Battle of Champions – Masaya Kitayama vs. Katsuhiro Mori

Posted in Event Coverage on July 18, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

After four rounds of Super Sealed action, eleven former champions have been whittled down to two. First, the 2007 Champion Masaya Kitayama. Twice a finalist at Grand Prix, and with four Pro Tour top 32s to his name, he is clearly no slouch. Nonetheless, he comes into the final here as the underdog, since he faces Katsuhiro Mori.

Mori has multiple Grand Prix titles, a World Champion trophy from 2005, and three successive Worlds top 8 performances. He's also - for another couple of hours - the reigning National Champion.

Both players were given a fresh set of twelve M12 boosters to build new Super Sealed pools, so neither had any idea what would be waiting for them across the table. Having seen both players build their decks, it looked as though Mori was going to take a lot of stopping. He had built an aggressive red-black Bloodthirst deck, topping out at Sengir Vampire, Vengeful Pharaoh, and a near-guaranteed win in Sorin's Vengeance. Kitayama had gone white-red, with both Chandra, the Firebrand and Chandra's Phoenix. He also had Sun Titan at the top end of his curve.

Katsuhiro Mori vs. Masaya Kitayama

Kitayama began with a turn two Stormfront Pegasus, which was in play for approximately one second, Shock sending it to the graveyard. He had Chandra's Phoenix on turn three for the first damage of the match.

Mori had Blood Ogre, but with no Bloodthirst. The Phoenix attacked for a second time before Kitayama added Gideon's Lawkeeper to the board.

Mori attacked with his Blood Ogre, and had Bloodthirst with his Stormblood Berserker. He Shocked the Lawkeeper, with Kitayama also using Shock to get the Blood Ogre off the board.

Both players had powerhouse moves at five mana. Mori had Sengir Vampire, Kitayama Serra Angel. Doom Blade destroyed the Angel, and Mori added pressure with a second Stormblood Berserker, again a 3/3 thanks to Bloodthirst. With yet another burn spell in Incinerate, Mori was quickly one game up.

Kitayama 0 - 1 Mori

Game 2

Alabaster Mage faced Goblin Fireslinger in the early turns of game two. Benalish Veteran was the turn three play from Kitayama, but Mori had a 3/3 all the time with Stormblood Berserker. Kitayama cast Pacifism on the 3/3, and attacked. Mori blocked with his Fireslinger, trading for the Alabaster Mage, and Mori had Chandra's Outrage for the Benalish Veteran. A replacement Veteran followed from Kitayama.

Down came Grim Lavamancer for Mori, prompting Shock from Kitayama before attacking. He had Blood Ogre as a 3/3 to complete the turn.

Gravedigger from Mori got back the Grim Lavamancer with a spare mana to get the 1/1 back onto the battlefield. Kitayama sent in his pair of 3/3s, with Mori taking all the damage. Celestial Purge then took out the Grim Lavamancer for the second time.

Mori cast Tormented Soul, another excellent Bloodthirst enabler, and Onyx Mage, but he was on the back foot against the Benalish Veteran and Blood Ogre, both masquerading as Hill Giants. When Mori traded for the Veteran, Kitayama was ready with the massive Sun Titan, getting it straight back. That was enough for Mori, who was happy to prepare for game three.

Kitayama 1 - 1 Mori

Game 3

Grand Abolisher

One of the features of Super Sealed is that it's possible to build multiple good decks, and there becomes an element of Metagame to the matches, as players try to work out which of their decks will match up best against whatever their opponent is running. At one each, it seemed Mori was preparing for a major switch.

Forest led the way for Mori, while Kitayama had the same turn two Stormfront Pegasus to get the ball rolling. Mori used Plummet to kill the flyer, but Kitayama had another Stormfront Pegasus as backup.

Shock killed it, but Kitayama was making the running, with Alabaster Mage and then Grand Abolisher. Mori used Arachnus Web to ignore the Abolisher. Next from Kitayama was Arbalest Elite, and this was taken out by Incinerate. Kitayama returned the favor when Mori attempted Garruk's Companion, seeing it Shocked. He too had a second copy, and this time the 3/2 survived at least as far as Kitayama untapping and firing off a second Shock.

Sun Titan

Mori got to six mana, and cast Inferno Titan which wiped the board, but that was all, as Celestial Purge instantly sent it away. Mori cast Giant Spider, but another Titan was on the way, this time Sun Titan for Kitayama, getting back Stormfront Pegasus. Mori attacked with the Spider, enabling his Stormblood Berserker to become 3/3. Kitayama didn't care. He dropped Mori to six, using Alabaster Mage to gain a stack of life from his Sun Titan.

After much thought - and Sun Titan will do that to you - Mori passed the turn. Things got much worse for him when Kitayama cast another powerful rare in Flameblast Dragon. That's Flameblast Dragon, Sun Titan, two Stormfront Pegasus, Alabaster Mage....against a lone Giant Spider.

That's not a fair fight, and a moment later the fight was over. By two games to one, Masaya Kitayama was the victor in the Battle of Champions!

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