Finals: Wu/Hull/Orange vs. Utter-Leyton/Stark/Jůza

Posted in Event Coverage on August 5, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

25 years of Magic. Over 100 previous Pro Tours. Hundreds and hundreds of Grand Prix. 14 swiss rounds of intense team competition. Two intense semifinals.

The path of two-and-a-half decades had led to the two teams squaring off in the finals of a million-dollar weekend at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

On one side, a team that surprised no one. Three Hall of Famers in Martin Jůza, Ben Stark, and Josh Utter-Leyton. On the other, three Grand Prix regulars who have found some Pro Tour success in the past but nothing approaching this moment. Gregory Orange, Ben Hull, and Allen Wu were decidedly the underdogs, but if there were any nerves then they hid it well, as perhaps the most laid-back to ever make the finals of a Pro Tour sat down ready to go toe-to-toe with the Hall of Famer ChannelFireball squad.

Three matches played best-of-five would determine the victors of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and the winners of the $150,000 first place prize.

Things got started quickly, as Orange's White-Blue Control and Hull's Hollow One decks ran roughshod over Jůza's Red-Black Aggro and Stark's Krark-Clan Ironworks combo. In just a few short moments, the upstarts had taken an early lead.

Utter-Leyton had no intention of giving them a third game. He had spent weeks testing and innovating in Legacy, and was rewarded by finding the breakout deck of the Legacy format: Blue-Black Death's Shadow. It had carried them through the tournament, and despite a difficult matchup against Wu's Death and Taxes Utter-Leyton was able to find a "combo finish" of sorts to put his team on the board.

Back on the Standard table, Jůza also picked up a game while Stark and Hull played their final game without sideboards. This time, Stark was able to play the intricate KCI combo deck to perfection to pull even with Hull.

The Hall of Famers had fought back from the early deficit, but they had a long way to go, especially after Teferi, Hero of Dominaria arrived to help Orange close out the first sideboarded game over Jůza.

That sent us back to Legacy, where Utter-Leyton was looking to close it out over Wu. Luckily for us, we were treated to one of the wilder games ever played under camera. The Death and Taxes deck leans heavily on white creatures with one toughness, and as strong as cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Flickerwisp and Mother of Runes can be, they as all share one weakness: the complete inability to deal with a resolved Dread of Night. The Hall of Famer "Wrapter" did one better. Well, make that two better.

Not even the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblem Wu managed was enough to counter that many Dread of Night, and he clung to a Batterskull as seemingly his final hope to get back in the game. And, to be fair, that actually looked like a reasonable option as he returned it to his hand after trading with a Gurmag Angler and cast it with access to seven mana. He had no idea what awaited him.

Three Dread of Night and three Daze? No one could blame Wu for scooping up his cards then and there. But he stayed the course, and a few turns later proved you don't have to be playing Miracles for miracles to happen in Magic's most unpredictable format.

That swung the momentum back to team Hotsauce, but Wu was still down two games to one. Fortunately for him, both his teammates had 2-1 leads of their own, and next up was a masterful display of control prowess by Orange, who methodically answered every single card Jůza could muster.

And with that, the underdogs were suddenly just one game away from winning the Pro Tour, and all attention turned to Hull and Stark in Modern. Both players had strong starts, as Stark had Mox Opal to accelerate while Hull did what Hollow One does and put a pile of creatures into play. But that alone is not enough against the notoriously resilient combo deck, and Stark was in a position to weather the early pressure and dig for his remaining combo pieces.

But Hull wasn't done. He continued to dig into his deck with Faithless Looting, and on turn four slammed down one of the best cards in the format to combat KCI: Leyline of the Void.

That made things incredibly tricky for Stark, who would have to remove the Leyline before trying to combo, while also trying to stave off the pressure. But here Core Set 2019 came to Stark's rescue, delivering him a card that could do things nothing else could: Sai, Master Thopterist. As the attacks continued, Stark was able to survive time and time against the assault thanks to Sai, even as Ancient Grudge helped Hull clear away the Hall of Famer's board.

But the Hotauce Games squad was not to be denied.

Somehow, they had done it. The trio fought through almost 200 teams of the best Magic players in the world, and after they accomplished the unbelievable, all Hull could do was look to the sky in disbelief.

Congrats to Gregory Orange, Ben Hull and Allen Wu, the winners of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary!

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