Quarterfinals: Boat Boat

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Jan Reuss (Boat Brew) vs. Akimasa Yamamoto (Boat Brew)

You may not recognize Akimasa Yamamoto’s name, considering that this is his first Pro Tour. Still, the Japanese player got to Kyoto by way of his Top 8 finish at Grand Prix–Okayama, no small feat considering the breadth of competition he faced there. His opponent in the Quarterfinals was Pro Tour-Hollywood finalist Jan Reuss, who can now boast back-to-back Standard Pro Tour Top 8s.

Game 1

Jan Reuss and Akimasa Yamamoto face the grueling Red-White Reveillark mirror.

The two players settled in for a Red-White Reveillark / Boat Brew mirror match, and they truly mirrored each other over the opening turns, both leading on Windbrisk Heights. Reuss was the first on the board with an army, playing second-turn Knight of the White Orchid and a Mogg Fanatic the turn after. Akimasa was simply biding his time to White ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana, at which point he played a Spectral Procession for three 1/1 Spirits. Considering he had acquired two Windbrisk Heights by that point, the Procession looked to be very good for him. Barring any interference from Reuss, both lands could be active the following turn.

Interfering was exactly what Jan was planning to do, however, as he played a second Windbrisk Heights of his own before dropping another Knight of the White Orchid. Mogg Fanatic then hopped to the graveyard, a sacrificial lamb to trade for one Spirit and ensure Akimasa could only attack with two creatures for the turn. He did so, putting the scores 17-15 in Reuss’ favor but followed up combat with a monstrous bid for some card advantage: Ranger of Eos tutoring up Flamekin Harbinger and Mogg Fanatic.

Across the table, Jan Reuss remained completely stoic. He has become well known for his demeanor, remaining calm and calculating even in the face of dire circumstances during a match. With the 3/2 Ranger threatening to come knocking on his door, Jan played Path to Exile to again keep his opponent from getting up to three attackers, then untapped for the turn, bashed with his Knight of the White Orchids, and played Reveillark. It looked like the German pro might actually be the first player to crack a Windbrisk Heights!

It wasn’t to be, however, as Akimasa untapped and dropped Ajani Vengeant. He removed two counters to Lightning Helix Reuss’s Reveillark, putting himself back to 14 and then playing a Mogg Fanatic. The Goblin wasn’t long for this world, as it was sacced on Jan’s turn to blow up the German’s Fanatic, which he had gotten back from his Reveillark dying. Jan’s combat step saw him attack Ajani to death, then follow up with a second Reveillark.

The match was turning into a grueling battle as Yamamoto played Siege-Gang Commander, but was left without enough mana to sacrifice any Goblins to stop his opponent from getting Windbrisk Heights active. Jan’s combat step dropped Akimasa to 10, then saw a third Knight of the White Orchid hit play from Heights followed by Ranger of Eos. The Antoine Ruel-inspired Invitational card got two Mogg Fanatics for Jan, and with two red mana as his final land drops he had exactly enough to play both, blow up two of his opponent’s Goblin Tokens, and keep Yamamoto from getting his triplicate Windbrisk Heights active yet again. For his final play of the turn, Reuss dropped his third copy of Windbrisk Heights on to the board.

It was a massive turn for the back-to-back Standard Pro Tour Top 8er, but his opponent still had a hand of five cards and enough mana to potentially cause some damage. He attacked with his Siege-Gang and Goblin token, maneuvering to blow up Jan’s Reveillark. That got Jan two Mogg Fanatics back, but Akimasa wasn’t done. He tapped his final four mana and used Wrath of God to clear his opponent’s board. With only a Battlefield Forge in hand, Jan looked to be in trouble—

—That is, until he ripped Siege-Gang Commander with his next draw. Just like that he had an army again, and Akimasa Yamamoto was only able to kill one of the creatures with a Siege-Gang of his own, meaning Jan got to attack with enough creatures to activate his third Heights as well as wiping his opponent’s team from the board. The hideaway land revealed Ranger of Eos, and all of a sudden Jan’s army had gotten quite large. He tutored up double copies of Figure of Destiny, played them, then passed the turn.

Akimasa had to consider all of his options carefully with the turn back. Calculating his best odds of surviving his opponent’s next combat step on just 7 life, he played Reveillark followed by Figure of Destiny and Flamekin Harbinger, placing a second Reveillark on top of his library. Reuss wasn’t impressed, getting in with his entire team, including an 8/8 Figure of Destiny. Yamamoto quickly made his blocks, leaving a Goblin token to get through, and falling to 6. The attack was good for him, however, as it killed off his Reveillark, netting him two Siege-Gangs back from the dead. That give him 10 points’ worth of attacking creatures with plenty of mana left over to start chucking Goblins. With Reuss unable to interfere and clinging to 14 life, it was enough to give Yamamoto the first, hard fought game.

Akimasa Yamamoto 1, Jan Reuss 0

Game 2

Reuss’s famous deadpan could not be deader.

Windbrisk Heights sprouted all over the place for the second game of the Reuss/Yamamoto quarterfinals match. Jan opened on three copies of the card while Akimasa played one. The Japanese player also had the first creature on the board in Mogg Fanatic, but his 1/1 was soon answered by Jan’s Ranger of Eos, which fetched twin Figures of Destiny.

Yamamoto snuck an extra land drop onto the board with a Knight of the White Orchid but had some work to do as his opponent played both of his tutored Figures of Destiny, pumping them each to 2/2. Trying to stay ahead, Yamamoto used Wrath of God to clear the board, but Reuss built right back up with a second copy of Ranger of Eos. That netted him a third Figure of Destiny and a Burrenton Forge-Tender, and put Akimasa Yamamoto right back into the hot seat.

Staring down three copies of Windbrisk Heights with his opponent again able to activate them thanks to a team of three creatures, Yamamoto played his own Ranger of Eos. He carefully considered his options, then found Mogg Fanatic and Figure of Destiny, playing both. When he tried to use the Fanatic to blow up Jan’s Figure, the German player sacrificed Burrenton Forge-Tender to protect it. With a flood of mana, Reuss could very quickly make his 1/1 Figure into an 8/8 monster.

Jan attacked with Ranger of Eos to put Akimasa at 17, then followed up his combat step with Siege-Gang Commander. Akimasa was not to be out-maneuvered, however, playing another Wrath of God to wipe his opponent’s side of the board, then plopping Elspeth, Knight-Errant into play. That spelled trouble for Reuss on an empty board, threatening to take over quickly, but Jan drew Reveillark, evoked it, and got another army on the backs of a Figure of Destiny and Siege-Gang Commander returned from his graveyard.

The two Reveillark decks went back and forth. So many of their cards were included with the intent of creating miniature armies in and of themselves, and the match seemed to consistently take gigantic swings as one player’s board would go from empty to jam packed with creatures all in a single turn. Meanwhile, Windbrisk Heights were constantly an ominous presence, threatening to give one player a gigantic lead should the other fail to contain the size of his opponent’s attacking force.

Yamamoto used Banefire to blow up his opponent’s Figure of Destiny, then made a second Soldier token with his Elspeth. He was still facing a horde of Goblins thanks to Jan’s Siege-Gang Commander, but at least there wouldn’t be an 8/8 breathing down the Japanese player’s neck any time soon. Jans Goblins turned sideways, with two tokens and Siege-Gang headed at Elspeth, and one token going straight to Akimasa’s head. Reuss paused the game before blockers, activating a Heights to reveal Conflux sideboard tech Ignite Disorder, clearing the way of Yamamoto’s 1/1 Soldiers. His second Heights revealed a second Siege-Gang Commander, his third Heights a Reveillark, and by the end of the turn Yamamoto’s board was empty of his planeswalker and he was staring down seven Goblins and a 4/3 Elemental. Just Wrath couldn’t get him out of this one, as it would just see the two Siege-Gang Commanders re-enter play from ‘Lark.

Ajani Vengeant was called forth by Yamamoto, who used it to blow up his opponent’s Reveillark. Reuss got a Burrenton Forge-Tender and Figure of Destiny back from his graveyard and had lethal damage, but Akimasa didn’t concede. Instead, he forced his opponent to turn all of his creatures sideways, with Forge-Tender headed towards Ajani and the rest aimed straight for Yamamoto. The attack left him at 8, and when Reuss made the motions for sacrificing four Goblins to deal the final points, Akimasa scooped.

Akimasa Yamamoto 1, Jan Reuss 1

Game 3

Yamamoto calls in the gang.

The first mulligans of the match kicked off the third game as Akimasa Yamamoto was forced to send not one but two hands back, ending with just five cards to start the game. He did have an aggressive first turn with Mogg Fanatic, but Jan had the perfect answer in the form of a first turn Burrenton Forge-Tender. What Reuss didn’t have was a third land drop, missing it on back-to-back turns before using Banefire to blow up his opponent’s Mogg Fanatic rather then discard.

The two players traded Burrenton Forge-Tenders in combat, clearing the way for a follow-up Figure of Destiny from Yamamoto to go on a rampage. Still unable to draw lands, Jan was forced to begin discarding, and his generally stoic manner was giving way to visible frustration. It didn’t help when his opponent played an Ajani Vengeant to go alongside his Figure of Destiny, which had become a 4/4 and dropped Reuss to 13.

Finally a second Plains hit from the top of Jan’s deck, and he played Knight of the White Orchid to start making up for lost time. Unfortunately for him, Yamamoto was ready, attacking Jan to 9, then playing Siege-Gang Commander and keeping one of the German’s Plains locked down with Ajani. That would keep Reuss from playing Spectral Procession barring a ripped land, and when he failed to do that, Jan conceded the game.

Akimasa Yamamoto 2, Jan Reuss 1

Having started the game on just five cards in hand, Yamamoto had certainly dodged a bullet. The game was a reminder of a valuable Magic tenet; a mulliganed hand often beats one that should have been but wasn’t.

Game 4

Both players got to start the third game of the match with a full grip, and Jan Reuss’ first-turn Figure of Destiny was quickly dispatched by Yamamoto’s first-turn Mogg Fanatic. Reuss followed up with Knight of the White Orchid.

The 2/2 Knight was soon joined by a horde of flying Spirits thanks to a Spectral Procession, and Reuss had a surprise when his opponent tried to clear the board with Wrath of God. The Conflux common Lapse of Certainty countered the Japanese board-clearer and let the German attack his opponent to 7. He followed up combat with Reveillark, meaning that when the Wrath finally did resolve, he got Knight of the White Orchid and Figure of Destiny back from the graveyard. He even had enough mana to pump his Figure, and his attack dropped Akimasa to 3. Jan verified the life total, then revealed Banefire for enough to send the match to the rubber game.

Akimasa Yamamoto 2, Jan Reuss 2

Game 5

If this Semifinal was in 3-D, this would look awesome.

After three long, drawn out games, the players headed to the last of the match on the heels of a Game 4 that had lasted no more than eight minutes. When Akimasa Yamamoto sent his opening hand back for six, it looked like the final game might be a short one as well. Of course, the Grand Prix Top 8er had already demonstrated that taking mulligans wasn’t an insurmountable disadvantage. He stayed on six, and opened with Mogg Fanatic.

Having lost an early Figure of Destiny to a Fanatic in the previous game, it was a bit of a surprise when Jan Reuss ran out a first turn Figure to stare down his opponent’s Goblin. The two creatures traded in combat, with each player following up with a two-drop. Jan’s was Knight of the White Orchid, and Akimasa ramped his mana using Mind Stone. Yamamoto then played Spectral Procession, while Reuss added a second Knight of the White Orchid to the board, this time searching up a free land.

It looked like a good old-fashioned race, with Akimasa’s three 1/1s trying to keep pace with Jan’s double 2/2s. Trying to get an edge, Yamamoto played the first Windbrisk Heights of the game then considered an attack. He bashed for 3, putting the totals at 17-14 in his favor, then played Ajani Vengeant and used its +1 loyalty ability to keep one of Jan’s Knights tapped. Jan untapped, attacked Ajani for 2 with his other Knight, then passed the turn. He lacked the removal to stop Yamamoto’s Windbrisk Heights from going active, but the Japanese player didn’t even use it the following turn, instead dropping Siege-Gang Commander and continuing to keep a Knight of the White Orchid locked down.

Reuss attacked to kill Ajani, but Akimasa had a chump-block to protect his planeswalker. Reuss wasn’t impressed, playing a copy of his own to nuke both copies of the planeswalker. Unfortunately for Reuss, that left him tapped out and with no blockers, and it took Akimasa a split second to read the situation correctly. He turned all of his creatures sideways, dropping Jan to 4, then sacrificed two Goblins to Siege-Gang to sneak in the final damage.

Akimasa Yamamoto defeats Jan Reuss 3-2 and advancees to the Semifinals!

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