2014 Magic Online Champion Magnus Lantto had been on a tear. After missing the 2015 World Championship Top 8 on tiebreakers, he fought his way to the finals of Grand Prix Madison the weekend leading up to Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. Not too shabby coming into the opening Pro Tour of the competitive year.
Ryoichi Tamada, known for a pair each of Japan Nationals and Grand Prix Top 8s, was looking to finally break out at a Pro Tour. His success—and respect as a player—back home in Japan hadn't yet been matched by performance around the world. Now, sitting at 7-1 like his opponent Lantto, it was a chance to set up a Top 8 run on Day Two.
His heat might be just was he needed to put the chill on Lantto.
Sweden's Magnus Lantto has recently seen success in the last year, while Japan's Ryoichi Tamada is looking for his breakthrough on the global stage.
Lantto's take on Esper Planeswalkers was the direct descendant of the Esper Dragons of Standard past. Now with Shambling Vent and the new dual lands to keep the mana solid, the main decks featured reflected the new tools of Battle for Zendikar: Painful Truths, Ruinous Path, Ob Nixilis Reignited and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. In lieu of any Dragons was Sorin, Solemn Visitor rounding out the ways to end games and stay ahead on the battlefield thanks to the suite of countermagic and discard around.
Tamada had a straightforward Jeskai deck. Unlike those adding Tasigur, the Golden Fang and other powerful black cards, Tamada doubled down on the classic Jeskai shell with full suites of Mantis Rider, Seeker of the Way, and Jeskai Charm. Hangarback Walker and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy—the standouts from Magic Origins—were joined by the four-of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Packed full of threats and removal, Tamada looked to apply pressure nonstop.
Both players took the early turns of the first game to set up, Lantto playing lands that didn't produce blue mana before drawing just two cards off Painful Truths; Tamada opening up with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Lantto's Tasigur, the Golden Fang was met by Jeskai Charm and Tamada went into beatdown mode. Mantis Rider joined in, dropping Lantto to 8 life in the next attacks. Just Hangarback Walker set to one blocked Gideon's next strike as Murderous Cut—cast at full rate—cleared the skies for Lantto.
Lantto's Esper deck seeks advantage through Planeswalkers rather than dragons.
Lantto dug again with Painful Truths for two cards, and made a Tasigur, the Golden Fang appear again. Fiery Impulse cleared the Thopter token for Tamada before he attacked with another Mantis Rider, and Jeskai Charm burned through the last life Lantto had left.
In the second game blue mana appeared early for Lantto, leading to a second turn Jace, Prodigy of Vryn. Silkwrap was Tamada's answer before making a Jace of his own. Gidion, Ally of Zendikar appeared for Lantto this time and the Knight Ally tokens began to appear.
Mantis Rider crashed in for Tamada, after digging with Jace, but Lantto kept the pressure on with Sorin, Solemn Visitor making creatures hit harder. A second Mantis Rider was enough for Tamada to take out the Gideon and drop Sorin to just two loyalty.
Tamada's Jeskai spells can put most opponents on a very fast clock.
Lantto went digging with Painful Truths for three cards, falling to 18 but rising back to 21 on the next attack. Tamada's Mantis Riders cleared Sorin and started chipping away at Lantto next, being joined by a Hangarback Walker with two +1/1 counters. Hangarback Walker for three counters was hit by Tamada's Silkwrap and things started to fall apart for Lantto.
Utter End cleared one Mantis Rider as Lantto tried to rally back with another Hangarback Walker. Jeskai Charm put it on top of the library and Tamada took a swing at the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Lantto tried as well.
"Good game," Lantto said, the small army of Knight Ally tokens insignificant against the matching, and larger, Hangarback Walkers on Tamada's side.
Lantto 0 – Tamada 2
Decklists will be posted after Round 16 of the Pro Tour begins.