Sunday, 10:27 a.m. – Round 10 Feature Match: Kim Min-su vs Takatoshi Nakamura
by Josh Bennett
There's nothing quite like the comfortable feeling of being undefeated after nine rounds. These two players had a harder road than most, having just a single bye apiece. Kim Min-Su did it with his build of Doran. Takatoshi Nakamura used Domain Zoo. Now one of them would emerge as the tournament's sole undefeated player.
Nakamura won the die roll and led with a tapped Steam Vents. Kim took three to fetch Temple Garden for Noble Hierarch. Nakamura did the same to enable Tarmogoyf. Kim played a land and Qasali Pridemage and passed the turn. Nakamura took three more damage to get the mana for Bant Charm to send it to the bottom of Kim's deck.
Kim untapped and played Stoneforge Mystic, tutoring up Umezawa's Jitte. He played a second Hierarch and attacked Nakamura to twelve. Nakamura hit back for two and passed with four land in play. Kim took a moment to think. He played Jitte and gave it to his Mystic, attacking for three. A second Bant Charm destroyed the Jitte before it could get any counters, but now Nakamura was down to just eight. Kim added a Tarmogoyf of his own.
Nakamura untapped and played his fifth land. Path to Exile took care of the opposing Tarmogoyf and he swung in. Knight of the Reliquary joined his side as a 5/5. Kim untapped and Pathed the Knight, knocking Nakamura to five with his Mystic. He also had a replacement Tarmogoyf, and one card left in hand.
Nakamura played out another Tarmogoyf, desperately trying to stop the onslaught, but Kim's last card was Petrify. Nakamura had a Path to Exile, but Kim flipped up the card he had just drawn: Another Tarmogoyf. Nakamura was forced to chump as his deck offered a pair of Hierarchs, and his life fell to three, then two. Kim finally put him out of his misery with Baneslayer Angel.
Kim 1 - Nakamura 0
Nakamura went down to six, and the two mirrored openings of fetches, shocklands and 1/2 Tarmogoyfs. Nakamura tipped the balance with Lightning Bolt, growing his ‘Goyf to 3/4 and clearing a path. Kim answered in kind with Deathmark, and played a second Tarmogoyf, now 4/5.
Nakamura, meanwhile, had stalled on two land. He tapped out for yet another Tarmogoyf, but Kim had a second Deathmark and cleared out Nakamura's graveyard with Bojuka Bog. He also played a Jitte and passed the turn. Finally Nakamura's deck offered up a third land, enabling Wooly Thoctar, but Kim still wasn't out of removal. Path to Exile sent it away. Tarmogoyf picked up the Jitte and hit for four, leaving Nakamura at just eight life.
Nakamura played another fetchland and a 3/3 Knight of the Reliquary. Kim drew his card and laughed: It was yet another Path. Nakamura could only laugh and shake his head. With the counters on the Jitte it was lethal.
Kim Min-Su defeats Takatoshi Nakamura 2-0
Sunday, 11:37 a.m. – Deck Tech: Kenji Control
by Josh Bennett
There's no secret about it: People love Kenji Tsumura. His fans, however have been left hungry. GP Yokohama marks his return to professional play after a year-long hiatus spent studying like a madman in a pre-university prep school. Now that he's moved up to university proper, his schedule has relaxed somewhat, enough that he can once again pursue the life of a mage.
Preparing for this event, the one thing Tsumura didn't want to do was play an established deck. That's something of a daunting task, considering that there are at least a dozen established extended decks with proven records. His best guess at a metagame was one dominated by five decks: Thopter-Depths, Zoo, Faeries, Hypergenesis and dredge.
He also figured that Day 1 would skew towards creature decks, and so his first design goal was to crush them. Damnation was the obvious choice, and he married it with Night of Souls' Betrayal, a wrecking ball against Thopter-Depths.
With all that in mind, here's what he came up with:
Kenji Tsumura - Kenji Control
Grand Prix Yokohama
Between the Signets and Moxes, Tsumura can keep up with the speed of the format. They also afford him protection against Blood Moon. He even found room for basic lands in his mana base.
He has spot answers in the form of Smother and Repeal, and Damnation to ruin Zoo's day. When the game goes long, his powerful Planeswalkers and Ultimata take over. In particular, Jace, Mind Sculptor ends games in a hurry. Using his first ability on a stable board is almost always game over.
His Achilles' heel, however, is Faeries. "I am a bye," he says.
Though he won't be able to attend Pro Tour San Juan, he'll be hitting all the Japanese Grand Prix. He's also on a mission to qualify for Pro Tour Amsterdam. He tells his fans not to worry, promising "I'll be back!"
Sunday, 12:27 a.m. – Round 11 Feature Match: Hajime Nakamura vs Masashiro Kurod
by Josh Bennett
It was a battle of the old guard against the new in Round 11, as PT Kobe Champ and full-time family man Masashiro Kuroda faced off against Yokohama's own Hajime Nakamura. Nakamura's a rising star at the local game club PWC (standing, of course, for Planeswalker's Club), that boasts weekly tournaments that regularly break one hundred players. They even have their own internal Player of the Year race. The first season's champ was Yuuya Watanabe, and Nakamura took down the title in season two.
Nakamura won the roll and scowled at his opening hand. He shipped it back and Kuroda decided to stick with his seven. Nakamura's six were no better, and he went to five. They began.
They matched lands, neither making a move. On his third turn, facing open blue mana, Kuroda chose to wait on his Violent Outburst, instead suspending the Hypergenesis in his hand. Nakamura played his fourth land, but still made no move. Kuroda continued the waiting game.
With the Hypergenesis set to go off, Nakamura Glimpsed the Unthinkable, getting a Narcomoeba and putting Bridge from Below and Stinkweed Imp in his graveyard. He tapped out for Ideas Unbound, first dredging the Imp, but couldn't find another dredger. He was, however, up to three Narcomoebas.
Hypergenesis came off suspend, and Kuroda showed a winning formula: Progenitus, Akroma's Memorial and two Angels of Despair, enough to trample over for the win.
Kuroda 1 - Nakamura 0
Nakamura kicked off the second game with Thoughtseize, seeing Kuroda's hand of Venser, Shaper Savant, Sakashima, the Imposter, Bogardan Hellkite, Hypergenesis, Violent Outburst and two land. He quickly sent the Outburst to the bin. Kuroda managed to keep his stone face on as he ripped a replacement Outburst.
Nakamura played Hedron Crab and started building his engine. He hit no dredgers on his second turn, but his third gave him a pair of Stinkweed Imps. That meant Ideas Unbound could go crazy. By the time he was done dredging, his graveyard boasted two Bridge from Below, two Bloodghast, Flame-kin Zealot besides giving him a free Narcomoeba. At end of turn he got to discard all his dredgers.
Kuroda played his third land and considered his options. After a minute in the tank he chose to pass the turn. Nakamura dredged his Golgari Grave-Troll, netting another Bloodghast, Dread Return, Narcomoeba and Bridge from Below.
It was go time. He sacrificed three of his creatures for Dread Return on Flame-Kin Zealot. Kuroda responded with Violent Outburst, playing out the Hellkite, Sakashima, Simian Spirit Guide and Venser. Nakamura played Imp and Troll from his hand. Venser sent the Troll back, the Imposter Hellkite burned the Spirit Guide, removing the Bridges and stopping their tokens, and the rest of the damage went to Nakamura himself, leaving him at 7.
Nakamura frowned and thought. He sacrificed the Zealot and two Bloodghasts for Dread Return on Stinkweed Imp, giving him two and a Narcomoeba for flying defense. He passed the turn. Kuroda drew and played Compulsive Research, finding a second Venser and discarding Platinum Angel and Hypergenesis. He swung in with Venser and Nakamura traded an Imp for it.
Both players forgot about Sakashima, the Imposter's ability. Nakamura decided to tap out for a massive Grave Troll, thinking himself safe behind two fliers. Kuroda picked up his Imposter with Venser, and replayed it as Bogardan Hellkite on his turn, burning the blockers and dealing two to Nakamura, leaving him at five for the actual Hellkite to clean up.
Masashiro Kuroda defeats Hajime Nakamura 2-0
Sunday, 2:06 p.m. – Checking in with Jason Chan
by Josh Bennett
The life of a visiting artist isn’t all legions of cheering fans. Granted, there has been a steady stream of them, stretching from one side of the hall to the other on Day 1. So many, in fact, that Chan stayed two extra hours. The downside of all this admiration is that Chan has been hunched over his cards all weekend, drawing and signing virtually nonstop.
There was a run on proofs of his most famous cards. Jace sold out almost immediately, and before the end of Day 1 so had Twilight Shepherd, Iona, Shield of Emeria, and Pact of Negation. The prints were also a hot commodity, most people taking home art of Apocalypse Hydra and Iona to get the most out of those highly detailed pieces (in addition to Jace of course).
Though his drawing hand was wearing down, he greeted everyone with a smile, and those who bought proofs (cards that have a white back instead of the usual Magic back) or prints could get their cards adorned with metallic inks, usually to call out the art or augment it, but occasionally with the odd sketch.
One of the most amazing was a Jace, the Mind Scuptor, on which Chan had sketched Iona drawn over the game text. The effect is incredible. Hopefully this photo does it justice.
Jason Chan Sketched Iona, Shield of Emeria on top of a Foil Jace, The Mind Sculptor.
Chan likes to work a variety of styles, joking that it’s what keeps him interested. He was reluctant to say any of his arts were his favourite, but he admitted a soft spot for Wilt-Leaf Liege.
He says the fans have been incredible this weekend, and thanks them all for their support.
Sunday, 3:33 p.m. – Round 13 Feature Match: Shougo Sunada vs Brian Kowal
by Josh Bennett
Kowal took three for a first-turn Noble Hierarch. Sunada played Seat of the Synod to go with his Hallowed Fountain, and then Chalice of the Void for one. Kowal made a Tarmogoyf and a Treetop Village. Sunada played a third land and passed. Kowal added Ghost Quarter and hit for four.
Sunada took two to get his Breeding Pool untapped and dropped Day of Judgment. Kowal played Stomping Ground and hit for another three with his Village. Sunada evoked Mulldrifter but couldn't find a fifth land. Kowal took advantage of the lull to make a Baneslayer Angel. Sunada drew Tolaria West and tapped his four for Wrath of God.
Again Kowal sent the village, leaving Sunada at seven. Sunada tapped three for Trinket Mage, getting Ancient Den, then used that to play a second Mage, this time getting Engineered Explosives. Kowal played Punishing Fire with buyback on one of the mages, then untapped and attacked again. The remaining Mage soaked two damage. He played another Tarmogoyf.
Sunada tapped five for Reveillark and passed. Kowal sent his Punishing Fire at Sunada's head, leaving him at five, then attacked with his two creatures and showed he had a second Fire in hand for the win.
Kowal 1 - Sunada 0
"That was almost embarassing. I remembered there was a reason not to Path the Reveillark before combat..."
Kowal had a first-turn Hierarch again in Game 2, off a Grove of the Burnwillows, but his only other land was a Bojuka Bog. It was no use to him, so he held it back. Sunada started well with Azorius Signet and Kitchen Finks.
While Kowal struggled with his awkward mana, Sunada was free to work him over. Vedalken Shackles for his Hierarch further confounded him, and then Mulldrifter refueld him. Kowal was stuck on three lands, with a pair of uncastable Wooly Thoctars in hand.
Still, he had a Tarmogoyf that had been trying its best to beat down. Eventually Sunada had enough and Pathed it, using his Ghost Quarter on the Grove of the Burnwillows to stop any Punishing Fire nonsense. Then he suspended Greater Gargadon and started casting Reveillarks. With Mulldrifters in the yard, it was a losing propsition no matter the angle.
Kowal 1 - Sunada 1
"That's an awesome deck. Hope you don't have Martyr of Sands. I can't beat that card." - Brian Kowal
Kowal kept a two-land hand and got on the board quickly with Wild Nacatl and then Noble Hierarchs on successive turns. Sunada had Azorius Signet on turn two, but no third land. He played Trinket Mage, searching up Ancient Den and played it. Seeing this, Kowal thumped his deck, and was rewarded with Qasali Pridemage. He swung for big damage, then blew up the Signet and crossed his fingers.
"I'm all in." - Brian Kowal
Sunada drew his card close and peeked at it... not a land. Still he wasn't helpless. He had Kitchen Finks to keep his position comfortable. Kowal smashed in, but time was running out. Sunada passed another turn, and Kowal was forced to seize his chance, casting his last card: Lightning Bolt on the withered Finks. Sunada responded with Path to Exile on it.
"Oh no." - Brian Kowal
Sure enough, Sunada untapped and dropped Wrath. Kowal mugged for the crowd, drawing laughs as he squinted at the card, as if it couldn't be real. Time was running low on the match, but Sunada needed to build an offence. He played more and more cards to secure his position and as time was called, rather than draw things out in a game he couldn't possibly win but might be able to draw, Kowal conceded.
"How could I not want him to win? He's playing Reveillark!" - Brian Kowal
Shougo Sunada defeats Brian Kowal 2-1
Sunday, 4:16 p.m. – Deck Tech: Kim Min-Su on Doran
by Josh Bennett
Japan’s Kim Min-Su drew into Top 8 in the final round of Swiss, so I took a minute to talk to him about his deck of choice this weekend: Doran.
Kim’s motivations were straightforward. In his opinion, there are so many viable archetypes. The only deck you can expect in significant numbers is Zoo, so the best thing you can do is prepare a deck that crushes Zoo, and has a solid game against the huge variety of other decks.
Here’s what he built:
The deck boasts a solid beatdown plan that, although slower than Zoo, puts pressure on any decks that take time to set up. It backs that up with a removal-disruption package, the essence of a midrange deck.
According to Kim, the key card in many of the matchups is Knight of the Reliquary, a threat that comes out huge and dominates the board. He also cautions players to practice a great deal beforehand. The mulligan decisions can be very tricky, and often the deck needs to mulligan aggressively.
So, if you’re heading into a PTQ and you’re expecting a field packed with Zoo decks, consider taking your old friend Doran, the Siege Tower for a spin.
Sunday, 12:46 p.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Josh Bennett
Thanks to the hard work of our Japanese coverage team, I’m able to bring you a breakdown of the decks that graduated to Day 2.
31 - Zoo
Bearing out the wisdom of Kenji Tsumura (echoed by Kim Min-Su) the most populous deck was Zoo. Most of them (18) were Bant Zoo, 8 were Domain Zoo, and 4 were Bloody Zoo, packing maindeck Blood Moons
15 - Dark Depths
Also not a surprise, Dark Depths continued to post wins. All but one of these were Thopter/Depths deck. The outlier, played by Tatsuhito Nakano was a traditional black-green build. He lost playing for Top 8 in the final round.
14 - Scapeshift
The exposive power of Scapeshift was not to be denied this weekend.
10 - Faeries
Faeries masters Sam Black and Yuuta Takahashi said that the format was poised for a faeries resurgence. Looks like they were on to something.
9 - Dredge
These players refused to give in to the fear of Leyline of the Void, Bojuka Bog, Relic of Progenitus, and Ravenous Trap. With so many decks, would people bring their sideboard hate?
9 - Monored
Mostly there were straight burn decks, with two All-In versions and one dedicated Goblins, boasting the Lightning Crafter and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combo.
8 - Brozek Deck Wins
The scary red-white Landfall monstrosity was out in force, including Brozek himself.
4 - Elves
Matt Nass’s GP Oakland winning deck still representing!
3 - Hypergenesis
3 - Doran
21 - Rogues
LOTS of interesting things to choose from here. Hive Mind. Reveillark Control. Ironworks. Smallpox. Living End. Affinity. Storm. And of course, Kenji Control.
Sunday, 5:36 p.m. – Round 15 Feature Match: Tatsuhito Nakano vs Alex West
by Josh Bennett
American Alex West barely snuck into Day 2 with a 6-2-1 record, but he came back to the tournament site today fired up, and rattled off five straight wins, now within a stone’s throw of the Top 8. His opponent, Tatsuhito Nakano, has been riding the other side of fortune’s wheel, stumbling slightly after an 8-1 start. With a little luck, the winner would be playing in the quarterfinals.
West won the die roll and opened with Hallowed Fountain and Loam Lion. Nakano played Chrome Mox, imprinting Rite of Consumption, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and played Dark Confidant. West wasn’t about to let that slide, and played an untapped Stomping Ground to Lightning Helix it.
Nakano searched out a Dark Depths with Into the North. West attacked and played Tarmogoyf. Nakano could do nothing but play Overgrown Tomb and pass the turn back. West brought the pain and added Qasali Pridemage.
Running out of life, Nakano transmuted Shred Memory into Vampire Hexmage and put it into play. Lightning Helix brought him to five, and after West’s attack he sat at just 1 life. West showed him Lightning Bolt.
West 1 - Nakano 0
West mulliganed to six, and they were off. Nakano played a tapped Overgrown Tomb. West took three to fetch Sacred Foundry for Kird Ape. Nakano played Tarmogoyf. West made overgrown tomb and his Ape swung past the Tarmogoyf. He crowded the board with Loam Lion and Wild Nacatl.
A Duress from Nakano revealed West’s hand of Path to Exile, Umezawa’s Jitte and Knight of the Reliquary. He stole the Path, then played Urborg and a second Tarmogoyf. At 3/4 they were more than enough to hold the fort. West played his Knight and passed the turn.
Deathmark took care of the Knight and the two Tarmogoyfs swung in at 4/5. West, naturally, tripled up on one of them, losing a Nacatl, but finishing off one of the fearsome beasts. Nakano played a Hexmage and passed the turn. West untapped and plucked Marsh Flats, tapping it for black thanks to Urborg, playing and equipping the Jitte. He swung in with the equipped Ape. Hexmage was forced to block and sacrifice to keep counters off the Jitte.
Nakano untapped and transmuted Shred Memory into Naturalize. He kept his Tarmogoyf back. West swung in again, trading his ape for Jitte counters, and then showed the fresh Lightning Helix to finish off the Goyf. The Lion picked up the Jitte. Nakano untapped and Naturalized it. West gained four. Nakano seemed to be out of gas.
West failed to draw an additional monster, and simply hit for two. Nakano drew a Shred Memory that he traded in for a Tarmogoyf to hold the fort. West revealed that he had drawn Path to Exile.
The hits kept on coming for West: A Wild Nacatl off the top. Nakano drew a blank. West hit him for five down to eight, having drawn a land. Nakano drew a Hexmage and got it out for chump duty. West hit him to five and played another Nacatl. That was more than enough.
Alex West defeats Tatsuhito Nakano 2-0
Unfortunately, West’s story did not have a happy ending. Partly due to his uphill struggle, his tiebreakers were the worst of the 37 pointers, and he wound up in 9th place.