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Quarterfinal: Dredging Toward Victory

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The letter R!yuichi Arita did not get the matchup he was looking for. Kenji Tsumura's elegant Dredgeatog deck has many strong answers for Arita's threats, along with a Life from the Loam card-advantage engine that is almost impossible for Arita to stop. His deck got him this far, but facing down not only Psychatog and counters but Pernicious Deed and Putrefy as well, with Isochron Scepter and Chrome Mox, and taking home three games was going to be even harder.
Two powerful Japanese players battled for the right to move on to the semifinals.

His new weapon was that he has seen Tsumura's exact list, which is far more valuable to him than Arita's relatively conventional list is to Tsumura. Could Tsumura's deck have weaknesses that an aware opponent can exploit? Both players have Cunning Wish sideboards, but even Tsumura's sideboard seemed to anticipate this matchup. While Arita can bring in Exalted Angel, the five cards in Tsumura's sideboard that are not targets for Cunning Wish are Duress and Viridian Shaman - and Tsumura has so few cards to take out that Viridian Shaman would remain in the sideboard.

Game 1

Both players were content to develop their mana bases at the start; the first spell was a fifth turn Chrome Mox from Arita while Tsumura cracked fetch lands and cycled extra mana sources. Tsumura's draw appeared to be heavy on lands and he decided not to fight against Arita's card-drawing spells.

He started with Thirst for Knowledge and then followed it up with Fact or Fiction. Tsumura made an intriguing division, putting Thirst for Knowledge and Wrath of God in one pile with Fire/Ice, Island and Fact or Fiction in the other. Arita had discarded a Wrath to the Thirst, so it seemed like the players disagreed about what was important.

fact or fiction

The second Fact or Fiction also resolved with Arita choosing Orim's Chant and Cunning Wish. Tsumura had counters in his hand but he did not seem to consider using them until Arita went for Isochron Scepter. His plan clearly seemed to be to fight over key weapons like Isochron Scepter rather than try to counter card drawing.

Even then Tsumura only paused to use Cunning Wish and allowed Arita to imprint Fire/Ice without a fight. On Tsumura's end step they had the first fight of the game with an Oxidize and Counterspell taking down the Isochron Scepter before it cold be used a second time.

Arita had managed to gain a substantial edge on cards and Tsumura used his second counter to fight against Cunning Wish while playing a Psychatog to put on pressure before Arita could convert his extra cards. He even removed some of he cards in his graveyard to get in some extra damage, but it would be several turns before he could attempt to do lethal damage. Tsumura's aggressive Fact or Fiction split forced Arita to choose between two of his remaining three Isochron Scepters and two card-drawing spells, all but forcing Arita to leave himself with only one remaining Isochron Scepter. His maindeck Brain Freeze was also in the graveyard from an early Thirst for Knowledge. He had many extra cards, but turning them into a win was not going to be easy.

Arita used Wrath of God to clear away the Psychatog that was nibbling away at him, but with all four copies of Wrath of God gone, he had to Counterspell the Tog's replacement on the next turn. Now his hand had nothing but multiple copies of Mana Leak and Orim's Chant, with his only hope seeming to be the Brain Freeze still sitting in his sideboard.

Arita had to churn through the mana math in Game 1.

With only six cards in Arita's library, Tsumura went for a Pernicious Deed and Arita went into the tank. He had assembled all of his Orim's Chants and several counters for backup, but did he have enough spells to go through Tsumura's library? A third Psychatog forced a Prohibit from Arita as he continued to dig for the final Cunning Wish. He would need to fire off seven copies of Brain Freeze to pull off the win and had only 14 mana to do it with, but he had assembled his hand carefully the entire game and that would be enough.

With no cards in his library, he went for Orim's Chant on Tsumura's upkeep. This was it. Three copies of Orim's Chant would cost three mana, Brain Freeze two and Cunning Wish three. That left him enough extra mana to cast Wish for Wish and use Fire to add the final two spells to the storm count. Tsumura would lose if he allowed Orim's Chant to resolve, but if he could not stop Orim's Chant casting spells would only make things easier for Arita.

Both players had looked through both graveyards and removed from game piles several times, trying to deduce the contents of both hands and libraries. Finally Tsumura let Orim's Chant resolve. The other two Chants came next followed by Fire (since Ice would deck him) and then Cunning Wish for Cunning Wish and then finally Brain Freeze for exactly enough cards to finish off Tsumura.

Arita 1, Tsumura 0

Sideboarding

Tsumura took out a Force Spike, both copies of Last Gasp and the Smother to fit in Duress and Krosan Reclamation. Before Game 3 (and perhaps Game 2, I did not see his sideboard), however, Arita decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. He brought in Exalted Angel, taking out an Orim's Chant, a Brain Freeze and two Wrath of Gods, an Isochron Scepter and a Chrome Mox… and also brought in Kataki, War's Wage! If the plan worked, Tsumura would be caught by surprise and beaten to death by 2/1 white creatures.

Game 2

Cunning Wish

Arita was forced to mulligan to five and lost his Fact or Fiction to a Duress when Tsumura played it on turn four, playing around the Mana Leak in Arita's hand. Arita decided he was far enough behind that he had no choice and put out the Exalted Angel but it ran into Putrefy, and then a Gifts Ungiven drew out the Mana Leak so that Psychatog could hit the table. Arita went for a final desperate Wrath of God off the top of his library but Tsumura used Cunning Wish to get back a previously used Circular Logic.

Arita 1, Tsumura 1

Game 3

Once again Arita was forced to mulligan, this time to four, and was reduced to peeling off the top few cards from his deck in hopeful fashion. He tried to assemble some card drawing but the extra cards were too much to overcome.

Tsumura traded off cards in rapid fashion and begun using his Life from the Loam engine. Kataki got a few hits in, but Pernicious Deed was waiting on the table if things got out of hand and when Psychatog joined it, Arita used Mana Leak to tap out Tsumura in the hopes of drawing something off the top that could salvage the game. When he drew nothing, he conceded the game.

Arita 1, Tsumura 2

Tsumura's Psychatog loved seeing Life from the Loam hit play.

Game 4

Having shown Kataki, Arita removed them to bring back a Brain Freeze, an Orim's Chant and a Wrath of God. He had been shuffling his entire sideboard into his deck before each game to hide his intentions - but despite having his spot removal for small creatures still in his board, Tsumura did not even look at his board.

On the second turn, a Duress backed up by Force Spike went through a Prohibit and Tsumura took one of two Mana Leaks out of Arita's hand over Chrome Mox, Wrath of God and Cunning Wish and rushed Psychatog on to the table knowing that even if Arita had land four that casting Wrath would allow Tsumura to resolve Gifts Ungiven, which did in fact resolve two turns later to start the Life from the Loam engine as Psychatog faced a face down Exalted Angel.

Once again Arita was short on land, having stalled on three and had his Chrome Mox fall to Oxidize. With the extra boost from Life from the Loam, the Psychatog went in for the kill and the match.

Final score: Kenji Tsumura 3, Ryuichi Arita 1

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