The Magic Online Championship had some surprising twists and some really good games of Magic, but five specific moments stand out as the story of the tournament.
#5 – The Pendulum Swings Back
Going into day Two, the story seemed to be all about Márcio Carvalho, and it was hard not to start there. Carvalho is currently the top-ranked player in the world, and easily one of the most important stories of the 2016-17 season, starting with the 2016 World Championship and leading into this weekend. As the frontrunner with 6-1, and a Booster Draft to start Day Two, we expected this to be a runaway lock for Carvalho into the Top 4.
Then, the pendulum began to swing away from him, and towards the other player who hovered among the top of the standings all weekend. That player was Ryosuke Urase. While Carvalho struggled with the cards he found for his Green-White draft deck, Urase had assembled a powerful black-green strategy with some powerful splashes and a very, very active Consulate Dreadnought that did work throughout their grudge match in Round 8.
Carvalho, showing why he was the 2015-16 Draft Master, kept his head held high even when facing a flood of lands, playing to his outs and pushing himself into a situation where he could win Game 3...had Urase not held on to his Renegade Map as the enabler he needed for Fatal Push, which dropped Carvalho's comeback chances and ensured Urase's continued run.
The entire match is highly recommended from the commentator team and us, so here's the whole round if you'd like to watch it for yourself.
#4 – Utter-Nonsense
The Patricks (Sullivan and Chapin) had plenty of time in Round 12 following their feature match between Thiago Saporito and Marcio Carvalho to look in on another match that was going on. They ultimately landed on a heated bout between Josh Utter-Leyton and Piotr Glogowski, both locked in a Mardu Vehicle mirror.
With Utter-Leyton up a game, it seemed as though Glogowski was very likely to push things to a third game, with a stacked battlefield and a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblem.
Then, Utter-Leyton turned things around.
With careful play and enough pressure with his own Gideon, combined with Aethersphere Harvester, Utter-Leyton was able to capitalize on a couple of blank draws from Glogowski, dispatching the opposing Gideon before building up a board. Any chance of a comeback for Glogowski was shut down by a copy of Release the Gremlins that Utter-Leyton had lying in wait.
With the game turned around, Utter-Leyton was able to go for a lethal attack, of which Glogowski had a thing to say about that.
This game is Utter-Nonsense.
Commentator Patrick Sullivan, not one to miss a chance to use good lines on air, appropriately ended the commentary for that match by reading what Glogowski had put in the chat. Utter-nonsense, indeed.
#3 – No Safety Net
Round 14 featured an unusual pairing given the way this tournament works, where with the way the matches ended up. While Lukas Blohon, Ryosuke Urase, and Josh Utter-Leyton were at 9-4, the pairings fell in such a way that they were either guaranteed into the Top 4 despite their Round 14 result, or one of them could potentially miss if Márcio Carvalho and Anssi Alkio—both at 8-5—won their matches. However, if both Alkio and Carvalho lost, then suddenly a Top 4 berth would be available to one of the 8-6 players.
This placed a lot of weight on every match. A win for a 9-4 was a sure thing. A loss, and suddenly it was pins and needles until the results for the two 8-5 matches came in. When Carvalho lost his, all eyes were on the Round 14 match between Lukas Blohon and Anssi Alkio. Some of the tension was removed for three players, but a loss from Alkio would bring hope to others at 8-6 on getting in. A win from Alkio would create a clean cut.
Once Blohon secured victory, six players waited for the announcement to hear how the final shifts in tiebreakers fell. Ultimately Carvalho, despite a rough Day Two, was able to get through on the back of strong tiebreakers and his Day One performance.
#2 – Urase Rises Up
Among the sixteen competitors, perhaps the most inexperienced was Ryosuke Urase, a player who started with Theros and prefers the comfort of Magic Online at home rather than at venues. His dedication to online play earned him a spot at Wizards of the Coast HQ this weekend to compete among the best, where his tight play and dedication turned heads and impressed commentators and fellow competitors alike.
While Urase's written English and understanding was good, his ability to speak it would not allow for an interview. Enter Ron Foster, GP tournament operations manager and fluent Japanese translator, who was able to come by to provide a helping hand. In Urase's interview, his answer to the question of what he was expecting this weekend said it best.
"As one of my friends reminded me before I came, it doesn't matter who you're playing against," Urase said. "Grizzly Bear is always 2/2. Lightning Bolt always does 3 damage. No matter what you're playing against, there's always a chance you can win if you always play good Magic, and that's what I've been trying to do all weekend."
Urase remained at the top all weekend, earning his Top 4, but succumbing to Josh Utter-Leyton in the semifinals. Still, his performance this weekend shows what he's got, and while Pro Tour Kaladesh may have been his first event at the invitation-only tournament, it is very unlikely that it'll be his last. We are very likely to see Urase again real soon.
#1 – Utter-Leyton Returns to Form
In a day that featured 24 games of Magic, there were numerous moments that stand out. Such as this one.
It was a tough play for Josh Utter-Leyton to tap out, and unfortunately his final series started out with a blowout that did not go in his favor. While the infamous cat and Saheeli Rai would make their appearance a few times in the series, Utter-Leyton did not drop his composure and continued to play solid Magic in an epic final bout against Lukas Blohon.
Utter-Leyton, well aware of the ways that games could go sour for him, continued to make one solid play after another, finding himself in similar predicaments as he did in the first game of the series, like in this sequence. He carefully navigated every game, winning some, and losing others, until both players reached a ninth and final game of the series, where Utter-Leyton found himself with a fantastic draw and no stop signs in sight.
With one big attack, Josh Utter-Leyton earned $25,000, Platinum status in the Pro Tour Players Club, an inviation to next year's Magic Online Championship, and an invitation to compete in the 2017 Magic: The Gathering World Championship. This year will mark his fourth time competing in the prestigious event.
Congratulations once again to Josh Utter-Leyton on a fantastic performance all weekend!