Skarren / Hayne / Wescoe vs. Thompson / Cho / Utter-Leyton
Day 2 of Team Limited Grand Prix is a bustle of movement. The best teams have a tight radius to turn for the Top 4 slots, and after a full day of Saturday Sealed the opposition is just as warmed up to the challenge. Complicating matters is the relative strength of teams continues to rise.
Round 11's showdown was one of the many colossal crashes occurring across the tables. The left side was an impressive run of Pro Tour and Limited Grand Prix champions:
Frank Skarren, two-time Limited Grand Prix winner
17th-ranked Alexander Hayne, winner of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored
Craig Wescoe, winner of Pro Tour Dragon's Maze (and noted Plains player)
The three had worked their way to an 8-2 record, limiting their ability to lose and make their way into the Top 4. The team across from them was in the same shoes:
Gerry Thompson, returned to competitive play from a stay in Wizards R&D
Josh Cho, best known for his standout Top 4 performance at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored
14th-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton, 2012-2013 Player of the Year and not-too-uncommon feature of Grand Prix and Pro Tour Top 8s
Friendship and skill were stacked on both sides, and the table was filled with in-jokes, playful jabs, and chuckles as everyone played along.
The Decks and Matches
Wescoe, in facing off against Utter-Leyton, stayed more-or-less true to his aggressive two-color deck renown. With a deck armed by Plains and Mountains, Wescoe's plan was to play aggressive creatures like Jeskai Student and Bloodfire Mentor then back them up with removal like Bring Low.
Utter-Leyton packed a traditional-looking Abzan deck, leveraging colorful cards like Armament Corps to overpower the opposition as the game ran long. It's that long game strength that Wescoe's deck seemed to foil, and the first game featured a rush of prowess creatures and removal that Utter-Leyton couldn't stop with morphs and Armament Corps.
The second game demonstrated why teammates can be fun. Drawing his hand after taking one mulligan, Utter-Leyton found a single land and plenty of easy-to-cast things to go with it. Of course, one land is a dangerous gamble to rely on, so Utter-Leyton looked to his teammates for help.
"If you feel like Josh Cho you go for it," Cho said after looking it over a second. Thompson, peeking over the shoulder, agreed and began chanting (which Cho joined in on).
Cho! Cho! Cho!
Whether it was serious advice or not, Utter-Leyton chose to follow his instincts and try again. That led to an impressive race between his three copies of Mardu Hordechief and Armament Corps to amplify things, and Wescoe's Ashcloud Pheonix flying over as Jeskai Student, Seeker of the Way, and others held the fort on the ground.
Forces to attack with everything, facing certain loss on the next turn, Wescoe used Feat of Resistance to ensure he survived for the victory.
In the center seat sat Hayne, equipped with a four-color deck leaning heavily on Sultai cards like Abomination of Gudul and the power of Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Across form him was Josh Cho, sharing colors with Utter-Leyton but running a red-focused Mardu deck with the likes of Mardu Roughrider and Butcher of the Horde.
Their first game was a slower affair as Hayne used morphs and removal to slow Cho's progress, forcing Cho to use up removal and attacks on Sorin. With two copies of Abomination of Gudul in the air, Hayne began to draw cards on each attack which ensured he had more than Cho could answer.
The second game was an even longer affair despite Hayne's slow start: While Cho was light on creatures early, his removal-heavy hand ensured his attacks kept coming until Archers' Parapet stabilized things.
At over 20 life, Hayne began to active his Parapet. "I'm winning this race!"
Despite sitting at single digits, Hayne was able to answer cards like Butcher of the Horde Cho drew thanks to the work Abomination of Gudul began to put in again. Dropping Cho to single digits things looked bleak...
But the third seats settled their match first. Skarren and Thompson had different flavors of Temur deck: Skarren opting for an aggressive build with Heir of the Wilds, Summit Prowler, and a few tricky morphs like Kheru Spellsnatcher; Thompson's approach was morph-heavy thanks to the duo of Ghostfire Blade and Trail of Mystery to go with them.
The first game featured an early Ghostfire Blade for Thompson, who was able to pressure Skarren with a steady stream of morphs. Beginning to turn them over as needed, Icefeather Aven cleared the way for Thompson to take first game for his side of the table.
The second game was a stumble for Thompson. Despite landing Trail of Mystery and having the morph to follow, Skarren's focused deck didn't leave room for Thompson to set up and it was on to a decisive third game. This time, Thompson had Ghostfire Blade to pressure early on and Skarren was quickly facing a tough decision: Cast a face-down Kheru Spellsnatcher then leave up the mana on the following turn to be ready to unmorph it, or cast more blockers to prevent complete disaster against a Blade-wielding morph from Thompson.
He chose to leave the mana up and Thompson didn't have a trick when the double block came. The follow up Snowhorn Rider Thompson cast was hit by the Spellsnatcher, and from there Skarren took over without looking back.
The Hayne-Cho showdown settled for "the draw" when playing it our fun led to almost certain defeat for Cho. The rout, it appeared, was utter and complete.
Frank Skarren, Alexander Hayne, and Craig Wescoe defeated Gerry Thompson, Josh Cho, and Josh Utter-Leyton, 2-0.