2008 Grand Prix–Okayama Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on November 21, 2008

By Wizards of the Coast


  • Info: Day 1 Undefeated Sealed Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • 8:41 p.m.: PTQ for the Rookie
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 8:41 p.m.: Hollow Victory
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 7:51 p.m.: Round Seven Feature Match: Player of the Year Round-up
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 6:24 p.m.: Round Six Feature Match: Student and Master at Work
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 5:32 p.m.: Master at Work
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 5:12 p.m.: Rookie of the Year Hopeful
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 3:35 p.m.: Round Four Feature Match: Katsuhiro Mori vs. Shinghou Kurihara
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 2:45 p.m.: Ask the Pros, Part 2
    by Keita Mori
  • 1:22 p.m.: Token of Appreciation
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 1:03 p.m.: The Original Nakamura
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • 12:25 p.m.: Ask the Pros, Part 1
    by Keita Mori
  • 11:30 a.m.: Deckbuilding with Shuhei Nakamura
    by Brian David-Marshall
  • Friday Last Chance Trial Winner Decklist
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff

Friday Last Chance Trial Winner Decklist

by Event Coverage Staff

Daisuke Muramatsu

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Kazunori Watabe

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Takahiro Okai

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Yutaka Samiso

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Tetsuya Shimomura

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Shingo Fukuta

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Yuuya Yanagida

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Saturday, 11:30 a.m.: Deckbuilding with Shuhei Nakamura

by Brian David-Marshall

Shuhei Nakamura came to this weekend’s Grand Prix hotly pursued by a handful of players for the Player of the Year title that he seemingly had locked up throughout the season. After a Top 8 in Hollywood and a gaudy 18 points across the Summer Series of Grand Prix tournaments he was sitting pretty up until a couple of weeks ago when Tomoharu Saito and Luis Scott-Vargas were playing on Sunday in Berlin – and then the two of them did it again by making the Top 8 of Atlanta last weekend. Suddenly there were two players within striking distance, and three within 20 points of Shuhei counting Olivier Ruel who will be at all three of the remaining Grand Prix trying to close some ground.

With Saito and Ruel breathing down his neck this weekend – it looks like LSV will only be making the trip to Auckland of the remaining Grand Prix on the schedule – Shuhei was praying for a solid pool of cards to work with. He began laying the cards out in columns of color with the appropriate Shard specific cards straddling the columns. Here are some of the card he identified early as being reasons to play that color or shard:

White: Akrasan Squire, Oblivion Ring, Sanctum Gargoyle, 2 Guardians of Akrasa
Green: 2 Wild Nacatl, 2 Naya Battlemage, Druid of the Anima
Black: 2 Fleshbag Marauder, Executioner’s Capsule, Bone Splinters, Archdemon of Unx
Red: Magma Spray, Soul’s Fire, Predator Dragon, and two copies of Dragon Fodder.
Blue: 2 Courier’s Capsule, Resounding Wave, Fatestitcher
Jund: 2 Rip-Clan Crasher, Sprouting Thrinax, Carrion Thrash, Blightning
Bant: Waveskimmer Aven, Bant Charm, Kiss of the Amesha
Mana fixing: Grixis Panorama, Jund Panorama, Naya Panorama, Obelisk of Bant, Obelisk of Esper, Jungle Shrine

Shuhei quickly decided that his first build of the deck would lean in the direction of Jund because that is where all his removal was centered and it had two finishers in Predator Dragon and Archdemon of Unx. He did not consider this a fast beatdown pool as he never put the Rip-Clan Crashers into his build and after a moment of mana contemplation also sat his two Wild Nacatl on the bench.

“If I had two Panorama that gave me Plains I might play them,” explained Shuhei. “I think they will just be 2/2s in my deck and the Rip-Clan is not an easy two-drop with all the Panoramas and come into play tapped lands. I would like them if they were Cylian Elf more.”

The pair of Naya Battlemages remained in since they just needed white mana and did not care one bit whether Shuhei had a Plains or not. Shuhei seemed destined to have four sources of white and possibly five if he played both his Obelisks. This also allowed him to squeeze the Oblivion Ring into his starting lineup but as he looked over the potential 23 cards he would be starting he shook his head.

He stripped the black and Jund cards out of the playables and began building a super aggressive Naya version that would be based in green and white and would have access to Mountains from all his Panoramas. As he looked over the curve of the deck he was pleased with the one drops which now included the two Nacatl and a Squire but he shook his head as he looked past that spot and found no removal and 0/4 walls.

“This is no good,” he sighed as he reverted to the Jund build briefly before toying with a Bant version that would give him three pieces of card drawing in Kiss of the Amesha and two Courier’s Capsules – the latter of which he was very excited about on his initial flip though his card pool. It also allowed him to squeeze in a third tapper in Fatestitcher. He looked at using his Panoramas to pad the deck out with red removal but in the end came back to the finishers that Jund offered.

In the end he settled on a version that was close to the first pass of the deck splashing an Oblivion Ring and cutting a Blightning in favor of either of his red or green fattie cyclers. The deck looked solid but was it solid enough to get him into Day Two – basically the top 10% of the 635 person field -- and that precious Pro Point territory?

“If I need an X-2 record to get there, I think maybe,” said a disappointed Shuhei. “But if the cut is X-1-1 it will be tough.”

Saturday, 12:25 p.m.: Ask the Pros, Part 1

by Keita Mori

What is your favorite Shards of Alara card in Limited play?

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa: Courier’s Capsule. Since this is a format that demands the use of mana bases which could be described as inconsistent, I place high value on cards that let you draw cards and thus stabilize the flow of the game.

Olivier Ruel: Cancel! It’s a 3 mana, instant, monocolored Vindicate!

Tomoharu Saito: Vithian Stinger. I have a very high win percentage in games when I have gotten this out on the third turn. I think it’s the second strongest common in the environment after Oblivion Ring.

Satoshi Nakamura: Speaking strictly about cards I like, I’d have to say Waveskimmer Aven. It tends to come late in drafts, and it tends to round out my decks nicely. R&D seems to tend to make a lot of strange UG cards...I’m not complaining, because that makes it easier for me to draft (chuckles).

Saturday, 1:03: The Original Nakamura

by Brian David-Marshall

This weekend all eyes will be on Shuhei Nakamura’s attempt to defend his lead in the Player of the Year title but at the start of round two the spectators pressed in along the tension barriers to get a look at one of the first superstars of Japanese Magic – Satoshi Nakamura. Satoshi was the first Japanese player to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot having started playing on the Pro Tour long before Magic cards were printed in Japanese; won the first APAC Championships in 1998; was a member of the first ever Japanese National team; and won Grand Prix Sapporo in 2000.

Nakamura was nicknamed The Hat Man for his crazy choices of headwear in the past, a more professorial and toned down Nakamura sat down for a round two feature match against Toshikazu Fujii.

“I played in the Alara prerelease,” said Nakamura who has not played much Magic over the past few years. “My DCI rating was deactivated so I played there.”

He had enough fun that he decided to come to the Grand Prix and see if he still had what it takes to win a Limited Grand Prix after all these years. “I really like these cards but I wish they had made it easier on me for my first big tournament back. These decks are very hard to build.”

So hard that he actually took a Game 1 loss in his feature match because he could not remember correctly how he had sideboarded in his first match – that’s right, he had zero byes for this event. But he managed to take the next two games with a pair of Waveskimmer Avens doing the bulk of the heavy lifting for him.

One of Nakamura’s most famous decks was Squirrel Opposition and he has long been an inhabitant of the Yavimaya Coast and he has found that he loves Bant – and the Aven in particular -- at this early stage. “I have always liked blue and green so the Aven is one of my favorite cards. Plus, bad players don’t seem to like it so they keep passing it to me in drafts.”

One of the original rogue deck designers, here is a long lost example of Satoshi’s mastery:

Oath of Spikes - Satoshi Nakamura

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As for his toned down headwear, Nakamura promised something more spectacular if he could manage his way to the elimination bracket at a Grand Prix for the first time in more than five years.

Saturday, 1:22: Token of Appreciation

by Brian David-Marshall

Toshikazu Fujii – Satoshi Nakamura’s second round opponent – has found an interesting way to commemorate his Grand Prix experiences. As he sat down for his match with the elder statesman of Japanese Magic he showed off an array of token cards sketched by artists who have come to Japanese Grand Prix tournaments. The most recent was from Chippy the visiting artist at GP Kobe. Perhaps a Daarken original will soon join this impressive gallery.

Saturday, 2:45 p.m.: Ask the Pros, Part 2

by Keita Mori

Who do you think is going to capture the title in the Player of the Year race?

Masashiro Kuroda: I’m rooting for Olivier Ruel. He’s staying with me for this GP as well, and we came down together. I heard Nakashu (Shuhei Nakamura) has his own French connection now, as (Guillame) Wafo-Tapa is staying at his house.

Shuhei Nakamura: Everyone—please! Please, let me win this year!

Kenji Tsumura: Nakamura has a pretty impressive lead, but personally I’m hoping LSV (Louis Scott-Vargas) takes it. His friendship with Paul Cheon makes me think of Kai Budde and Patrick Mello from the old days, and his Elves! deck from PT Berlin was an even more refined version of what we had. His GP Atlanta deck was the best I’ve seen so far in this format. I wish LSV would teach me how to draft.

Shota Yasooka: It’s going to be Nakashu (Shuhei Nakamura), right? I mean, if he doesn’t get it this year, he’ll never get it, so...

Saturday, 3:35 p.m.: Round Four Feature Match: Katsuhiro Mori vs. Shinghou Kurihara

by Brian David-Marshall

It is hard to imagine that Katsuhiro Mori is such a grizzled veteran that the former World Champion was putting in a “this is my Prerelease” performance this weekend. Mori puts himself at a 50% likelihood of attending Worlds this year and figured he would get a little practice in just to be safe.

“These new cards are very strong,” said Mori of the new set. “My deck is kind of bad but Shards looks very strong.”

He was facing off against Shingou Kurihara – the Pro Tour Geneva Top 8 and three-time GP Top 8 competitor who has turned in his trademark parka for a more stylish tweed blazer.

Game 1

Kurihara led off with Cylian Elf while Mori made the rarely seen Bloodthorn Taunter – if Mori had a Plains and Wooly Thoctar in his hand, Kurihara was in for a beating the like of which hasn’t been seen since Sootstoke Kindler into Ashenmoor Gouger. Kurihara played Gift of the Gargantuan and dug up Plains and Mosstodon. Mori passed his turn without a Wooly Thoctar. Rhox Charger hit play for him a turn later but Mori was not sure he was willing to trade his hastemaker for the lowly Cylian Elf. He finally decided he was up to the trade if Shingou was and they both put their guys in the yard.

Shingou did not find a fifth land for his Mosstodon and passed the turn without a play. Mori crashed in for four with his Rhox Charger and then played his own Mosstodon. Scourglass came down for Kurihara but that still left Mori with a turn to bash in for eight before Kurihara blew up the world and played his Mosstodon.

Exuberant Firestoke came out for Mori, who was missing white mana for the remaining fatties in hand. Kurihara rumbled in for five, killed the Firestoke with his Naya Charm and played Metalurgeon. Mori found a Hissing Iguanar but a Waveskimmer Aven from Kurihara made it impossible for Mori to block. Kurihara did not give him the option a turn later when he played a second Waveskimmer and attacked in the air for four. Mori drew his card, hoping for an answer, and then quickly started shuffling for the next game.

Game 2

Mori reached for his sideboard and took out the Taunter in favor of Where Ancient Tread. He led off Game 2 with Wild Nacatl and got in for two on turn two. He found his Plains this game and attacked for three on the next while making a Steward of Valeron. Shingou spent his first three turns developing the same mana base and killed the Steward with Naya Charm on his own turn three. He was still taking three a turn from the Nacatl and braced for continued impact as he dug with Gifts of the Gargantuan for land and Waveskimmer.

Feral Hydra came down as a 4/4 stop sign for Kurihara and Mori did not attack instead playing Incurable Ogre, which he put in the path of the Feral Hydra. Shingou spent six mana and pumped his Hydra twice and ate the red creature. Mori figured better late than never and flipped the Hydra in his direction to read it. Hissing Iguanar came down for Mori. Shingou pressed in with the Hydra while sitting on a Skeletonize for the two creatures on Mori’s side of the board. Mori double checked with a judge that Kurihara would not get the Skeletonize token if the creature it was targeting did not die and showed Resounding Roar to his opponent for the win.

Game 3

Nacatl on turn one and Knight of the Skyward Eye on turn two meant that Kurihara was at 13 by the time he untapped with his turn two Courier’s Capsule and turn three Obelisk in play. He played a Waveskimmer Aven but could not block the Knight once Mori played his fourth land. The Nacatl bounced harmlessly off the flier and was devoured by Thunder-Thrash Elder post combat.

Kurihara puzzled over his next turn trying to find a way to deal with the 4/4 and the Knight that could potentially be a 5/5. He decided to crack his Capsule in search of answers. He found Rafiq of the Many and flew in for eight. Mori untapped and promptly Skeletonized the mythic rare and bashed Kurihara down to five in the process.

Kurihara went back in the tank for the following turn. How was he going to deal with Mori’s board advantage? Interestingly he chose to attack for three in the air and play out Cylian Elf and Metalurgeon – the plan appeared to be go to one as he let the 4/4 through and chump blocked the Knight with his Cylian Elf. Mori tried to decide if he wanted to develop his board or use the mana to keep his Knight alive. Mori had kept the Skeleton token back rather than just throw it away to the Metalurgeon. Mori did not save the Knight and invested in a Cavern Thoctar instead.

Quasali Ambusher chumpblocked Kurihara’s flier on the next turn and Mori – possibly another play due to inexperience with Exalted on Mori’s part. If he had the extra attacker it would represent the win on the board – even if Kurihara’s eight untapped mana was representing a Resounding Silence. Instead Mori just sent in his token and his 4/4 and Kurihara cycled Resounding Thunder to kill the red creature and Metalurgeon mopped up the token.

The Aven continued to peck away for three for Kurihara who played a Scourglass. Mori still had some tricks up his sleeve though. He had been holding back on Mosstodon to trample the Thoctar over the pesky Metalurgeon.

Final result: Former World Champion Katsuhiro Mori defeated Shingou Kurihara two games to one.

Saturday, 5:12 p.m.: Rookie of the Year Hopeful

by Brian David-Marshall

Last round we featured a former Rookie of the Year in Katsuhiro Mori but in 2008 it is 23-year old Aaron Nicastri from Sydney, Australia who is looking to take down that title. Aaron – who you may have seen in a Wizards of the Coast lifestyle video -- has been on a whirlwind tour of the world this season. After a 35th place finish in Hollywood that was worth 5 points, 10 points for winning his National Championship, and 2 points for showing up in Berlin, Aaron finds himself right in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race with Americans Tyler Mantey and Tim Landale 3 points ahead of him and tied with Dan Lanthier of Canada for second.

“After I won Nationals – and I knew I was going to Berlin – I got the big idea to go to all the remaining Grand Prix,” said Aaron, who kicked his World tour off in France. “Grand Prix Paris worked out perfectly because I was able to work with Sylvain Lauriol and Pierre Canali.”

It was just announced that for the 2009 season all Grand Prix tournaments will advance all players with X-2 records through to Day Two – something Aaron wishes could have been in place for the staggeringly huge GP Paris when he missed the cut to Day Two on tiebreakers that plummeted through the floor in the final rounds.

“This is not the start I was after,” lamented Aaron who has yet to make it through to Day Two. “In Berlin I was playing Desire and fizzling with eight storm on the stack. No Day Twos is frustrating. My goal coming into these events was to get to Level 6 – 30 points. That may be an ambitious goal at this point but you never know. Things can swing so quickly.”

Regardless of how this season works out for Aaron he had the opportunity to apprentice under some of the best players in the world and he rarely misses an opportunity to soak up the best players in action.

“In Berlin I watch draft after draft after draft. I watched Shuhei draft six times, Antoine draft five times. Olivier, Nassif, Herberholz, Saito...It is about getting to know the mentality of these players – learning what the level is for professional play,” said Aaron who is staying with Shuhei Nakamura and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa for this trip to Japan. “It is about where you choose to make your alliances – you need to network.”

Having spent so much time around some of the game’s greatest players these past few months Aaron has come to understand what makes the Pros so formidable.

“It is just a commitment mostly. There are a lot of players who could be good enough if they just dedicated themselves to doing it,” he said. As for how his advice on how to improve, it was simple: “Play more. The best players in the world are the players who play the most – Guillaume, Olivier, Shuhei. They play all the time. It is just part of their life. Even if they say they are not playing a lot they are playing more than most people who think they play a lot.”

With two more Grand Prix ahead of him before he tackles Worlds – in both the solo and team competition – there should be plenty of opportunities for Aaron to secure the lead in the Rookie race, which includes the airfare and accommodations to any one event of the winner’s choosing.

“The title would be nice but the flight is worth a lot more to me than the other guys,” grinned Aaron, who knows a thing or two about the price of travel these days.

Saturday, 5:32 p.m.: Master at Work

by Brian David-Marshall

Hey! Wasn’t this Grand Prix supposed to be about the Player of the Year race? Instead it seems like every round has been about a once or future Rookie of the Year. Well this round is no different. I was walking around the room to check in on the PoY hopefuls and I was distracted by a crowd gathered around a match that exceeded anything that has been seen in the Feature Match area thus far. The match featured an icon of Japanese Magic, and certain first-ballot Hall of Famer, Masashi Oiso squaring off against GP Hiroshima winner Motokiya Azuma. Motokiya, an extremely well-regarded domestic player and Mashashi are both from the nearby Hiroshima area and this battle attracted plenty of bystanders.

In an earlier piece, Aaron Nicastri emphasized the value of watching the best players in action in order to improve your own game. Masashi Oiso was holding a masters class for the bystanders. He was on his heels in Game 3 but briskly and calmly worked his way out of it with a Grixis Battlemage digging him to a Sharding Sphinx just in the nick of time. With the clock ticking and a Skeletal Kathari locking down the airspace over the red zone he switched into beatdown mode and began using the red side of the Battlemage’s abilities to leave Azuma only bad blocks each turn despite having a modest – but now dwindling board advantage.

It was easy to see how Masashi has led to a new generation of talented Magic players in his wake as his dutiful students crowded around to take notes on how he clawed his way back to victory.

Saturday, 6:24 p.m.: Round Six Feature Match: Student and Master at Work

by Brian David-Marshall

Game 1

Sometimes the coverage just writes itself... Last round I watched as Masashi Oiso put on a “who’s the beatdown” clinic for a crowd of onlookers and mused about his influence on a new generation of Magic players. This round saw Oiso in another match – inexplicably away from the Feature Match area – with perhaps his most famous apprentice, Kenji Tsumura. Both players are from nearby Hiroshima with the 2000 Rookie of the Year mentoring the eventual 2005 Player of the Year. Between the two players there were 11 Pro Tour Top 8 finishes at the table and side by side plaques awaiting them both in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame when they eventually become eligible.

Masashi now goes to school in Nagano so he does not get to spend a lot of time with his old friends and was no doubt looking forward to spending some time with Kenji this weekend. But with both players already having one loss this early on in the event a round six showdown was not the quality time either of these old friends had in mind. As I came over the two players were shuffling up for Game 2 with Kenji up one game and Japanese coverage coordinator Keitia Mori flagellating himself for somehow losing this pairing in the Feature Match shuffle.

Game 2

Neither player got off to a terribly fast start but it was apparent that Oiso’s hand must have been amazing. He was sitting on an active Grixis Battlemage, with blue mana open, and choosing not to use it each turn. One by one he dismantled Kenji’s board not allowing anything to live. A Cylian Elf was attacking? Oiso cycled Resounding Silence to take it out, he used Grixis Charm on an opposing Battlemage of the same Shard, and he Skeletonized a Puppet Conjurer. When Kenji played Fleshbag Marauder, Oiso chose to let his Battelmage go – he wasn’t using it anyway – in favor of his skeleton token that was keeping an Undead Leotau at bay.

Both players were conscious of the clock that is always in play when the deliberate Oiso s in a match and when Masashi unearthed a Vithian Stinger Kenji did not even wait to see the Bone Splinters to put his Flashbag Marauder and an Undead Leotau – he had just played a second one on the previous turn – in the bin.

Tidehollow Sculler from Oiso saw a hand with Tar Fiend, Resounding Thunder, and Branching Bolt. Kenji could have easily killed the Sculler but bided his time using a cycled Resounding Thunder to take down a Tower Gargoyle. Oiso played and used Executioner’s Capsule to take out a Rhix Charger and played another Grixis Battlemage – which promptly drew Branching Bolt from Kenji. Now that Oiso had to be out of gas he was not going to let him reload.

But Oiso still had something left in his tank as Sanctum Gargoyle regrew the Tower Gargoyle. Sharding Sphinx the turn after sealed the deal for Oiso and they moved onto their rubber game. Kenji had ended the game with an Archdemon of Unx sitting useless in his hand and he shuffled it back into his sideboard for a more useful Naturalize. While he did that I saw that the two Undead Leotau and two Dreg Reavers had been sideboarded in based on the two Executioner’s Capsules and Sanctum Gargoyle that Kenji had seen in Game 1.

Game 3

The final game was not much of a showing for Oiso who just played land after land with nothing to show for it while Kenji beat him down with his Undead Leotau and a Dreg Reavers.

Final result: The student defeated the master two games to one.

Saturday, 7:51 p.m.: Round Seven Feature Match: Player of the Year Round-up

by Brian David-Marshall

Old school favorites, Hall of Fame locks, and Rookie of the Year titles aside; with two rounds to go it seemed as good a time as any to check in on our Player of the Year contestants to see how they were faring.

Shuhei Nakamura vs. Daisuke Muramatsu

Both players were 6-0 coming into this round meaning that Shuhei’s deck had left him in exactly the position he hoped it would. If he won this round he would be guaranteed a Day Two berth and if he lost he would still be in a position to make it with either two losses or a draw – although the former was not at all a clear shot into Day Two. We will find out next round how that plays out since Shuhei took his first loss courtesy of TWO Goblin Assualts that rocked the PoY frontrunner back on his heels in Game 3. There was a brief window where it looked like Shuhei could steal the game with his Predator Dragon if not for a timely Resounding Silence from Daisuke – who would sit atop the standings going into Round Eight.

“If I would lose next round and not advance to Day Two I will draw,” said Shuhei who was clearly feeling the pressure of the race. As soon as he said that he slumped, clasped his arms around his body and sighed, “Maybe I will just draw.”

Olivier Ruel vs. Ryo Jumonji

“It could be worse – it could be legal in this format,” laughed a relieved Olivier Ruel after receiving a warning from the judge staff for having a promotional Urza’s Factory among his sideboard cards. The Urza’s Factory was given to everyone who signed up this morning when last night’s preregistration crowd exhausted the supply of Call of the Herds that were advertised.

When I walked over the two players were in the middle of Game 2 and Olivier was cranking out tokens as fast as he could with Dragon Fodder and Jund Battlemage. He was sitting on Sigil’s Blessing and wanted to overrun his opponent with a critical mass of creatures. Having just used Resounding Silence to dispatch a pesky Stoic Angle from Ryo, Olivier was well aware that if his opponent, who was smiling mischievously over his Bant plus five more mana, could wreck him if he went for the win. Suddenly his window for the overrun came crashing closed on his fingers as a Resounding Thunder took out his Jund Battlemage and an impossibly large Feral Hydra began attritioning his board.

It looked like Oli would have enough fodder to chump his way into decking Ryo but an Exuberant Firestoke was a steady source of damage that sent them into Game 3 with less than five minutes to go.

Ryo agonized over his decision to mulligan and a time-pressed Olivier sat on the edge of his seat wondering if they would even get any turns in if his opponent shipped his hand back. Ultimately a trembling Ryo shouted, “Go!” indicating that he was going to play his openers.

Oli came roaring out of the gate with Steward of Valeran and Guardians of Akrasa. Ryo killed the Steward but Olivier – playing at lightning speed – made a Battlegrace Angel on turn five followed by Court Archers a turn later. Ryo tried to stabilize behind his own Court Archers with Quietus Spike but Oli had the Bloodpyre Elemental to clear the way. Ryo extended the hand and Olivier prepared to draw his way into a draft table the next round.

Tomoharu Saito vs. Takamasa Ogura

Saito was in the worst shape of all the PoY contenders having picked up two losses. He had to hope his tiebreakers would keep him afloat provided he could win the remaining two rounds on his docket. He managed to peel a timely Ajani Vengeant (aka Lightning Helix for four mana) to eek out the final points of damage in Game 2 against Takamasa. In Game 3 Saito’s Scavenger Drake went all the way while he kept the ground locked up by Necrogenesis and Jund Battlemage.

Saturday, 8:41 p.m.: Hollow Victory

by Brian David-Marshall

By Brian David-Marshall

Tomoharu Saito sat glumly at table 136 after completing his last round of Day One. He came into the round with two losses and was in a must-win situation. Contrary to the expression on his face he had won this round but he feared it was all for naught.

“Very bad,” said Saito with a shake of his head. The reigning Player of the Year and Pro Tour Charleston champion had been to enough Grand Prix in his career that he knew how this was going to play out – he even had historical precedent. “At Grand Prix Birmingham there were 650 players and only 6 players with X-2 made Day Two. Maybe 5 or 10 will make it.”

Last night Saito had been very happy to hear about the Grand Prix changes that were recently announced which state that every player with an X-2 record will advance to Day Two during the 2009 season. With Shuhei advancing to Day Two and him being one win away and about two months shy from being able to follow him through the draft tables the changes seemed much like his round eight result – a hollow victory.

Saito was also very pleased – last night anyway – to learn that there would be no overlap of Grand Prix or Nationals on the same weekend next year. There has not been a weekend with a Pro Tour or Grand Prix scheduled this year where Saito has not played. The only events he has missed have been due to scheduling conflicts.

“No one loves Magic more than me,” he had said at that time. How he feels about it tonight will be up to the tiebreakers.

Saturday, 8:41 p.m.: PTQ for the Rookie

by Brian David-Marshall

Aaron Nicastri will not get a chance to employ all draft knowledge he has absorbed on his world tour picking up three losses early. He dropped and planned on playing in the Sunday PTQ with an eye toward winning a flight to Kyoto. If he can do that and still manage to overtake the RoY leaders in that race he would have half his events covered for next season.

Aaron performance this season comes without attending Pro Tour Kuala Lumpur and not having three byes at any of his Grand Prix -- something that will change for him next year when he crosses the 20 point threshold at Worlds.

Saturday, 9:30 p.m.: Day 1 Undefeated Sealed Decks

by Event Coverage Staff

Tsuyoshi Ikeda

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Naoki Kubouchi

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Akimasa Yamamoto

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Daisuke Muramatsu

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Makihito Mihara

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