Kenji Tsumura might go all the way.
enji Tsumura might just be the most transformational Magic player alive. Following a heartbreaking near-miss at the Finals in the team competition at Worlds in 2004, he dedicated himself to the game and produced an incredible four Pro Tour Top 8s in the following two seasons. Next, when faced with the fact that he had very little game in Limited, he studied up and won himself a pair of Grand Prix before doing the incredible yesterday and going 8-0 on Day Two here in Kobe. The deck he drafted today was yet another study in how much he has improved. Pack 1 put him solidly in white-red with a splash of blue, but a flood of white and no red in pack 2 forced him to shift gears and draft white weenie with blue and no red, abandoning many of his early picks. His deck appears good enough to win the whole thing, but Magic is never won on the basis of decklists alone.
Tsumura's opponent is youthful Frenchman Bastian Perez. Only 19 years old, Perez is already a veteran of ten Pro Tours, though this is his first time in the spotlights of a Pro Tour Sunday. His deck is an interesting one designed to maximize Empty the Warrens and Strength in Numbers, and it is unclear how it will match up against Tsumura's.
Tsumura won the roll and chose to play, an obvious choice with his aggressive deck. Perez started well on the first two turns with Search for Tomorrow and Gemhide Sliver, while Kenji cast a turn-two Stormscape Familiar and turn-three Cloudchaser Kestrel. Perez then used the suspended Search for Tomorrow plus Sprout to create six goblin tokens with Empty the Warrens, but Kenji cast a D'Avenant Healer and suspended Viscerid Deepwalker, keeping the board stable despite being stuck on only three lands.
Bastien Perez poses for a classic Kubrick shot.
Perez attacked with his squad of 1/1s, casting Strength in Numbers on his Gemhide Sliver to trample over the Kestrel for 7 and dealing 7 more with his unblocked tokens. This dropped Tsumura to 6, an incredible total so early in the game when Kenji appeared to have a solid board position. Castle Raptors from Tsumura replaced the Kestrel, deferring Perez's attacks, while Herd Gnarr was quickly ready to roll but did not yet have an opening. Perez continued to threaten, dropping a Weatherseed Totem down. At this point Kenji was just praying to live a couple more turns so he could make a game of it. Phantom Wurm for Perez and then a Void for five a turn later finished Game 1 in startling fashion.
Perez 1 - Tsumura 0
Perez sided out Wormwood Dryad between games, while Tsumura brought in Icatian Crier for Detainment Spell.
Both players kept their hands for Game 2, and they were back in the fray. Turn two brought a suspended Duskrider Peregrine for Kenji, joined a turn later by a Zealot il-Vec, very saucy against Perez's pair of Gemhide Slivers - but a Sudden Shock handled the Zealot nicely. Kenji shrugged that off, replacing his Zealot with another Rebel, this time putting Amrou Seekers in play. Duskrider Peregrine got a hasty beat in alongside the Seekers, and Kenji cast Opal Guardian, but Perez worked around that with Sprout and Empty the Warrens, again wrecking Tsumura for huge damage (this time via Herd Gnarr), dropping him to 7. Strength in Numbers finished the job a turn later, and Tsumura was suddenly in an 0-2 hole. We've been covering the entire weekend, and this sort of dominance rarely presented itself in the feature match area during the Swiss.
Perez 2 - Tsumura 0
Kenji and Bastien play fast but not loose.
Perez finally had a moderately slow start in Game 3, mostly as the result of a mulligan. Tsumura again suspended Duskrider Peregrine on turn 2, and Perez again summoned forth one of his Gemhide Slivers. Kenji struck back with Opal Guardian, but Perez had the answer in Penumbra Spider. Zealot il-Vec went down in flames to Sudden Shock, but Kenji's Rebels were ready with reinforcements, and down came another Zealot and Knight of the Holy Nimbus a turn later. Celestial Crusader after blockers had Perez picking up his cards this time, the victim of another wicked aggro smashing. The format is somewhat fast, but these two decks and these two players are making for absurdly quick games.
Perez 2 - Tsumura 1
Search for Tomorrow for Perez and Knight of the Holy Nimbus for Tsumura kicked off game 4. Herd Gnarr set up Perez's strategy again, while Tsumura cast Stormscape Familiar. Goblin Skycutter shot the Familiar out of the sky, but Kenji reloaded with Cloudchaser Kestrel, taking some beats from Herd Gnarr in the process. Castle Raptors stopped that nonsense, but Phantom Wurm presented a trump, one that Kenji completely ignored by going aggro and casting Celestial Crusaders during combat again before casting Benalish Cavalry as well. The life totals were now 12-11 in favor of Tsumura. Just when it looked like Kenji had evened the match, Tromp the Domains struck and gave Perez just enough damage to kill Tsumura from what again looked like a game well in Kenji's favor. The pint-sized dynamo's first Pro Tour victory would have to come another day.
Perez 3 - Tsumura 1