Round 5: Shota Yasooka (Esper Dragons) vs. Matt Severa (B/G Aristocrats)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 22, 2016

By Tobi Henke

In Round 5, with perfect records of 4-0 still intact, two very different players squared off. Matt Severa from the United States had so far evaded breakthrough finish at the Pro Tour, whereas Japan's Shota Yasooka had been inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame last year. Yasooka had in the past had a reputation as a lone wolf whose solitary testing would often bring about the most spectacular brews, whereas Severa was very well connected and had prepared for this event with Team Ultra PRO.

Ultra PRO's deck of choice for the tournament was Black-Green Aristocrats, built around the sacrifice theme of Blisterpod, Elvish Visionary, Zulaport Cutthroat, Nantuko Husk, Catacomb Sifter, and Liliana, Heretical Healer, with Collected Company and Duskwatch Recruiter for additional consistency and Loam Dryad and Cryptolith Rite for additional speed. Yasooka's deck of choice was Esper Dragons. The combination of removal spells, counterspells, and Dragons had been a mainstay of Standard a while back. Currently, the biggest problem with it is in the mana base, which Yasooka had apparently been able to figure out.

Madison resident Matt Severa faces off against Hall of Famer and renowned control expert Shota Yasooka.

The Games

Yasooka won the die roll, but it was Severa who came out fast with Loam Dryad and Blisterpod enabling a turn-three Collected Company. That was met by Clash of Wills, but the follow-up Company resolved and found Liliana, Heretical Healer, and Elvish Visionary.

But soon, the Dragons entered the fray. First, Liliana was stolen by Dragonlord Silumgar, then Dragonlord Ojutai stole 5 life from Severa. Meanwhile, Severa managed to develop a board presence which warranted a Languish from Yasooka, leaving the board empty except for Dragonlord Silumgar.

This game was repeated twice. Severa amassed a threatening army again and again, both times Languish saved Yasooka. All the while, various attacks and Zulaport Cutthroat triggers drained Yasooka's life and, at one point, the Japanese found himself down to his last life.

Before long, however, Yasooka recovered thanks to Foul-Tongue Invocation, and was closing in on Severa's life total with another Dragonlord Ojutai. Eventually, a second Dragonlord Silumgar stole Severa's last remaining Zulaport Cutthroat and that was that.

After a mulligan, Severa kept a hand with lands, Nantuko Husk, and a pair of Collected Company, one of which he lost to Transgress the Mind, with the other one stopped by Silumgar's Scorn. His Nantuko Husk was handled by Dead Weight and things were looking grim for the American, even moreso when Yasooka summoned Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

Severa has long tested with the Wisconsin pros. For this Pro Tour, as part of Team Ultra PRO, he and his team brought quite the powerhouse to the tournament.

Severa fought back with a third Collected Company, once again deploying Liliana, Heretical Healer and Elvish Visionary. Both of them plus a third creature were swiftly turned into treacherous Zombies by Languish, while Yasooka also replaced his Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

Severa was by no means out of gas yet though. While he ironically lost a newly transformed Liliana, Defiant Necromancer to the incoming Zombie horde, he eventually not only managed to stabilize, but also posed a credible threat again, thanks in large part to multiple Zulaport Cutthroats.

Cutthroats quickly took Yasooka into the single digits and had to be dealt with. Languish left Severa with one Nantuko Husk and Yasooka with one Jace, Telepath Unbound, life totals at 14 to 5 for Severa. Westvale Abbey began churning out tokens and the Clerics took the game.

With but twelve minutes remaining in the round, both players sped up their game. Both had a creature on turn two: Yasooka had Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Severa with Zulaport Cutthroat. Both then cast Transgress the Mind, exiling Yasooka's Dragonlord Ojutai and Severa's Ulvenwald Mysteries, respectively.

Perhaps the most feared control player in the room, Yasooka was one of the few to crack the code on the Esper Dragon mana base in this new Standard format.

More creatures joined the battle, most notably Nantuko Husk for Severa and Dragonlord Ojutai for Yasooka. The race was on, but not exactly fair. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy turned into Jace, Telepath Unbound, Nantuko Husk paid the Ultimate Price. Things didn't go well for Severa.

In the end, Westvale Abbey made things more interesting than they might have been otherwise, but Ojutai was unrelenting.

Severa 1 – Yasooka 2

"I think the matchup's okay for me, about even," Severa told me after the match. "It probably would have helped if I had played a bit better. I honestly can't count the number of misplays I made here."

One time, Severa had attacked with a creature which was powerless under the influence of Jace, Telepath Unbound. Another time, Yasooka helpfully pointed out that sacrificing three creatures including two Zulaport Cutthroats to Nantuko Husk only yielded five life drains, not six. None of this had made an actual difference, but there was more...

"I shouldn't have ticked up Liliana, Defiant Necromancer. I should have just gotten my third Cutthroat back," Severa gave as an example. "And that last game, I forgot that he knew I had Ultimate Price in hand and figured I would kill Jace in response [to the transformation]."

Things didn't work out that way, and didn't work out for Severa, who took his first loss of the day, while the Japanese Hall of Famer advanced to 5-0.

Shota Yasooka: Esper Dragons

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Matte Severa: Black-Green Aristocrats

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