Round 5: (17) Patrick Chapin (Esper Delve) vs. Matthew Sperling (Affinity)

Posted in Event Coverage on February 6, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

It's hard not to know the name Patrick Chapin. Pro Tour Hall of Fame member, Pro Tour Journey into Nyx champion, two-time runner-up to the World Championship, and currently ranked 17th in the world, Chapin has quite the story to tell. Even just the composition of his Modern deck is a sweet story.

An Esper-colored delve build, the deck aims to fill up the graveyard as quickly as possible, while drawing cards into cards that are quite under-costed with a stocked graveyard. Everyone here expected Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but fewer people expected Gurmag Angler. Chapin said that in his deck, Angler is the better of the two. "It's a 5/5 Tasigur."

On the other side of the table, Pro Tour Magic 2015 Top 8 competitor Matthew Sperling also has a name that's hard to miss. Though he's still on the uptick for his Magic career, you cannot deny the results he consistently puts up, despite his full-time job he takes quite seriously. If there's a west coast Grand Prix, it's safe to say he's finishing well there. He's Top 8'd Grand Prix Denver, Grand Prix Vancouver, and just last weekend he made the finals of Grand Prix San Jose along with his team of Dave Williams and No. 14 Paul Rietzl.

He and Rietzl are both on the proactive Affinity plan, but have mutated the deck to beat the midrange decks they expected to face. Though Chapin is decidedly midrange, it certainly wasn't expected.

Though Game 1 favors Sperling, and Chapin said it's clearly his worst Game 1, Affinity can be hated out of the sideboard. With Kataki, War's Wage for Chapin, he was prepared. But staring at Sperling's Rest in Peace in his 75, it was safe to say he was worried about delve strategies of all kinds.


Both Patrick Chapin and Matthew Sperling have had stellar years in Magic.

Both players were sitting at 3-1. They shuffled up and readied themselves for the match.

The Games

Sperling went first, laid a Memnite and a Blinkmoth Nexus. He passed the turn and said, "Creeping Tar Pit, don't let me down." Sperling and Rietzl had chosen the deck specifically to hate on builds that take time to set up. An enters-the-battlefield-tapped land is one of the surest signs of that.

Though Chapin opened with a Polluted Delta, not a Creeping Tar Pit, he couldn't have been happy when he paid two life to resolve a Gitaxian Probe. He saw Ornithopter, Arcbound Ravager, Inkmoth Nexus, Darksteel Citadel, and a main deck Dispatch from Sperling, while his own grip held only another Gitaxian Probe, a Stubborn Denial, and a Thought Scour.

But it wasn't necessarily as bad as it looked. Chapin's crazy little build aimed only to fill his graveyard and cantrip in the early game—he'd draw into the business spells easily enough. His opening hand was not at all indicative of what he would have in another turn.

When Chapin laid a Mishra's Bauble, Sperling said, "Two people that play zero-mana artifacts; that's cool." On Sperling's turn he attacked in with his Memnite and Arcbound Ravager. Chapin was at 13 when he got the turn back. Just like he wanted, Chapin had found a big threat, a Gurmag Angler, that he cast for two mana (after delving his baubles, fetch lands, and probes away), leaving one mana up.


Chapin tackled the Modern format from a completely different angle.

Sperling went for an end-step Dispatch on the 5/5 zombie fish, but Stubborn Denial was ready and waiting. Thanks to a three-mana Tasigur and the fish, Chapin all but stabilized.

The rest of Chapin's hand was only land, but Sperling didn't have to know that. After seeing the two cheap, over-sized beaters, Sperling rightly went on the assault and sent in everything he could. It was now a race against two giant black monsters.

Arcbound Ravager mid-combat sacrifices killed the Tasigur. Sperling had been playing around the Path to Exile that wasn't in Chapin's hand, but after Chapin's draw step, it was. The one-mana removal took out the Ravager after it put on a Cranial Plating, and the counters went to Inkmoth Nexus.

If Chapin drew another removal spell, he was golden. However, it wasn't to be. He was one turn away from attacking for the kill when Sperling took his winning line. He activated the now 6/6 Inkmoth Nexus, attached the Cranial Plating and swung for the poisonous win.

The hate came in, and Chapin hoped to shore up his percentages for the rest of the round.

In the second game, Sperling did the usual Affinity start with Vault Skirge, Memnite, and Arcbound Ravager. Chapin's Lingering Souls slowed Sperling to a crawl, but Sperling's Rest in Peace blanked Chapin's entire engine (including removing the Lingering Souls that was in the graveyard). He had been worried about Chapin's silver bullets, but now the shoe was on the other foot.


Sperling certainly wasn't sick of winning games of Magic.

After hamstringing his opponent, Sperling mounted an offensive, attacking with all his 1/1s. He was happy to trade the Ravager and Skirge to the flying Spirit tokens because Sperling had a back-up plan in his hand that Chapin hadn't seen in the first game—Etched Champion plus Cranial Plating.

When Sperling got the turn back, it was 13-20 in his favor, and after an attack from the Champion—immune to the Path to Exile in Chapin's hand—it was 8-20. Chapin needed something. Specifically something that didn't cost six or seven mana without his graveyard to help him out. All he saw in the grip were big dudes and land.

On his last possible turn, the scores 1-18, Chapin drew the Kataki, War's Wage. He sighed heavily. All Sperling had to do was untap and pay the upkeep cost on three artifacts and he would win.

Ever looking for the win, Chapin joked "Is that game?" as he resolved the Saviors of Kamigawa spell. It was, just not in the way Chapin hoped.

Sperling untapped, paid to keep his Darksteel Citadel, Cranial Plating, and the Champion the plating was on, and swung in for the kill.

Chapin 0 – Sperling 2

"Full Angler, huh? All the way up? I like it." Sperling said. Chapin was clearly disappointed in his finish. He had drawn more land than he was hoping, and the Rest in Peace wasn't the greatest card for him to see, especially considering its singleton status in Sperling's sideboard.

Sperling said coming in he didn't know what Chapin was doing: "I kinda know how he thinks, but I had to piece it together as the match went along."

"When I saw [Polluted Delta], I expected to see Damnation in my future. But as he played more, it became less and less likely." He continued, "When I saw the Lingering Souls Game 2, I lowered the possibility of Damnation even being a sideboard strategy." That allowed him to trust in the Etched Champions more, especially after Chapin didn't see it Game 1.


Patrick Chapin - Pro Tour Fate Reforged

Matthew Sperling - Pro Tour Fate Reforged

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