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

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for, 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.

It was a fitting end to the day, pairing first-time World Championship competitor Yuuki Ichikawa against one of only three players to play in all three of these events, Josh Utter-Leyton.

On one side you have twenty-fifth-ranked Ichikawa, a popular streamer and one of the hottest players on the tour in the last year. He made his debut recently at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, but really exploded this year with back-to-back Pro Tour Top 8s, as well as a Grand Prix Top 8. His ranking really underestimates the respect he's given on tour, where he's considered one of the absolute fastest rising players around (see full profile).

On the other side you have the very model of consistency, twentieth-ranked Utter-Leyton. This is the third trip to this tournament for the former player of the year, and his 285 lifetime pro points (and counting) will surely put him at or near the top of Hall of Fame talk in a few years. He's always around, always putting up solid finishes, and always at the top of his game (see full profile).

So it was the new gun versus the standard bearer with both players at 4-2 and angling for a spot near the top of the standings as we round the halfway point of the World Championship.

While Yuuki Ichikawa looks to improve upon the first day of his first World Championship, Utter-Leyton's got his sights on making sure his third consecutive World Championship showing ends with a win.

The Decks

Like many of the other competitors, Ichikawa and Utter-Leyton were playing decks that simply would not exist without Khans of Tarkir. The American was leaning on Jeskai Ascendancy to combo people out, something many thought would be a dominant strategy right out of the gates. However, instead of relying on green mana creatures and Glittering Wish, as was most common, Utter-Leyton was leaning on Fatestitcher—an amazing find that allowed the deck to ditch green and adopt a moderate number of control cards, making it a bit less of a glass cannon.

Ichikawa's deck, on the other hand, shared little in common with Utter-Leyton's besides Treasure Cruise. He could beat down quickly, burn them out efficiently, and counter spells effectively if the situation called for it, but there was no combo, no single card that drove his strategy. His deck was flexible, deadly, and brutally efficient at every point on the curve.

Utter-Leyton would need every ounce of his deck's explosiveness and ability to control if he was going to escape the final round of the day.

The Games

Ichikawa started exactly like he wanted, flipping a Delver of Secrets into Insectile Aberration and following it up immediately with a Tarmogoyf. Utter-Leyton would be under pressure to combo off quickly or put his control cards to work immediately.

It appeared he was choosing the former, as he used Izzet Charm to draw and discard rather than kill the 3/2 flier clocking him. That set up his hand, but also pumped Tarmogoyf.

Ichikawa's Delver deck can have some back-breaking starts.

That felt favorable enough to Ichikawa that he simply reloaded with a second Tarmogoyf. With no resistance from Utter-Leyton, the game was over by turn four.

Now on the play and with a bit more room to breathe, Utter-Leyton started out with a slew of cantrips, sculpting his hand and graveyard, followed by a Jeskai Ascendancy to actually threaten to go off if left unchecked.

But Ichikawa wouldn't leave such things to fate. Scavenging Ooze provided a clock as well as a way to interact with Fatestitcher, a necessary part of Utter-Leyton's combo from this board position. Ichikawa even declined to cast a Delver of Secrets in order to keep up as much mana as possible.

But Jeskai Ascendancy isn't just a combo piece, it's also the means to dig through a deck. Utter-Leyton used it as such, finding a Lightning Bolt and releasing himself from the oppressive glare of Scavenging Ooze.

Do Oozes glare? Probably not.

At any rate, Utter-Leyton looked to be firmly in control as Ichikawa simply ran out a Delver of Secrets and passed the turn.

Now with a Fatestitcher at the ready, Utter-Leyton was ready to go off. Gitaxian Probe revealed Ichikawa's only line of defense at this point was a Deprive, something Utter-Leyton could easily play around. He found a second Fatestitcher, unearthed it, and proceeded to do what his deck does, running through cards and Ascendancy pumps until Ichikawa was eaten to death by a trio of blue zombies.

Once again Ichikawa started on the play for the final game with a Delver of Secrets into a Tarmogoyf, but this time his Delver declined to transform on the first flip. Nor did it flip on the second.

Utter-Leyton's Jeskai Ascendancy deck, with its ability to go off without a creature in play at the start of the turn, can create some downright scary scenarios.

I know, I can hear your tiny violins from here.

Still, it substantially slowed Ichikawa's clock, letting Utter-Leyton perform a few more tricks than the first game—including actually resolving a Jeskai Ascendancy.

Now it was Ichikawa who was under the gun. Utter-Leyton had demonstrated that he could go off at a moment's notice once Ascendancy in play, and the sense of urgency showed. Ichikawa played Snapcaster Mage in Ambush Viper mode (i.e., just to attack). That allowed him to drop the veteran to just 4 life, forcing Utter-Leyton to go off immediately...or lose.

Treasure Cruise was the first salvo. Utter-Leyton was actually in a bad spot, constrained on blue mana and missing a Fatestitcher to actually go off. He needed to draw the Fatestitcher on the cruise, or he wouldn't be able to discard it in time to unearth it. Treasure Cruise taketh away (graveyards), but Treasure Cruise can also giveth.

In this case, Treasure Cruise giveth-ed.

After finding the Fatestitcher Utter-Leyton was free to do the thing his deck does.

In fact, recognizing exactly that, Ichikawa grabbed a sheet of paper and quickly scribbled the universal sign for "do your worst":


Now virtually passing priority on everything, Ichikawa could only watch as Utter-Leyton went through the motions, intermittently tapping the table to signify his Ascension triggers and, ultimately, just throwing a hand full of spells on the table to show he wasn't going to fizzle.

Smiling, Ichikawa nodded and accepted that he had come this close to the win, but had his fate stitched away at the last moment.

Ichikawa 1 – Utter-Leyton 2

Yuuki Ichikawa – Temur Delver

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Josh Utter-Leyton – Jeskai Ascendancy

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