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Grand Prix Nagoya
Day 2 Coverage

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  • Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – Day 1 Undefeated Decklists
    by Steve Sadin

  • Pai, Bruce
    GP Nagoya 2012 (Day1 9-0) Standard




     

  • Round 10 Feature Match – Tomoyuki Suzuki vs. Takuma Morofuji
    by Nate Price

  • Day 1 had been very kind to both Tomoyuki Suzuki and Takuma Morofuji. Both players navigated their way through a field swarming with Zombies on their way to perfect 9-0 records. Suzuki-san managed his perfect record on the backs of the growing ranks of the undead, killing more than one opponent with a stray Thundermaw Hellkite along the way. Morofuji-san, on the other hand, used a different variety of undead to achieve his perfect record. Rather than Zombies, Morofuji used a Reanimator Junk, equipped with such Unburial Rites targets as Thragtusk, Angel of Serenity, and Craterhoof Behemoth. In terms of the horror world, this match was going to be like 28 Days Later versus Dawn of the Dead: Suzuki's speedy hordes of blood-crazed undead against Morofuji's relentless, crushing inevitability.

    Morofuji won the die roll and elected to go first. He began with a first-turn Avacyn's Pilgrim, giving him an early mana advantage. Suzuki immediately nullified that advantage by killing the Pilgrim with a Pillar of Flame. Morofuji replaced it a couple of turns later after finding an Arbor Elf with a Grisly Salvage. This enabled him to break out a Thragtusk a turn earlier than normal, with Suzuki still sitting on a creatureless board.

    Tomoyuki Suzuki

    Suzuki simply refused to play a spell, passing his turn without making a creature for the fourth straight turn. Morofuji pressed his advantage hard, dropping yet another Thragtusk into play. At the end of that turn, Suzuki used a Brimstone Volley to kill one of the Thragtusks, hardly solving the problem. After untapping, Suzuki revealed what he had been waiting for: a fifth land. After dropping his fifth mana source on the table, Suzuki turned them all sideways to play a Thundermaw Hellkite, immediately negating the 5 points of life Morofuji had gained just a turn ago.

    Still, Morofuji had waltzed out to a fairly large lead, unexpected against Zombies. He attacked for 8, crippling Suzuki. The true death knell came after combat, when he added his third Thragtusk in sixteen cards. Suzuki barely bothered to draw his card for the turn before conceding Game 1.

    Tomoyuki Suzuki 0 - Takuma Morofuji 1

    For the second game of the match, Suzuki-san would be on the play. His last draw was woefully underpowered, and he provided little pressure in the early part of the game. Matters certainly weren't helped by Morofuji's trio of Thragtusks. While it may not quite be as oppressively powerful as it once was, the Thragtusk is still ridiculously powerful.

    Morofuji mulled over his hand for a good minute or so, conversing with Suzuki all the while about their draws in the previous game. Eventually keeping, Morofuji extended his hand to Suzuki, signaling his chance to go first.

    Again, Suzuki had very little in terms of early aggression. He spent his first two turns playing lands that came into play tapped, not making his first move until a third-turn Appetite for Brains. He revealed the following hand:


    After taking the Sever the Bloodline, Suzuki added a Diregraf Ghoul to his team. Morofuji began his turn, tapping the Avacyn's Pilgrim he had played a turn earlier to cast the first of his two Loxodon Smiters. On the fourth turn, Suzuki played a Cavern of Souls on Zombie (to help cast Geralf's Messenger) and immediately dropped a Falkenrath Aristocrat into play attacking. Morofuji cracked right back, sending his Smiter in for a reciprocal 4 damage before playing a game-changing Thragtusk.

    With Morofuji sitting on nine power worth of attackers and leading 19-16, Suzuki looked to be at a disadvantage once again. Things became incredibly interesting when the game entered full-on race mode on his next turn. He untapped and added a second Falkenrath Aristocrat to his team. The ensuing attack dropped Morofuji to 11, giving the lead temporarily back to Suzuki.

    If Morofuji had a second Thragtusk here, the game would have likely been all but over. Instead, all he had was an army of other men, filling his board with a Deathrite Shaman, Arbor Elf, and his second Loxodon Smiter. He attacked for nine, dropping Suzuki to 7.

    On his turn, Suzuki continued his class on why haste is good, adding a Thundermaw Hellkite to his team and attacking Morofuji for a lethal 13. Three attacks was all it took Suzuki to bring Morofuji from a virtual 25 life to 0, sending the match to Game 3.

    Tomoyuki Suzuki 1 - Takuma Morofuji 1

    After seeing the hasty barrage Suzuki had beginning with turn four in the last game, I had a much better picture of what his opening draw looked like. After all, in a match filled with Thragtusks and Smiters, you don't need dorky ground creatures to win the match. You need to make sure that your spells are going to be relevant. You need to go over the top of those defensive cards. As such, keeping a hand with two or three giant, hasty fliers makes way more sense in this matchup than keeping one with two or three 2/2s for two.

    Takuma Morofuji

    Suzuki was forced to mulligan away a bad hand to begin Game 3. His second contained two lands, Thundermaw Hellkite, Zealous Conscripts, Diregraf Ghoul, and an Appetite for Brains. He had to think for a minute, but decided that it was a reasonable hand to keep on the draw.

    Morofuji was on the play, beginning with a pair of Arbor Elves in his first couple of turns. Suzuki once again employed his Appetite for Brains, revealing:


    After a sigh, Suzuki put his head in his hands. There were three incredibly bad cards for him all in one hand, and they were going to begin coming down soon thanks to Morofuji's mana accelerants. He tapped on the table as he considered his options, eventually deciding to strip Morofuji of his Garruk, Primal Hunter. With his other mana, he cast a freshly-drawn Diregraf Ghoul, a creature that would soon be nullified by a Thragtusk.

    Morofuji took his turn. He added a third land to the table, tapped all of his permanents, and put a massive 5/3 roadblock into play on his side. It wasn't the end of the chain, either. With the Restoration Angel he had in his hand, he was able to get himself a Beast, a 3/4 flier, and five more life. Suzuki had no more lands, stuck on the two he began with. He cycled through with a Cremate, but it wasn't helping much. Morofuji added yet another Thragtusk to his side, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for Suzuki.

    Still had all these...

    Suzuki used a Victim of Night to kill the Restoration Angel, using his pair of Ghouls to block the 3/3 Beast when Morofuji attacked, but he still took a massive hit. His remaining Ghoul jumped in front of a Thragtusk on the following turn, but it was merely a delaying tactic. After drawing his last non-land card for the round, Suzuki dropped his hand onto the table face-up with a sigh and shook Morofuji's hand.

    Tomoyuki Suzuki 1 - Takuma Morofuji 2




     

  • Round 10 Feature Match – Kenji Tsumura (Green White Black Reanimator) vs. Bruce Pai (Black Red Zombies)
    by Steve Sadin

  • Recent Hall of Fame inductee Kenji Tsumura was considered by many to be both the best, and the nicest, player in the world for a span of several years in the mid 2000's. But after years of dominance, Tsumura decided to step away from the game in order to focus on school...

    Now that Kenji has guaranteed invitations to every Pro Tour (thanks to his spot in the Hall of Fame), we're going to get to see him at events a bit more regularly, but is he still as nice, and as good at Magic as he was before he began dedicating himself to his studies?

    Well, given the fact that he spent yesterday telling multiple opponents to take back the Dissipates that they'd already pointed at his Abrupt Decays, en route to an 8-0-1 start – I'd have to say that all signs point to yes.

    Tsumura's opponent for this round, Bruce Pai, has become an increasingly present force on the Japanese Grand Prix circuit over the last year. And while he's yet to earn his first Grand Prix Top 8, after a 9-0 start on Day One it seems as though Pai's dedication is already starting to pay dividends.

    Bruce Pai

    Game One

    Tsumura won the roll and opened with a first turn Arbor Elf. And while Pai was able to kill it with a Pillar of Flame, Tsumura had a pair of Avacyn's Pilgrims ready to replace it. A Centaur Healer, and an Arbor Elf soon followed for Tsumura – while Pai merely played a Diregraf Ghoul and waited to get to four mana.

    When Pai finally got there, he cast a Falkenrath Aristocrat and immediately attacked with it, knocking Tsumura down to 17. Unfazed, Tsumura attacked Pai down to 12 with his Centaur Healer, and an elf before casting a second Centaur Healer to put himself back up to 20.

    But when a Thundermaw Hellkite attack for 9 in the air, Tsumura knew he probably only had a one turn window to get himself back into the game.

    That one turn would turn out to be all that he needed.

    A Grisly Salvage put a Craterhoof Behemoth into Tsumura's graveyard, and gave him the land that he needed to cast the Unburial Rites in his hand to bring back the lethal beast.

    Kenji Tsumura 1 – Bruce Pai 0

    Game Two

    Tsumura opened the second game with an Arbor Elf, and a Centaur Healer while Bruce Pai used an Appetite for Brains to strip away a potentially devastating Thragtusk, before casting a third turn Geralf's Messenger.

    Tsumura had another Centaur Healer, but Pai was able to calmly go over the top of that with his second Geralf's Messenger.

    Tsumura's Mulch yielded him a bunch of lands, but no flashback spells, and he had to pass the turn to Pai who played out a hasty Thundermaw Hellkite, and attacked for 8 leaving a single Geralf's Messenger back to hold off Tsumura's forces.

    Tsumura cast a main phase Grisly Salvage which found an Angel of Serenity, and some lands, but no Unburial Rites.

    However, knowing that he wouldn't have enough time to cast the Angel of Serenity – Tsumura took a redundant land, and hoped that he would be able to dig into an Unburial Rites on his next turn. But even with the aid of another Grisly Salvage, the best thing that Tsumura could do was cast another Centaur Healer to bring himself back up to 15 life.

    Pai attacked with all of his creatures, prompting Tsumura to block the two Geralf's Messengers with his two Centaur Healers -- but even with his blocks, Tsumura still fell down to 6 from the big attack.

    Grisly Salvage once again failed to yield the Unburial Rites that Tsumura so desperately needed, and he was forced to settle for yet another Centaur Healer.

    This time around, however, that wouldn't be enough for Kenji to buy himself even one more turn as a Victim of Night allowed Pai to even the score up at one game apiece.

    Kenji Tsumura 1 – Bruce Pai 1

    Kenji Tsumura

    Game Three

    Pai mulliganed, and opened with a Diregraf Ghoul, and an Appetite for Brains that exiled an Unburial Rites and left Kenji with a pair of Thragtusks in his hand.

    However, even without the aid of an Unburial Rites, those two Thragtusks (along with an Arbor Elf, and a Centaur Healer) ultimately proved to be far too much for the spell light Pai.

    Kenji Tsumura 2 – Bruce Pai 1




     

  • Sunday, 12:15 a.m. – Surprising Cards on Day One of Grand Prix Nagoya
    by Steve Sadin

  • 1. Manor Gargoyle

    A number of top pros, including Yuuya Watanabe, and Tzu Ching Kuo opted to include Manor Gargoyle in their control decks this weekend. And so far, it seems to be very good for them.

    In addition to stopping everything from Geralf's Messengers to Silverblade Paladins to Thragtusks dead in their tracks, the indestructible Manor Gargoyle also lives through Supreme Verdict – giving control players a perfect way to mop things up after they've cleared the board.





    2. Rakdos Cackler

    When Return to Ravnica was released, Rakdos Cackler seemed like an ideal addition for aggressive decks in everything from Booster Drafts, to Modern. But at first, it just didn't seem to have a place in anything outside of Mono Red. People at most American, and European events were just too busy focusing on tribal beatdown decks like Zombies, and Humans to make use of this 2 power one drop.

    But in Japan, Rakdos Cackler has found a home in many an aggressive deck.

    Will players piloting Rakdos Cackler be able to laugh their way into the Top 8 this weekend? We'll have to wait and see. But even if it doesn't, this aggressive creature has certainly demonstrated its worth this weekend.

    3. Lyev Skyknight

    The ubiquitousness of Cavern of Souls has caused serious problems for Blue White players the world over. And while some players have opted to skew their decks to include more non-counterspell control cards like Supreme Verdict, and Manor Gargoyle to deal with it – other players have decided to go in the exact opposite direction, filling their decks with as many tempo oriented creatures (like Lyev Skynight) as they possibly can.








    4. Chronic Flooding

    When I was walking by the undefeated tables during the end of Day One yesterday, I saw someone playing a deck that featured Chronic Flooding, and Goldnight Commander. I did a double take. The cards were in Japanese, so I thought that maybe I just had some wires crossed in my head, and the artwork actually belonged to something entirely different.

    So I walked back, and took another look at the match.

    And sure enough, I was looking at a Chronic Flooding, and a Goldnight Commander – two key components in Daisuke Hirose's 9-0 Day One Angel of Glory's Rise Reanimator deck.

    So the next time you find yourself complaining about the fact that you can't build anything interesting for a constructed format, trying thinking outside the box a little bit... you just might discover a deck built around a completely overlooked common that's right for you!




     

  • Sunday, 2:15 a.m. – Quick Hits: What is the Best Creature in Your Deck and Why?
    by Nate Price

  • Takuma Morofuji: Thragtusk is my best creature. It is very good against all of the GW and Zombies decks in the field. Five life and a big creature... very good!
    Chikara Nakajima: I think Falkenrath Aristocrat. It is very efficient for four mana, and it never dies! Actually...wait... THUNDERMAW HELLKITE! He is bigger!
    Ken Yukuhiro: Olivia Voldaren. She's very good against the aggressive decks because of her ping ability. Even better because I have Nightshade Peddler!
    Tzu-Ching Kuo: Heh, this one. Manor Gargoyle is really good. It can block anything and live, which is really good for setting up Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation.



     

  • Sunday, 2:50 a.m. – Deck Tech: Junk Reanimator with Takuma Morofuji
    by Nate Price

  • One of the most interesting surprises coming into Day 2 here at Grand Prix Nagoya has been the abundance of Reanimator decks around the room. Since the printing of Unburial Rites, there has always been a Reanimator deck available in Standard. Currently, there are a few different favors floating around Standard. From Humans Reanimator, powered by Angel of Glory's Rise, to Hoof, there appears to be a lack of consensus as to which version of the deck is the strongest.

    This weekend, at least, the most consistent Reanimator deck in the field seems to be the black/green/white Junk Reanimator piloted by Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura and Takuma Morofuji, the lone remaining undefeated player in the tournament. Here's what it looks like:


    Perhaps the single biggest advantage that this variant of Reanimator has is its ability to play multiple different styles of game and control which one it plans to use. It possesses the same core cards as many of the other Thragtusk-based decks in the format: Avacyn's Pilgrim, Arbor Elf, Thragtusk, Restoration Angel, and Lingering Souls. As such, there are games it is going to win simply on the strength of the interactions of these cards. Against many white-based creature decks, such as UW Aggro, GW Aggro, and Naya, the deck often resorts to using this engine to win their games, avoiding hate like Rest in Peace.

    On the other side of the coin, the deck is capable of an extreme explosion of power thanks to Unburial Rites. It allows the Reanimator deck to win from a position of weakness, using Angel of Serenity to stabilize or Craterhoof Behemoth to outright win, as the situation prescribes. The Reanimator package also allows the deck an incredible amount of consistency at very little risk. Cards like Grisly Salvage and Mulch ensure that the deck never misses a land drop and sees far more of its cards than any other deck in the field. This lets it keep up with the mana generation of the control decks, while finding the Gavony Townships and Cavern of Souls it needs to take over. Best of all, the presence of Unburial Rites makes it purely beneficial to put creatures in the graveyard, turning the potential drawbacks of Mulch and Salvage into noticeable boons.

    I sat down with the undefeated Morofuji to discuss how his deck works, how he plays it, and what about its role in the current environment makes it such a good deck.

    The first thing he noted was the current state of the metagame.

    "Zombies is a very strong deck. Because of this, many people are playing midrange decks like Jund and Naya," Morofuji analyzed. "Reanimator is a strategy that is often fast enough to manage against the aggressive decks while playing threats that are much bigger than those offered by the midrange decks."

    The one variable in the format that he didn't address with his initial glance was the reappearance of blue-based control decks, particularly UWR Control.

    "In general, the control decks tend to be not so good for this deck. They have a great sideboard against the Reanimation strategy, with counterspells and Rest in Peace. In order to counter this, many Reanimator decks simply rely on casting their creatures against these decks. However it is more difficult now that they are playing more removal. My answer to them lies in my sideboard."

    Acknowledging his deck's weakness got us talking about his deck's strengths, most notably its creatures.

    "Thragtusk is by far the best creature in my deck," Morofuji told me, pointing emphatically to the pile of 5/3 Beasts in front of him. "In this field, it is very strong against Zombies, since it can gain life and hold off their attackers. Combined with Unburial Rites, it's often like having eight copies of Thragtusk in my deck. If I get to cast two or three of them, I usually win."

    Another very important creature in his deck has been the Deathrite Shaman.

    "With Grisly Salvage, Shaman is like having two more Avacyn's Pilgrims, making my deck much faster. Against Zombies, he can remove Geralf's Messengers and Gravecrawlers and gain me life if I need. Against Reanimator, he is simply fantastic."

    Shaman's talents aren't relegated to there, either. Against the control decks, he acts as a source of damage as well as a potent response to Snapcaster Mage. Against any deck that relies on the graveyard for a part of its game, which is almost all of them, Shaman is ridiculously powerful. Many people underestimate how potent his ability to disrupt strategies can be.

    Morofuji admitted how difficult his matchup against control can be. He played against UW Control on Day 1 and managed to beat it, but he smiled and humbly attributed it to luck.

    "I drew two Loxodon Smiters and attacked him to death. I was very lucky," Morofuji conceded.

    Still, his deck has a reasonable framework in place to provide him answers to the more difficult parts of that matchup.

    "Grisly Salvage and Mulch are very good against control. Not because they are actually good against control, or because I want to reanimate, but because they get you more chances to draw Cavern of Souls and Gavony Township. Those cards are the ones that are really good against control. Cavern of Souls lets you force through the creatures that you would normally reanimate. If you name Beast and Angel, you can cast every big creature in your deck. And Gavony Township and Lingering Souls combine to be very potent."

    While his performance has been a very clear indicator of his deck's strength, I asked Morofuji to look to the future. The three most impressive decks so far this weekend had been BR Zombies, Reanimator, and UWR Control. I asked Morofuji if he would consider playing this deck at a Grand Prix next week if he knew that this would be the majority of the field.

    "I think so, yes. I like this deck a lot. But I would definitely make some changes. First, I would cut the Abrupt Decay, which I am using to kill Runechanter's Pike, Oblivion Ring, and Detention Sphere. I would also cut the Intrepid Hero, which I wanted to kill all of the giant creatures decks are playing. They haven't been too good for me this weekend. In their place, I would add two copies of Rest in Peace to fight the other Reanimator decks, especially the Human/Angel of Glory's Rise Reanimator. I would also consider playing red and making the deck a bit more midrange than it currently is. Taking out maybe one Deathrite Shaman, one Craterhoof Behemoth, and...something else...I want to add Huntmaster of the Fells and maybe Bonfire of the Damned. I would also have to change my mana some to accommodate. I would go up to four Cavern of Souls. This helps against more control decks as well as helping fix mana for the fourth color."

    One of the very first things that Morofuji dove into while speaking to me was his sideboard, showing me the variety of ways that he has chosen to deal with the major players in the format. Perhaps the most important sideboarding strategy to him was the one he chose to use against control.

    "Against control, I don't want to be a Reanimator deck," Morofuji explained. Considering the number of counterspells that are working their way back into these decks, relying on a spell that can so easily be telegraphed and countered is a losing strategy. Instead, Morofuji wanted to rely on a strategy similar to the one that the original iteration of Hoof pioneered: simply cast your creatures. Morofuji takes it one step further, however.

    "Against control, I sideboard to be very aggressive. Loxodon Smiter is very powerful against them. Garruk, Primal Hunter, is also very strong against them, especially because I have many mana accelerators. Casting him early lets me either make many Beasts or use him to draw many cards. Either is very good against them. It is also very important to find Gavony Township and Cavern of Souls. Cavern lets me use my mana accelerators to cast a Craterhoof Behemoth and just win the game. Combined with Lingering Souls, many control players will simply die to that. I can also combine the small mana accelerators and Spirit tokens with Gavony Township to make a powerful force."

    Morofuji has put on an impressive show this weekend, winning match after match. In a format that is so capable of punishing poor draws, having something that amounts to the consistency that this deck provides him has been invaluable. The fact that it is not of as singular a focus as the Human Reanimator deck has also provided a level of adaptability that has allowed him to win matches that even he feels he probably wasn't supposed to be able to win.

    Keeping in mind the way that the picture of the format has shifted throughout the weekend, and where it is likely to go, this seems like an incredibly powerful option in weeks to come. It possesses the stability of Thragtusk and Restoration Angel to combat the aggressive decks, the consistency of Mulch and Grisly Salvage to provide it game against the control decks, and the sheer explosiveness of Unburial Rites to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. It is a very versatile deck, even able to avoid the sea of graveyard hate that is likely to crop up after this weekend by simply casting spells the old-fashioned way.

    That being said, here are a few things to think about if you feel inclined to give this deck a try. First, Kenji Tsumura is running a similar deck with a sideboard that I feel might actually have some very potent options. Tsumura has Somberwald Sage in his sideboard, allowing him an even more potent way to cast the threats in his deck after players bring in their graveyard hate. Moving this element to the board in response to people playing more spot removal to deal with Zombies is a stroke of genius. It also accounted for the expectation of white decks packing Rest in Peace and the potential rise of control. Another masterful card to consider for sideboards is Golgari Charm. The Charm is able to give -1/-1 to the mana creatures of Naya and other Reanimator decks, as well as Falkenrath Aristocrat, Gravecrawler, and Knight of Infamy in Zombies. It is able to destroy Rest in Peace, Oblivion Ring, and Detention Sphere. It even lets you survive Supreme Verdict. It seems like a very good addition to the sideboard of Junk Reanimator if the format trends the way it appears that it will.




     

  • Sunday, 3:15 a.m. – Creature Feature: Thundermaw Hellkite
    by Nate Price

  • "All of the dealers are sold out of Thundermaw Hellkite... And you'll never guess how much they were going for."

    I heard this line about a dozen times yesterday morning as we were getting ready to start coverage of Day 1. And they were right: I couldn't guess. Even at an elevated price, the dealers simply could not hold on to the Magic 2013 powerhouse. I registered the observation in the back of my head and went about my work.

    Flash to about Round 6. I had been following the presence of deck archetypes at the top tables since the beginning of the tournament, and I was beginning to notice a trend. It wasn't hard to miss, either. BR Zombies was literally everywhere, and where it went, Hellkite went, too. The true surprise came from the other decks that began to make their presence known. I saw UWR Control decks paying five mana for a 5/5 hasty flier. I saw Naya decks casting a Lava Axe with wings to clear a path for their Centaur Healers and Huntmasters. What was going on?

    This had to be one of the most amusing, yet completely understandable, developments in the Standard metagame coming into this event. After all, with the overabundance of Zombies and GW, many players were beginning to dip into red for ways to deal with them. If you're already going to be going into red, why wouldn't you add one of the best threats in the game while you're at it?

    As good as the Hellkite is in these new homes, it is still at its finest when picking up where a shambling horde of Zombies left off. The early damage they provide allows the Hellkite to more readily finish things off. Chikara Nakajima, with two Pro Tour Top 8s to his credit, decided to run the Hellkite-infused Zombies here at Grand Prix Nagoya, and he's ridden it to an 11-2 record thus far in the event. He explained to me what makes the Hellkite such a good creature, both in general and in this iteration of Standard.

    "It is an excellent finisher," Nakajima explained. "In decks that can get off early damage, the Hellkite is able to finish things off in one or two quick attacks. Hellkite was originally made to deal with Lingering Souls, which is still good in Standard, but it is also very good against the other fliers. Tapping down defending fliers is great to clear a way for Hellkite and Falkenrath Aristocrat to end the game."

    Nakajima's point is very important. While Lingering Souls is certainly still a good card in Standard, other aspects of Thundermaw Hellkite may actually be more important in Standard right now. Right now, Lingering Souls remains a component of decks capable of supporting both black and white mana, which aren't that prevalent. Instead, cards like Restoration Angel, Angel of Serenity, and Falkenrath Aristocrat have become the new kings of the skies. For Zombies, the most important thing for them after turn four is figuring out how they are going to close the game. Cards like Falkenrath Aristocrat and Thundermaw Hellkite allow them to hastily fly over the plethora of ground defenses that decks run, like Thragtusk. In order to not put yourself into too big a tempo hole against cards like this, Zombies decks need to make sure that their late-game finishers hit home. They can't waste time with blockers. While Restoration Angel can still be flashed in after the Hellkite's ability triggers, it is still golden against the other fliers mentioned. Even after the turn in question, Hellkite is able to brush any potential blockers aside, turning the end stages of the game into the prototypical racing situation. Given that Zombies's late-game cards all have haste, they have a massive advantage.

    "Having haste makes Hellkite like a burn spell with wings," Nakajima laughed. "No matter what they have in the way, Hellkite will sweep it aside. Even if it doesn't tap, nothing can kill it."

    That brings up another great point about the format that makes Hellkite so good.

    "Many decks simply can not kill it," Nakajima explained. "Decks are playing mostly spells to deal with fast creatures. This does not leave them many cards to kill Hellkite."

    Chikara Nakajima

    It's true. With the rush to stem the early tide of creatures, many decks are packing more cards like Pillar of Flame and Searing Spear. These don't touch Hellkite. Zombies has maybe two copies of Ultimate Price, Naya and GW have Selesnya Charm, and UW decks have Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere. None of these cards are played in a particularly large number, making it very difficult for most decks to deal with the Hellkite. It's poetic justice that the creatures that Hellkite most often supports are directly responsible for him being able to do his job with little interference. Unfortunately, they also directly contribute to the fact that Zombies realistically should only be playing three copies of the card. The reliance on early spells reduces the number of lands the deck needs to play, clearing more space for the aggressive cards that make up the deck's base. This can cause a problem with many players being able to reliably cast the five-drop.

    "I don't know if I would be willing to play four copies. It can be very difficult to make five mana all the time with Zombies. I am fine with three. I am never unhappy to draw Hellkite," Nakajima told me. "Well...unless I don't have five lands. Then it's not so good. Other than that, though, give me Hellkite, Hellkite, Hellkite. I will be very happy."




     

  • Round 13 Feature Match – Yuuji Okita (Human Reanimator) vs. Kazumasa Satou (Red Black)
    by Steve Sadin

  • At Grand Prix Bochum, Nightshade Peddler plus Izzet Staticaster was one of the breakout combos of the tournament. At first, it seemed like a joke, but as the event went on it became very apparent that the combo would be here to stay.

    So the fact that Okita's Human Reanimator deck is playing Nightshade Peddlers and Izzet Staticasters didn't even faze me... However, the fact that there are Chronic Floodings, and Goldnight Commanders in one of the only two remaining undefeated decks in the tournament completely took me by surprise.

    While Kazumasa Satou's Red Black Aggro deck isn't anywhere near as off the wall as Okita's – it still represents a fairly significant departure from the Black Red Zombies that players have grown accustomed to seeing in recent weeks.

    Instead of Diregraf Ghouls, Gravecrawlers, and Geralf's Messengers – Okita is playing a base red deck that looks to Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble, and Ash Zealot for its early damage sources.

    Game One

    Satou opened the match with an Ash Zealot, and a Rakdos Keyrune – while Okita responded with the potent combination of Nightshade Peddler plus Izzet Staticaster allowing him to immediately kill off the Ash Zealot. Satou was able to exact revenge on the Izzet Staticaster with a Searing Spear, before casting and attacking with a new Ash Zealot.

    Next up for Okita was a Huntmaster of the Fells that he paired with his Nightshade Peddler – but Satou was able to come right back with a Thundermaw Hellkite.

    Okita untapped, and promptly played a Chronic Flooding onto one of his own lands. As soon as it resolved, all of the blood seemed to drain out of Okita's face. If Okita had just passed the turn without playing a spell, then he would have been able to transform his Huntmaster of the Fells into a Ravager of the Fells, and deathtouch away his opponent's Thundermaw Hellkite.

    Instead, he could only sit and watch as a Falkenrath Aristocrat gave Satou the power he needed to take the first game.

    Kazumasa Satou 1 – Yuuji Okita 0

    Yuuji Okita

    Game Two

    For the second game, Okita was able to start things off with the most important card in his deck: Chronic Flooding. By enchanting it to one of his own lands, Okita ensured that he would be able to put three fresh cards into his graveyard every turn.

    Satou, meanwhile, hoped that his two early Ash Zealots would be able to deal a bunch of damage, while simultaneously making it impossible for Okita to flash anything back without taking a heap of damage to do so. However, an Izzet Charm promptly killed off one of them, and a Cathedral Sanctifier bought Okita a good deal of time. Next up, a Rakdos Keyrune came down for Satou, while Okita played a Huntmaster of the Fells.

    For a moment, it looked like Satou was going to be able to run away with the match by casting a Thundermaw Hellkite, and a Pillar of Flame to exile the Huntmaster...

    ... but then Okita untapped, and used an Izzet Charm to draw two cards, and discard two cards, including an Unburial Rites.

    The flashed back Unburial Rites brought back Angel of Glory's Rise, which in turn brought back Nightshade Peddler, Izzet Staticaster, Huntmaster of the Fells, and a pair of Cathedral Sanctifiers.

    Fully aware of how desperate his situation at become, Satou used a Searing Spear to take out the Nightshade Peddler on his own turn - but another Angel of Glory's Rise a turn later was more than enough for Okita to lock up the second game.

    Kazumasa Satou 1 – Yuuji Okita 1


    Game Three

    Satou kept his opening hand for the deciding game, while Okita mulliganed to 6.

    A pair of Rakdos Cacklers gave Satou a very fast clock, while Okita set things up pretty perfectly for himself with a Mulch that put an Unburial Rites, and an Angel of Glory's Rise into his graveyard.

    Satou didn't have a play on his third turn, but the ensuing attack knocked Okita down to 14. Okita then untapped, played a Nightshade Peddler and passed the turn back to his aggressive foe.

    Kazumasa Satou

    Pillar of Flame exiled the Nightshade Peddler, and an Ash Zealot set up an attack that knocked Okita to 8.

    However, no fourth land meant that Okita could not flash back his Unburial Rites (which might not have been enough anyway), and left him in a position where he could only sit and watch as Satou gave him his first loss of the tournament.

    Kazumasa Satou 2 – Yuuji Okita 1




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