Semifinals: Steve Hatto vs. Christoffer Larsen

Posted in Event Coverage on June 21, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Steve Hatto had just defeated Arnaud Hocquemiller's Grixis Splinter Twin deck in the quarterfinals, while Christoffer Larsen had triumphed over Thiago Rodrigues's Grixis Control. Now they faced off in the semifinals.

Christoffer Larsen was playing in his third Top 8 here, having previously made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Miami 2013 and Grand Prix Utrecht 2014. This was Steve Hatto's first Top 8, but he had already played at the World Magic Cup several times as the national champion of Luxembourg and was certainly no stranger to high-stakes competition.

Larsen had brought Merfolk, a deck filled with Merfolk creatures and their "Lords" (Merrow Reejerey, Master of the Pearl Trident, and the original Lord of Atlantis) to pump them. Larsen's deck also featured a splash of white, mainly for sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence but also for Path to Exile in his maindeck. Those removal spells wouldn't be very good in this matchup, however, as Hatto's only creatures in the maindeck were Sakura-Tribe Elder and Snapcaster Mage.

Hatto's deck of choice was Scapeshift. It typically plays like a control deck, containing the opponent's threats with Lightning Bolt, Remand, and Cryptic Command. But what it also contains is a one-card kill: Once Hatto has seven or eight lands on the table, he can play Scapeshift, sacrifice all of his lands, and fetch Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and enough Mountains to roast his opponent. Larsen didn't have any countermagic to prevent that in his main deck apart from two copies of Unified Will, but he did have four Swan Songs in his sideboard.

Game 1

Early on, Hatto played Lightning Bolt and flashed it back via Snapcaster Mage to stop Larsen's early onslaught.

A couple of turns later, the only nonland permanents were Æther Vial and Merrow Reejerey on Larsen's side of the table and Snapcaster Mage on Hatto's. The ensuing combat step was full of action. Larsen attacked with Merrow Reejerey and Hatto blocked. Larsen then put Master of the Pearl Trident into play via Æther Vial, which turned Merrow Reejerey into a 3/3. Hatto, however, had been expecting that and bounced the Master of the Pearl Trident back to Larsen's hand with Cryptic Command. But Larsen was ready for that as well as he played Path to Exile on Snapcaster Mage to deny Hatto the favorable trade. As it turns out, Path to Exile was useful in this matchup after all!

Well, at least temporarily. Path to Exile allowed Hatto to ramp up his mana even further, and eventually he resolved Scapeshift. It found two copies of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and a bunch of Steam Vents and Stomping Grounds. This yielded more than enough triggers to take Larsen down to a negative life total. Hatto even had enough Mountains that the Ghost Quarter on Larsen's side couldn't break it up by destroying a Steam Vents in response to any of the triggers, and even if it could have, Hatto still had a basic Mountain in his deck as an insurance.

Steve Hatto

Steve Hatto 1 - Christoffer Larsen 0

Game 2

Larsen started with Æther Vial on turn one and Silvergill Adept (revealing Master of the Pearl Trident) on turn two. When Hatto went to sacrifice his Misty Rainforest at the end of Larsen's turn, Larsen activated Æther Vial in response. However, when the ability resolved, Larsen declined to put a creature onto the battlefield.

"You're trolling me pretty hard," Hatto said, and both players had a good laugh about that exchange. Indeed, Cosi's Trickster can still be tricky when it's not even in your hand.

Hatto then took control of the game with Lightning Bolt, Ancient Grudge, and Electrolyze. As a result, Larsen had to play Master of Waves on an empty board, which meant he only got a single 2/1 token. A second Master of Waves came down shortly after, and Larsen passed the turn at 20 life with only a Ghost Quarter untapped.

Hatto saw his chance to move in for the kill. With seven lands in play and both Lightning Bolt and Scapeshift in hand, he targeted Larsen with Lightning Bolt and cast Scapeshift, fully expecting it to resolve, in which case he would get Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and enough Mountains to win the game. What could go wrong?

Christoffer Larsen

Well, Larsen used Ghost Quarter on his own tapped Island, retrieved an untapped one from his deck, and used the mana to play Swan Song on Scapeshift.

Hatto: "Sure. Awesome."

Larsen: "It's a trick!"

Hatto: "I should've seen that coming."

A few turns later, Hatto found another Scapeshift, but Larsen had found another copy of Swan Song as well. After that, it didn't take long for Master of Waves and a pair of freshly drawn Merfolks to attack for lethal damage.

Steve Hatto 1 - Christoffer Larsen 1

Game 3

Larsen kept a one-lander with Mutavault, Æther Vial, and Æther Vial. It seemed strong enough, but Hatto had the perfect answer: On turn three, he played Engineered Explosives for 1 and blew up both Æther Vials, eliciting a chuckle from Larsen.

The top of Larsen's deck then failed to provide him with any lands, and Hatto went to seven lands before Larsen even found his second. Scapeshift resolved, and it was over.

Steve Hatto 2 - Christoffer Larsen 1

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