jpnat11

Ishida the Man of Steel at Japan Nationals 2011

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What a game, what a match, and what a weekend. Ryuuichirou Ishida claimed the title after a pulsating final against Tomoya Fujimoto that went the full five games and featured great Magic and great emotion.

Joining them on the National team is former World Champion Makihito Mihara, with Yoshihiko Ikawa also making the trip to Worlds in San Francisco as the alternate team member.

Fourteen rounds across two formats brought us to this final day. There was variety all over the Standard environment. The top 8 alone saw five different archetypes, with Valakut, Tempered Steel, Blue-Black Control, Tezzeret, and Green-White all reaching the elimination rounds. The Green-White deck of Fujimoto is well worth an outing at your next Friday Night Magic, as it's a ton of fun to play, and has plenty of options. It very, very nearly took Fujimoto the distance, but it was Ishida who was the man of steel - Tempered Steel.

Congratulations to Tomoya Fujimoto, Ryuuichirou Ishida, Makihito Mihara, ...

This was the largest Nationals event held anywhere in the world, with three hundred and fifty eight competitors taking part. There was plenty to do apart from the main event, including the inaugural Battle of Champions, won by Masaya Kitayama, who bested Katsuhiro Mori in their Super Sealed final earlier in the day.

One of the leading stories was the success of Shouta Yasooka, taking his shot at Nationals Pro Points ahead of his main Player of the Year rivals in other countries. Messrs Juza, Turtenwald, Stark, and others must have been mighty relieved when Yasooka set the bar at 'only'

making the top 8. That quarterfinal defeat may yet play a huge part in the destination of the Player of the Year title. Perhaps U.S.

Nationals at Gen Con in a couple of weeks will give us more insight into that particular race.

Now, though, it's time to reflect on a fantastic weekend in one of the great Magic nations. Only one of the three team members is a global name on the Magic scene, but everyone begins with their first Pro Tour, and both finalists have the right stuff to succeed when Worlds comes around in November. Congratulations to Yoshihiko Ikawa, Makihito Mihara, Tomoya Fujimoto, and most of all to Ryuuichirou Ishida, Japan National Champion 2011!

...and but in particular to Ryuuichirou Ishida, Japan National Champion 2011!



Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Ryoichi Tamada   Yoshihiko Ikawa, 3-2        
8 Yoshihiko Ikawa   Tomoya Fujimoto, 3-2
       
4 Shouta Yasooka   Tomoya Fujimoto, 3-1   Ryuuichirou Ishida, 3-2
5 Tomoya Fujimoto    
       
2 Makihito Mihara   Makihito Mihara, 3-0
7 Kouei Itou   Ryuuichirou Ishida, 3-2
       
3 Shouta Takaoame   Ryuuichirou Ishida, 3-0
6 Ryuuichirou Ishida    

3rd Place Playoff  
Makihito Mihara Makihito Mihara, 3-0
Yoshihiko Ikawa


EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER
  • by Rich Hagon
    The Final:
    Tomoya Fujimoto vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida

  • by Rich Hagon
    Battle of Champions:
    Masaya Kitayama vs. Katsuhiro Mori

  • by Rich Hagon
    Semifinals: Semifinal Round-Up
    Makihito Mihara vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida
    Tomoya Fujimoto vs. Yoshihiko Ikawa

  • by Rich Hagon
    Quarterfinals: Quarterfinal Round-Up
    Ryoichi Tamada vs. Yoshihiko Ikawa
    Tomoya Fujimoto vs. Shouta Yasooka
    Shouta Takao vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida
    Kouei Itou vs. Makihito Mihara

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8:
    Decklists

  • by Rich Hagon
    Top 8:
    Player Profiles

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2: Complete Coverage
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1: Complete Coverage
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

INFORMATION
  1.  Ryuuichirou Ishida $3,000
  2.  Tomoya Fujimoto $2,000
  3.  Makihito Mihara $1,200
  4.  Yoshihiko Ikawa $1,000
  5.  Ryoichi Tamada $750
  6.  Shouta Yasooka $750
  7.  Itou Kouei $750
  8.  Shouta Takao $750
Pairings Results Standings
Final Standings

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14
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11
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8
14
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12
11
10
9
8

7
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5
4
3
2
1
7
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4
3
2
1
7
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3
2
1

 

  • Top 8 – Player Profiles

    by Rich Hagon
  • Name: Ryouichi Tamada
    From: Osaka
    Age: 26
    Profession: System engineer
    Standard Record: 7-1
    Standard Deck: Valakut
    Why did you choose this deck? I've been using it since M11 came out.
    Draft Record: 5-1, using UG with a splash for Fireball for the first draft, WU for the second draft
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? The 12th round when I knew I would be in the Top 8.
    Where do you usually play Magic? At Tournament Center Maho or Niji-iro Kujira.

    Name: Makihito Mihara
    From: Chiba
    Age: 29
    Profession: Company employee
    Standard Record: 7-1
    Standard Deck: Valakut
    Why did you choose this deck? I've been playing it for a long time, and it has a good winning percentage.
    Draft Record: 2-1 with a UW mill deck in the first draft, 3-0 with a UR tempo deck in the second draft.
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? In the 11th round, I was playing a Valakut mirror match. On the turn after my opponent had stripped all the Titans out of my deck with Memoricide, I ripped 3 Valakuts off the top with my Oracles and came back to win.
    Where do you usually play Magic? LMC

    Name: Shouta Takao
    From: Nagasaki
    Age: 22
    Profession: Student
    Standard Record: 6-1-1
    Standard Deck: UB control
    Why did you choose this deck? It's very reliable, especially in the "New" Standard without Stoneforge Mystic.
    Draft Record: 5-1, with a WR deck for the first draft where I usually won by Flinging a Colossus at my opponent, and UB in the second draft.
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? When I did 21 points of damage by playing the Crumbling Colossus with Warstorm Surge out, swung with it, then threw it at my opponent with Fling.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Card One in Nagasaki, Card Kingdom, and premier events in Fukuoka.

    Name: Shouta Yasooka
    From: Japan
    Age: 26
    Profession: Professional Magic player
    Standard Record: 7-0-1
    Standard Deck: Tezzeret
    Why did you choose this deck? I love Tezzeret.
    Draft Record: 3-0 with a GW spider deck, and 1-2 with a not-so-good GB deck
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? My 4th round game against Arita which I thought I was going to lose but ended up winning.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Grand Prixes and Pro Tours

    Name: Tomoya Fujimoto
    From: Osaka
    Age: 25
    Profession: Freelancer
    Standard Record: 7-1
    Standard Deck: Green-White
    Why did you choose this deck? Tsuyoshi Fujita recommended it to me. He called it the "Super Weak Special Deck".
    Draft Record: 2-1 with UW in both drafts
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? The last round, when Tamada and I drew into the Top 8.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Amenity Dream Nihonbashi and Rimi-ken

    Name: Ryuuichirou Ishida
    From: Aichi
    Age: 22
    Profession: Student
    Standard Record: 8-0
    Standard Deck: Tempered Steel
    Why did you choose this deck? This deck is very strong. It can beat most decks through sheer brute force.
    Draft Record: 3-0 with a UB deck in the first draft, and 0-3 with a UG deck that I drafted very poorly.
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? Either the last round of draft when I ran into Mihara's mill deck, or the Standard match where I pulled off a comeback win against Hirayama with an awesome topdeck.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Chiekeda-tei

    Name: Kouei Itou
    From: Saitama
    Age: 21
    Profession: Student
    Standard Record: 7-1
    Standard Deck: Valakut
    Why did you choose this deck? All the decks I was building were losing to Valakut, so I decided to play it the day before Nationals began.
    Draft Record: 2-1 with a WR deck, and 2-1 with a RU deck in the second draft.
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? The last round where I could have won with Nature's Claim, but I didn't, and ended up winning in spite of all my Valakut abilities getting sucked up by Spellskite.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Hareru-ya

    Name: Yoshihiko Ikawa
    From: Tokyo
    Age: 25
    Profession: Professional Magic player
    Standard Record: 6-2
    Standard Deck: WU Tempered Steel
    Why did you choose this deck? Both Atsushi Itou and Jun'ya Takahashi told me this was the No. 1 deck.
    Draft Record: 3-0 with a RG deck in the first draft, and 2-1 with a UG deck in the second.
    Which match stands out the most for you this weekend? In the 10th round when I lost to Lava Axe and Goblin Grenade.
    Where do you usually play Magic? Hareru-ya and tournaments in the Kanto area.


     

  • Top 8 – Decklists

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Shouta Takao
    Japan Nationals 2011
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online

    Ryuuichiro Ishida
    Japan Nationals 2011
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online

    Yoshihiko Ikawa
    Japan Nationals 2011
    View a sample hand of this deck
    Download a .dek file for use in Magic Online


     

  • Quarterfinals: Quarterfinal Round-Up

    Ryoichi Tamada (Valakut) v Yoshihiko Ikawa (Tempered Steel)
    Tomoya Fujimoto (Green-White) v Shouta Yasooka (Tezzeret)
    Shouta Takao (Blue-Black Control) v Ryuuichirou Ishida (Tempered Steel)
    Kouei Itou (Valakut) v Makihito Mihara (Valakut)

    by Rich Hagon
  • We're going to keep an eye on all the quarterfinal action as it happens, but we begin with Shouta Yasooka's quest for Player of the Year, a title he last won in 2006. He brings his Tezzeret deck into action against Tomoya Fujimoto, who is really living the dream this weekend, since he won the Last Chance Qualifier on Friday. He brings an interesting green-white deck, but it may not be seen to best advantage here against the might of Yasooka.


    Shouta Yasooka, left, vs. Tomoya Fujimoto.

    Yasooka opened the top 8 with a turn two Torpor Orb, by which time Birds of Paradise had been the perfect opening for Fujimoto. His turn two was a second Birds of Paradise and Nest Invader. Inquisition of Kozilek allowed Yasooka to strip Blade Splicer from Fujimoto's hand, before Yasooka added Ratchet Bomb, gearing up to kill Birds of Paradise the following turn.

    Fujimoto cast Hero of Bladehold, then passed. As expected, Yasooka ticked up the Ratchet Bomb, blew it to kill both Birds of Paradise, then cast Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas before turning his Torpor Orb into a 5/5. Fujimoto piled into the red zone, sending Nest Invader, Hero of Bladehold, and the two bonus Soldiers that came with the Hero.

    Tezzeret fell to dead, as did the Hero of Bladehold, and Yasooka fell to thirteen. He laid a second Tectonic Edge, taking him to five mana, and passed the turn with his 5/5 Torpor Orb his only board presence.


    Shouta Yasooka

    Fujimoto had Journey to Nowhere for the Orb, and crashed in with two Soldiers and Nest Invader, with Yasooka now at nine. He tapped out for Batterskull, which was enough to have Fujimoto simply lay a land and pass. Batterskull attacked unmolested, taking Yasooka back to thirteen. He used one of his Tectonic Edges to kill Stirring Wildwood, and went back to beating with Batterskull when Fujimoto had no play.

    Yasooka used his four mana to cast Everflowing Chalice for two, which left Fujimoto a window to cast Acidic Slime, destroying the Batterskull.


    Tomoya Fujimoto

    Yasooka used his Everflowing Chalice to cast Consecrated Sphinx, two words that are never a good sign for an opponent. Black Sun's Zenith for two wiped the board except for the giant flying card advantage machine, and Yasooka completed a great turn with Jace Beleren, sending the planeswalker to five loyalty. Journey to Nowhere replied from Fujimoto, taking out the Consecrated Sphinx, but the card advantage had found Yasooka his new M12 kill card, Sorin's Vengeance.

    Yasooka 1 - 0 Fujimoto

    In the Valakut mirror match, it looked as if Makihito Mihara was taking control of game one. He had Avenger of Zendikar on the battlefield with seven plants for support, together with Oracle of Mul Daya, which may be quite good together...On the other side of the table Kouei Itou had just a pair of Solemn Simulacrum.


    Kouei Itou vs. Makihito Mihara

    Meanwhile, Yoshihiko Ikawa led Ryoichi Tamada by a lightning-fast 2-0, his Tempered Steel deck piling past the Valakut player, despite an eleven card sideboard package to swing the matchup back towards Tamada. In game three, however, Ikawa mulliganed to five, which was hardly promising.

    Tamada opened with Valakut, but despite a double mulligan Ikawa had plenty of thinking to do about his turn one. He laid Glacial Fortress tapped and cast Memnite for free. Forest from Tamada led to Explore and a second Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Preordain from Ikawa revealed Seachrome Coast and Origin Spellbomb, which he unsurprisingly sent away, picking up Signal Pest from the top. Memnite attacked for the first damage, Ikawa laid a second land, and was done. Most definitely not the explosive starts of the first two games, but that's what happens when you mulligan to five.


    Ryoichi Tamada

    Tamada laid Khalni Heart Expedition and a Mountain to begin his quest to up the Mountains count, while Ikawa tapped out for Tempered Steel before attacking for three with his lonely Memnite. Tamada had Rampant Growth for a Mountain. In came the Memnite again, with Ikawa laying Signal Pest, still holding two cards in hand. Tamada, though, had four. The first was Explore, the next Raging Ravine, the next a Mountain, and the next Nature's Claim, taking out Tempered Steel.


    Yoshihiko Ikawa vs. Ryoichi Tamada

    Ikawa attacked for two, with Tamada down to eleven. Pyroclasm cleared the board, and Tamada felt confident enough to activate his Raging Ravine and pile in. That was the cue for Ikawa to sweep up his permanents, completing a comprehensive misfire that made the score..

    Tamada 1 - 2 Ikawa

    Score updates from the other quarterfinals

    Fujimoto had managed to equalize againt Yasooka, making them now a best two out of three. Ryuuichirou Ishida had taken his Tempered Steel deck to a 2-0 lead over the Blue-Black Control of Shouta Takao, while Makihito Mihara had indeed taken the opening game of the Valakut mirror, and led 1-0.

    Ikawa opened with Vault Skirge in game four, paying two life via Phyrexian mana. It attacked on turn two, followed up by Glint Hawk Idol. Tamada added to his Raging Ravine with a second copy, and passed. Mox Opal activated the Glint Hawk Idol before Ikawa cast Tempered Steel, crashing in for seven damage. Nature's Claim took out the Tempered Steel, which was precisely what Tamada needed to stay in contention. Ikawa cast Origin Spellbomb with his Mox Opal, activated his Glint Hawk Idol, and attacked. The card he drew with Origin Spellbomb still didn't net him a third land, and the pair of Hero of Bladehold he was holding were stuck there, worthless in his hand.

    Still, Tamada was down to seven, and needed something more heavy-duty than Nature's Claim. Something like Creeping Corrosion, for example, which he promptly cast. Ikawa attempted to reload with two Signal Pests, but the sideboard of Tamada arrived again when he cast Pyroclasm to wipe the board again. When Tamada tapped six mana for Primeval Titan, Ikawa conceded, and we were heading for a very brisk game five shootout.

    Ikawa 2 - 2 Tamada

    Fujimoto now led Shouta Yasooka by 2-1, and was looking to cause an upset. It looked as if the Tempered Steel deck of Ryuuichirou Ishida was going to sweep the blue-black Control of Shouta Takao, while the Valakut mirror was still in the early stages of game two, so there's a good chance you'll be reading about that one in about three paragraphs from now....

    Ikawa kept his opening seven, and so did Tamada, a bad sign for Ikawa, who opened with Vault Skirge. Preordain on turn two saw Memnite and Signal Pest on top, which Ikawa sent away, getting a land instead.

    Vault Skirge attacked for one, with Inkmoth Nexus the turn two land from Ikawa. Tamada sacrificed Evolving Wilds for a Forest, and spent turn two on Explore, a Mountain, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

    Ikawa landed Tempered Steel and attacked for three with his Vault Skirge.



    Tamada used his three mana to Cultivate, adding a Mountain to the board, and a Forest to hand, which he cast as his land for the turn, leaving Nature's Claim mana open. The Vault Skirge attacked for another three, and Ikawa dropped Hero of Bladehold, apparently for the first time in the whole match, since Tamada wanted to check what the card did, Ikawa playing with an English version of the card...

    Tamada reached six mana, and then moments later eight, which meant Primeval Titan. That had been the cue for the concession in game four, but not this time. Tamada was at thirteen and Ikawa had a possibly awesome turn coming. He opened with Preordain, seeing Memnite and Glint Hawk Idol, leaving them on top, and drawing the Memnite. He cast it, and used Dispatch to kill the Primeval Titan, now that he had Metalcraft. In came the Vault Skirge, the Hero of Bladehold, and two Soldiers, and now Tamada was at just two life.

    The Valakut player untapped with eight mana, but basically needed Creeping Corrosion AND Pyroclasm on this one turn if he was going to survive. Or, a LOT of red-hot Valakut action.Ikawa sat motionless as he waited to discover his fate. Tamada cast Khalni Heart Expedition.

    He cast Cultivate, but Ikawa had a card waiting - Unified Will!

    Now THAT's why you play blue boys and girls...

    During the final game here, two of the other quarterfinals reached their conclusion. As expected, Ishida took the third game and the sweep over blue-black, while Tomoya Fujimoto completed an excellent victory over Shouta Yasooka.

    Ikawa 3 - 2 Tamada

    Ishida 3 - 0 Takao

    And you know what? That Valakut mirror was done too, and that could mean only one thing - a clean sweep for Makihito Mihara!

    So, in a little less than an hour all four quarterfinals were done.

    Ikawa had managed to squeeze past Tamada in a really tight five game set. He would now take his Tempered Steel deck into action against the green-white deck of Tomoya Fujimoto, who had taken out Shouta Yasooka by 3-1. In the bottom bracket, Ryuuichirou Ishida, on the back of his 3-0 quarterfinal win over Shouta Takao, would face the Valakut deck of Makihito Mihara, himself a 3-0 quarterfinal winner.

    Steel against green-white.

    Steel against Valakut.

    Who would prove their metal mettle in the semifinals?


     

  • Semifinals – Semifinal Round-Up

    Makihito Mihara (Valakut) vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida (Tempered Steel)
    Tomoya Fujimoto (Green-White) vs. Yoshihiko Ikawa (Tempered Steel)

    by Rich Hagon
  • Both players arrive here in the semifinals knowing that they will both be on the plane for Worlds in San Francisco. The winner here advances to the title match, while the loser faces the toughest match of the Magic year, coming off a loss before facing the 3rd/4th playoff which will determine the final member of the National team for Worlds.

    Neither player dropped a game in the opening elimination round, so come here ready to battle with confidence.

    Ishida began with a double mulligan, so his chance for an explosive start was small, especially as he was on the draw. Evolving Wilds began the match, before Ishida had Memnite into Glint Hawk into Memnite. Oh, ok then, explosive start after all. Mihara cast Rampant Growth on turn two, his own version of the explosive start, and we were under way.


    Yoshihiko Ikawa

    Ishida attacked for three, cast Vault Skirge, but couldn't improve his position further, having no second land. That wasn't a problem for Mihara, who cast Cultivate to take him to five mana on turn three, one of which was Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. He was already up to three Mountains. No second land was waiting for Ishida who attacked for four, before seeing Mihara land Primeval Titan, fetching a second Valakut and a fourth Mountain. Best guess? 1-0 to Mihara...

    Ishida took one more look for a second land, didn't find it, but continued to push in, dropping Mihara to ten. He cast Glint Hawk, returned his Memnite, and recast it. Primeval Titan attacked, Mihara found two Mountains, and best guess became fact moments later.

    Mihara 1 - 0 Ishida

    On the second table things were going rather better for the Tempered Steel player, with Yoshihiko Ikawa up a game over his green-white opponent Tomoya Fujimoto.

    Ikawa 1 - 0 Fujimoto


    Ryuuichirou Ishida

    Ishida was happy to keep his opening seven, beginning with Vault Skirge and Memnite on turn one. Turn two saw him attack for two, cast Glint Hawk Idol, and pass, leaving Mihara to fetch a Forest from his opening Evolving Wilds. Rampant Growth was all he could expect from turn two, but that opened the way for plenty of beats on turn three.

    Tempered Steel meant Mihara took ten damage from the Glint Hawk Idol, Memnite, and Vault Skirge, with Mox Opal activating the Idol before attacking. Mihara was - as they say - dead on the desk, and he had no answer to the blistering opening from Ishida.

    Mihara 1 - 1 Ishida

    If you thought it was blistering here, you should have seen the other table! TWO games had been completed while these two were 'slogging' their way through game two, meaning it was time to check in on the other semifinal before it was done!


    Tomoya Fujimoto

    Ikawa 1 - 2 Fujimoto

    Ikawa had two Memnite and an Origin Spellbomb token early in game four, while Fujimoto also had early action with Birds of Paradise, Lotus Cobra, and Nest Invader. Ikawa landed Tempered Steel and swung for the fences. He had three cards in hand to Fujimoto's four, with Fujimoto happy to lose his Nest Invader token to soak up some damage.

    He cast a second Lotus Cobra and then Acidic Slime for the Tempered Steel. Nest Invader and Lotus Cobra attacked, leaving Ikawa at sixteen. He had another Tempered Steel at the ready, with Acidic Slime taking out a Memnite.

    For six mana Fujimoto cast Wurmcoil Engine, and we had reached the pivotal moment. If Ikawa could deal with it, he still had the chance to force Fujimoto to block unprofitably. If the Wurmcoil got to attack, Fujimoto would be heading out of sight. Revoke Existence from Ikawa answered that question, and he attacked once more. Nest Invader and Lotus Cobra blocked the Memnite, trading two-for-one, and Fujimoto was down to just two life. Down came Vault Skirge for Ikawa.

    Fujimoto drew for the turn, and cast Hero of Bladehold, emptying his hand with Stirring Wildwood. Ikawa attacked with the Vault Skirge, forcing Fujimoto to block with Birds of Paradise. Now Fujimoto needed a flyer, and he didn't get one...


    Yoshihiko Ikawa (left) and Tomoya Fujimoto (right)

    Ikawa 2 - 2 Fujimoto

    Across the hall, Tempered Steel now led the match 2-1, Ishida having come from behind to lead Mihara's Valakut deck.

    Now we got ready for game five, still only half an hour into these semifinals! Fujimoto kept his opening seven, while Ikawa thought for a moment before setting the game in motion. Stirring Wildwood for Fujimoto met Vault Skirge from Ikawa. Fujimoto had Lotus Cobra on turn two, sending Ikawa deep into thought. For the second match running he was in an intricate game five.

    In came the Vault Skirge. Glint Hawk Idol was Ikawa's play. Fujimoto's play was more exciting, using Lotus Cobra to help cast Hero of Bladehold, and then attacking with the Cobra, dropping Ikawa to seventeen. It looked as if Fujimoto was winning this particular episode of 'Who's the Beatdown?'

    Spellskite from Ikawa triggered the Glint Hawk Idol, before he spilled Memnite and Signal Pest onto the table. Fujimoto had the perfect answer in Creeping Corrosion! It wasn't just the perfect answer for the turn, it was the perfect answer for the match, as Ikawa was quick to extend the hand in congratulation.

    Yoshihiko Ikawa 2 - 3 Tomoya Fujimoto

    Meanwhile in game four of the other semifinal, Ryuuichirou Ishida had Signal Pest, Memnite, Inkmoth Nexus, and Steel Overseer, all with two counters on them, facing Primeval Titan, Overgrown Battlement, and Tumble Magnet for Mihara. Two counters became three, and Ishida had a total of three copies of Inkmoth Nexus. Mihara, however, had a second copy of Primeval Titan arriving, and that was enough to force a deciding game five, which would see Ishida on the play with his Tempered Steel deck.

    Mihara 2 - 2 Ishida


    Ryuuichirou Ishida

    The first battle of the last battle was won by Ishida when he kept his opening seven and Mihara mulliganed. He kept six, and we were away, with turn one Vault Skirge and a Mox Opal for Ishida. Mihara laid Evolving Wilds. Turn two, and Ishida attacked, and dropped Shrine of Loyal Legions and a Signal Pest. He also had Contested War Zone in play, which might well be a factor. Evolving Wilds became a Mountain, and a turn two Forest led to his customary acceleration via Rampant Growth. How he must have wished for a Pyroclasm instead...

    The first counter went on Ishida's Shrine of Loyal Legions. He sent his Signal Pest and Vault Skirge on the attack, dealing two damage.

    Porcelain Legionnaire joined the team, putting a second counter on the Shrine. Land four for Mihara, and that was enough for both Rampant Growth and Overgrown Battlement. The pressure was intense, and Mihara was clearly feeling it.


    Makihito Mihara

    Ishida added a third counter to his Shrine, and Mihara elected not to block when Ishida sent in the team. Knowing that Mihara had to deal with what was on board, Ishida kept his three cards in hand back for a potential second wave - or third, given that the legions were on the way. Mihara, though, had kept his Overgrown Battlement safe for a reason. He cast a second Overgrown Battlement, tapped the first for two mana, taking him to five and casting Green Sun's Zenith for Oracle of Mul Daya. The top card of his deck was Cultivate, but Mihara had a Terramorphic Expanse ready to spin the wheel on the top of his deck.

    Now the top was revealed as a Primeval Titan, causing a sharp intake of breath from the large crowd.

    Ishida started doing the math, and made three tokens with his Shrine at end of turn. He untapped with a mighty army ready to rumble, and sent them in, activating the Contested War Zone. Mihara fell to just one life. He drew, but had no answer, and an ecstatic Ryuuichirou Ishida raised his hands aloft in triumph. He was through to a championship matchup against Tomoya Fujimoto, while Mihara would take on Yoshihiko Ikawa for the final slot on the National team.

    Makihito Mihara 2 - 3 Ryuuichirou Ishida


     

  • Battle of Champions – Masaya Kitayama vs. Katsuhiro Mori

    by Rich Hagon
  • After four rounds of Super Sealed action, eleven former champions have been whittled down to two. First, the 2007 Champion Masaya Kitayama. Twice a finalist at Grand Prix, and with four Pro Tour top 32s to his name, he is clearly no slouch. Nonetheless, he comes into the final here as the underdog, since he faces Katsuhiro Mori.

    Mori has multiple Grand Prix titles, a World Champion trophy from 2005, and three successive Worlds top 8 performances. He's also - for another couple of hours - the reigning National Champion.

    Both players were given a fresh set of twelve M12 boosters to build new Super Sealed pools, so neither had any idea what would be waiting for them across the table. Having seen both players build their decks, it looked as though Mori was going to take a lot of stopping. He had built an aggressive red-black Bloodthirst deck, topping out at Sengir Vampire, Vengeful Pharaoh, and a near-guaranteed win in Sorin's Vengeance. Kitayama had gone white-red, with both Chandra, the Firebrand and Chandra's Phoenix. He also had Sun Titan at the top end of his curve.

    Katsuhiro Mori vs. Masaya Kitayama

    Kitayama began with a turn two Stormfront Pegasus, which was in play for approximately one second, Shock sending it to the graveyard. He had Chandra's Phoenix on turn three for the first damage of the match.

    Mori had Blood Ogre, but with no Bloodthirst. The Phoenix attacked for a second time before Kitayama added Gideon's Lawkeeper to the board.

    Mori attacked with his Blood Ogre, and had Bloodthirst with his Stormblood Berserker. He Shocked the Lawkeeper, with Kitayama also using Shock to get the Blood Ogre off the board.

    Both players had powerhouse moves at five mana. Mori had Sengir Vampire, Kitayama Serra Angel. Doom Blade destroyed the Angel, and Mori added pressure with a second Stormblood Berserker, again a 3/3 thanks to Bloodthirst. With yet another burn spell in Incinerate, Mori was quickly one game up.

    Kitayama 0 - 1 Mori


    Game 2

    Alabaster Mage faced Goblin Fireslinger in the early turns of game two. Benalish Veteran was the turn three play from Kitayama, but Mori had a 3/3 all the time with Stormblood Berserker. Kitayama cast Pacifism on the 3/3, and attacked. Mori blocked with his Fireslinger, trading for the Alabaster Mage, and Mori had Chandra's Outrage for the Benalish Veteran. A replacement Veteran followed from Kitayama.

    Down came Grim Lavamancer for Mori, prompting Shock from Kitayama before attacking. He had Blood Ogre as a 3/3 to complete the turn.

    Gravedigger from Mori got back the Grim Lavamancer with a spare mana to get the 1/1 back onto the battlefield. Kitayama sent in his pair of 3/3s, with Mori taking all the damage. Celestial Purge then took out the Grim Lavamancer for the second time.

    Mori cast Tormented Soul, another excellent Bloodthirst enabler, and Onyx Mage, but he was on the back foot against the Benalish Veteran and Blood Ogre, both masquerading as Hill Giants. When Mori traded for the Veteran, Kitayama was ready with the massive Sun Titan, getting it straight back. That was enough for Mori, who was happy to prepare for game three.

    Kitayama 1 - 1 Mori


    Game 3

    Grand Abolisher

    One of the features of Super Sealed is that it's possible to build multiple good decks, and there becomes an element of Metagame to the matches, as players try to work out which of their decks will match up best against whatever their opponent is running. At one each, it seemed Mori was preparing for a major switch.

    Forest led the way for Mori, while Kitayama had the same turn two Stormfront Pegasus to get the ball rolling. Mori used Plummet to kill the flyer, but Kitayama had another Stormfront Pegasus as backup.

    Shock killed it, but Kitayama was making the running, with Alabaster Mage and then Grand Abolisher. Mori used Arachnus Web to ignore the Abolisher. Next from Kitayama was Arbalest Elite, and this was taken out by Incinerate. Kitayama returned the favor when Mori attempted Garruk's Companion, seeing it Shocked. He too had a second copy, and this time the 3/2 survived at least as far as Kitayama untapping and firing off a second Shock.


    Sun Titan

    Mori got to six mana, and cast Inferno Titan which wiped the board, but that was all, as Celestial Purge instantly sent it away. Mori cast Giant Spider, but another Titan was on the way, this time Sun Titan for Kitayama, getting back Stormfront Pegasus. Mori attacked with the Spider, enabling his Stormblood Berserker to become 3/3. Kitayama didn't care. He dropped Mori to six, using Alabaster Mage to gain a stack of life from his Sun Titan.

    After much thought - and Sun Titan will do that to you - Mori passed the turn. Things got much worse for him when Kitayama cast another powerful rare in Flameblast Dragon. That's Flameblast Dragon, Sun Titan, two Stormfront Pegasus, Alabaster Mage....against a lone Giant Spider.

    That's not a fair fight, and a moment later the fight was over. By two games to one, Masaya Kitayama was the victor in the Battle of Champions!


     

  • The Final - Tomoya Fujimoto (Green-White) vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida (Tempered Steel)

    by Rich Hagon
  • First they won their quarterfinals. That guaranteed them a plane ticket to Worlds. Then they won their semifinals. That guaranteed them a place on the National team. Now it's time for the final, and one of these two will be forever-remembered as a National Champion, while one of them, er, won't.

    Fujimoto has already used his green-white deck to edge past another Tempered Steel opponent, defeating Yoshihiko Ikawa in the semifinals by 3-2. Ishida meanwhile had to pass Makihito Mihara in the semifinal, taking out the Valakut player in another five game set.

    Ryuuichirou Ishida vs. Tomoya Fujimoto

    Game 1

    Signal Pest, Memnite, Ornithopter - and that was just turn one! Ishida got the ball rolling in good style. Fujimoto had turn one Birds of Paradise. Ishida laid Mox Opal, Contested War Zone, and smashed in for six, using the War Zone to good effect. With Metalcraft also good to go, he used Dispatch to deny Fujimoto the acceleration of the Birds of Paradise. Fujimoto had to be content with Nest Invader, with accompanying 0/1 Eldrazi token.

    Ishida cast Tempered Steel, and in came the team. Already at fourteen, Fujimoto was in a tight spot. So tight, in fact, that he knew he was stuck. Turn three, good game, 1-0. Wow.

    Fujimoto 0 - 1 Ishida

    Game 2

    Ishida had shown real passion after his victory over Mihara, and it was obvious as he prepared for game two that he was acutely aware of the glittering prize on offer. Signal Pest, Memnite, Memnite, Ornithopter, Ornithopter. Excuse me????? That was turn one from Ishida. Turn two from Fujimoto was Lotus Cobra.

    In came many, many men. Fujimoto was at fourteen, with Ishida adding Vault Skirge at the cost of two life. Marsh Flats triggered Lotus Cobra, and then again as Fujimoto went in search of a Plains. That meant five mana on turn three, which he used to cast Acidic Slime, nailing the Signal Pest and making Ishida's board position a lot less scary.

    Contested War Zone arrived, meaning Ishida could pile his men sideways once again, now that they could successfully trade with the Lotus Cobra and Acidic Slime across the table. The Slime blocked Memnite, with Fujimoto keeping his Lotus Cobra back, at the cost of being down to seven life. The Cobra attacked, allowing him to steal the Contested War Zone. It is Contested, after all. Birds of Paradise completed the turn.

    Memnite and Vault Skirge attacked Fujimoto to five, getting Contested War Zone back for Ishida. He cast Glint Hawk Idol, Mox Opal, and passed. With Lotus Cobra triggering, Fujimoto got to seven mana, enough for Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Strangely enough, that'll do it...

    Fujimoto 1 - 1 Ishida

    Game 3

    Fujimoto had Creeping Corrosion in his opening hand for game three, an utter beating against the all-artifact, all-the-time deck across the table. Creeping Corrosion, however, costs four, and that's a long time to wait on the draw, especially if you know your opponent has a hand sufficient to keep, which Ishida had already done.

    Inkmoth Nexus, Signal Pest. That was it for turn one, while Fujimoto had Birds of Paradise. Two mana was for Steel Overseer, while Fujimoto had three mana available with the Birds. He didn't need the bonus, casting Nest Invader (plus 0/1) with his two lands. Glint Hawk Idol arrived, followed by Signal Pest, triggering the Idol. Although it couldn't attack, it could get a counter from Steel Overseer. In came the first Signal Pest, and we were back to Fujimoto, who - as we know - had Creeping Corrosion. Once the board was empty, Nest Invader attacked, and Fujimoto was in control.


    Ryuuichirou Ishida's fast start in the finals disappeared by Game 3.

    Tempered Steel from Ishida was a potential threat down the line, but no backbreaker, with nothing to pump. Hero of Bladehold came down for Fujimoto, which left Ishida to see if there was any way he could get back into this third game. Mox Opal, a second Tempered Steel. No, that wouldn't do it. In came Fujimoto with Hero of Bladehold, two Soldiers, Nest Invader, and even the Birds of Paradise, getting in on the attacking act.

    Nope. No help for Ishida.

    Fujimoto 2 - 1 Ishida

    Game 4

    Offering up a prayer, Ishida looked at his opening seven for game four. Head in hands, he pondered, then elected to mulligan. At least Fujimoto was also starting with six cards. Ishida couldn't keep his next hand either, but Fujimoto was happier, and would start up one card. If Ishida could pull off a similar opening to game two when he dropped almost his entire hand onto the battlefield on turn one, he might be able to find a route to victory on top of his library.

    As he looked at five, this was a huge moment. He simply had to have something playable to stand a chance. Turn one was Memnite, Plains, and Mox Opal. Not bad. Memnite attacked, Contested War Zone came down, and Glint Hawk Idol followed. Fujimoto had no Birds of Paradise, and when he cast Lotus Cobra he found that gone within moments via Dispatch. Porcelain Legionnaire activated Glint Hawk Idol, and in came the beats from Ishida.


    Could Tomoya Fujimoto put it away in Game 4?

    Journey to Nowhere from Fujimoto stopped the Porcelain Legionnaire from getting involved, but Contested War Zone still meant Fujimoto was down to ten life. He cast Blade Splicer for the first time in the match, creating a 3/3 first striker to go with his 1/1. Not bad for three mana. The Glint Hawk Idol could still take to the skies unopposed, but Ishida had to be wary of losing his Contested War Zone.

    He cast Ornithopter, and sent the Idol into battle. The Contested War Zone made it three damage, and Fujimoto was at seven, facing an opponent with just one card in hand.

    The 3/3 Golem attacked, Ishida putting Memnite in the way, keeping his 0/2 Ornithopter back as a flying beater for the following turn.

    Fujimoto passed, giving more hope to Ishida, who really wanted to see a Tempered Steel. He saw Ornithopter instead, cast it, and sent his air force into action, pumping them with Contested War Zone. Four more life gone, Fujimoto at just three life.


    A familiar sight from a Tempered Steel deck...men turning sideways in the red zone.

    He attacked with both Blade Splicer and Golem, stealing the Contested War Zone, but staying alive to benefit was the problem. Stirring Wildwood came down, and Ishida had one more chance to force game five.

    Plains activated the Glint Hawk Idol. Fujimoto was at one, and had to give back the Contested War Zone. He badly needed a fifth land, but didn't see one. In came Blade Splicer and Golem once again. The Ornithopters blocked, and Fujimoto passed.

    Signal Pest triggered the Glint Hawk, and with Acidic Slimes and Wurmcoil Engine in Fujimoto's hand, the absence of a fifth land had cost him the game. A mulligan to five had been overcome, and we were heading for a decider.

    Fujimoto 2 - 2 Ishida

    Game 5

    It had been an excellent final. Both players had contributed, played hard, played courteously, and the games had a good mix of power, intrigue, and excitement. Undoubtedly adding to the drama for the spectators was the heart-on-sleeve emotions of Ishida. While Fujimoto remained stoic throughout, every scrap of intellect, effort, and desire could be seen in Ishida. Now the question was whether he would overcook and destroy himself in the heat of battle, or use that desire to claim the title.

    Both players kept their opening seven, making the ideal start to a final game. On the draw, Ishida had Memnite, Glint Hawk, replayed Memnite, and Mox Opal. Pretty good to be sure. Fujimoto had turn two Lotus Cobra. Did Ishida have a Dispatch waiting? He activated Inkmoth Nexus to gain Metalcraft, and sent the Cobra packing, before sending the Memnite and Glint Hawk into battle. Fujimoto recovered with Blade Splicer, with 3/3 Golem in tow.


    Things were looking grim for Fujimoto in Game 5.

    Down came Tempered Steel for Ishida, and another Memnite. Fujimoto was at fifteen, and staring down the barrel, even with his first strike Golem. Ishida had just one card left to play, but it could be the card that claimed a National Championship. Fujimoto held double Garruk Wildspeaker, Birds of Paradise, and two land. He sent in the Golem before casting the planeswalker, dropping him to two loyalty in exchange for a 3/3 Beast.

    Ishida now had double Inkmoth Nexus to play with, and he sent both of them at Fujimoto, and Glint Hawk at Garruk. Ornithopter completed the turn. Could Fujimoto find a way to stay alive? He was at six poison, facing an arsenal of flying Nexuses. Nexi. Whatever. He sent in the Blade Splicer and Golem, with Memnite and Ornithopter blocking. A second Garruk Wildspeaker came down, he untapped two land, and played Birds of Paradise.

    Back to Ishida, who was so close to the finish line he could almost touch it. He activated his Blinkmoths, and sent everything into the red zone. The Inkmoths aimed directly at Fujimoto, while the rest took out Garruk for the second successive turn. Fujimoto drew for the turn, and extended the hand.

    Ishida let out a howl of delight as a huge burst of adrenaline, relief, and ecstasy flooded across his face.

    Amazing. Just amazing.

    Ryuuichirou Ishida is the Japan National Champion 2011!

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