Michael Majors was marching to a breakthrough finish. With two Grand Prix Top 8s already under his belt, and two phenomenal finishes at the Pro Tour as well, Majors was ready to finally take home a title.
Soohwang Yeem–better known as Paul–was also looking to make his mark. After a narrow Top 8 miss at Grand Prix Atlanta, Yeem finally earned his way back to the Pro Tour without a PTQ victory.
And he was ready to stop the wave Majors rode all tournament.
“It's going to be tough,” Majors admitted as he began looking over Yeem's decklist. Yeem was playing Esper Dragons, advanced with a more appropriate selection of removal and control tools for the Red Aggro, Blue-Red Ensoul Artifacts, Green-red Devotion, and Abzan-filled world the Pro Tour showed off. With Dragonlord Ojutai, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and all the removal a control deck could want it had stopped aggressive starts and creature-based decks all day long.
The Blue-Red Tutelage deck went under the radar at Pro Tour Magic Origins, slipping into the spotlight from an early feature match with Andrew Cuneo. Without other decks on hand to compete, Majors brought the unusual approach to San Diego off the recommendation of Magic Online testing from fellow competitor Seth Manfield. Using Sphinx's Tutelage and a bevvy of ways to draw cards, Majors looked to force his opponents to draw from an empty library.
Michael Majors's choice of last resort had propelled him all the way to the semifinals of Grand Prix San Diego.
Mill was rarely seen as a deck in competitive play, yet Majors went undefeated on Day 1 and was the first to secure a Top 8 slot based on points from the Swiss rounds. He even took it through his quarterfinal opponent in two quick games.
However Yeem would prove a different foe than the others before.
Majors landed a third turn Sphinx's Tutelage to begin the grind against Yeem, who missed his fourth land drop: The Tutelage had put four, then six into the graveyard over the next several turns as the mana stayed elusive.
Majors counted the library, and Yeem fell to twenty-one cards remaining after Majors's Treasure Cruise resolved.
Hitting mana to cast Dragonlord Ojutai Yeem looked to finally fight back, but with a flurry of draw spells on his side, Majors finished off the tiny library that remained for Yeem before the Dragon could strike.
The second game started with Yeem's Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver that ate away at Majors's library, growing ever larger all the while. Alhammarret's Archive was a rarely-seen play from Majors's deck, but Yeem transformed Jace, Vryn's Prodigy into Jace, Telepath Unbound and continued to push Ashiok up.
Paul Yeem took command in the second game, putting Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver to work throughout.
Yeem used the ultimate ability of Ashiok to undo Majors's “draw four” from Tormenting Voice, leaving Majors to play just the cards off the top of his deck. In firm control, Yeem inched Ashiok back up alongside Jace. Dissolve countered a hard cast Treasure Cruise, and it wasn't long after that Majors was locked out completely.
Yeem found Perilous Vault to promise one way to break Sphinx's Tutelage, but Majors used his next turn to turn half of Yeem's remaining deck into the graveyard. Yeem popped the Vault but Majors just replaced his enchantment.
Yeem's graveyard had filled quickly in the third game, and forced him to act faster against Majors.
Yeem went digging for another answer with Dig Through Time. When Majors added Monastery Siege set to Khans on his next turn, Yeem needed to find a way out fast. Digging again with Dig Through Time, this time pulling up another Perilous Vault and Dig Through Time but was short the mana to cast as protect it.
Majors moved carefully, keeping the pressure on Yeem and mana open as the deck kept grinding away. With just a dozen or so card left Yeem was forced to act: Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Majors's Negate was in waiting, and Yeem's library was empty before he could try again.
Michael Majors defeated Paul Yeem 2-1 and advanced to the finals of Grand Prix San Diego.