This semifinals pitted together Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy from France and Grand Prix Gothenburg 2013 winner Oscar Christensen from Denmark. Both were playing a Green-White Token deck with many cards in common, except for one peculiarity: Levy was splashing red for Chandra, Flamecaller with no red lands whatsoever! He relied solely on 4 Oath of Nissa to cast the planeswalker. "It's very good," Lévy told me with a smile.
Lévy got to be on the play as a result of having a higher rank after the Swiss portion of the tournament. He had a good start to the game as he used two Oath of Nissa to set up Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on turns three and four—a nice planeswalker tag team.
After that, however, Lévy was stuck with Stasis Snare, two Archangel Avacyn, Chandra, Flamecaller, and another copy of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in hand. With his mana configuration of Forest, Forest, Plains, and Westvale Abbey, he was unable to cast any of those cards.
Meanwhile, Christensen did have the right mana, so he was able to develop his board, eventually pressuring Levy's planeswalkers enough to get them off the table. Several turns later, once Levy had drawn a land, the board state was as follows:
Levy – Archangel Avacyn and a 0/1 Plant token
Levy still seemed to be way behind, but miraculously he managed to turn the tide. He transformed his Archangel Avacyn, used Dromoka's Command and Stasis Snare to deal with Christensen's main threats, and attacked for lethal several turns later.
Raphaël Lévy 1 - Oscar Christensen 0
Lévy seemed surprised himself. "I didn't think I was going to win that game," he said. "No, I also thought I had it," Christensen replied.
While sideboarding, the players discussed some of the plays that they made during the game. Christensen felt that he should have used Dromoka's Command to force Levy to sacrifice his Oath of Nissa on turn three. "I didn't know you lacked double white at that point, but it would have prevented you from casting Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on turn four. It would have been a good play against you anyway because you need Oath of Nissa to cast Chandra, Flamecaller."
Levy also felt he messed up. "I took Westvale Abbey instead of a basic Plains with Oath of Nissa on turn one, and I got really punished for that." It's always the small things that can have a big impact.
Meanwhile, Levy was stuck on four lands again, but his durdling with Evolutionary Leap and Hangarback Walker was not going to be good enough this time around. Christensen had already amassed 10 power on the board, a planeswalker on six loyalty, and it didn't take long for him to win that game.
Raphaël Lévy 1 - Oscar Christensen 1
Levy continued the trend of being stuck on a low amount of lands, but once again he made the best of it. A key play happened on turn four. He had Den Protector on the battlefield (which he had played face-up on turn two) while Christensen had Sylvan Advocate and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. With that board state, Levy used the -2 ability of his own Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and subsequently cast Dromoka's Command to put another +1/+1 counter on his Den Protector and fight Sylvan Advocate.
That evasive 4/3 meant that Levy could deal with Christensen's Nissa, Voice of Zendikar right away and would be able to attack any new planeswalker that Christensen would have.
A while later, Christensen tried to fight back with Linvala, the Preserver, but Levy just kept pumping his Den Protector. Another counter from Nissa and another Dromoka's Command yielded a six-power creature that could attack into the 5/5 flier unopposed. Christensen found Declaration in Stone as an answer and started to produce ground blockers with Nissa and Gideon, but by that time he was already down to a dangerously low 7 life. That face-up Den Protector had done a lot of work!
With Christensen already down to a low life total, Levy had a good way to win: with Dromoka's Command, he forced his Hangarback Walker to fight Linvala, the Preserver, and all of his Thopter tokens got another boost from Nissa. Christensen, meanwhile, kept a good poker face, not giving anything away, but once Levy attacked with all of his boosted fliers, Christensen smiled and extended his hand in defeat.
Raphaël Lévy 2 - Oscar Christensen 1
Levy moves on to the finals, and went off to rebook his flight…to Costa Rica. "I am going to travel around the country with my wife before playing in the Grand Prix next weekend, and I needed to make the Finals to miss my flight," he explained. "I have to book a new one now, but I'm still very happy I get to compete in the finals!"