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Round 9: Masashiro Kuroda vs. Akira Asahara

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Both of these two attribute their success on Day 1 to the toothpicks they've kept tight between their teeth. Stolen from Neil Reeves via Jordan Berkowitz, it seems to convey ability as well as audacity. Not that they were in short supply in the talent department. Masashiro Kuroda is one facet of the recent Masters Champions PS2. Asahara is one of Japans top deckbuilders. They face each other now at 8-0, poised to get a lock on Top 8. Despite beautiful positioning, Kuroda's black-green deck failed to get beyond average, whereas Asahara spent his draft doubling up on Glarecaster and Skinthinner.

Game 1

Asahara kicked off, but was soon under fire from Kuroda's Festering Goblin and Stonewood Invoker. He cycled Akroma's Blessing and found the second white source he needed for White Knight. Kuroda swung in with the Invoker undaunted, and Asahara declined to call his bluff. Kuroda had no third land, but played Wirewood Elf. Asahara shot back and added Stoic Champion to the table. Kuroda hit for another two and cycled Swat, finding a second swamp. Asahara hit with his Knight, and gave it back to Kuroda with five mana open.

Kuroda thought hard before sending his Invoker again. Asahara stared at the cards in his hand. He blocked with the Champion. Neither player had a trick. Kuroda showed him a Krosan Vorine. Now it was Asahara's turn to think. He had Cruel Revival in hand. He eventually chose to use it, catching the Wirewood Elf and hoping to slow Kuroda's mana. He untapped, Pacified the Vorine, and hit for two. Kuroda shot back for one and dropped Severed Legion.

Asahara was heavy with hits. He swung for two, added Glory Seeker, and Pacified Kuroda's Legion. Kuroda found land number four and brought out Symbiotic Elf. Then Asahara found his sixth land, enabling Glarecaster. Kuroda was ready. Down came Infest, clearing the board with the help of the Goblin. Kuroda was left with a pair of insects. Asahara's last card was a winner: Crowd Favorites.

Kuroda fought gamely. He took four from the Favorites while he set up a Skinthinner. Asahara's deck continued to serve, giving him a morph. Kuroda flipped up his 'Thinner to get rid of the Favorites. Again, Asahara was rewarded, this time with Aven Redeemer. Kuroda was at six, but the sixth land he needed for Needleshot Gourna was Tranquil Thicket. He fell to four before setting it up. Asahara turned over his morph: Skinthinner. Gempalm Avenger showed up just in time to make sure Asahara wouldn't randomly lose to Tribal Unity.

Asahara 1 – Kuroda 0

Game 2

Kuroda had to mulligan in Game 2, and his Stonewood Invoker showed up a turn too late. Asahara got on the board with Glory Seeker and a morph. Kuroda answered with Symbiotic Elf, forcing Asahara's men to stay home. Asahara added Aven Redeemer to the mix.

Now Kuroda was in a bit of a bind. He swung with his dudes, trading Invoker for Glory Seeker, then added Severed Legion. Asahara trumped that with Whipgrass Entangler, threatening to rob Kuroda of any tempo he could muster. They traded hits, Asahara holding back on the Entangler to unmorph his Gravel Slinger. Starlight Invoker made the Entangler all the more powerful.

Kuroda bought another two damage and added Wirewood Elf. Asahara hit back and Pacified the Severed Legion, just waiting for land number six so Glarecaster could lock up the game. Secluded Steppe forced him to wait one more turn. In the meantime Kuroda spent his Tribal Unity taking down the Gravel Slinger and putting Asahara to eight. The Glarecaster hit, and Kuroda didn't have an immediate answer. He dropped Elvish Warrior and a morph. Asahara played a morph of his own, with three mana open for Akroma's Blessing. Kuroda searched for a way out. It was not forthcoming. With excrutiating slowness, the last three turns played themselves into Asahara's hands.

Final Result: Akira Asahara defeats Masashiro Kuroda 2-0

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