SEMIFINALS: PATRICK CHAPIN VS. KENTARO YAMAMOTO

Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 7, 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.

Call it luck. Call it skill. Call it talent. Call it experience.

Nineteenth-ranked Patrick Chapin called it his shot. Winning Pro Tour Journey into Nyx was not only the Hall of Fame member's first –and long-time coming—victory at that elite level but also his sought-after qualification for the World Championship, the event he truly wanted to reach. In comparing the Pro Tour to a Pro Tour Qualifier, he set lofty goal few are bold enough to make, and even fewer are able to make good on. With relentless drive coming into the World Championship, it was clear he had no intention to stop at "just" Top 4.

Kentaro Yamamoto called the World Championship a "rare opportunity" that he was looking forward to. From a Pro Tour Qualifier path, his dedication to the game through the years yielded two Pro Tour Top 8s, first alongside Yuuta Takahashi as finalists in the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour in 2007 then at Pro Tour Theros in 2013. His complementary performances at Grand Prix earned him his entry to the event thanks to one of the at-large top Pro Points slots. Earnest humility aside, his performance and play throughout earning his Top 4 appearance here earned the admiration and respect of many of his competitors.

Neither player could, or would, underestimate the other.

Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin knew that Kentaro Yamamoto was going to be a tough opponent to topple if he wanted another chance at the world championship title.

The Decks

Chapin, believing he had found the best deck in Standard, focused his testing on Abzan Midrange. Tweaked slightly from the build that earned Ari Lax his Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir victory. Thoughtseize and Hero's Downfall to resist any deck, Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc to leverage as offensive value, and a coup de grace of Planeswalkers Elspeth, Sun's Champions and Sorin, Solemn Visitor highlight the range and reach of Abzan's power.

Yamamoto, however, brought the Standard deck he was most comfortable with. Sidisi Whip, as its name suggests, includes Sidisi, Brood Tyrant as one of the many ways to begin putting cards into the graveyard as well as Whip of Erebos to maximize the value of every creature that ends up there. With Hits like Soul of Innistrad and Hornet Queen, Sidisi Whip could take over a game if its synergies were left untouched, and climb back into longer games on the back of lifelink from the Whip.

The Games

An early Thoughtseize ended with Murderous Cut being cut from Yamamoto's hand in the first game, and Chapin used the knowledge of what laid ahead to plot his attack. Courser of Kruphix ran into Sultai Charm, and Siege Rhino refilled his life total at Yamamoto's expense.

Yamamoto's Sidisi Whip deck is a deadly engine when all of its gears are in place.

A second Courser of Kruphix revealed a coming third for Yamamoto, but Chapin was on a roll. After attacking Yamamoto to 12, Chapin played his second Rhino to take that down further to 9. Yamamoto cast Whip of Erebos and passed with a lonely Courser of Kruphix to defend. Chapin's Murderous Cut cleared him the path to put Yamamoto to 1 life, which not even Soul of Innistrad could save him from certain death. Sorin, Solemn Visitor was enough.

Thoughtseize struck early again for Chapin in their second game, this time plucking a Reaper of the Wilds Yamamoto had brought in from his sideboard. Courser of Kruphix and Anafenza the Foremost faced off after that, with Chapin's legendary creature got in a few hits to take Yamamoto to 12 life.

Reaper of the Wilds was Yamamoto's choice of defense, but Utter End made quick work of that. Yamamoto fell to 8 life, then rose to 10 as Whip of Erebos added to his attacking Courser of Kruphix. Chapin played a second Thoughtseize to take away Hornet Queen, which went to exile thanks to Anafenza's ability. Elspeth, Sun's Champion followed and a wall of soldier tokens were at the ready. At 6 life, Yamamoto just passed into Chapin's army. Bile Blight changed a Courser's safe block into just a chump, and Yamamoto had enough.

The third game put Chapin firmly in the driver's seat. Up two games, the onus was now on Yamamoto to stage a comeback. Winning three in a row always seems an impossible challenge, but that's exactly how last year's World Champion came back to win it all.

This time, Yamamoto has the early Thoughtseize and chose Chapin's own Thoughtseize from double Siege Rhino and Utter End. Chapin drew a second Thoughtseize anyway and plucked Disdainful Stroke from a hand full of non-land cards. Yamamoto was stuck on just two lands and Sylvan Caryatid in play, giving Chapin free reign to begin his Siege Rhino assault. The first one fell to Hero's Downfall, the second pulled Chapin ahead on life 23 to Yamamoto's 12.

Confident in his deck choice, Chapin had his eyes locked on the World Championship trophy coming in to this week.

The Japanese star found his third land—and fourth mana source—which he used to cast Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Reaper of the Wilds hit the graveyard, giving him a Zombie token to use. With five power and defense on the battlefield, he presented a reasonable block against Chapin.

Going wide instead, the Hall of Fame player cast Elspeth, Sun's Champion to begin the procession of tokens. End Hostilities undid Yamamoto's work of putting two Sylvan Caryatids onto the battlefield, and Chapin's Elspeth ran amok from there. More soldier tokens, and a third Siege Rhino was far more than Yamamoto's three lands could stop. The ever-humble Yamamoto extended his hand in concession, bowing his head, and Chapin's called shot was now one match away.

"It's been an honor to play with you this weekend," Chapin said as he shook his opponent's hand again. Yamamoto nodded, and stood up to leave the feature match stage.

Patrick Chapin defeats Kentaro Yamamoto, 3-0 and advances to the finals!

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