Posted in GRAND PRIX SALT LAKE CITY 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on September 6, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

2013 Player of the Year and current 9th-ranked Josh Utter-Leyton is a mainstay of the Pro Tour. With plenty of top, high-level finishes across the years including a whopping five Pro Tour Top 8s, Utter-Leyton is a player that understands the game on a fundamental level.

Standing at ninth in the Top 25 rankings, Josh Utter-Leyton's resume puts him on the short list as one of the game's greatest players.

For those attending Grand Prix Salt Lake City that arrived in time Friday, Utter-Leyton was one half of the duo presenting a Sealed deckbuilding seminar. (The other was the indomitable competitor and teammate David Ochoa.)

"Hornet Queen." It was a simple yet compelling answer from Utter-Leyton on why he wanted to play green, as he began sorting the pool apart and lining green creatures across the bottom. With green identified he started to look for other things. "I'm looking for removal... and there's zero." It might have been hyperbole but Utter-Leyton's generalization synced with what 2013 World Champion Shahar Shenhar had said about the pool.

"If I'm playing green I have to pair it with white so I have enough playables. I'm splashing red for Kird Chieftain as well. I might even play a straight three colors," Utter-Leyton explained.

Why would you play a full-on three-color deck? "While I wouldn't want to, but if the two colors you want to play add up to like sixteen cards – which is the case here for any other color than white – you'd end up playing enough cards of a third color."

Why was Utter-Leyton looking so closely at white? "It has nine good playable cards, and I guess red is coming close here: Red has eight. White is a good complement to green because it has a lot of cards where green doesn't. Green has a lot of five-drops, and white has a lot of cheap creatures."

Utter-Leyton seems set on a different path from Shenhar until he laid out what the red-green deck would look like. "The early drops are pretty comparable between the two," Utter-Leyton explained. "I want to play red anyway for the Kird Chieftain, so I get to splash a different color like blue for Frost Lynx and Illusory Angel, which is what I'm currently looking at."

A beat after laying out more blue cards, Utter-Leyton seemed satisfied. "This is what I'd play."

Josh Utter-Leyton’s Sample Sealed Pool #1 Build

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Satisfied may have been an overstatement. "I think this pool is really bad," Utter-Leyton said. "It just doesn't have enough playable in any colors. It doesn't have any removal so if you opponent plays anything you're in trouble. The only thing it has going for it is Hornet Queen, but green's curve is really awkward. There isn't even a beatdown deck" a deck of cheap, aggressive creatures that attack early and often "to get underneath bombs. If they play a 4/4 you just stop attacking."

Utter-Leyton's build has some contrast with where Shahar Shenhar ended up. Unlike Shenhar's firmly two-color deck, stretched further with some of the weakest cards the colors offered, Utter-Leyton splashed four blue cards into the red-green mix. "With the two Evolving Wilds and Verdant Haven I'd rather splash mediocre cards than play bad ones."

It's a subtle power difference but Utter-Leyton was aiming higher: Taking on the risk of mana issues in exchange for a more powerful deck is a challenging risk-reward decision to make. Here, Utter-Leyton clearly preferred the latter to Shenhar's more conservative-yet-consistent route.