ROUND 11: LARS DAM VS. JOSH UTTER-LEYTON

Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 3, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

We've finally hit the stretch run at the 2014 World Championship, with just four rounds of Standard standing between us and sleep finding out which four players will come back on Sunday. As the field has settled around .500, any player at 5-5 or better still has plenty of time to make a run and earn an invite to the Top 4. But any misstep along the way could very well push them out of contention.

Two such players, Magic Online champion Lars Dam and twentieth-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton, were facing down in the feature match arena in an attempt to stay alive for the most prestigious of Sundays. Both players had made their way through the ten rounds with a record that was precisely split down the middle—a record that, if it held, wouldn't come close to scratching the Top 4.

You can read more about Lars Dam and Josh Utter-Leyton on their player profiles, but, suffice to say, both players knew what was at stake in this round.

While twentieth-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton hoped the Brood Tyrant would do enough for him, Lars Dam's control deck provided a plethora of answers.

The Decks

Dam was playing one of the more interesting decks at the tournament, a Jeskai Control deck with a plethora of main deck sweepers at the ready. He was clearly looking to play against other creatures decks, and in a field full of green mana, he was likely spot on with his prediction.

It was a deck Dam was playing simply because he didn't get the chance to play it at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, where he played Jeskai Ascendancy Combo instead. He knew the deck inside and out and was happy to bring it this weekend.

Utter-Leyton, meanwhile, was playing one of the most popular cards in the tournament, Whip of Erebos. Fully ten of the twenty-four decks were sporting the reanimating enchantment artifact, and most of them were doing so in an attempt to bring back Hornet Queen and all of her bees. Utter-Leyton was specifically playing Sidisi Whip, a version that splashes blue to utilize Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. It was a good choice against midrange decks, but seemed poorly positioned against a deck with the full set of Anger of the Gods at the ready.

The Games

The early turns were spent setting up for both players, casting utility two-drops—Nyx-Fleece Ram and Satyr Wayfinder—and jostling over Utter-Leyton's Sidisi, Brood Tyrants.

Dam had counters for both of Utter-Leyton's first attempts at the Sultai legend. That, however, allowed Utter-Leyton to resolve an Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver—at least long enough to activate once before Banishing Light showed Ashiok the error of its ways.

A Doomwake Giant did manage to sneak onto the battlefield, but Nyx-Fleece Ram was conveniently bit enough to block it. That, awkwardly enough, forced Utter-Leyton to Murderous Cut the little lamb which, also in turn, led to Dam casting End Hostilities.

Utter-Leyton takes opportunities to earn some rare value with his removal in the match-up.

And so it went. Utter-Leyton would attempt a new threat, and Dam would neutralize it, then follow up with some card drawing. Roughly two Dig Through Times and a Jace's Ingenuity later and Pearl Lake Ancient and Prognostic Sphinx were free to mop up any remaining life total Utter-Leyton had left, with the way cleared by an Anger of the Gods.

The second game started much like the first, with one Sidisi catching the wrong end of a Dissolve and the second meeting its fate under a Banishing Light without even making a single zombie.

In fact Dam seemed almost nonplussed by his ability to answer everything. A Negate easily dispatched Whip of Erebos, Doomwake Giant hilariously fell victim to an Erase, thanks to its status as an enchantment in addition to giant beat-stick, and everything seemed to casually be going his way.

So it was interesting when Dam seemed to get a little bit concerned by the Soul of Innistrad Utter-Leyton attempted to resolve. Even countered, the creature could provide a long-game advantage to the Sultai mage, effectively drawing three cards at a stage when Dam wanted him doing anything but.

Dam looks at his opponent, attempting to gleam information from a practically unreadable opponent.

Now pressed into action, Dam moved in on a Prognostic Sphinx, signaling his intent not to cast End Hostilities any time soon.

But it was possible he would come to regret that. Utter-Leyton baited a counterspell with Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver before resolving a Reclamation Sage. The sage freed Sidisi from exile under the Banishing Light, and, suddenly, gave Utter-Leyton something resembling a board presence for the first time in the match.

However, Dam had a second Sphinx and an Anger of the Gods, undoing all of the work Utter-Leyton had struggled to make over the past few turns.

Then, for the first time in the match, Utter-Leyton resolved a Thoughtseize. That allowed him to strip a Disdainful Stroke and, back-breakingly, resolve Hornet Queen.

Or at least that's how it seemed for a turn. Instead, another Anger of the Gods swept up the mess left by the Queen and enabled Dam to get yet another set of scry triggers from his pair of sphinx.

Utter-Leyton attempted to stabilize with another Hornet Queen, but the scry triggers from the previous turn dug up yet another End Hostilities, clearing the way for one final attack from the 3/5s that ruled the sky.

Dam 2 – Utter-Leyton 0

Dam said the match-up was virtually impossible to lose, as he had just demonstrated.

"They're slow, their threats come one at a time. Even when they have Soul of Innistrad, I have plenty of time to draw answers," Dam said.

The biggest draw to playing the deck, and red specifically, was Anger of the Gods.

"You want it against basically everything I think. Obviously not Blue-Black Control, but everything else," he said. "There's just not a lot that survives it."

Lars Dam - Jeskai Control

Josh Utter-Leyton - Sidisi Whip

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