in the set, and subsequently took a bunch of red burn cards. When he opened another Cloudgoat Ranger in second pack, his draft seemed to come together quite nicely. "Josh's pool is insane," Froehlich said. Utter-Leyton's deck features the excellent combination of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers (such as Cloudgoat Ranger, Murderous Redcap, and Ivory Giant) and so-called blink effects (Flickerwisp and Otherworldly Journey) to get even more value out of those creatures.
In the draft, Utter-Leyton was passing directly to Froehlich, giving him a clear signal that the domain archetype was open with cards like Skyreach Manta. Froehlich duly picked them up, but he felt the packs did not serve him well. "I was in the right archetype, but there were hardly any bombs, not a lot of mana fixing, and no payoff for being five-color. My deck is perfectly average," he said. Taking a closer look at Utter-Leyton's list, Froehlich pointed at Imperiosaur and said, "Look at all those cards you cut from me!" Utter-Leyton reassured his teammate that had actively been hating cards from him. "Imperisaur was the third pick of my draft," Utter-Leyton explained.
In Game 1, Utter-Leyton started off the value theme by blinking his Murderous Redcap with Flickerwisp, netting him a free enters-the-battlefield trigger. But that was the only two-for-one that Utter-Leyton managed to get. Froehlich, on the other side of the table, showed him the true meaning of card advantage: Masked Admirers, Citanul Woodreaders, and Mulldrifter gave him a steady stream of cards, while Marsh Flitter and Riftwing Cloudskate provided additional value.
As the game progressed, Eric found himself in a commanding position, only at the risk of losing to a top-deck from Josh. Otherworldy Journey would be particularly scary because Utter-Leyton might use on his Ivory Giant to tap any blockers. Unfortunately for Utter-Leyton, however, he hit a glut of land. When he finally drew a non-land card in Cloudgoat Ranger, Eric had Traumatic Visions at the ready, and that was that. "I drew five spells and ten lands," Utter-Leyton despondently said afterwards.
Froehlich's steady stream of card advantage allowed him to run over Utter-Leyton in the first game, whose mana flood kept him from getting any foothold.
Game 2 was closer. Utter-Leyton had a fast start, including Kithkin Greatheart and Cloudgoat Ranger. Froehlich, in the meantime, used Kodama's Reach to ramp into two 5/5 Skyreach Mantas. He then had Maelstrom Pulse to kill off Cloudgoat Ranger, and had a Plumeveil to block the Kithkins that remained. Utter-Leyton then made a cool play: he cast Otherworldly Journey and targeted not a creature of his own, but Froehlich's Skyreach Manta. This meant that the Manta would shrink from a 5/5 to a 1/1, and a Murderous Redcap cleaned up afterward. Nevertheless, Utter-Leyton was still facing one of the 5/5 flying creatures.
Utter-Leyton attempts to fight through his deck's unforgiving draws.
Holding Fiery Fall and Bound in Silence, but lacking a sixth land, he could only enchant the flier with Bound in Silence, and had to extend his hand as Froehlich had Krosan Grip to keep on attacking for 5 in the air.
"There was no way I could play around Krosan Grip," Utter-Leyton said. "Not having my sixth land for Fiery Fall to kill his 5/5 cost me the game. I think I had the best deck in the pod; I just ran bad in the games."
Froehlich offered some comments on the matchup as well. "Cloudgoat Ranger is actually not all that good against me since I have Maelstrom Pulse and a ton of removal spells," he said. "Actually, Murderous Redcap may be his best card against me. My removal spells aren't good against Murderous Redcap, and after I use a removal spell on it, he can Otherworldly Journey and Flickerwisp it back to start over again." Fortunately for Froehlich, that did not happen.
Froehlich 2 – Utter-Leyton 0