Semifinals: Joel Larsson (Red Aggro) vs. Matthew Sperling (Abzan Control)

Posted in Event Coverage on August 2, 2015

By Josh Bennett

The pressure mounts as both players move one step closer to glory. Even the momentum of this morning's win under their belts could do little to calm their nerves. Sperling survived the mono-red matchup in the quarterfinals, would he be able to do it again?

Ultra PRO's Matthew Sperling is doing his team proud this weekend. He got his second Pro Tour Top 8 in just over a year, and now he's sitting in his first semifinals. His eyes are firmly on taking the title, not just for its own sake, but to join his teammate Paul Rietzl at the Magic World Championship next month.

Sweden's Joel Larsson, suave doppelganger to Hall of Famer Brian Kibler, came close to being crowned Champion at Pro Tour Gatecrash and he's been hunting for another Top 8 ever since. This weekend he managed to secure Platinum status for the coming season with his quarterfinal win. It was a distant dream before his Top 8 at Grand Prix Dallas and his run here in Vancouver. He's here as a member of Team Thommo, the collaboration of top pros from Scandinavia and mainland Europe.

Joel Larsson and Matthew Sperling were both looking to cement a win in their second Pro Tour Top 8s.

The Games

While they waited for the go-ahead from the broadcast booth, Larsson asked Sperling if he was nervous.

Sperling thought it over. "A little."


Sperling, on the play, went down to six cards and they were off. Larsson opened with Firedrinker Satyr, then Monastery Swiftspear and a Wild Slash to clear out Sperling's face-up Den Protector. On his third turn Sperling Thoughtseized away Exquisite Firecraft, leaving Larsson with Searing Blood and Wild Slash in hand.

Larsson drew and found fortune was on his side. Lightning Berserker dashed in with the rest of the crew and Sperling was already down to 8. He played out Courser of Kruphix, and then played a scry-land to gain 2 and send away the Den Protector on top of his deck, revealing a second Courser. Larsson was happy to throw his handful of fire at the Courser, and between damage from Searing Blood and the creatures, Sperling was hanging on at just 1 life. He played his new Courser and saw Hero's Downfall on top of his deck, then started packing up his cards.

Sperling's Abzan deck has a lot of removal, but few ways to interact early.

Again Sperling had to play off six cards. He led with a tapped land. Larsson hit for 1 with Monastery Swiftspear. Sperling played Windswept Heath and passed. Larsson sent in his Swiftspear again, and Sperling fetched out a forest to enable Ultimate Price. Larsson replaced it with Lightning Berserker. Another fetch-land put Sperling to 17 and he summoned Courser of Kruphix.

Larsson brought out a Monastery Swiftspear and blasted the Courser off the table with Roast, knocking Sperling to 14. He undid all that by tapping out for Siege Rhino. Larsson was far from out of gas, though. Another Roast cleared the way and Larsson got in for 4.

Here Sperling went into the tank. He chose to bring out Fleecemane Lion and a face-up Den Protector. Larsson killed the Lion with Lightning Strike, then dashed in a second Lightning Berserker and attacked. Den Protector traded for the non-dashed Berskerer and Sperling was down to ten. One more big play could stabilize the game for him.

Larsson's game has been on fire all weekend.

He drew, played a scry-land, and passed. Larsson again dashed the Berserker and spent all his mana without fear, leaving Sperling at 5. He untapped, drew and played Courser of Kruphix. Windswept Heath off the top put him to six, and he fetched immediately to get a land off the top of his deck. After shuffling he flipped up Sandsteppe Citadel. So much for that.

Still, he had a card in hand and three open mana. Larsson tapped four to aim Stoke the Flames at the Courser. Sperling had no response and put his creature in the bin. His one card was removal for the Swiftspear, but knowing that the Citadel was waiting on top of his library meant that Sperling had no way out.

Joel Larsson defeats Matt Sperling 2-0 and advances to the finals!

"Congrats man," Sperling said. "Good luck in the finals."

Larsson's relief and excitement were evident. "Thanks. Hopefully I win this one."

As Larsson cleared out to make way for the Sigrist / Jackson semifinal, he was approached by Nate Holt of Walking the Planes for a quick interview.

"Sure, I just need to go high-five my friends."

One of whom was Matej Zatelkaj, who instructed me, "Make sure that the deck name is 'Red Deck Wins, AGAIN'."

Joel Larsson's Red Aggro - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

Matthew Sperling's Abzan Control - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

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