Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 2, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Pro Tour winner. Pro Tour Hall of Fame member. World Magic Cup-winning team captain. The career of Raphaël Lévy spans three different decades and nearly every continent on the planet. Encapsulating his accomplishments in a paragraph is a foolhardy endeavor: His full World Championship player profile is better suited to explaining his accomplishments.

And the World Championship is full of talented players like Lévy, but they aren't the whole cast.

Yuuki Ichikawa is arguably the face of Japanese Magic streaming. A breakout star throughout 2014, Ichikawa earned Top 25 ranking, currently No. 25, and a second Pro Tour Top 8 in just five attended. While his history in the game is a fraction of Lévy's, the talent and skill Ichikawa has put on display makes it clear there's plenty of new faces ready to overrun the old vanguard. You can learn more about him by checking out his player profile.

The World Championship is exactly where the greatest, old and new, decide it.

The Decks

Lévy, like many of his competitors, brought a combo deck. Unlike many of his competitors, Scapeshift was his combo of choice, built to turn Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers into a hefty hit of burn to an opponent's face. With an impressive undefeated run through thirteen rounds at Grand Prix Richmond, the largest Modern tournament in history, as well as victory in the hands of Park Jun Young at Grand Prix Minneapolis, Scapeshift's potency has been on the edges of the top for some time.

Ichikawa, however, had a distinct flavor of Temur Delver. It was also the same deck that fellow Japanese contenders Yuuya Watanabe and Kentarou Yamamoto were playing.

"I tested with Kentarou Yamamoto and Yuuya Watanabe; We're all playing the same deck," Ichikawa explained. "In this Modern environment, we thought the Temur Delver deck would be the strongest. We dug deeper and made our own version. The number one reason was Treasure Cruise, where we felt we could play the long game and the short. Tarmogoyf is also very strong."

What had Ichikawa expected to see? "Scapeshift, Blue-Red Delver, Resto Pod, B/G Rock, Splinter Twin, more of the former and less and you go down the list. We haven't played against Jeskai Ascendancy yet but we thought some might bring it."

How did the Japanese contingent come to their deck? "We spent like three or four days together and played Magic Online separately, then we brought our results back together and talked about it. Usually Young Pyromancer is in this type of deck but we wanted to get rid of it. We didn't think it worked as well."

Ichikawa was drawn to their flavor of Temur Delver based on a different deck. "I love Canadian Threshold in Legacy," Ichikawa explained, "so I brought that kind of idea to Modern. It's working out very well today, even though I lost against Yamamoto last round."

Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy and young star twenty-fifth-ranked Yuuki Ichikawa settle into one of many pairings here this week that feature both the old and new guard battling it out.

The Games

Ichikawa spent the early turns filling his graveyard with cantrips like Gitaxian Probe, Thought Scour, and Serum Visions before presenting a 4/5 Tarmogoyf to battle. Lévy was playing his lands tapped before putting Sakura-Tribe Elder into Ichikawa's Spell Snare. After casting a fully delved Treasure Cruise, Ichikawa added a second Tarmogoyf to his side.

Lévy pondered over letting Ichikawa resolve Serum Visions before letting it go. He still used Cryptic Command to tap down the team of Tarmogoyfs before Ichikawa could add more to his board: Monastery Swiftspear and Delver of Secrets. While Lévy used Electrolyze to bury the Delver of Secrets, there was still plenty of power on Ichikawa's side.

Ichikawa's Modern deck of choice was the result of Japan's combined brain-power for this event.

When Lévy slipped a Snapcaster Mage into play to block the one Ichikawa had done likewise with last turn, Spell Snare and a flurry of instants made it just enough for Lévy to fall from 15 life in one fell swoop.

The second game started similar to the first: Ichikawa with an early Gitaxian Probe and Lévy with lands that entered the battlefield tapped. Shaping his hand, Ichikawa began deploying threats: Monastery Swiftspear was first. It died to Lightning Bolt. The second was Tarmogoyf. Ichikawa Deprived Lévy's Repeal. The third was Delver of Secrets. That died to Pyroclasm, followed by the Tarmogoyf thanks to Lightning Bolt.

Ichikawa's graveyard was ripe for a Treasure Cruise, but Lévy had assembled six lands with a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Ichikawa had a second Tarmogoyf, but at the end of that turn Lévy leveled Electrolyze at the Japanese streamer. Putting Ichikawa to 8 life, Lévy began to run his math. Engineered Explosives for two gave him an answer for the Tarmogoyf, which we was forced to use after Dig Through Time was countered on the next attack.

Down to three cards in Ichikawa's hand, Lévy pulled the trigger: He played his second Valakut and cast Scapeshift. There was a brief pause.

"Okay," Ichikawa said and Lévy let loose a sigh of relief as cards were scooped up for the third game.

In the decisive game, Lévy led off early with Search for Tomorrow as Ichikawa continued the same plan from the previous two games: Gitaxian Probe and hand sculpting that filled the graveyard. Monastery Swiftspear appeared earlier though: Ichikawa filled his graveyard with enough cantrips to drop Lévy to 11 with Swiftspear then emptied it all back out with Treasure Cruise.

Lévy looks for a way to shift the tides of the match.

Lévy just shook his head as the Cruise resolved. His own hand was full with just five lands to match the five he had in play.

Ichikawa didn't know that, however, as he began to calculate his own math. Tarmogoyf joined the party after Lévy fell to 8, presenting a potentially lethal attack. Snapcaster Mage was Lévy's only non-land card, freshly drawn the last turn, and Electrolyze came back out to send Delver of Secrets away.

Ichikawa answered the blocker with Lightning Bolt, unafraid of the remaining untapped land on Lévy's side, Misty Rainforest. Treasure Cruise pulled Gitaxian Probe which revealed what Lévy already knew all along: There was nothing left to resist the Tarmogoyf and Monastery Swiftspear.

Lévy extended his hand. The war wasn't over, but one of the new crew had overcome one of the mightiest of the veterans.

Ichikawa 2 – Lévy 1

Yuuki Ichikawa – Temur Delver

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Raphaël Lévy – Scapeshift

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