Sunday, August 7: 6:02 pm - Quarterfinals: Osamu Fujita (Deck-X) vs. Masashiro Kuroda (Gifts)
Osamu got off to a rough start with a double mulligan on the draw. He managed to make 8.5 Tails for the game's first threat while Kuroda developed his mana with Kodama's Reach. Osamu had a little acceleration of his own with Honor-Worn Shaku. He put it to work on the next turn powering out Yosei to square off with Kuroda's Kagemaro, First to Suffer.
Osamu took six from the Mutilate on wheels. He went to crack back for seven on his turn and Kuroda adjusted his life total rather than tapping a black mana. Fujita baited him with Isamaru, Hound of Konda but Kuroda was not biting and offered up a selection of Gifts Ungiven EOT. They were all lands and Fujita gave the Kobe champ Swamp and Island.
Kuroda had eight cards in hand and gave Kagemaro fear with his Shizo and dropped Fujita to six. He took Kuroda down to two on the next turn but could do nothing about the unblockable Maro.
Game 2 got off to a better start for Deck-X with a turn one Hound followed by a sideboarded Hand of Honor. Kodama's Reach was defied by Hisoka and a Pithing Needle stopped Kuroda's top from spinning. Yosei closed the deal for Fujita.
Mulliganing a marginal hand on the play is one of the most difficult decisions in Magic. Kuroda winced as he looked at his hand with land and spells - trying to figure out if there was any way to keep the one-lander. He was taunted by Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach but ultimately could not keep that hand. His next six featured one land and zero fixing and that went back with little thought - just a sneer of disappointment. He kept the five.
Fujita's second land was Cloudcrest Lake - his third land was going to be a depletion land as well if his deck was not kind - and he opted not to play 8.5 Tails so he could have three mana for Honor-Worn Shaku on the following turn. Kuroda went right to three lands but had no play - he would need a fourth land off the top in order to cast Gifts Ungiven.
Fujita made his paddle and Kuroda made a face of disgust as he missed his fourth drop. Fujita laid a fourth land and simply played 8.5 Tails. Kuroda found his fourth land and was suddenly in this game. He passed the turn and waited for Fujita's end step. Fujita made the white dragon and passed the turn - Kuroda unmulliganed and offered a selection of lands to Fujita, who put Shizo into the bin along with a Swamp.
Kuroda played his fifth land and thought about Kagemaro but was concerned about Hisoka's Defiance and passed with no play. Fujita smashed over for seven. He played Pithing Needle and named 'Kagemaro'. He also added Hounds of Konda. The two players were complete opposites in terms of their table presences. Kuroda was animated and reflective. ticking off scenarios on his fingers, scrunching up his face in pain over his decisions, and contorting himself in his chair. Fujita, on the other hand, remained impassive with his face slack so as to betray nothing about the nature of his hand. If he had the counterspell he did not want Kuroda to know it - and if he didn't then he wanted Kuroda to think it was there. He gave away nothing.
Kuroda took out the weenies with Hideous Laughter EOT and untapped to do nothing. Yosei took him down to eight. Osamu played Meloku and used the paddle to make a token and replayed the land. Kuroda cast Gifts - it took the last of his Tendo Ice Bridge tokens leaving him with three lands that fired blanks, two Forests, and a lone Swamp.
Finally, after much internal debate, Kuroda revealed - no wait, he wasn't quite ready yet. Finally he was ready to offer Fujita - no, still not quite sure yet. Finally he narrowed it down to five cards and then four - Hero's Demise, Hideous Laughter, Hana Kami, and Horobi's Whisper. Fujita let him have Demise and Laughter. That was not the end of the decision making process though - Kuroda still had two mana available and a Meloku he wanted dead.
Kuroda counted out his mana, knocking on the table and played the next few turns in his head - Fujita just propped his head in his hand and waited for something to happen. Hero's Demise took a shot at Meloku and the impassive Fujita tuned over Blessed Breath - he had one card left in his hand.
Kuroda untapped and tried to find a way to work with his limited color options. Finally he tapped his Forest and two melted Ice Bridges to fetch and Island and a second Swamp. He played the Swamp and passed the turn. Osamu paused during his upkeep and Kuroda paid the ACC to Sickening Shoal the Meloku. Now osamu needed to think - he made two more tokens and went to his draw step.
Kuroda went to two from the attack. He retuned Hana Kami with Soulless Revival. His plan was to return Horobi's Whisper and splice the Hideous Laughter onto it. Osamu defied it like Hisoka and Kuroda extended his hand.
Sunday, August 7: 6:26 pm - Khoo Aik Seng (Gifts) vs. Bandou Jun'Ichirou (MUC)
Khoo Aik Seng
Meloku returned all of his lands and Bandou bounced it with Vortex and used Threads of Disloyalty to steal a token to block with Keiga. Once his Jushi Apprentice showed up and started handing him an extra card a turn there was little that Khoo could do and Bandou took down the first game. Bandou earned a big cheer from the crowd as the second of the five Gifts deck was knocked out.
Sunday, August 7: 6:38 pm - Quartefinals: Tai Chi Huang (WW) vs. Shuu Komuro (Gifts)
Tai Chi Huang
Tai Chi administered an early beating before Shuu 'stabilized' at two. It was just a matter of time before Blessed Breath allowed him to get one of his weenies through Meloku's defenses. He was not counting on a Meloku token actually being Ink-Eyes in disguise and a reanimated Patron of the Kitsune started to swing the game in the other direction and eventually won it for the Nagoya Champion.
In Game 3, Tai Chi had three Pithing Needles in play locking down Meloku, Kagemaro, and Hana Kami. He also had a doubly equipped Horoki. Despite the Needles Komuro proceeded to deliver the beatdown with his Fighting Drake and his Maro - it doesn't have to kill anything to still be good. Shuu continued to fly over and eventually won the match.
Sunday, August 7: 6:47 pm - Quarterfinals: Masahiko Morita (Gifts) vs. Masashi Oiso (Gifts)
This is going to be one long-ass match with two of the games finest players going head-to-head with the most decision intensive deck in recent history. Masahiko Morita tied Kai Budde and Itaru Ishida for second on the GP Top 8 page with his 14th appearance in a quarterfinals match. Oiso is no slouch himself with 7 such appearances.
Somehow, Oiso and Morita completed one game before any of the other matches when Oiso's Ink-Eyes was too much for Morita. He came back in the next two games while all the other matches were still going on.
The Top 4 was exclusively Japanese now with two of the five Gifts decks advancing. They would be squaring off in one bracket while Deck-X would take on Mono-U Control. I'll be sticking to the rogue side of the bracket, thank you very much.
Sunday, August 7: 7:09 pm - Semifinals Roundup
Imagine if your White Weenie deck had Meloku and countermagic. Are you picturing it in your mind's eye? It probably looks a lot like Deck-X, the rogue deck that Osamu Fujita has piloted into the finals of Grand Prix Taipei.
It must have been a relief for Fujita to face a deck that could not wipe out his squad with Hideous Laughter. Despite only two lands for the whole game Fujita was able to deploy a weenie horde that came under Jun' Ichirou Bandou's countermagic defenses. In Game 2 his first two drops went all the way again although he did need the help of Umezawe's Jitte to do so.
Across the stage Komoru and Morita were locked in Game 2 of their Gifts on Gifts mirror match. Morita took the first game after he stripped the Nagoya champion's hand with the black Myojin and followed it up with spliced renanimation spells to bring back Kagemaro as often as necessary.
In Game 2 there was apparently a discrepancy in the life totals where Shuu thought he had more wiggle room than he actually had. He tapped out to strip Morita's hand and Morita quickly returned enough lands to kill him with Meloku tokens. After seeing that the judge's total and Morita's total and somewhat embarrassed Shuu agreed with their opinion that he had lost the match.
Both players in the finals have reputations as Silver Collectors -- finishing second repeatedly in big events -- but Morita finally closed the deal last year in Malaysia. Will Fujita finally get his championship? He has the match-up he wants. It will be Deck-X against Gifts in the finals.
Sunday, August 7: 8:15 pm - Finals: Osamu Fujita (Deck-X) vs. Masahiko Morita (Gifts)
How about some gold for the silver collector? That was Masashiro Kuroda’s feeling as Osamu Fujita sat down looking for his first title despite many trips to the finals.
“The match is 50/50 but I want Osamu to win – Morita already has a title,” said Kuroda, who was referring to last year’s monkey-slaying in Malaysia. Osamu could not ask for a better matchup for the finals as Deck-X (coming soon to a PTQ near you) is designed to beat the Gifts Ungiven decks with a combination of beatdown, disruption, and mana denial – a Gifts deck in the hands of Masahiko Morita could be another matter altogether. though.
Both players had turn-one plays – Sensei’s Divining Top for Morita and Isamaru for Fujita. Fujita followed up with Jitte and then with Honor-Worn Shaku on turn three – he was able to use the Jitte to untap the Shaku. He equipped and swung for two counters. He showed the true power of the paddle when he was able to make Yosei on the fourth turn.
Osamu Fujita hoists his first champion's trophy.
Morita tapped out for Gifts at the end of the turn. Rending Vines and Wear Away were sent to the bin while Kagemaro and Goryo’s Vengeance went into Morita’s hand. He untapped and played the mutilating legend but had no extra mana to turn it on.
There were four counters on the Jitte, which meant that Fujita could get in for 13 by air – one short of the necessary 14 – or he could leave the Jitte where it was and force a chump block from Morita. He opted for the air strike and removed two counters to leave Morita at 5.
Morita attacked with his legend and Fujita put his doggie in the path of it. Morita then used its ability twice – the second time via the Goryo’s Vengeance – but Fujita had Meloku for his next turn and there was nothing Morita could do about it without an untap step coming to him.
Morita pitched back his opening hand without much reflection. He considered his next six for a little longer before deciding to keep – his hand had only two lands and all pricey spells that started at four mana. Fujita shipped his first set back as well keeping the next.
Fujita made the first play – Hand of Honor. Morita missed land number three but found Sakura-Tribe Elder. Fujita cleared a path for his beater by playing Pithing Needle – Morita had to sacrifice the Elder in response – and ended up naming Kagemaro. He followed up with Jitte.
Hideous Laughter took out the Hand as it stooped to pick up the Jitte and was replaced by 8.5 Tails. Morita untapped to kill that with Shining Shoal. Honor-Worn Shaku was parlayed into Yosei a turn later while Morita regrew his Elder with Soulless Revival to develop his mana.
Morita had to deal with both the Jitte and the dragon and used Rending Vines splicing Horobi’s Whisper to kill Yosei – he was tapped out and would not be untapping anytime soon. Fujita had 8.5 Tails and another Jitte at the ready for his first free turn. Before it was time for Morita to untap, Fujita nailed the coffin shut with Hokori, Dust Drinker. Morita tried to survive for a few more turns but Fujita was able to keep his mana free thanks to the Shaku and had the 8.5 Tails at the ready for any nasty surprises.
Morita tried Horobi’s Whisper but Fujita remembered to counter it with his legendary fox and just like that, after five near misses, Fujita finally had some gold to go along with his silver medals.
“Finally,” exclaimed Fujita.