“We play so many times.” Four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Pascal Maynard said to No. 14 Josh Utter-Leyton as he put down his backpack in the feature match area. “I rarely play anyone two times at events, and we’ve played like, five, or something.”
“I know; we do.” Utter-Leyton replied.
The two shuffled up, and the Quebec native Maynard asked earnestly, “I know I told you what I was playing, but do you remember? ‘Cause I know what you’re playing.” Utter-Leyton didn’t remember, and Maynard, ever the gentleman, said, “it’s Blue-Red Delver.”
This was the match-up Utter-Leyton was hoping for. Not long ago, he broke open the Modern metagame at the World Championships with his innovative Jeskai Ascendancy Control-Combo. Rather than go as fast as possible, that version tried to control the game then win at its leisure. But now, he went with a faster version. And I mean fast. I’m talking, Simian Spirit Guide fast. And not only fast, but diverse. This was the deck that was being rumored about—the deck that played both Jeskai Ascendancy andPyromancer Ascension. Utter-Leyton had this ready by the World Championship, but saw fit to unveil it today.
Knowing that Delver of Secrets decks made up a large portion of the field, Utter-Leyton believed that going “under” them was the best way to win. Instead of countering spells, just offer as many threats as you can, as early as you can. Hence, the Pyromancer Ascension.
“[Ascension] comes in on turn two, under the counter wall.” Utter-Leyton said.
But Maynard’s deck was fast too. Also real fast. Like, Goblin Guide fast. He’s playing only two Young Pyromancer, and he said that was more than enough. “Two mana is too much.” In fact, he wished he’d played in their place his two sideboarded Tidebinder Mage. “It’s been so good against almost everything,” he said.
This one should be a barn burner.
Maynard went first and was the first out of the gates. He offered a lot of creatures, hella quick. Utter-Leyton had two early Lightning Bolt to stop a Delver of Secrets and a Young Pyromancer, but Maynard had more. He had a Monastery Swiftspear and an Insectile Aberration left standing, and a Gitaxian Probe revealed that Utter-Leyton had no way to stop it.
Utter-Leyton got his turn back behind 9-14. He had two Fatestitcher, land, and a Serum Visions. He thought about tapping out for a lowly 2/2. He didn’t want to, but also didn’t have many options. After a momentary pause, he tapped all his land.
Maynard had a Mana Leak ready for the creature, and simply flashed the remaining two cards in his hand—a Pillar of Flame and a Lightning Bolt. Along with the two creatures in play, that was more than enough damage to close out the first game.
Pascal Maynard was up 1-0.
In the second game, Utter-Leyton started short-cutting his Flooded Strand during Maynard’s turn, asking “What’s your play so I can sacrifice my fetchland?” The fetch was almost in the graveyard when Maynard responded, “Goblin Guide.”
Utter-Leyton paused. He didn’t expect that one, and hadn’t seen it in the first game. He put the fetchland back and started to laugh. Well, that actually could change things. He decided it best to wait. He did eventually sacrifice it, because he had a plan in mind. But it was at least worth the thought.
Utter-Leyton had a turn-two Faithless Looting, then Treasure Cruise—thanks in part to a Thought Scour on Pascal’s turn after his fetchland query. On his next turn, he tapped out for a Jeskai Ascendancy. While on Maynard’s side of the board, he had a Delver of Secrets, Monastery Swiftspear, and that Goblin Guide. Utter-Leyton sunk to 10.
Jeez, these decks were fast.
After Utter-Leyton untapped for his fourth turn, he started madly looting. He knew this turn could be his last. A Thought Scour (plus loot) got his first Fatestitcher in the graveyard. Then he resolved a Faithless Looting (plus loot). His hand was Jeskai Ascendancy, Serum Visions, Gitaxian Probe, and Simian Spirit Guide. He sat in contemplation. Could he win from here? Maynard still had all three of his land untapped, and four cards in his grip.
[What appears below is the Modern Jeskai Ascendancy deck going off. If you don’t want to read about this awesomely intricate interaction—which it really is—skip until the word: “THEN”.]
Utter-Leyton unearthed the Fatestitcher and quickly untapped his land, but Maynard killed the Zombie Wizard with a Lightning Bolt. This was all right, because with his next loot Utter-Leyton found another Fatestitcher and quickly discarded it.
Maynard didn’t have another burn spell in hand; he responded with a Thoughtscour and hope. “No whammy, No whammy, No whammy,” Utter-Leyton chanted while rubbing his palms together. His superstitious chant worked, and Maynard looked at the new card in his hand and said, “It resolves.” He frowned. Utter-Leyton was down to his last mana, but now he was in the clear.
The five-time Pro Tour Top 8 finisher started looting like crazy with one-mana, non-creature spells. Each time his Fatestitcher would untap, and allowed him to untap that same Island again and again. As long as he had one-mana spells, Jeskai Ascendancy would continue to feed him.
After about five more spell resolutions, he found a second Fatestitcher that was quickly discarded. Now, instead of staying even on mana, Utter-Leyton would be gaining a mana each time—by using both Fatestitchers, then casting a spell and untapping them both. And with every spell in the chain, Jeskai Ascendancy would give each Zombie Wizard +1/+1. Good deal.
Maynard watched the spells for a while, hoping that Utter-Leyton would see a glut of land or something, but the sure-handed pilot never dipped below five cards in his hand, and around the second or third Treasure Cruise, with each Fatestitcher ever-climbing in power, Maynard had seen enough.
THEN Utter-Leyton flashed the three Lightning Bolts in his hands and we were on to the last game.
The score was tied 1-1.
In the rubber game, Maynard was back on the play. He used that to his advantage and opened up with a Goblin Guide plus an attack. Including a Gitaxian Probe and a Scalding Tarn from Utter-Leyton on his turn, Maynard got his turn back 1/4 of the way there. Utter-Leyton was at 15.
Wrapter sculpted his hand as quickly as he could, without over-extending his life total. He knew this would be a race, and that every point of damage would matter. A second Goblin Guide joined the fight to take the Jeskai Ascendancy pilot down to 11. Almost halfway . . .
Maynard still only had one land, but a Probe had revealed a Spell Pierce in Maynard’s hand, so Utter-Leyton would have to tread lighter than usual.
Pascal drew another non-land and considered whether to tap out going into Utter-Leyton’s third turn. After a few moments, he decided to cast his Monastery Swiftspear and beat his opponent to 6. He knew that unless his opponent had Simian Spirit Guide and a Fatestitcher, there was no way he could die. After another Scalding Tarn on Utter-Leyton’s turn, he was at 5. If Maynard got the turn back unscathed, he had enough damage on the board to win.
Utter-Leyton failed to go off, but he did find a Lightning Bolt and took out the Swiftspear.
The Quebecois attacked Utter-Leyton down to one, but didn’t have the last point of burn. He had to pass the turn back (but he still had the Spell Pierce).
Utter-Leyton tried to get things going, but Maynard immediately shut it down the Spell Pierce.
Josh Utter-Leyton extended his hand and smiled. “I had a real easy turn-four kill if you didn’t kill me turn four.” The two laughed. Maynard one the last game on one land, and a pair of 2/2s that just got there.
Pascal Maynard wins 2-1.