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Grand Prix-Sendai Day 2

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EVENT COVERAGE

 

  • Day 1 - Undefeated Decks
    by Nate Price
  • Takeshi Ozawa
    Grand Prix-Sendai 2010 Day 1 Undefeated


     

  • Standard Metagame Breakdown - Deck Types
    by Nate Price
  • Deck Type Number
    Jund 211
    UW Variations 80
    Planeswalker Control 77
    Mythic Conscription 72
    Naya Variants 63
    Eldrazi Green 48
    Grixis 37
    Vampires 29
    Mono-red 26
    Exalted Bant 25
    Boros 21
    Cobra Jund 18
    Polymorph 18
    Big Mana 16
    Time Sieve 15
    BR Beats 14
    Allies 12
    Esper Control 12
    Mono-White 12
    Kibler Bant 11
    Summoning Trap 8
    GW 8
    Mill 8
    Valakut 6
    Crab Unearth 5
    Other 53

    After breaking down the types of decks being played here in Sendai, the resulting chart is fairly unsurprising. Jund is still the deck to beat, at least during the Swiss portion of the tournament. A massive number of players have clung to the BRG monster, despite many attempts to dethrone it. As long as you are able to play Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into Blightning and run an incredibly versatile removal suite, Jund will be a deck, if not the deck.

    The next three decks have all made quite a storm over the past month of the format. UW Tapout made its high profile debut at Pro Tour-San Diego earlier this year. Using cards like Spreading Seas and Wall of Omens to hinder the rampant Jund decks while building up to massive spells such as Mind Spring, Martial Coup, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle, these decks come complete with all of the tools necessary to stand up against the field.

    Up next are Planeswalker Control decks. Mostly UWR, these decks run a similar shell as the UW Tapout decks, but rely on the awesome power of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Ajani Vengeant, and Gideon Jura to lock the game down and eventually put it away. Keeping these Planeswalkers safe is of high priority, so the decks tend to run a full removal suite, including Day of Judgment, Oblivion Ring, and Path to Exile, as well as Everflowing Chalice to power out a quick Walker.

    Last up is Mythic Conscription. Viewed by many as the next level of the Mythic deck designed by the renowned Zvi Mowshowitz, this version of the deck uses the many sources of creature-based mana acceleration in the format to power out a Sovereigns of Lost Alara before also serving as carriers for the mighty Eldrazi Conscription. With it, a lowly Birds of Paradise is lethal in two turns. It also runs the standard control elements available to a UW deck, including Jace, the Mind Sculptor. With this powerful combination of cards, the deck is quite capable of winning out of nowhere, and fast.

    Ever since San Diego, Naya has had to work hard to find its way. It had a strong showing there, but needed a little extra push to get it to the top. As the season progressed, it picked up little pieces of tech here and there, starting with the Basilisk Collar package, until it has ended up in today's most common conformation: Vengevine Naya. With this version of the deck, traditional removal spells are eschewed for straight, bone-crunching power. With virtually every card in the deck being a creature, a single Bloodbraid Elf can bring back Vengevine. Ranger of Eos not only loads up the hand, allowing for more Vengevien returns, it also tends to fetch up monsters like Scute Mob instead of the measly 2/2s and 3/3s of its predecessor. The deck is fast, and it hurts.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise to me this weekend is the fairly large number of Eldrazi Green decks in attendance. With the incredibly strong performance of the deck in San Juan, it appears that the deck has ascended to Standard. Another deck heavily featuring Vengevine, the deck just drops as many creatures as it can, most of which create more that just one, such as Nest Invader, Kozilek's Predator, and Wolfbriar Elemental. Once all of these creatures are in play, they can either power up a Beastmaster's Ascention or hit the high road with an Eldrazi Monument. Because the creatures can also frequently be sacrificed for mana, the deck is lightning quick and has a real ability to just degenerately win.


     

  • Feature Match Round 10 - Brian Kibler (Next Level Bant) vs. Katsuhiro Mori (Next Level Bant)
    by Ben Swartz
  • Round 10 between these two juggernauts of the game began with silence, Kibler not speaking until stating he kept his hand. Both players were playing versions of the Next Level Bant deck, designed by Patrick Chapin and popularized at Grand Prix-Washington DC two weeks previous.


    I'm watching you, Kibler...

    The game began with a Birds of Paradise for both players, leading to an accelerated draw of turn two Qasali Pridemage and turn three Elspeth, Knight-Errant for Mori. Mori bashed in for three with his Pridemage, eliciting an Elspeth from Kibler which destroyed Mori's thanks to the Legend rule. In an effort to find more mana, Kibler blocked Mori's Pridemage with his Sea Gate Oracle and used Path to Exile to find an Island. Kibler played both a Wall of Omens and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, using the 0 ability to Brainstorm. Kibler passed, and Mori activated his Celestial Colonnade to destroy Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Post-combat, Mori played a Scute Mob, preparing for it to grow to a 5/5 next turn with five lands in play.

    Doing the Mori shuffle.

    On the back foot, Kibler, with seven mana at his disposal, considered his options before playing a Gideon Jura, forcing all of Mori's creatures to attack it, as well as a Wall of Omens to protect his planeswalker. Mori, on his turn, fired up his Celestial Colonnade, and was forced to attack Gideon Jura with all of his creatures. With all of Mori's Creatures tapped, Kibler was able to cast a Sphinx of Lost Truths with kicker, drawing three cards and destroying Mori's tapped Scute Mob with Gideon Jura. At end of turn, Mori Path to Exiled Kibler's Sphinx of Lost Truths and untapped and played another Path to Exile on Kibler's Birds of Paradise to clear the way to destroy Kibler's Gideon. Post combat, Mori played a Ranger of Eos to fetch up and play a pair of Noble Hierarchs.

    Kibler had a Ranger of Eos of his own, fetching up and playing Birds of Paradise and Scute Mob. Mori, with just a Vengevine on his turn, passed the turn back to Kibler, allowing Kibler's Scute Mob to grow into a 5/5. He then attacked Mori with his Celestial Colonnade. Mori tried to mirror Kibler's move, but Kibler had a timely Bant Charm to deal with Mori's animated land. With 10 mana at his disposal, Kibler was able to fire up two Celestial Colonnades, dropping Mori to seven life. Mori dropped a Gideon Jura, forcing all of Kibler's creatures to attack it, saving him for a turn until he could find an answer

    After a forced all out attack from Kibler, Mori was still left with a Gideon Jura with five counters. A post combat Journey to Nowhere from Mori took care of Kibler's Scute Mob, and another Colonnade attack from Mori dropped Kibler to one. After Mori used Gideon to destroy Kibler's second Scute Mob, Kibler was able to untap and destroy Mori's Gideon with his own Colonnade. Mori untapped and played an Elspeth, Knight-Errant, giving his Sea Gate Oracle +3/+3 and flying, forcing Kibler to chump block it with his own Stirring Wildwood

    Kibler now was forced to deal with Mori's Elspeth with his Celestial Colonnade. Mori tried to protect it with his own Colonnade, but Kibler's timely Path to Exile sent it away. After a Sea Gate Oracle from Mori chained him into two Vengevines, Kibler blocked, untapped and attacked Mori down to one with Colonnade. He then played a second Colonnade. With nothing off the top for Mori, this marathon game was over.

    Brian Kibler 1 – 0 Katsuhiro Mori

    Kibler and Gideon Jura: Best Friends Forever!

    With only eight minutes left in the round Kibler kept his seven card hand while Mori mulliganed down to five cards. Both players started things off with a Noble Hierarch; Mori's accelerating him in to a turn three Vengevine, and Kibler's accelerating him into a turn three Elspeth, Knight-Errant. An Oust took care of Kibler's Elspeth token, allowing Mori to destroy Kibler's Elspeth with his Vengevine. Kibler tried to find footing in the game by playing a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but Mori's Negate countered the planeswalker. Mori played a Ranger of Eos and attacked with Vengevine, but Kibler exiled it with Path to Exile. Kibler had a Vengevine of his own, eliciting a second Vengevine from Mori. Kibler untapped and cast a Gideon Jura, but Mori drew a Jace, the Mind Sculptor off the top, unsummoning Kibler's Vengevine and attacking Gideon down to five.

    With only a Gideon Jura on Kibler's side, he made it a creature, destroyed Mori's Jace and played back his Vengevine. Mori attacked Gideon down to one, allowing Kibler to play a Jace of his own. With nothing off the top for Mori, Kibler was able to take the match with no time left on the clock

    Brian Kibler 2 - 0 Katsuhiro Mori


     

  • Feature Match Round 11 - Yuuya Watanabe (Next Level Bant) vs. Brian Kibler (Next Level Bant)
    by Nate Price
  • It all started with one phrase.

    "I like your deck."

    Last week in San Juan, Brian Kibler was testing for his upcoming swing through Asia with some friends. As he played, a curious Yuuya Watanabe wandered over and watched him play. After a few games, Watanabe smiled and sat down to talk with Kibler. For the rest of the weekend, Kibler and Watanabe tested the format, knowing that they would meet the following week in Sendai. Little did they know that in Round 11, they would be meeting as the last undefeated players in the tournament.

    Sitting at the table, the differences between the players couldn't be more apparent. Kibler is fairly loud and enthusiastic Watanabe is fairly subdued and stoic. It can be summed up best by the Apple Tea Watanabe brought to drink compared to the Red Bull on Kibler's side. Despite this, there is a level of sameness to them as well, both playing the same deck and being at the highest level of the game. Two different paths have converged at the same goal. But from this point, the paths must diverge again.

    After the ceremonial handshake, a cracking high five and pair of smiles started off the match.

    "Good luck," Watanabe offered Kibler with a grin.

    "Thanks. You too," Kibler politely returned flashing his trademark smile.


    Not pictured: One wicked high five!

    Kibler won the roll and things were off with a shot. Both players started with early mana production. Kibler had a Noble Hierarch and a Birds of Paradise, while Watanabe had a pair of Hierarchs and a Scute Mob. Kibler's mana acceleration allowed him to get a Vengevine into his trademarked Red Zone on turn three. Meanwhile, Watanabe's Scute Mob was fairly neutered by the fact that he didn't have a second land. A Sea Gate Oracle managed to find him one, but not before missing a land drop. As he drew his two cards, he quickly put the one he wanted on the bottom of his hand.

    "Don't want me to know it's a land? It's a secret," Kibler joked with him. Watanabe chuckled for a bit before returning to the game.

    "Four cards," he asked Kibler?

    "Yeah. All good," Kibler responded, eliciting a smile from Watanabe.

    On his following turn, Kibler launched a second Vengevine at Watanabe, dropping him to nine. Only his sacrificial Sea Gate Oracle prevented him from dropping lower. A hand containing a couple of copies of Path to Exile, a Vengevine, Birds to Paradise, and Elspeth, Knight-Errant gave Watanabe some pause. After much deliberation, he chose to make a Vengevine of his own before attacking for three with his Scute Mob. Kibler dropped to thirteen.

    Kibler had a monstrous Jace, the Mind Sculptor on his turn. The fresh planeswalker returned Watanabe's Vengevine to his hand, his only untapped creature. With the way clear, Kibler's Vengevines dropped Watanabe to one. Untapping, Watanabe immediately killed Jace with his Scute Mob and replayed his Vengevine. On his turn, Kibler used a Bant Charm to send the Vengevine where it wouldn't hurt anyone. When his Vengevines attacked, Watanabe stuck his Birds and one of his Hierarchs in the way. Needing mana, he chose to Path to Exile one of his own creatures before they died. This also turned his Scute Mob's growth ability on. On his turn, Watanabe refilled his hand and board with a Ranger of Eos to replace his lost Birds and Hierarch. When Kibler showed Watanabe the Oblivion Ring to push a blocker out of the way, Watanabe nodded and picked up his cards.

    Yuuya Watanabe 0 – Brian Kibler 1

    Watanabe took the entire amount of time relegated to sideboarding to figure out how he wanted to conform his deck for the next game. The decision was apparently not an easy one as cards came in and out one at a time, and slowly.

    "Sorry, Kibler," Watanabe offered with a smile. He knew he was taking a while, but Kibler understood.

    "I haven't figured out how to sideboard this matchup either. No worries."

    When Watanabe went back for one more change, Kibler joked with him, "Whoa! Going back again? Now I definitely have to go back and change things."

    Watanabe was forced to mulligan on the play for the second game, but managed a first-turn Noble Hierarch that beat down for one on the second turn. Kibler went the first couple of turns with no play. The reason became apparent as he Deprived Watanabe of his third-turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

    No one Deprives Watanabe. No one!

    When Watanabe played an unkicked Sphinx of Lost Truths on the following turn, Kibler hopefully intoned, "No Vengevines." With a smile, Watanabe windmilled one into his graveyard. On the following turn, Sphinx of Jwar Isle came down, eliciting a groan from Kibler. Gideon Jura appeared for Kibler to knock off the tapped Sphinx of Lost Truths, but he was quickly dispatched by a Celestial Colonnade. After drawing his card and not finding anything, Kibler conceded to the large untargetable flier.

    Yuuya Watanabe 1 – Brian Kibler 1

    As both players continued to sideboard like two kids wandering through a dark house, Kibler was forced to joke, "So much back and forth."

    After the final decisions were made and sideboards found their way back into the deck boxes, Kibler mused that he probably should have mulliganned that last hand.

    "Oh well. Too late now."

    It was Kibler's turn to mulligan in the final game.

    "That hand was so insane if I only had a green source," he joked with an audible air of sarcasm.

    If Watanabe proved anything with the last game, Kibler still has a reasonable chance of winning despite being down a card on the play.

    Both players started out with mana producers, though Watanabe got his a turn earlier thanks to Kibler's Seaside Citadel. Watanabe's Noble Hierarch allowed him to Oblivion Ring Kibler's Birds of Paradise before it could become active, and stealing the tempo advantage from Kibler. An Elspeth, Knight-Errant followed for the reigning Player of the Year, though Kibler killed it with a copy of his own before it could do more than make a single token.

    Kibler was facing a Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, and a Soldier token with no board of his own, so he decided to recruit some help with a Ranger of Eos. Scute Mob and a Noble Hierarch answered the call, and the Mob immediately hit play, threatening to grow on the following turn.

    Watanabe was in an interesting spot. He had a Martial Coup in his hand, as well as a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. His opponent's board was far more impressive than his own, despite having less creatures. After much thought, he chose to play a land and Martial Coup for five, wiping the board clean and netting five tokens. Kibler had three cards in his hand and was able to refill his board with two Noble Hierarchs and a Sea Gate Oracle, leaving him one card in hand.

    Watanabe's draw for the turn was about perfect. Ranger of Eos would allow him to get a Scute Mob of his own and start growing it into a nuisance. Joining the Scute Mob was a Birds of Paradise, though the Birds would have to wait a turn before coming down. This left him with two cards in hand and a board that out classed Kibler's. Things were looking good for him.

    Needing answers, Kibler played a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Brainstormed with it. After putting some chaff back, he cracked a Misty Rainforest to wash it away. A Gideon Jura joined his planeswalker buddy and forced all of Watanabe's creatures to attack him, keeping Jace safe.

    Watanabe thought for a minute about his play. His attack wouldn't kill Gideon thanks to Kibler's lone blocker, but he did have an answer to Jace hiding in his hand. Eventually, he chose to just attack Gideon and see what happened. As expected, Gideon dropped to one as a Sea Gate Oracle jumped in front of the Scute Mob. The Jace in Watanabe's hand took its twin out, and Watanabe passed the turn. All Kibler could do was force Watanabe to attack Gideon again, Mold Shambler a Celestial Colonnade, and pass the turn.

    Even the normally upbeat Brian Kibler needs to get serious when he's at one life.

    With less than five minutes on the clock, Watanabe was finally able to start getting in at Kibler for large chunks. An Oblivion Ring took Gideon out of the equation, and his team dove in. Noble Hierarch jumped in front of the now huge Scute Mob, and Kibler's larger men ate Soldier tokens. He dropped to seven. A Sea Gate Oracle found Kibler a pair of lands, and he chose the Misty Rainforest, hoping to ever-so-slightly increase the odds of him drawing a Martial Coup. On the following turn, Watanabe dropped Kibler to one.

    Kibler's next turn was one of his last, no matter what happened. Time was called just before it, so Watanabe had two more attack steps to end it. Kibler was determined to make things difficult. A Sphinx of Lost Truths with kicker gave him another blocker and more chances at a Martial Coup to end it. Meanwhile, Watanabe was low on Soldier tokens, preventing him from attacking with anything other than his Scute Mob, which ate a Noble Hierarch. The remaining turns of the game yielded nothing for either player, and the match, ever so fittingly, ended in a draw.

    Yuuya Watanabe 1 – Brian Kibler 1


     

  • Public Events at Grand Prix-Sendai
    by Ben Swartz
  • Along with the main event at the Grand Prix, a bevy of side events always take place. This weekend there were four major side events that took place: two Legacy events for Moxen, a Japanese Nationals qualifier, and a Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour-Amsterdam.

    The first Legacy event took place on Saturday, with the finals being played out on Sunday. When the dust was settled this 56 person event pitted Yuu Saitou's Ad Nauseam/Tendrils deck against Akihito Sakamoto's Goblins deck. In the end, Yuu Saitou and his Ad Nauseam/ Tendrils deck was victorious, netting a Mox Jet for his efforts. Akihito Sakamoto and his Goblins deck were sent home with a foil set of Rise of Eldrazi. The second Legacy event, which occurred on Sunday, drew a crowd of 80 players, this time playing for a Mox to first and second place.

    On Sundays during Grand Prix there's always a Pro Tour Qualifier for the Pro Tour the Grand Prix qualifies for, but this time there was also a Japanese National qualifier. This set the numbers off. Usually, the majority of the players in the Grand Prix that did not make day two, end up playing in the PTQ leading to record attendance. This time, however, since Worlds this year is in Chiba, the Nationals Qualifier generated a huge crowd. 247 players showed up to battle for eight slots to Japanese nationals, leaving 82 players battling for a slot and a plane ticket to Pro Tour-Amsterdam.

    Win or lose, there is always fun to be had at Grand Prix, whether in the main event or duking it out in the Public Events!

    For those interested in the Legacy results, here are the lists from the finals of the first tournament.

    Takeshi Ozawa
    Grand Prix-Sendai 2010 (Side Event)


     

  • Feature Match Round 12 - Osamu Fujita (GW Eldrazi) vs. Naoki Shimizu (Naya)
    by Ben Swartz
  • Round 12 pitted two Japanese masters of the game against each other. Osamu Fujita, the 2004 Pro Tour-Amsterdam Finalist is no stranger to the feature match arena. Naoki Shimizu is also no stranger to feature matches, being a Top 8 competitor at Pro Tour Austin, as well as a reporter for the Japanese coverage.



    Both players started with a mulligan and a turn one mana accelerator: Birds of Paradise for Fujita and Noble Hierarch for Shimizu. Fujita's Birds of Paradise accelerated him into a Knight of the Reliquary, while Shimizu accelerated into a second Noble Hierarch and a Student of Warfare. Fujita was able to power out an Emeria Angel, which prompted a Gideon Jura from Shimizu. Using Knight of the Reliquary along with Emeria Angel's landfall ability, Fujita was able to get a pair of 1/1 Bird tokens into play at the end of Shimizu's turn. Another fetch land from Fujita gave him two more bird tokens while giving him the mana to cast Eldrazi Monument, prompting a concession from Shimizu.

    Osamu Fujita 1 – Naoki Shimizu 0

    Naoki Shimizu can outplay you and outdress you.

    Naoki started game two on the play, and things seemed to mirror the first game with a turn one Birds of Paradise for Fujita and a turn one Noble Hierarch for Shimizu. Shimizu was able to accelerate into a third-turn Ajani Vengeant and keep Fujita off a fourth mana source with a Lightning Helix aimed at a Noble Hierarch. Shimizu played a Cunning Sparkmage and attempted to destroy Fujita's Birds of Paradise, but, in response, Fujita cast a Zealous Persecution, saving his Birds while destroying both Shimizu's Noble Hierarch and Cunning Sparkmage. Again Fujita failed to find another mana source, and when Shimizu tried to attack with a hasty Vengevine, Fujita was able to send it away with a Path to Exile

    Still without a fourth mana source, Fujita was forced to pass the turn to Shimizu, allowing him to activate and attack in with his Stirring Wildwood. After combat, he used a Stoneforge Mystic to fetch up a Basilisk Collar. Fujita finally found a Marsh Flats, but with Shimizu's Ajani Vengeant keeping Fujita's Birds of Paradise tapped, he was still unable to cast any of the four mana spells in his hand. Shimizu activated and attacked with his Raging Ravine dropping Fujita down to nine life. After a turn of nothing from Fujita, Shimizu's lands were able to even things up at one game a piece.

    Osamu Fujita 1 – Naoki Shimizu 1


    Osamu Fujita's board presence is almost too huge to capture on film.

    Game three began with a mulligan for Fujita, and a slow start from both players. The most that either player could muster was a turn three Knight of the Reliquary. Fujita was able power out a turn four Emeria Angel, which, along with Lotus Cobra and Knight of the Reliquary, allowed Fujita to accelerate into Garruk Wildspeaker, giving him a huge board presence. Shimizu was able to muster up a planeswalker of his own, this time a Gideon Jura, forcing Fujita's to attack it. Unfortunately for Shimizu, a Maelstrom Pulse off the top for Fujita destroyed Gideon, allowing him to attack directly at Shimizu to take the match.

    Osamu Fujita 2 – Naoki Shimizu 1


     

  • Feature Match Round 13 - Shouta Yasooka (Jund) vs. Yuuki Tsuba (Jund)
    by Nate Price


  • Tsuba started out with an unfortunate mulligan to five, and Yasooka punished him further with a third-turn Blightning. Maelstrom Pulse and Bituminous Blast hit the bin, soon joined by a Siege-Gang Commander and Bloodbraid Elf, as Yasooka aimed another Blightning at the already dpwntrodden Tsuba. Tsuba's only saving grace was that he managed to sneak a Sprouting Thrinax into play between hits.

    Tsuba can take a hit, but two might be a problem.

    With his opponent now decimated, Yasooka was free to start getting offensive. First came a Siege-Gang Commander, who met an early demise to a Lightning Bolt. After that followed a Bloodbraid Elf and her companion Sprouting Thrinax. Yasooka's Bloodbraid met Tsuba's Thrinax, and three Saprolings sprouted to replace it. It only took two more swings for Tsuba to admit defeat.

    For those who are keeping track: Blightning is good against a mulligan. A second is even better.

    Shouta Yasooka 1 – Yuuki Tsuba 0

    Tsuba got to start much stronger in the second game, this time keeping a full hand of seven. His second-turn Putrid Leech met a Terminate after pumping, dropping him to eighteen. Neither player had a play for the third turn, but Tsuba did come up with a Blightning on the following turn. It ate a Maelstrom Pulse and a Dragonskull Summit out of Yasooka's hand. Unfortunately, in order to have drawn the powerful spell, Tsuba was forced to go without a fourth land. Yasooka exacerbated this problem with a kicked Goblin Ruinblaster, which dropped Tsuba to sixteen.

    Yasooka was bent on ruining Tsuba's day.

    Yasooka found himself a Sarkahn the Mad on his turn, which upgraded his Ruinblaster into a 4/4 flying Dragon. A Verdant Catacombs enabled a Maelstrom Pulse from Tsuba to kill the planeswalker before he could do anything else, but the damage was done. The combination of land destruction and a 4/4 attacker quickly did Tsuba in before he could regain access to red mana.

    All in all, this match took less than fifteen minutes, a good portion of which was taken up by sideboarding. This just goes to show how punishing Jund can be to any stumbles, as well as how fragine its mana base is.

    Shouta Yasooka 2 – Yuuki Tsuba 0



     

  • Quick Question - "What is the best deck in Standard right now?"
    by Ben Swartz

  • Martin Juza: Jund is the strongest deck week after week, although every week there is a new best deck.

    Jan Ruess: I don’t think there is a best deck, it is pretty even

    Kazuya Mitamura: There are many good decks: Jund, Mythic, Next Level Bant and U/W are all very good.

    Shuuhei Nakamura: There are too many decks. U/W beats Bant, Bant beats Jund, Jund beats U/W. It’s a perfect format.

    Matt Marr: One of the two Bant decks, or Planeswalker control.

    Tomoharu Saito: If the rounds were 90 minutes, Planeswalker Control, but in 50 minute rounds, Jund.


     

  • Feature Match Round 14 - Ryou Tasaki (UW Control) vs Hayato Tashiro (Eldrazi Jund)
    by Ben Swartz
  • Both players are fresh faces to the Grand Prix circuit. Ryou Tasaki won a trial for Grand Prix Sendai with an interesting Jund deck splashing Sedraxis Specter, although he decided to bring U/W control with him this weekend. Hayato Tashiro, on the other hand, has qualified for the Japanese invitation tournament, The Limits, and is sporting an Eldrazi Monument Jund deck.



    Tashiro won the die roll and played first. Both players started things off with an enter the battlefield tapped mana source: Tashiro with a Savage Lands and Tasaki with a Plains, letting him cast a Fieldmist Borderpost. Tashiro got things going quickly with a turn two Nest Invader, enabling a turn three Bloodbraid Elf which cascaded into a blank Terminate. An Oblivion Ring took away Tashiro's Bloodbraid Elf, but he was still able to bring the beats in with another Bloodbraid Elf, this time cascading into Maelstrom Pulse, destroying Tasaki's Borderpost.

    Tashiro studies to board carefully.

    At only ten life, Tasaki played draw go When Tashiro attacked with his creatures on the following turn, a Path to Exile from Tasaki took out the Bloodbraid Elf. After combat, Tashiro reloaded with a Sprouting Thrinax. Looking to draw a way to stay alive, Tasaki played a Spreading Seas, but found no answer. All that was left was for Tashiro's creatures and a Blightning to end the game in his favor.

    Ryou Tasaki 0 – Hayato Tashiro 1

    Tasaki decided to play game two but took two mulligans before doing so. He started the game off with a tapped Celestial Colonnade. Tashiro was able to tear apart Tasaki's five card hand with a Duress, removing the only spell (a Celestial Purge) and leaving Tasaki with only lands and a Sea Gate Oracle. Tasaki's Sea Gate Oracle grabbed him a card, but, on the following turn, Tashiro cast a Blightning, leaving Tasaki with only one card in hand. With no offense from Tashiro, Tasaki was able to play an Elspeth, Knight-Errant and create a Soldier. This forced Tashiro to play a Goblin Ruinblaster, destroying Tasaki's Celestial Colonnade.

    With only three lands, Tasaki was forced to use Elspeth to create another Soldier token, while Tashiro played a Malakir Bloodwitch. Tasaki used Elspeth's other +1 ability to give his Sea-Gate Oracle +3/+3 and flying and attack in. This let Tashiro play a Maelstrom Pulse on the Knight-Errant after attacking with the Bloodwitch.

    Tasaki has put all his hopes on Elspeth's armor-plated shoulders.
    ,

    Tasaki untapped and drew another Elspeth, cast it, and again made another Soldier. Looking for a way to deal with the planeswalker, Tashiro played a Bloodbraid Elf, cascading into a Nest Invader. He then cast Duress to remove a Gideon Jura from Tasaki's hand. Tashiro attacked Tasaki with everything dropping him to a meager eight life. With only a Sea Gate Oracle on Tasaki's side, Tashiro topdecked an Eldrazi Monument and sealed the match.

    Ryou Tasaki 0 – Hayato Tashiro 2


     

  • Drawing a Crowd
    by Nate Price
  • One of my favorite things about coverage at these large events is that they are one of the few chances I get to interact with some of the unsung heroes of Magic: the artists. Every Magic card has about half of its space devoted to artwork, so to say that it's important is an understatement. After all, there have been textless cards, but not any artless cards (though Spark Fiend was close!). Magic is a game that also tells a story, and this story is brought to life for us by the artists.

    Joining me on this trip to Sendai was Karl Kopinski, a freelance artist from Nottingham in the UK. Karl has only been working on Magic art for a few sets now, going back to Skeletonize. He's done all varieties of cards, from the still, yet powerful, Vendetta, to the dynamic Hell's Thunder. After all of this work, he still has his favorites.

    "I'd have to say Slave of Bolas. It's my wife. A lot of the older ones like it I did in oils. It's just a personal thing; I kind of like painting in oils. But then, I've been doing mostly digital work now, and it's pretty good stuff, too. I rather like the Vendetta piece, too."

    Karl Kopinski looks like he has a Vendetta against me here!

    One thing I really have enjoyed about Karl's art is that he is a master of perspective. There are always many layers in his art. While it's clear that the focus is on the object in the foreground, there are always little things hidden in the details of the background. Take Kor Aeronaut, for example. The diving Kor draws the attention squarely to it, almost enough to draw your attention away from the incredibly detailed castle on the floating island in the background.

    A sampling of Mr. Kopinski's work.

    When I asked him about his trip thus far to Japan, he told me that he was really enjoying it.

    "It's amazing. It's by far the best event that I've been to. The people are really very nice. Just really, really good people."

    These people have been surrounding him all weekend, cordoning him off in his artist's area. As I've seen is common in Japan, a line begins forming before he's even scheduled to appear, and stays full until the very end. He had so many people looking to sign for him on Saturday that he stayed over there for longer than he was scheduled to, just to give back to the people that were taking such good care of him.

    At these events, artists often come prepared with large numbers of prints, cards, pens, and paper to create custom works of art for their fans. The requests range from a simple signature on some cards to a full, unique piece of art. As I sat speaking with him, he was working diligently on an Unscythe, Killer of Kings that a fan had asked him to modify so that it was being held by a depiction of Death. It was quite fun to watch him work with a smile as he took his own original art and reworked it to better share his vision with someone else. When I asked him what his favorite modification from the weekend was, he burst into laughter.

    Karl Kopinski: King of the Sexy.

    "It's funny you should ask. I didn't really have anything unique to do, and I was wondering what I should be doing for the people in line when someone asked me for a 'sexy angel.' From that point on, everyone in line wanted a sexy angel. It was quite fun."

    All in all, Karl said that he has really enjoyed his experience in Japan and working with Magic overall.

    "It's just a great experience to get out and meet with the fans. When you're working freelance, You're never sure how or where the things you create are necessarily going to come up and be taken. It's wonderful to get a chance to sit with and see people who really appreciate what you've done. It's gives you a real sort of an ego boost, I suppose," he said with a laugh. "Seriously, though, it's just been a blast."


     

  • Feature Match Round 15 - Motoaki Itou vs. Masaya Kitayama
    by Ben Swartz
  • As both players sat down, Motoaki Itou was afraid that he had misplaced his deck. After running back to the table where he was in between rounds Itou found his deck and the match was allowed to start. Itou, who placed 17th at Japanese Nationals last year, decided to play Mythic Conscription in this tournament. Kitayama, along with his team, Stardust Crusaders, got second place Grand Prix-Hammatsu in 2006. Kitayama brought a Polymorph deck to battle with here in Sendai.

    Itou won the roll and began the game with a mulligan. The first play of the game was a turn two Lotus Cobra from Itou, while Kitayama ramped up to three lands with a turn two Rampant Growth. Itou's Lotus Cobra allowed him to cast a turn three Elspeth, Knight-Errant, giving his Cobra +3/+3 and flying and attacking. Kitayama dropped to fifteen. Kitayama played a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor, bouncing the Lotus Cobra back to Itou's hand and passing the turn back. Itou replayed the Lotus Cobra and made a Soldier token with Elspeth.

    Masaya Kitayama doesn't like the look of a 9/9 flying Gideon Jura, but who does?

    Jace allowed Kitayama to Brainstorm, allowing him to Spreading Seas Itou's white source and cast Awakening Zone. Itou then attacked Kitayama, dropping him to eight, hoping that without an answer from Kitayama that his newly cast Gideon Jura and Elspeth would take the game the following turn. After a Brainstorm from Jace, Kitayama was able to find a Polymorph, turning his token into an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Having to deal with a 15/15, Itou went ahead and attacked with both his creatures to destroy Jace, the Mind Sculptor. After combat, a Jace from Itou put Emrakul back in Kitayama's hand, and, with nothing from Kitayama, a 9/9 flying Gideon sealed the game.

    Motoaki Itou 1 – Masaya Kitayama 0

    Kitayama started game two on the play and created a 0/1 plant token by playing a Khalni Garden. Again, both players ramped up their mana: Itou with a Birds of Paradise and Kitayama with a Rampant Growth. The ramping got Itou nowhere, giving Kitayama enough time to assemble a perfect hand. With no plays for a few turns, Kitayama was allowed to force through both a Jace Beleren and an Awakening Zone. A Lotus Cobra from Itou allowed him to cast Sovereigns of Lost Alara, making his Birds of Paradise an 11/12 flying trampler with the help of Eldrazi Conscription. This dropped Kitayama to seven life, but also gave Kitayama the opening he was looking for.

    Emra-who?

    Kitayama untapped and played Polymorph on his token. Itou tried to stop it with a Negate, but a Spell Piece from Kitayama allowed his plant to become an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Looking for a way to deal with the gigantic Eldrazi, Itou played a Birds of Paradise and Knight of the Reliquary, bracing for impact. Emrakul dove into the red zone, forcing Itou to sacrifice six permanents while putting him down to one. Unfortunately for him, since Kitayama had no answer to the Conscription, Itou took the match.

    Motoaki Itou 2 - Masaya Kitayama 0

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