Coverage of Grand Prix–Kitakyushu, Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on October 31, 2009

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 3:15 p.m. – Sealed Deckbuilding Challenge: Undefeated Grand Prix Trial Card Pools

by Nate Price

Here's a little challenge for those of you at home. The following are two card pools that managed to go undefeated in yesterday's Grand Prix Trials, winning their pilots byes for the first three rounds of play.

Katsuhiro Mori - Undefeated Card Pool

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Shunsuke Yatsuo - Undefeated Card Pool

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Whether you're a seasoned Sealed Deck pro, or a novice looking to get a little practice in, why don't you give building these decks a try? A little later on in the day, I'll post the ways the players actually built their decks. How close to perfection can you get?

Saturday, 4:32 p.m. – Road Warriors: Gaijin on the Mainland

by Nate Price

Japan's Shuhei Nakamura and Tomoharu Saito have quite the reputation of world travelers, making trips to Grand Prix all around the world in their quest for treasure, adventure, and Pro Points. With this Grand Prix taking place so close to home, the adventure level for them is a bit lower than taking a trip to, say, the wilds of Chicago. It falls, then, to the players from the other parts of the world to pick up the mantle of “Road Warriors” and journey across land and sea to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Black and Vidugiris laugh as Juza shows them how he managed to get to Japan. The first thousand miles of hitchhiking were easy, it was the last few thousand that really got hard.

Czech superstar Martin Juza, hot on the heels of Yuuya Watanabe in the Player of the Year race, has made the trip across Asia to Kitakyushu to try and claim the lead. A mere four Pro Points behind, he stands a reasonable chance of stealing the lead from Watanabe going into the home stretch. Also after a share of the Pro Points Pie (delicious, I've heard), is level 7 mage Gaudenis Virdugiris, fresh off a win in Grand prix-Tampa in this exact format. Having locked up his level 7 status in Tampa, he decided to run the gamut of events ending the year in a mad dash to potentially make level 8. With his success providing him the ability to, he has decided to spend the remainder of the year travelling the world, playing in any and all events he can. Remember kids, play Magic, practice, and get good enough and you too can travel the world simply because you feel like it. Must be nice!

In addition to the “Gimme the Pro Points” camp, we have two members of the Pro community who have made the trip simply because the tournament is in Japan. First, coming out of the Midwestern United States, we have Sam Black. Black's close affiliation with the Japanese stemmed from his wanderings at a Pro Tour many moons ago. He stumbled upon a few Japanese players playing the classic Avalon Hill game Acquire. A connoisseur of the game himself, Black asked to join the game. His love of all games, as well as his skill, resulted in the nickname given to him by the Japanese: “True Gamer.”

Olivier Ruel: Japanese National Treasure. This last Road Warrior spends enough time travelling to Japanese events that this might as well be a home game for him. In fact, he's apparently enough of a legend around these parts that they've named a hair and beauty salon after him. Olivier Ruel loves Japan. Actually, I don't know if “love” is even a strong enough emotion to convey how excited he gets when a Japanese Grand Prix is announced. He flies his family and friends out to larger Japanese events. Of all of these aforementioned Pros, only Olivier registered a deck in Japanese rather than English. He's also the only one with a Japanese Grand Prix Top 8 to his credit. In fact, it came at a little event known as Grand Prix-Kitakyushu, two years ago.

Saturday, 4:43 p.m. – How to Build a Sealed Deck with Shuhei Nakamura

by Nate Price

When doing my research for this event, I looked up the Top 8 performances of all noteworthy Japanese players so I would know who to keep an eye on this weekend, and what they had done. Shuhei Nakamura, the current Japanese National Champion, has a resume that took two and a half pages. He's eighth all time on the pro points list, which effectively makes him the most accomplished Japanese player ever. Needless to say, his impeccable pedigree made him the perfect person to teach me how to shore up my biggest weakness (other than generally being awful at Magic): building a Sealed Deck.

Shuhei Nakamura: Perhaps you've heard of him.I took up a perch behind him, carefully taking notes as to what he was doing during the build. After watching the various card pools weave through the complicated steps of a stately Noh routine, the one that would ultimately become his came to rest right in front of him. As expected, the first thing he did was to pluck all of the unplayable cards and put them into a separate pile off to the side. As he did this for each color, he ranked the remaining cards by overall strength of the color. For him, the color that made the biggest impression on him was his black. It provided him with ample removal in the form of Hideous End, Heartstabber Mosquito, and Disfigure, as well as his most game-breaking bomb: Ob Nixilis the Fallen.

With the black skeleton in place, he began to finger through his weaker colors to make sure he hadn't missed anything that might complement the black well. Finding his white cards lacking (“Too many small creatures, especially ones that cost WW.”), he quickly pushed them into the pile with his unplayables. Red soon followed suit. That left him green and blue, both sitting in equal consideration. Nakamura laid out his black skeleton by casting cost, putting his creatures in the top row and his spells in the bottom row.

The first complementary color to join the now-sorted black cards was blue. His blue cards feature a number of evasive creatures, such as Welkin Tern, Windrider Eel, and Sphinx of Lost Truths. In addition to the powerful Sphinx, he had the potentially devastating Rite of Replication. Rounding out his blue package were a smattering of utility cards, such as Ior Shrine Expedition, Cancel, and Into the Roil. Overall, the power level of his blue cards was just a shade behind that of his black, providing him a strong case for their inclusion in the final deck.

Not one to hastily make a decision, though, Nakamura deftly removed the blue cards, leaving the black skeleton in place. It was time to try green. His green cards brought a number of very solid, though not terribly game-breaking cards. Nissa's Chosen, Oran-Rief Survivalist, and Grazing Gladeheart are all good creatures, but they aren't incredibly noteworthy. The most powerful green card he had was a Terra Stomper. The 8/8 trampler forces an opponent to find an answer quickly or succumb, but it seems that almost every good (and therefore frequently seen) removal spell manages to kill him. In addition, his two Harrows and the Vines of Vastwood he had paled in comparison to the spells offered in his blue stash. Overall, it seemed that, while the green cards improved his curve and the general quality of his creatures, they were strictly inferior to the bomb-iness and potential power of his blue cards. Eventually, and after some serious thought, the green cards joined the white and red in the unplayables.

I bet he's wearing business socks.Now it was business time. With the potential cards narrowed down to two colors, Nakamura did a quick count to see how many cards were going to need to be cut to finish the deck. A quick tally showed that he was going to have to build his deck from 24 quality blue and black cards. Since the Zendikar Limited format tends to gravitate to land-heavier builds than normally, he would have to cut two cards to make space for the 18 lands he wanted to run.

A cursory glance at his deck showed that it had a fairly defensive ground core with a highly aggressive corps of fliers. That's the perfect recipe for a black/blue Sealed Deck. His two copies of Giant Scorpion and his Merfolk Seastalkers had the ground on lockdown. He seemed to have his cuts narrowed down to a few choices. Ior Shrine Expedition wavered for a moment before making its way back into the deck.

The most agonizing decision was between the duos of Shoal Serpent and Kraken Hatchling and 1/1 Vamp and Adventurer's Gear. After waffling back and forth for a few minutes and trying every combination of the four cards, Nakamura decided to go with the little Vampire and his Adventurer's Gear. It seemed more likely to me at first that he would go the more defensive ground route, since that was what his deck seemed to want to do, but he reminded me (after having to remind himself) that aggro wins.

As we walked over to get lands for his deck, we had a short, but sweet conversation.

“Pleased,” I asked?

“Not as good as my open,” he laughed.

That card pool contained an Ob Nixilis, a Lotus Cobra, a couple of Hideous Ends, Disfigures, and Heartstabber Mosquitoes, a Terra Stomper... Need I say more?

“If I play the right people, I might be able to go 4-1 with this deck, but realistically, I'll say 3-2.”

I'll be sure to check in with him later to see how on course he was with his predictions.

Shuhei Nakamura

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Feature Match Round 3 – Yuma Shioma vs. Jin Okamoto

by Nate Price

One of the things I wanted to follow this weekend was the performance of the Japanese National team members. Upon checking the bye sheet for the tournament, I was a little surprised to see that Yuma Shioma only had two byes! I decided at this point that I was going to check his pairing for the third round and, if it was worthy of covering, I would make it my first feature match of the weekend. Not being as familiar with as many of the midlevel Japanese players as I should be, I was set to defer to the head of Japanese coverage, Keita Mori, to tell me how strong the match was. When the pairing sheets came out, though, I was stunned to see that his opponent was a name that even I recognized!

“Oh wow,” Mori exclaimed as I brought him the pairing sheet for confirmation. Yuma Shioma, the third head of the Japanese monster was paired up against none other than the Last Emperor, Jin Okamoto. Okamoto comes by his ridiculously awesome nickname by virtue of being the champion of the last APAC Championships. Okamoto is the proud owner of a chain of card stores here in Japan and is more than happy to play these events just for fun. But don't let that fool you. Okamoto is still suffused in the game, and if history has taught us anything, Japanese players don't simply forget how to play. Once a high level Pro, always a high level Pro.

The Last Emperor sends out his army.Shioma won the die roll and chose to play first, however Okamoto was the first to contribute to the board with a Gul Draz Vampire. A second copy hit play on the next turn, and his little Vampires began the assault. Shioma had a Tajuru Archer to stave off the little Vampires, but a Gatekeeper of Malakir saw to his end. Shioma tried to rebuild with a Timbermaw Larva (powered by four Forests), but Okamoto had a Burst Lightning to off it before it could get started. A Crypt Ripper came down on the following turn for Okamoto, and the hasty shade led an attack that reduced Shioma to seven, turning the Vampires on. When the top of his blue/green deck predictably failed to provide an answer, Shioma packed it in, commenting with a laugh about the strength of Okamoto's draw. All Okamoto could do was laugh himself and point at the ridiculous cards that carried him to his first game win.

Yuma Shioma 0 – Jin Okamoto 1

After an extensive sideboarding by Shioma, both players presented their decks for the second game. At this point, only six and a half minutes had been drained from the clock. As Shioma was shuffling his deck, I managed to catch sight of a few cards that hinted at his new conformation. A few black cards and some Swamps shuffled in amongst some solid black cards like Vampire Hexmage and Marsh Casualties. Unfortunately, he was forced to mulligan on the play, while Okamoto kept his original seven.

A Swamp made an appearance for the first time on Shioma's side of the board, showing his new conformation. Fortunately for him, Okamoto's draw was significantly slower than the last, with only a Soul Stair Expedition in play after the third turn. Shioma, meanwhile, had gotten himself a Hexmage, which started to eat away at Okamoto's life total. Unfortunately for him, Shioma was stuck at three lands. He did manage to make the best of them, Disfiguring a Nimana Sell-Sword with its ally ability on the stack. When he drew a land for the next turn, he added a Hagra Crocodile to his team.

Okamoto began to crawl back into the game with a Torch Slinger to kill the Croc. The Slinger also held off an attack by Shioma, who didn't want it returned by the Soul Stair Expedition. Shioma, now stuck at four lands, dropped an unkicked Heartstabber Mosquito into play. When Okamoto played a Tuktuk Grunts on the following turn, the life totals were evened at 17 apiece. Shioma set up for the glut of lands he was due to receive after his manascrewed start with an Umara Raptor and an Adventuring Gear. The skies officially belonged to him, and he felt able to race Okamoto's draw. A Goblin Shortcutter hit play on the following turn, preventing the Hexmage from blocking, and putting Okamoto firmly ahead in the race. He followed that up with a Plated Geopede and passed the turn.

When Shioma drew a land for his next draw, he was so excited that he dropped it into play immediately, forgetting to equip his Adventurer's Gear to one of his fliers. Oops. Part of the reason he was so excited was the Bog Tatters sitting in his hand that promised to put a hurting on Okamoto's black-based deck.

Where did that shortcut come from? From the trees!!A Burst Lightning on Shioma's Hexmage forced him to sacrifice it to reset the Soul Stair Expedition. It also cleared a massive hole on Shioma's side of the table, forcing him to trade his Tatters for Okamoto's Tuktuk Grunts. Shioma was at two, and he was facing a massive board. Calmly, he sent his two fliers over to drop Okamoto to seven. After combat, he played Marsh Casualties, devastatingly clearing Okamoto's board. Okamoto was down to one card in hand after getting his board clear. He played a Shortcutter and a land before passing the turn. Shioma again swung his whole team in, dropping Okamoto to three before adding a Gul Draz Vampire and a Blood Seeker to hold down the fort.

Standing on the precipice of darkness, Okamoto was given the out he needed. He played a land, turning his Soul Stair Expedition back on, completed the expedition to get back a Shortcutter, and played yet one more copy of the annoying Goblin to completely neutralize Shioma's blockers. With the shortcut now firmly in place, Okamoto simply turned his first Shortcutter sideways and took the match. A dramatic finish to a very swingy game.

Yuma Shioma 0 – Jin Okamoto 2

Feature Match Round 4 – Shuhei Nakamura vs. Misaya Kitayama

by Nate Price

This round featured a battle between Japanese National Champions: Misaya Kitayama in 2007, and Shuhei Nakamura, well, this year.

They are the champions, my friends...

Nakamura won the roll and chose to go first. Kitayama's black/green build got on the board in a hurry with a Vampire Lacerator followed by a Greenweaver Druid. Nakamura's first play of the game was a Giant Scorpion that came into play to hold the fort on turn four. Kitayama used a Mold Shambler to destroy Nakamura's only Swamp, as well as giving him a body that Nakamura would think twice about before trading his Scorpion. Nakamura, relegated to only four Islands, played a Windrider Eel. Kitayama had the answer yet again with a Predatory Urge on his Shambler, which ate the Eel before it could see an untap step. An Adventuring Gear and a Timbermaw Larva even further built Kitayama's side of the board.

At this point, Nakamura was on five Islands with simply a Giant Scorpion in play. His opponent had a veritable army in play. Kitayama chose to only send in the Timbermaw Larva in an attempt to eat the Scorpion. Nakamura blocked, but before damage was dealt, he used an Into the Roil to return the enchanted Mold Shambler to Kitayama's hand. This let him replay it post-combat to destroy another of Nakamura's lands, but, since they were all Islands, it didn't hurt him as much as the first had.

Nakamura was sadly forced to blow his bomb Rites of Replication to copy the Mold Shambler on Kitayama's side of the board. He did manage to find a Piranha Marsh to provide him with a fresh, albeit slower, source of black mana. It also provided him black mana without a Swamp, which was great considering Kitayama's next play of Bog Tatters. After trading the Mold Shamblers, Nakamura placed a Bog Tatters that would actually get a chance to Swampwalk on his side of the board. Would, that is, if Kitayama didn't have the Marsh Casualties to clear it away, giving a clear alley to kill Nakamura.

Shuhei Nakamura 0 – Masaya Kitayama 1

Both players went through quite a few permutations before presenting their decks for Game 2. Ultimately, though many cards were put into and out of consideration, very little changed for either player.

I'm pretty sure I get a multiplier for this one.Nakamura came out of the gates with blazing speed. Adventuring Gear into Welkin Tern, Surrakar Marauder into Merfolk Seastalkers, never missing a land drop. By the time I got to write this sentence, the game was over. I'm not joking here. By the end of turn four, Nakamura had Kitayama at ten. On the following turn, he had him at two. The game took all of twenty seconds to play out. As he said earlier, “Aggro wins.”

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – Masaya Kitayama 1

Both players had first-turn permanents, Kitayama leading off with an Adventuring
Gear, and Nakamura with a Quest for the Gravelord. Kitayama made a Goblin Shortcutter to pick up his Gear, while Nakamura made a lonely Welkin Tern. Kitayama got in for a nice chunk of damage on the third turn by equipping his Shortcutter, playing an Arid Mesa, and sacrificing it to find a Mountain. Turn three? Take six. Nakamura put a potential band-aid on the table in the form of a Giant Scorpion he'd rather not have to trade for a Shortcutter before attacking for two in the air.

Kitayama had a fourth land to force Nakamura to trade his Scorpion. A Timbermaw Larva hit play on the following turn, which was definitely going to prove problematic for the now Scorpionless Nakamura. He had a Seastalkers to stop the bleeding, but it was going to take all his mana, and the next attack dropped him to eight. Nakamura kept racing, adding an Adventuring Gear to his Tern on his turn (didn't someone already make this joke?), leaving enough mana up to tap the Larva. Kitayama did have a Turntimber Basilisk in play, and the little lizard picked up the Gear and attacked. Unfortunately, while he chose to pump the Basilisk, he forgot to make the Seastalkers block it, giving Nakamura another chance.

Kitayama had a Tajuru Archers to shoot the Tern down, but turned Nakamura's Quest for the Gravelord on in the process. Nakamura quickly used it to make a Giant Zombie, and then followed that by returning his Tern with a Grim Discovery. Things were all of a sudden complicated. Kitayama had no land to turn his Basilisk on. He declared his attack, and Nakamura tapped down the lethal Larva. Kitayama chose to attack with the Basilisk, and Nakamura traded with his Seastalkers. This left Nakamura with just the 5/5 in play. Kitayama finished his turn with an unkicked Torch Slinger. When Nakamura untapped, it became clear why he let the Seastalkers die. He had a Giant Scorpion to play on his turn, which would deal with the Larva once and for all.

Yuuya Watanabe doesn't need Giant Scorpions to kill creatures. He can stare them to death.Kitayama once again retreated deep into the tank. Aside from the Larva, his team was quite unimpressive. After thinking about possible attack outcomes, he ultimately decided he wasn't willing to trade the Scorpion for his Larva just yet. He simply passed the turn. Nakamura had been stockpiling flying creatures in his hand, unable to deal with the Archers. He was forced to bite the bullet on the following turn and dropped a Windrider Eel into play. Kitayama had an Oran-Rief Survivalist to shoot it down, as well as a freshly drawn Shortcutter Goblins to clear the path to victory.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – Misaya Kitayama 2

Feature Match Round 5 – Gaudenis Vidugiris vs. Tomoharu Saitou

by Nate Price

Gaudenis Vidugiris is a long way from home. Tomoharu Saito simply had to take the train four hours or so from his home in Tokyo. Vidugiris had to take the same train. After a 14 hour flight from his home in Madison, Wisconsin. After winning the last event in this format, Grand Prix-Tampa, just a week ago, who can blame him. He's a freshly minted level seven mage, and with a few events left before the end of the season, he was making every effort to push for eight. His opponent this round, Tomoharu Saitou, is renowned as a world traveler himself, seemingly making an appearance somewhere in the world every week.

Saitou won the die roll and chose to go first. Vidugiris started with a first-turn Soul Stair Expedition, which started charging on the following turn. Saitou took control of both the sky and ground on the following turn, adding a Welkin Hawk and Kraken Hatchling to his team. Vidugiris matched the flier with an Umara Raptor. The two birds traded on the ensuing attack, leaving the Kraken all alone. When Vidugiris took to the skies once again with a Guul Draz Specter, Saitou returned it to his hand with an Into the Roil. This allowed him to fill the board once again, this time with a Living Tsunami and a Scute Mob set to turn big on the following turn. This shift in tempo also forced Vidugiris to either deal with the Scute Mob immediately, or let it grow once to replace his Specter. He chose the latter and passed the turn.

Saitou, now the proud father of two monstrous creatures, sent his 4/4 and 5/5 into attack. Vidugiris dropped to eleven. Saitou added once more elusive threat to his table: a kicked Aether Figment. Realizing the dire straits he was in, Vidugiris thought for a decent amount of time before forcing Saitou to discard an Island to his Specter. Following combat, Vidugiris added a Surrakar Marauder and a Windrider Eel to his team before passing the turn still significantly behind.

One of these days, Saitou... Bang, Zoom, right in the kisser!Saitou's Scute Mob picked up some more members during Saitou's upkeep, swelling to 9/9. He also added an Ior Ruin Expedition to his side before charging it with a Turntimber Grove, which amplified his unblockable Figment. The monsters smashed over, and Vidugiris, left with no other option, was forced to shove the Marauder in front of the Mob. He took eight, dropping to three. His draw didn't provide a miracle cure, and he picked up his cards with emphasis, clearly displeased with the result of the last game. In truth, Vidugiris's draw was nearly as good as Saitou's, but Saitou being on the play and getting that massive turn five turnaround put him on the back foot the entire game and he wasn't able to recover.

Gaudenis Vidugiris 0 – Tomoharu Saitou 1

With a turn one Scute Mob, Saitou let Vidugiris know exactly what to expect this game, unlike the ninja 5/5 he played in the last game. Vidugiris was a little slower to develop, not adding a creature until his Stonework Puma hit the table on turn three. Still, going first, he was only down a point of life before his Puma clogged the ground. Saitou made an ally of his own, a Tajuru Archers, before passing back to Vidugiris.

Things slowed down a little bit here. Vidugiris thought for a few minutes before sending his Puma in to attack. After combat, he played a Soaring Seacliffs, his first source of blue mana in the game. He used the rest of his mana to drop a Giant Scorpion that had a real appetite for Scute Mobs. Saitou's progression stopped as well, and he passed the turn back to Vidugiris with four lands untapped. Vidugiris took advantage of his new source of blue mana to play a Windrider Eel.

When Vidugiris's end of turn passed without incident, it appeared that the Into the Roil was not currently an issue. What was an issue, though, was the Sphinx of Lost Truths that Saitou plopped into play. The 3/5 body provided a good blocker for Vidugiris's Eel, but when it attacked as a 4/4 on the following turn, Saitou chose not to get blown out by a potential Marsh Casualties or Disfigue and just took the damage. Vidugiris followed that up with a Surrakar Marauder and Welkin Tern, leaving him one card in hand.

Saitou can smell a bluff a mile away...When Saitou tried to Archer down the Windrider Eel with a Stonework Puma on the following turn, Vidugiris paused for a moment, signaling the potential for a Disfigure from his lone Swamp. Ultimately, he chose to let the Eel die. Saitou also had a Welkin Tern of his own and he sent the turn back. When Vidugiris attacked with his two most recent creatures, the Tern and Marauder, Saitou chose to trade his own two with them.

Vidugiris managed to slow things down a little by playing a Paralyzing Grasp on the Sphinx after it attacked him. It would not be nearly enough, unfortunately for him. Over the next few turns, Saitou added a Living Tsunami and a Sky Ruin Drake that had reign over the skies for the few turns needed to finish Vidugiris off.

Gaudenis Vidugiris 0 – Tomoharu Saito 2

Feature Match Round 6 – Katsuhiro Mori vs. Masashi Oiso

by Nate Price

Sometimes, my job is really easy. When two of the biggest names in the history of Japanese Magic are paired against each other, the Feature Matches make themselves. Katsuhiro Mori (you may know him better as 2005 World Champion Katsuhiro Mori) and Masashi “Did I Mention that I Won Last Year's Nationals” Oiso are household names all over the world. If you don't know their names, I guess you don't read coverage much, do you? Shame on you!

Mori tossed his three dice high into the air. They tumbled around upon hitting the table, settling on seven pips. Mori hid his head in his hands with a laugh and a shake. Oiso easily won the first game of the match with a roll of ten.

Mori shored his defenses up early, as his first-turn Kraken Hatchling was a big barrier for Oiso's red/white deck. His follow up Mountain, however, provided an alley of attack for Oiso's Cliff Threaders. Mori was ready to deal with them, sending a Punishing Fire their way before they could slip in and hit him. Oiso played a Hedron Scrabbler, not a card you see often in this format, on the following turn. Following that, he used a Kor Hookmaster to tie the Kraken up for a couple of turns, providing him his first shot at Mori's life total. Oiso added more pressure, using a Khalni Gem to make a 2/2 Kazandu Blademaster.

Mori's Geyser Glider immediately became the biggest creature on the board, but it was not long for this world as a Magma Rift ate it, and the following attack dropped him to 12. Oiso made a Goblin Guide and attacked with his whole team. Mori had a Goblin Ruinblaster to block and a Burst Lightning for the Blademaster, leaving him at eight. Oiso made a Bladetusk Boar and passed the turn. The Guide revealed a second Glider on the top of Mori's deck, which promptly hit play. Oiso attacked with his Boar, which Mori blocked. The Boar died, but took the Glider alongside it thanks to a Murasa Pyromancer. Mori had an Inferno Trap to kill it before it could do any more damage, and untapped to play a Windrider Eel.

Carry the two... Yep, you're dead.With the pace slowed down, but still at a precarious life total, Mori began to attack. His steady supply of lands kept the Eel large, as well as powering up his Ior Ruin Expedition. Oiso had a hammer drop when he played a second Kor Hookmaster to take the Kraken out of commission one more time. An Into the Roil kept Mori from going to four, returning the Scrabbler to Oiso's hand. A second Eel came down alongside the first, which kept chugging away, dropping Oiso to eight.

Oiso forced Mori to block with the second, though, sending his army of three 2/2's in for lethal. The Goblin Guide kept feeding Mori more and more lands for his Eel, which would be lethal in two turn, if he survived that long. A Kor Skyfisher from Oiso stole one of those precious turns from Mori. Sitting at two life, Mori had to have blockers for all of Oiso's creatures since he wouldn't be able to kill him in one attack. Mori simply passed the turn. Oiso attacked with his whole team, forcing Mori to effectively wipe his board, and leaving him with a superior flier on the table. After resolving the attack, Mori took stock of the situation and conceded.

Katsuhiro Mori 0 – Masashi Oiso 1

Oiso was frenetic between games. At first, I thought he was completely changing his deck around. He had it splayed out on a chair beside him as he fingered through his sideboard. Imagine my disappointment when all that came of the grand display was a mere three-card change.

Man... Head faked.

Both players continued the blazing play of the previous game. Oiso found a Trusty Machete which he returned for a Skyfisher. Mori had a Plated Geopede and a Stonework Puma over his first couple of turns. Unfortunately, he hit a slight wall. It took a rip off the top of his deck for him to make the fourth land drop on turn five, and the Living Tsunami he played with it effectively locked him at four lands. It did create quite the little synergy with his Plated Geopede, which was in a state of temporary stasis thanks to Oiso's Hookmaster. The Machete made another appearance, immediately getting picked up by the Hookmaster. Oiso had another Skyfisher, this time returning his Soaring Seacliffs, which he used to lift his Hookmaster into the sky. The Kor-out-of-water smashed over straight into the Living Tsunami Mori put in the way.

One of Oiso's Fisher's picked up where the Hookmaseter left off, taking chunks out of Mori's life total. All it took was one sequence of plays for Mori to regain the advantage. At the end of Oiso's turn, Mori returned the untapped Fisher to his hand before untapping and playing a Burst Lightning to kill Oiso's Cliff Threader. His ensuing alpha strike took a large chunk out of Oiso's life, giving him the temporary advantage in the game. Oiso rebuilt with his Fisher and a Goblin Guide.

A Geyser Glider came down on Mori's side on the following turn, but it got tapped immediately by another Kor Hookmaster. Mori sent all of his men in on the following attack, eventually trading all of his creatures but the tapped Glider and the Geopede for Oiso's Hookmaser and Goblin guide, dropping Oiso to five. He followed that up with a Windrider Eel and passed the turn.

Oiso drew his next card with a sharp inhale. After some thought, he sent both of his fliers in at Mori. The Eel blocked the equipped Fisher, dropping Mori to two. Oiso also had a Magma Rift to kill the Glider. It looked like the game was his. And then, just like that, the game was over. Mori attacked with his Geopede and aimed a [deal for mountains] at Oiso, finishing him off. As fast as the play of these two players, it seemed only natural that their fortunes would change just a quickly.

Katsuhiro Mori 1 – Masashi Oiso 1

Oiso was first on the board for the rubber game, his Blademaster trumping Mori's Cliff Threader in size. The Goblin Guide that smashed alongside it on the following turn dropped Mori to sixteen. Mori's Threader, while outsized by Oiso's creatures, had a clear path to Oiso's life totals, at least, and swung in unabated. Mori used a Kor Hookmaster on Oiso's Blademaster to buy him a couple of turns to get ahead, but Oiso had a fantastic play. The turn after having his Blademaster Hooked, he used an Act of Treason to untap it and put a counter on it. Since it has vigilance, the Blademaster was now bigger and effectively able to ignore the effects of the Hookmaster. It was pretty sick to watch. The Hookmaster had one final sacrifice to make for the team, eating a Goblin Guide on his way out. Mori, meanwhile, dropped to 13.

Mori added some Hammer of Bogardan Pants (read: Savage Silhouette) to his Mountainwalker, now taking four-point bites out of Oiso's total. The Adventurer's Gear he played could quickly take this game in his favor. Unfortunately for him, Oiso was prepared with a Hookmaster for Mori's only threat, putting him back into the driver's seat. Mori was stuck on four lands, and found himself only able to play a Mold Shambler on his next turn. After attacking into it with his 3/3 ally, Oiso cleared away the giant Threader with a Magma Rift. This left him with two cards in hand and a favorable board position.

Mori wasn't done yet, and proved it by equipping his Shambler with the Adventurer's Gear, playing a land, and attacking. He also had a Noble Vestige to play a little more defense. Oiso attacked in, dropping Mori to four. Mori untapped and simply said go. Oiso drew, played a currently unblockable Bladetusk Boar, and passed back. This time, Mori played a land and attacked in with his 5/5 Shambler, eating Oiso's Cliff Threader.

That's cold, Oiso.The game was incredibly close. Both players were on low life with threatening creatures on their sides. Mori found an answer in the stalemate in the Conley Woods-tested, Conley Woods-approved Landbind Ritual, gaining eight life. Now, his creatures were the only truly threatening ones. A Harrow that he would have liked to use as a pump spell ended up fetching the lands out of his deck to allow him to cast Armament Master and Steppe Lynx, making his army a true threat to end Oiso. Oiso sent his team in, dropping Mori back down to five and eating a Lynx.

Mori drew for his turn and found a Kor Outfitter, which placed the Adventuring Gear in the experienced hands of the Armament Master. This gave Mori a 4/4 that could stop the rampaging 3/3. Unfortunately, he was unable to deal with the Boar, which kept crashing over for two. Mori sent his large team over for what would have been lethal if Oiso didn't chump block, which he obviously did. That left a Bladetusk Boar versus a Noble Vestige, with Mori at three. Oiso laughed out loud as he flipped the top card of his deck into play: a Slaughter Cry, which pumped the unblockable Bladetusk Boar enough to get past the prevention of the Vestige and finish Mori off.

Katsuhiro Mori 1 – Masashi Oiso 2

Saturday, 7:39 p.m. - Sealed Deckbuilding Challenge: The Decklists

by Nate Price

Alright, you've had the better part of the day to figure out how you're build the card pools. So what did you come up with? How close are your lists to these?

Katsuhiro Mori

Download Arena Decklist

Shunsuke Yatsuo

Download Arena Decklist

I hope you enjoyed this little deckbuilding exercise! After all, practice makes perfect.

Feature Match Round 8 – Takeshi Tagaki vs. Masahiko Morita

by Nate Price

One of these days, just for humor's sake, I'm going to have to see if I can post a pre-edited version of some of these Feature Matches. They're priceless.

Tagaki played a Cliff Threaders to square off against Morita's opening Mountain—always a strong start. Morita came storming back with a Goblin Bushwhacker, making sure that he got in first. An Oran-Rief Survivalist from Tagaki joined the fray, and the Quest for the Gemblades that he played effectively cast Chaos on Morita's team. Morita picked up a Reckless Scholar and started putting him to work, turning an Aether Figment into a Sphinx of Lost Truths. Tagaki, meanwhile, had added a second troublesome Threader to his team. The Sphinx hit play for Morita on the following turn, and he discarded Aether Figment, Welkin Tern, and Plated Geopede. One could only speculate as to what he kept if that was what he was getting rid of.

Oran-Rief Survivalist took one for the team to turn on the Quest, running right into a Sphinx that wasn't afraid of a pump spell. When Morita attacked with his Goblin and the Sphinx on the following turn, Tagaki sprung a Baloth Cage Trap. The ninja Baloth crashed down in front of the Goblin. Morita had a Slaughter Cry to take the token down, but Tagaki chose to use his Quest for the Gemblades to make it an even bigger monster. At this point, though he might have liked to save the counters for a Cliff Threader, pumping his Baloth effectively ended the game.

Takeshi Tagaki 1 – Masahiko Morita 0

Morita exhaled with a sense of frustration as he failed to find a third land and was forced to play an Aether Figment without kicker. It joined a Welkin Tern and Vampire Lacerator on his increasingly outclassed board. Tagaki had come out blazing, running a Plated Geopede into a Bladetusk Boar and a Baloth Cage Trap. The Lacerator took one for the team and jumped in front of the Geopede. When Morita did manage to find a third land, he immediately tried to stem the bleeding with a Giant Scorpion. Unfortunately, Tagaki was just so far ahead at this point, that it was like using a dam designed for a small stream to stop the Mississippi River. Tagaki surged around his underdeveloped defenses and washed Morita away.

Takeshi Tagaki 2 – Masahiko Morita 0

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