Saturday, Aug 26: 11:21 a.m. - Drafting with Takaya Oosawa: Hiroshima Aftermath
So the word on the street was, "Don't draft blue."
Last weekend was Grand Prix Hiroshima, which was the only high-level Japanese event to incorporate Coldsnap draft. Multiple Japanese Pros came away from the event with a deep distaste for drafting blue and swore they would not do so this weekend. Takaya Oosawa was one of the players who walked out of the Grand Prix with a low regard for the color of fliers, counters, and control. He drafted the color twice, with mixed results, and finished without anything to show for it - no Pro Points and no money.
Oosawa was sitting in third place in this year's Player of the Year Race and would need every point he could muster to catch leader Shouta Yasooka and Shuhei Nakamura. Shuhei was making things tough for him though as he had picked up twelve points in the past two Grand Prix events, winning both Coldsnap events he had played in.Getting to be on the National team would give him an opportunity to rack up some points that only two other of his countrymen would have access to in the Team Competition at Worlds. Oosawa beat Shuhei yesterday en route to a clean sweep in four rounds of RGD draft but he could not afford to let up with Shuhei entering three rounds of Coldsnap.
It was clear from the onset of the draft that Oosawa was looking to be green. He picked Boreal Centaur over multiple blue cards, Krovikan Rot, and Ursine Fyljgal; second picked Boreal Druid; and snapped up another Centaur before dipping a toe into red with Tresserhorn Sinks and Earthen Goo. It was striking to me how wide open blue was even at this early juncture of the draft with traditionally high picked cards like Krovikan Mists, Frost Raptor, Frozen Solid, and Rimewind Taskmages whizzing by without a moment's consideration.
After his brief foray into red, Oosawa reacted to a sixth pick Kjeldoran War Cry with a switch into white. He picked up two more copies of the War Cry before the first pack was completed and was solidly green-white going into pack two. He briefly toyed with first picking Coldsteel Heart but had to take Jotun Owl Keeper. I had a sense that all the blue cards in the pack - which included Vexing Sphinx and Krovikan Mists - would make the full circuit around the table. Squall Drifter over Aurochs herd was one of the few really tough picks Oosawa had to make this draft - in fact all of his tough picks seemed to inlvolve Aurochs Herd and some other card. When pack two was done with he had picked up one copy of the Herd and two Ronom Hulks for the top end of his curve. It was looking like pack three would only require him to fill in holes here and there to smooth out his numbers at each casting cost. As the pack wound down I confirmed my suspicion that not a single player at the top table was drafting blue when Vexing Sphinx, Krovikan Mists, and Frost Raptor all showed up at the same time while Oosawa was making his ninth pick of that pack - he took Snow-Covered Forest.
The third pack went pretty much as you would expect with none of the hand wringing that comes in an RGD draft over colors. Everyone was pretty much settled into their plans and was spackling over curve holes. Had someone wanted to switch colors blue was still there for the taking but everyone chose to let it just end up in someone else's sideboard. Anyone at the table could have moved in with their ninth pick of the first pack and still managed to rack up six Krovikan Mists, two Vexing Sphinx, super-late pick Frost Raptors, Frozen Solids, and even last pick Taskmages.
Oosawa was one of the top drafters in the Ravnica block and he followed up his win in Prague with a 4-0 end of day performance on Friday. As he laid his Coldsnap deck out on the table it looked incredibly solid if not spectacular. He had four Boreal Centaur; a pair each of the Owl Keeper, Simian Brawler, Aurochs Herd, and Ronom Hulk; and three Kjeldoran War Cry to round it out. I spoke with him about the adjustment from one draft format to the other.
"I am not really good at this format and I don't know why," sighed the Prague Champion. "It really doesn't speak to me so I decided to go safe and draft a simple creature deck with a nice little curve. When I talked to people about the format they said it sounded like green-white to them so that is what I tried to do. In the first pack I ended up with three Kjeldoran War Cry. Up until that point I was wavering between white and red. When I saw the War Cry came around I took it as a clear sign that I should draft white."
"There was definitely a lot of blue," he recalled, "Especially in the second pack. I certainly thought about it but color fixing in this environment is very difficult. Since I had already committed to white in the first pack I decided not to be tempted by blue even though it was clearly coming around. It is definitely very hard to switch colors once you have made a decision in the first pack."
"I think this deck ended up pretty good and has what it takes to go the distance."
Going the distance - which is likely going to require not picking up three losses today - would put him in the Top 8 with a shot at winning his National Championship and representing his country in the team competition at Worlds. While the opportunity to compete in the Team Competition would be very valuable to someone in Oosawa's position in the PoY race, he was not looking at it from any external motivations.
"To me being on the National team is a bigger honor than winning the Pro Tour. I really would like to be the Japanese representative at the World Championships. I really want to try and go for the Top 8 today."
2006 Japan Nationals Draft 2 Deck
Saturday, Aug 26: 12:30 p.m. - Knock, Knock! Who's there?
"All the blue you could ever want you just have to draft it."
Someone did not get the memo. Australian ex-pat Oliver Oks has not had much opportunity to play Magic since Pro Tour Charleston as his work responsibilities have weighed him down. Normally a fixture at Asian Grand Prix events, with his disheveled hair and easy manner, Oliver did not even attend Grand Prix Hiroshima last week. Apparently that's how he ended up being the lucky recipient of all the blue at his table.
"How many Illusions do you think you need for Krovikan Mists to be really good?" Oliver asked me after the draft.
"I don't know…five or six seems pretty solid."
"So nine is really good then?" he beamed.
The funny thing is, Oliver did not take any of them with early picks opting for black removal and Frost Raptors early on. As the first pack was winding down he decided to draft one of the Mists to keep anyone else from collecting them all. He then picked another. And another. He ended up getting four by the time the first pack was finished.
"I nearly first picked one in the second pack but I realized I could wheel it," grinned Oliver, who squared off with double Coldsnap champion Shuhei Nakamura in round eight. His army if Illusions were too much for Shuhei to fend off and Oliver's army was off to a rousing start.
2006 Japan Nationals Draft 2 Deck
Saturday, Aug 26: 2:54 p.m. - Raiders of the Lost Art: Photo Essay
"I finally start making enough money to buy original Magic artwork and then they stop making it."
That was part of American ex-pat Brian Miller's reasoning for snapping up Todd Lockwood's original painting for Rushwood Dryad - one of only four paintings that Todd has left in his inventory. Combine the dwindling inventory with the fact the Rushwood denizen is a central creature in Brian's favorite Dryad deck and Todd was soon one piece closer to having no more paintings.
You might think that he will just produce more with each new set but, like many of the artists working today, Todd works almost exclusively on a digital canvas these days. Pieces like Angel of Despair, Niv-Mizzet, and Borborygmos exist only as zeroes and ones on Todd's home computer.
The three remaining originals in Todd's inventory? Deleraich, Crypt Angel, and Kavu Titan. The Titan is also in Brian's deck but with a price tag of over $3000.00 US, it was out of his price range. Todd did have beautiful prints and proof cards available at reasonable prices if he absolutely needed a Kavu Titan to adorn his walls. Signatures, as always, were free.
Saturday, Aug 26: 3:38 p.m. - Round 10: Takuya Oosawa vs. Naoki Shimizu
Going into the tenth round of Japanese Nationals the top of the standings were littered with Pro Tour winners and multiple-Top 8 participants. Names like Oiso, Komuro, Mori, Yasooka, and Asahara were all within shooting distance of yet another Top 8 finish for their already swollen resumes. Pro Tour Prague winner Takuya Oosawa was in second place coming into this round having rattled off six straight Limited round wins. Admittedly that is not very surprising from a Limited Pro Tour winner.
What was surprising was that after ten rounds, Naoki Shimizu would not fade. He was the only undefeated player left in the tournament and the 20-year old university student was ahead of every single name in the standings. Coming into this event his resume was paltry in comparison to the names his was appearing over. He was one member of a young trio that designed the original version of Solar Flare (one of his co-designers was also near the top of the standings at 8-1). More recently Shimizu finished 20th at Grand Prix Hiroshima and earned himself $950 when you take into account his Amateur prize money.
Shimizu's Bull Aurochs cracked in for two and he went Into the North for Mouth of Ronom. Oosawa's turn went the same way, although his journey Northward was for Arctic Flats not uncounterable removal tricks. The two players traded blows and Shimizu ramped up into Rimehorn Aurochs. Takaya had to hold back on his potentially 3/3 Centaur and a handful of tricks. Shimizu tried to smoke the Centaur with his land but it was saved with a Swift Maneuver. The wounded Centaur was then nudged out in front of the lone Bull Aurochs that was attacking and the green dudes traded.
Boreal Griffin kept the Auroch at bay and gave Oosawa the turn he needed to climb into the game with Aurochs Herd. Shimizu Chilled it to the Bone and untapped to play his own Aurochs Herd. A seventh land from Oosawa allowed him to attack for three and play Squall Drifter and Ronom Hulk.
"How many cards…three?" asked Shimizu as he aimed Surging Dementia at his foe. He flipped past three lands and dramatically pause before flipping the copy and ultimately stripping away Oosawa's whole hand. Shimizu forced the Squall Drifter to block and attacked with the Rimehorn. The Ronom Hulk chipped in to help and the threat of the lure-y Auroch was momentarily set aside. Shimzu had another though and he tutored it up with the Herd but he had no answer for the flier. He was up three cards but down a game.
Two Into the Norths for Shimizu did not thin his deck enough to successfully ripple into any more copies of Surging Dementia - Oosawa binned a land. He had chosen to play a two-drop Centaur rather than accelerate into his bigger things. He stayed with that plan on the next turn as well with Jotun Owl Keeper. Shimizu went large with a Ronom Hulk/
The Rimehorn gave Oosawa fits - he could not decide if he wanted to pay for his Owl Keeper or not. He finally decided to let it go for two tokens and the mana to play Boreal Griffin. Shimizu elected not to block the Centaur and cracked back for eight points. Oosawa was under no obligation to block anything and suspected a trick of some sort. He decided to put one token in the path of the Hulk and fell to 12. Shimizu had enough mana left to summon Disciple of Tevesh Szat.
Oosawa was able to bash back for seven damage and drop Shimizu down to 9; he reinforced with a second Owl Keeper and one card in hand. Shimizu sent in both his fatties - again not using the lure ability - and Oosawa did not block. He prevented two points of damage with Swift Maneuver and fell to six. Oosawa slumped as Shimizu added Chilling Shade to his board. He had no attacks on his turn and Shimizu pinged the flying token.
Jotun Owl Keeper chumped the Ronom Hulk. Surging Dementia stripped one land from Oosawa's pair of dead cards and the match was onto Game 3 one Resize later.
Once again, Shimizu had Into the North to ramp up for his fatties - although he would need more than one with Oosawa's Squall Drifter on the table ahead of them. Or he would just need one Disciple of Tevesh Szat. Oosawa had an answer this game in Gelid Shackles and attacked for three with the tapper and his Boreal Centaur. Jotun Owl Keeper joined the fray.
Shimizu was undaunted and attacked with his Disciple and played another. He seemed to be taking control of the game - and his Into the North for an Island threatened a surprise in the near future. In the present, Oosawa was on three cards in hand and he had to ditch two of them to Surging Dementia - he chose Simian Brawler and Ronom Hulk.
Shimizu fell to four on the next attack but Oosawa's demeanor was not of someone capable of forcing through a point of damage much less four. He had only two creatures, four mana, and one card in hand. His only hope was to upkeep his Owl Keeper and overwhelm Shimizu in the air. That seemed unlikely with the pinger, a freshly cast Chilling Shade, and Frostweb Spider on the board - not to mention the Mouth of Ronom.
Final result: Naoki Shimizu -10-0 Takaya Oosawa - 8-2
Saturday, Aug 26: 4:01 p.m. - A Flare for the Game
20-year old Tokyo University student Naoki Shimizu was likely a cinch for the Top 8 after a 10-0 start to the tournament. It seemed as good a time as any to get to know the player who has been credited with designing the popular Standard staple, Solar Flare.
Apparently the deck had begun its life as a straight blue-white-black deck. The reanimation component was suggested by Shimizu. "The original Solar Flare deck was made by friend and it was called Yamakawa - because his name is Hiroaki Yamakawa. We played the deck a lot at University and after the release of Guildpact I made it into Solar Flare."
Hiroaki Yamakawa, Naoki Shimizu, and Takahiro Suzuki
Naoki played the deck in Standard to an obvious 3-0 start for his tournament. After running off seven straight Limited wins he was getting ready to return to his baby for just one more win in order to lock up his first ever Top 8. He could hardly believe the week he was having from his last event to this one.
"I made 20th at GP Hiroshima and I got the 4th place Amateur Prize - I got $950," he looked around at some of the big name players who were looking on as we conducted our interview and laughed. "This is all too good for me. Last round I played with Morikatsu, I played Osamu Fujita, and Kenji Tsumura. Yesterday my friends were all offering me congratulations after I went 7-0 but I thought I would end up going 0-7 today. After going 3-0 I am very happy."
I asked him if he had seen any interesting deck designs during his first three rounds of Standard action but he was not quite ready to let anything else share the limelight with his co-creation: "Yes…but perhaps mine is still better."
He did admit that he was not looking forward to facing off against The Real Japanimator: "That match can be terrible for me. If they have Protean Hulk I cannot just Wrath it away. Wrathing a Protean Hulk means you will lose very soon."
"In Japan there is a question as to who designed Solar Flare. Some say it was me and some say it was Yamakawa but I want to say that it was me and Yamakawa," he laughed before quickly adding: "And Takahiro Suzuki - the creator of GhaziGlare - so actually it was the three of us who created it."
Takahiro was apparently responsible for the addition of Court Hussar to the deck. While Shimizu had opted to stay with the deck, his friend was playing Yaso Control. The two were headed for an 11th Round showdown to kick off the second leg of Standard.
Saturday, Aug 26: 4:47 p.m. - Round 11: Naoki Shimizu vs. Takahiro Suzuki
This match was a clash of two deck building teammates whose accomplishments are well known. Many new deck types or strategies have been coming out of Japan recently, much thanks to these two players. Both Gazi-Glare and Solar Flare decks were originated between these two players and their team. Suzuki was part of the team that Top 8'ed Pro Tour Charleston.
Shimizu is playing his team's original creation, Solar Flare, with some updates for Coldsnap, while Suzuki is playing a brand new deck. His blue-black snow-based deck has a very strong mix of counterspells, Phyrexian Ironfoot, Dark Confidant, and Persecute.
Shimizu began Game 1 with a mulligan, and got stalled on three land for three turns. Suzuki didn't have very much to press with, only some land and an Umezawa's Jitte. He did have a Scrying Sheets and he used it. By turn 7, Suzuki finally felt he could cast his Phyrexian Ironfoot with enough counters to back it up. Shimizu cast Mortify, but Suzuki had the Remand to keep it in play.
Turn 8 Shimizu finally drew land three and tried to Sift, but that was Remanded as well. Phyrexian Ironfoot and Umezawa's Jitte went to town. Remand number three kept Phyrexian Ironfoot from getting hit with Mortify again, while Suzuki let the counters build up on Umezawa's Jitte. The third casting of Mortify was stopped by a Rewind, but Shimizu still had no fifth land. The third attack put 6 counters on Umezawa's Jitte and Suzuki put a top into play, and Shimizu down to 11 life. A Hinder was shown to stop Mortify number two and that was enough for Shimizu.
Shimizu played first and had a bounce land on turn two. Suzuki avoided casting Boomerang, saving it for a better target and instead played a swamp. Shimizu had a turn three double signet, and turn 4 Compulsive Research. End of turn 4 Suzuki finally decided that since the AZ bounce land is the only untapped mana it should get Boomeranged, that allowed Shimizu to get an Angel of Despair in the graveyard. Suzuki still didn't have action on his turn, just a Scrying Sheets.
Shimizu attempted to casta Jester's Scepter, and Suzuki seemed to just let it resolve, where, actually the only counter in his hand was a Muddle the mixture and a Remove Soul, which suddenly seemed less techy as they did on the deck list. He was able to play a Top on the following turn, and both player built up their situation for the next few turns. Shimizu attempted a Kokusho, but was countered by Remand.
Suzuki then took a minute to read Jester's Scepter, and make sure he knew what it did.
Shimizu tried his Kokusho again, and then the following stack occurred:
Remove Soul on Kokusho;
Shimizu's Remand targeting his own Kokusho;
Suzuki's Remand targeting this Remove Soul
Suzuki used both his Sensei's Divining Tops to get down to a Persecute the following turn. He called black and hit the Kokusho and a Persecute, while seeing Remand, wrath of God, Land, Land.
Shimizu ripped a Persecute of his own of the top of his deck. With two mana left, Suzuki knew he was going to get remanded if he cast Muddle the Mixture on the Persecute, and he wanted mana to activate his Sensei's Divining Top. He just let the Persecute resolve, and Umezawa's Jitte and some land were also revealed while he discarded a hand full of blue cards.
We finally got to see a card under Scepter as it countered the Dark Confidant Suzuki drew from looking with the Sensei's Diving Top. Suzuki used some of his remaining mana and laid down the Umezawa's Jitte.
Shimizu drew a Angel of Despair on the following turn and used it to get rid of Scrying Sheets. Suzuki 's Top didn't reveal any help for a 5/5 flyer. Four turns later the game was over. Suzuki drew a Phyrexian Ironfoot, but it was also under the Jester's Scepter.
Suzuki playing first, took a mulligan for his first hand, but with six cards was able to get in a turn three Phyrexian Ironfoot, and attack. He cast an Umezawa's Jitte on turn 4. Shimizu attempted a weak persecute on turn 4, which was remanded. Suzuki had left the two open instead of equipping the Umezawa's Jitte. Suzuki then equipped Umezawa's Jitte without attacking on turn 5.
Shimizu cast a Jester's Scepter, and another Jester's Scepter on the following turn. Both were allowed to resolve (he had Hinder), keeping a defense for any Mortify action that would destroy his threat. Shimizu had got up to 6 land at this point without playing anything that added blue mana.
One more turn and there was lethal damage on the board. Suzuki risked the hinder on a Dimir Signet. Shimizu had no blue, and then not enough mana to activate scepter and do something else if Signet didn't resolve. If he had Mortify at that point, he couldn't back it up with a scepter. Shimizu didn't have anything else as Suzuki took the win.
Final Result: Takahiro Suzuki - 2 Naoki Shimizu - 1
Solar Flare - Naoki Shimizu
2006 Japan Nationals Standard
Yaso Control - Takahiro Shimizu
2006 Japan Nationals Standard
Saturday, Aug 26: 6:22 p.m. - Round 12: Shouta Yasooka vs. Kazuya Mitamura
Yasooka was playing the new Black/Blue Counterbalance deck while Mitamura was playing an Urzatron deck with Demonfire.
Mitamura took a mulligan and drew into a turn two signet. Yasooka played Sensei's Divining Top turn 2, and was able to Spell Snare Mitamura's second signet on turn 3. Yasooka's Scrying Sheets allowed him to draw an extra snow land with his top, while Mitamura still had not reached Tron. Both players took their time building up their mana base. Yasooka played a turn 8 Dark Confidant, which was electrolyzed. The following turn he played another Dark Confidant, and let Mana Leak counter it with five mana still untapped. He used that mana to Remand a Tidings, and Remanded it again on the following turn.
His Sensei's Divining Top and Scrying sheets allowed him to continue to play a land every turn and keep a full hand while Mitamura's deck struggled for mana. Yasooka cast a Phyrexian Ironfoot without contest, and remanded the Tidings for the third time when Mitamura replayed it. Another Phyrexian Ironfoot hit the table, then the first one attacked. Mitamura finally drew an Urza's Mine to complete the Urza Tron, and started casting spells. Tidings finally resovled, and put Mitamura back on equal footing. Mitamura still had enough to cast Keiga, which was countered by Remove Soul.
Yasooka only attempted to attack with the newer Ironfoot, which was repealed. Instead of replaying it, he went for a Dark Confidant. On his turn, Mitamura Electrolyzed the Dark Confidant, and tried to resolve another Keiga. Yasooka had another Remove Soul, but Mitamura remanded his own spell saving it and netting him a card. He then tapped down to two mana to replay the Keiga. Yasooka had the Hinder, and Mitamura didn't have another Remand.
Meloku joined Yasooka's side while Mitamura was powerless to stop him. Mitamura wasn't out of plays yet -- he had Wildfire to clear the board. Yasooka saved his Meloku with a Boomerang. Mitamura followed up the Wildfire still on the same turn, with a Keiga which Yasooka couldn't stop. Yasooka held off replaying the Meloku to play out a Phyrexian Ironfoot, which was Repealed back to his hand at the end of turn. Mitamura tried take the advantage and lock things up with a Meloku of his own. Yasooka countered it with Disrupting Shoal, but that meant removing his Meloku from the game. Yasooka replayed Ironfoot, but it wasn't good enough because Mitamura had another Wildfire and a Demonfire for the win.
Yasooka sideboarded: Umezawa's Jittes, Boomerangs, and a Phyrexian Ironfoot came out for Persecutes and Seize the Souls.
Yasooka waited to play his Dark Confidant until turn three so that he had Spell Snare to back it up, but it was Spell Snared instead of being dealt with by Remand or Pyroclasm. Mitamura had Pithing Needle for Sensei's Divining Top on the following turn. His Phyrexian Ironfoot resolved on turn 4 backed up by the Spell Snare on Mitamura's Remand. Mitamura achieve the Tron on turn 5, and played a Keiga with his only colored source, a Shivan Reef. Yasooka countered it with Remove Soul. The following turn, Yasooka had the Rewind for Mitamura's Meloku, all the while Phyrexian Ironfoot was able to continue attacking. A Meloku of his own sealed up the game for Yasooka.
The sheer power of his undisrupted deck convinced Yasooka to put back in the lone Phyrexian Ironfoot that he sideboarded out previously for a Sensei's Divining Top.
Yasooka lead turn two with Sensei's Divining Top, but Mitamura had Pithing Needle for on the following turn… again. Yasooka flipped his Top but replayed it the following turn since it wasn't the card Mitamura named (I have no idea what he actually named since the slip of paper wasn in Japanese - I think it was Meloku). Yasooka wasn't able to draw much, so he hardcast Meloku on turn 5. Mitamura didn't have a counter, so he untapped and Demonfired it. Mitamura tried to play a Meloku of his own, but Yasooka had Rewind. Mitamura Cast Keiga the following turn and the stack began:
Remove Soul on Keiga
Spell Snare on Remove Soul
Disrupting Shoul Pitching Spell Snare on Spell Snare
Keiga went to the yard.
Yasooka was left with a hand full of high-powered black cards, but no black. He had to let a second Keiga resolve on the following turn, and cast Counterbalance, which can't stop Demonfire. That is how the game ended on the following turn when Mitamura cast it. Yasooka had the Hinder, but Mitamura cast the last card in his hand, Mana Leak, making the Demonfire uncounterable.
Final result: Kazuya Mitamura - 2 Shouta Yasooka - 1
Saturday, Aug 26: 7:31 p.m. - Andrew's Journey
Now that I had some help in the form of Andrew Stokinger on the Feature Match side of things I was able to pry myself away and do some other types of coverage such as my photo piece about the dwindling supply of Todd Lockwood's painted originals and the interview with Shimizu about the origins of Solar Flare.
In my Friday column I mentioned that Andrew Stokinger had made it into the coverage of Grand Prix Hiroshima regarding his 'unfortunate incident'. Several readers pointed out that Andrew's tale of woe was nowhere to be found in the chronicle of Hiroshima. I have to confess that I had not yet read the coverage at the time and was basing that line on Ron Foster assuming the story had made it in. (This is no way a sleight against Noah, I was just at the beach all weekend with no access to the internet and headed straight off to Japan with no time to fully catch up on the coverage.)
Andrew explained how he flew to Japan for a Grand Prix, arrived with no travel issue to impede him doing so, and still managed to miss it: "What happened in Hiroshima was that I have employees living in a different day than I was. They were calling me on my cel phone and talking to me about issues that took place in their time zone while I was living in this one. Based on talking to them back in the States, I showed up at the venue thinking it was Friday - expecting to play in the Trial - but it was actually Saturday and the main tournament had already started."
Japanese coverage team clockwise from the top: Keita Mori, Yusuke Yoshikawa, Yukio Kozakai, and Daisuke Kawasaki
Don't make the mistake of feeling bad for Andy. He has made good use of his time here. In addition to simply having a good time hanging out with friends he has traded with everyone in the venue willing to make a deal for a card. He even found a Japanese counterpart whose massive trading needs synched up with his. Andy spent most of this morning completing an exhaustive trade that spread out across multiple tables.
Now that he had nothing left to trade I was able to corral the not-as-tall-as-everyone-makes-him-out-to-be wheeler and dealer into doing some coverage. With the last leg of Standard underway I wanted to take a walk around the venue and see what cards from Coldsnap were seeing play.
Saturday, Aug 26: 8:08 p.m. - Coldsnap Sightings: Photo Essay
One of the most popular cards so far this weekend has been Phyrexian Ironfoot. The 3/4 creature has been the answer to both sides of the question, "Who is the beatdown?"
Many players opted to have card advantageous mana bases thanks to the card drawing power of Scrying Sheets. This also meant cramming as many other snow permanents as possible. Akira Asahara's update of Enduring Ideal utilized Coldsteel Heart where Signets once dwelt and even found room for Boreal Shelf over the more popular - and much more expensive - Hallowed Fountain.
Some people like to draw cards with their snow permanents, other prefer to do damage.
Asahara's latest - and always fiendish - creation even found a way in Coldsnap for his deck to cast virtual spells. With the combo of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance he could still exert some control over the game. Not pictured: Asahara was also running Commandeer in the deck.
The greediest decks I have seen in some time were Yaso Control updates that featured all the Sensei's Divining Top fantasies - Dark Confidant only hits lands in this dreamscape leaving Counterbalance an array of casting costs to choose from.
Pro Tour Charleston winner Tomoharu Saito had a hard time choosing between Ninja decks this weekend. He wanted to play with the Erayo Ninja decks that emerged from German Nationals but could not resist adding Ohran Viper to his Hawaiian creation Sea Stompy.
Saito's deck from Charlston - Rakdos - got a facelift this weekend with the addition of an unexpected Coldsnap beater.
Saturday, Aug 26: 9:31 p.m. - Round 13: Katsuhiro Mori vs. Kazuya Mitamura
Mori's deck was Blue-Black-White control based around Dark Confidant, Counterbalance, and Sensei's Divining Top. His version is without Scrying Sheets and snow lands. Mitamura was playing an Urzatron deck with Demonfire.
Mori played first, and countered Kaz's Izzet Signet with Spell Snare. Mori played a Court Hassar on turn 3, and tried for an Umezawa's Jitte on turn 4, which Kaz Mana Leaked. The Umezawa's Jitte was only a ploy since he also had a Dark Confidant.
Dark Confidant and Court Hassar swung in for 3 for multiple turns while Kaz remained stuck on three lands. Mori played another Court Hassar, before Kaz Demonfired the Dark Confidant away. Mori answered with a Meloku with two mana still untapped. Kaz was able to draw into a fourth land in the following two turns, but nothing else, as Mori and his Meloku took down Game 1.
Mori sideboarded out his Dark Confidants for more powerful spells like Annex, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, and Yosei. Kaz made the game's first play which was to tap down to one mana on turn four for Compulsive Research. Mori took advantage of that by casting Grand Arbiter Agustin IV. Kaz then had to spend three mana on an Izzet Signet, but Mori cast Annex a land to take back the advantage. Mori began attacking with Grand Arbiter. Kaz's next signet was Remanded (for a single blue!), as Grand Arbiter continued to help Mori and hinder Kaz. Mori cast a Yosei and attacked again with Grand Arbiter. Kaz Annexed his land back, but after another attack worth of damage it wasn't enough. Mori added a Meloku to his team on the following turn, and Kaz conceded without a way to cast anything that would keep him alive.
Final result: Katsuhiro Mori - 2 Kazuya Mitamura - 0
Saturday, Aug 26: 10:15 p.m. - Round 14: Naoki Shimizu vs. Akira Asahara
Since his profile piece after round ten, Naoki Shimizu had not managed to win a match - although he was only trying for two of the three intervening rounds. He picked up two losses - one to his friend Takahiro Suzuki and another to a Ninja Erayo player - and an intentional draw along the way. The draw assured that he would be in the Top 8 win, lose, or draw but he was there to play.
Let me give you an idea of what a competitor the young Tokyo University student is. When I mentioned that he was the second best English speaker I had met in my dealings with Japanese Magic players he looked around the room and narrowed his eyes: "Who is he? I will practice and defeat him."
That was fine with Akira Asahara. Even though Naoki could easily scoop the elder player into the Top 8, that was not the way Akira wanted it to play out and had too much pride to get into the Top 8 on the back of a concession. Game on (which is not to be confused with...)
Ken-ichi Fujita loomed over the match. He had dropped after a poor showing yesterday and only came to the venue in order to play some fun Magic with his friends. Masashiro Kuroda had joined him on the rail but be was still waiting on Asahara.
"Drop," joked the impatient Fujita.
Asahara opened on a mulligan but kept his next six cards and led off with Boreal Shelf. His deck featured all snow lands in order to get maximum exploitation out of Scrying Sheets. Shimizu was still rocking the old school karoos and discarded Adarkar Valkerie to an Azorius Chancery. Asahara began digging through his deck for the cards he needed with Sensei's Divining Top but Shimizu took a more direct route by transmuting Clutch of the Undercity for Persecute. Asahara's tumblers began falling into place as he dropped Counterbalance and passed the turn. Shimizu thought about shocking himself with Godless Shrine to play the Persecute but was content to play the waiting game and put it into play sideways with no play.
Asahara tapped out to attempt stealing the Chancery. Shimizu looked at his hand and weighed his options, He could attempt to Mortify the Counterbalance in response or he could hope that Asahara was bluffing a 2 on top of his deck and Remand. Instead he floated the mana from the Chancery and Mortified the Confiscate at the end of the turn.
Compulsive Research and Signet for Shimizu left him tapped out for Confiscate number two, which resolved without resistance. Shimizu was suddenly short on blue mana and could not RemandEnduring Ideal after he drew three cards with Compulsive Research. Asahara found Zur's Weirding. Shimizu revealed a hand of three Remands, Angel of Despair, and Persecute. He Remanded a couple of Ideal copies and used his Mikokoro every turn. Asahara kept paying life and was soon down to six - he didn't want Shimizu to have anything: land, spell, or otherwise. Finally he was able to reveal a Signet on top of his deck to deal with the third Remand and search up Form of the Dragon. Shimizu conceded.
Shimizu had an easy time sideboarding - out came four Wrath of God and a Valkerie and in went two Cranial Extraction and three Jester's Scepters - a card which had the potential to be randomly devastating against Asahara very specific threats - he even had some extra sevens in the deck in Commandeer which could trip him up from underneath a Scepter.
Asahara kicked off with a Top and Coldsteel Heart on the surrounding turns of Shimizu's Signet. Asahara was working his Top and did not have enough mana to fight his way through Shimizu's Jester's Scepter. He tried to Mana Leak but that was Remanded. Asahara flipped one of his Tops to lessen the chances of Shimizu hitting a relevant casting cost.
Bad news for Asahara; there were a pair of sevens under there - and one of them was a copy of Enduring Ideal (the other was Commandeer).
Good news for Asahara; he had Boseiju in play.
Enduring Ideal fired off through the legendary land and found Dovecape. Angel of Despair smoked the enchantment and an Ideal under the Scepter countered the next copy of Ideal. The Angel dropped Akira to 11. Kokoshu and another seven under the Scepter sent the match toward a third game.
Asahara mulliganed to open the game and scuffled early on for blue mana. Sadly for Asahara, Coldsteel Heart is no Signet and he could not play it and draw the blue mana that turn. With a clear window of opportunity, Shimizu shocked himself with a Godless Shrine and stripped all the Ideals out of a dejected Asahara's deck.
I was impressed with Asahara's resilience this game as he saw a glimmer of hope while Shimizu floundered on four lands and could not muster anything to put Ashara away. Slowly Akira mounted an Army of Court Hussars which pecked away at Shimizu's life total. There was an impressive play when Akira attempted to Confiscate the Evening Star that Shimizu had just played. Shimizu went to Mortify his own dragon in response and Akira Commandeered the spell to take out Angel of Despair.
With time running out, all of Akira's plays could manage him no better than a draw - which left him short of the Top 8.
Saturday, Aug 26: 11:59 p.m. - Decklists: A Sampling of the new Format
Structure & Force
2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck
Structure and Force / 2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck
Urza Tron / 2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck
Early Harvest / 2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck
Solid Snake / 2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck
Amiel Tenembaum is the best player in the world / 2006 Japanese Nationals Standard Deck