Round 7: Ari Lax (Temur Aetherworks) vs. Kentaro Yamamoto (Grixis Emerge)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 15, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

Ari Lax's last trip to Honolulu worked out pretty well.

The Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir champion won an epic Top 8 here in 2014, forever etching his name into history and on the new and perpetual Pro Tour trophy. It's the highlight of Lax's Magic career to date, and one he took a few seconds to reminisce as he found his name on the side of the trophy prior to his Round 7 feature match.

But only for a few seconds. At 4-2 so far on the weekend, there was still plenty left to do this time around.

The same was true for Kentaro Yamamoto, who entered the tournament looking for his fourth career Pro Tour Top 8 after his last run to the elimination rounds at Pro Tour Magic Origins. With four Grand Prix Top 8 appearances already in 2016—including a second-place finish at Grand Prix Kyoto—he came to Hawaii playing at the top of his game.


While Ari Lax was looking for a repeat of his last Pro Tour in Honolulu, Kentaro Yamamoto was seeking his fourth Pro Tour Top 8 this weekend.

The Decks

Like many in Honolulu, Lax was playing the weekend's most popular deck: Aetherworks Marvel. Aiming to create a bunch of energy early and pay it off with a fast activation of the Marvel, the deck had players summoning giant Eldrazi Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Emrakul, the Promised End as early as the fourth turn of the game. Lax's version opted to go heavy on the blue cards, even going so far as playing Contingency Plan to find his combo pieces.

While other players came to the tournament sporting their best Kaladesh invention, Yamamoto leaned heavily on cards from Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon. Specifically, he maxed out on Elder Deep-Fiend and a host of creatures that played well from the graveyard: Prized Amalgam, Haunted Dead, and Advanced Stitchwing. The three creatures formed the backbone of his plan to play resilient threats that came back from the graveyard and could set up devastating boards as early as the third turn thanks to the raw power provided by Cathartic Reunion. The strategy was resilient to removal and could play largely at instant speed, offering Yamamoto key flexibility in how to play games.

The Games

With interaction from both players low in the main deck, both knew it would be a race from the first-turn Attune with Aether from Lax. From there, each side aimed to fill up the graveyard, with Yamamoto using a pair of Perpetual Timepiece to do the trick while Lax burned through three Contingency Plans to stuff his graveyard full of spells.

Finally the attacks began, as Yamamoto used Haunted Dead to bring back a Prized Amalgam from the dead and started to apply pressure. Meanwhile, Lax was still furiously digging. He was up to 16 energy but hadn't found an Aetherworks Marvel despite seeing 25 cards in his deck. As the beatdown continued from the zombies, he defending champion of Hawaii found his back against the ropes.


Lax looks for the fastest route to victory with his Aetherworks Marvel deck.

That was when Marvel finally appeared. As Lax rolled the dice on his turn, Emrakul, the Promised End followed. That allowed him to trigger Kozilek's Return from his graveyard and clear Yamamoto's board as he threatened to end the game.

But controlling an opponent's next turn is not the same as controlling an opponent until that next turn ends. Yamamoto activated Advanced Stitchwing from his graveyard, returning the army of creatures to the board in Lax's end step, with enough power to end the game even after he lost his next turn to Emrakul.

That meant that Lax needed to go big with that turn. As Yamamoto revealed his hand, Lax went deep into thought to try and puzzle a way out. After a few seconds, he gave himself a light slap on both cheeks as he exclaimed, "I figured this out!"

He had. It began with tapping both Perpetual Timepieces to mill away more of Yamamoto's deck. Then Lax sacrificed Elder Deep-Fiend to cast another Elder-Deep Fiend, triggering the Kozilek's Return that Yamamoto had in his graveyard. That sent the creatures back into the graveyard, and Lax finished the turn by activating Perpetual Timepiece to shuffle all those back into Yamamoto's deck. That was enough for the Japanese pro to pick up his cards and send the pair into Game 2.

While the first game displayed the power of what a single activation of Aetherworks Marvel could do, the second game belonged entirely to the graveyard deck. Cathartic Reunion put Prized Amalgam and Advanced Stitchwing into the graveyard, Yamamoto returned them to play on the third turn, and a follow-up Elder Deep-Fiend kept Lax from casting anything as he died to the zombie army in a lightning-fast game.


Yamamoto's deck is capable of starts so resilient that it leaves opponents with little wiggle room.

That sent the pair into a decider, one that kicked off in earnest when Yamamoto cast Cathartic Reunion on the second turn. It was countered by a Negate from Lax, but the damage had already been done by the discard. Haunted Dead returned along with Prized Amalgam, and the beatdown began. Again Elder Deep-Fiend Time Walked Lax, and the next attack left the defending champ with just one turn to do something to claw back in.

Fortunately for Lax, he had the Aetherworks Marvel he needed. Unfortunately for Lax, Yamamoto had the Negate. With the Marvel in the graveyard and the writing on the wall, Lax extended his hand in defeat.

Not that it changed his demeanor much.

"Don't worry, I would have missed anyway," he informed Yamamoto with a laugh as he looked at the top six cards of his library.

Lax 1 – Yamamoto 2

 

Ari Lax - Temur Aetherworks

Kentaro Yamamoto - Grixis Emerge

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