"Youth is wasted on the young." is an adage quipped by the older but wiser, those that have seen the years come and go and learned throughout them. Being young typically means being inexperienced, and without the foresight to appreciate what youthful vigor and opportunities really bring.
World Champion and 14th-ranked Shahar Shenhar is one the youngest yet most successful player in the history of the game, racking up multiple Grand Prix titles and earning a reputation for excellence on the Pro Tour. His World Championship win last year came at the age of 19. Young by any standards, but without argument among the game's greatest players.
15th-ranked Jared Boettcher is similarly young, and he's well on his way to similar success. With four Grand Prix Top 8s this year and a narrow miss at Top 8 at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, Boettcher is a few Pro Points away from mathematically locking up Rookie of the Year regardless of what happens at Pro Tour Magic 2015. His rising success through the past months has been nothing short of spectacular, leading him to ride into the feature match area as King of the Hill off his Top 8 at Grand Prix Chicago last weekend.
You'd be hard-pressed two find two younger players performing better in the game today than these two. Perhaps the youth isn't being wasted here.
The first game started slow, with Boettcher's Grim Guardian picking away at Shenhar and neither player having something until their sixth turns. Vulpine Goliath from Boettcher drew Artisan's Sorrow from Shenhar, digging for something to handle the fatty.
Banishing Light was Shenhar's answer after taking a hit, but Boettcher kept the train going with Bloodcrazed Hoplite and Pharika's Mender to buy back the Grim Guardian. Pheres-Band Warchief was Shenhar's first creature of the game, which he protected against Lightning Strike with Savage Surge, to trade it away for Boettcher's Mender.
Staunch-Hearted Warrior with a bestowed Nyxborn Shieldmate let the World Champion begin to attack, handily outracing the lone Grim Guardian Boettcher had left. It got worse when Leafcrown Dryad joined in granting power: The Warrior was now a 9/10 creature.
"Very big." Boettcher said as he thought about how to handle it.
Boettcher revealed Xenagos the Reveler to create a Satyr token, then Gild to exile the massive fatty but it wasn't enough: It left Shenhar with plenty of creatures to put down Xenagos, and Boettcher didn't find another of his own thereafter.
Shenhar 1 – Boettcher 0
The second game started smoother: Boettcher had a string of creatures with Grim Guardian, Ravenous Leucrocota, and Disciple of Nylea, but Shenhar's Hopeful Eidolon-bestowed Eagle of the Watch let him stay ahead on life while slowing down Boettcher's attacks. It was a losing situation for Boettcher unless he could take the Eagle down.
Nessian Demolok helped Shenhar keep the ground tied up as the life totals shifted to 31 to 6 in his favor. A turn later and Boettcher grimaced as he drew his card for the turn, then extended the hand.
Shenhar 2 – Boettcher 0
"I have other good cards but I didn't see them," Boettcher said. "But your deck is slightly better. You just slowly took control in Game 1."
"Every tournament I've lost the round coming off byes I've gone X-0 the rest of the day." Boettcher said.
"That's good. Keep my tiebreakers up!"
With the match out of the way Boettcher and Shenhar moved to another discussion: What's going on with his deck? Fanning out and revealing his sideboard, Boettcher listened to Shenhar's thoughts on the colors and splashing, discussing the potential to find a better build.
Even if youth is wasted on the young, these two seem wise beyond their years.