TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Blog - 9:31 p.m. - Decklists: Day 1 Undefeated Decks
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 9:09 p.m. - Round 8: Pierre Canali vs. Tetsuya Kaji
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 6:58 p.m. - Kenji Tsumura's Special Day
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 6:33 p.m. - Round 6: Takuma Morofuji vs. Shota Yasooka
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 4:54 p.m. - Round 4: Julien Nuijten vs. Helmut Summersberger
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 2:48 p.m. - You Call That a Knife?
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 1:13 p.m. - Two Masters Build Sealed Decks
by Noah Weil
- Blog - 11:07 a.m. - A Short History Lesson
by Noah Weil
Saturday, Aug. 19: 11:07 a.m. - A Short History LessonA watch frozen by the blast
Hiroshima is known around the world for being the first city subjected to an Atomic Bomb. At the end of World War II, the United States dropped an A-bomb on Hiroshima, and later at Nagasaki, Japan. These bombs were used to seal a Japanese surrender to the Allied forces. The plan was successful, although many people today debate the A-bomb's necessity to the war. Indeed, their existence at all in many country's arsenals is a hotly debated topic. What is the origin of atomic weaponry, and why was Hiroshima the first target?
The United States began to study the effects of atomic weapons immediately after entering World War II in 1939. That research became the Manhattan Project in 1942, which at its heyday involved over 130,000 people and cost nearly two billion dollars (twenty billion in modern dollars). The first test of the Atomic Bomb was known as the Trinity Test and its success gave the military the go-ahead for the A-Bomb's use against a populated area. Modern political scholars say the bomb was used, in part, to justify the immense cost of its development.The A-Bomb Dome
The choice of Hiroshima as the target was fiercely debated among the United States' military leaders. Hiroshima was on this list because of its many army barracks, as well as high amounts of factories used to create arms for the Japanese for World War II. Other potential targets included Kokura, Niigata, and Kyoto. Hiroshima was chosen because it had no allied prisoner of war camps, as well as a unique "T" shaped bridge that made targeting more accurate.
On August 6 1945 8:15AM, the A-bomb known as "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima. Its detonation occurred about 600 meters above the city, resulting in a blast and shock wave that flattened almost all of the buildings within 2 kilometers of the hypocenter. The exact death toll is difficult to determine, however most estimates put the loss of life between 90,000 and 140,000. Besides the initial concussive force and heat that claimed life, residual radiation caused many deaths of survivors and later the medical and restoration personal.A cenotaph to the victims of the atomic bomb
The structure that best withstood the blast is a building is called the Atomic Bomb Dome, kept in its original condition to show visitors the effect of the bomb. The area surrounding the dome is now known as Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and contains many shrines to the lives lost, as well as a Memorial Peace Museum. In modern times, Hiroshima is considered a city of peace. Its government and people repeatedly hold demonstrations and sends letters to countries around the world urging disarmament and global unity.
Information courtesy: Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum
Saturday, Aug. 19: 1:13 p.m. - Two Masters Build Sealed Decks
Grand Prix: Hiroshima is not short on pros to observe. For the sealed portion I decided to go with Takuya Oosawa and Julien Nuijten. Takuya won Pro tour: Prague this year, which as you may remember, was all RGD. 17-year old Julien has had success this year as well, but is best known for his status as the 2004 Magic world champion. Interestingly, while both of these players are total masters of high-level competition, their construction styles were totally different.
Takuya OosawaTwo MVPs?
Takuya started off his building in a very controlled, precise manner. Each card was carefully put into its respective color pile, with nothing being eliminated off the bat. After being able to examine every card as a piece of the whole, Takuya confidently removed Blue. The best card out of Blue was Glimpse the Unthinkable, and the only card that comboed with was Vulturous Zombie. That Plant Zombie certainly doesn't need any help. Takuya did seem a bit annoyed that his only two Signets provided Blue mana.
Oosawa's cards were extremely synergistic as Red/White or Green/Black combinations. Red and White had speed and efficiency, while Golgari represented the highest quantity of gold cards. Takuya compared piles for a little bit of time until he realized just how much power and combinations existed in his Green/Black cards. Savra, Queen of the Golgari looked pretty nice with Shambling Shell and Entropic Eidolon for example. Julien could only offer his concession when Takuya laughingly showed his building partner those cards. Seize the Soul didn't look bad either.
Takuya's final decision was whether to add a few Red or White cards to his mostly G/B ones. This process took about half of the remaining ten minutes, to Takuya's consternation. He eventually decided on the Red, due mostly to one stray Signet that enabled. While his White cards could be considered a bit stronger, Takuya knew his deck was good enough to not need extra help. Mana concerns were his priority at this point. Making sure everything was castable, plus his three byes, was the plan to make day two. With bomb rares, synergy, and two on-color bounce lands, Takuya had a lot of reasons to be very happy with his deck.
Julien's technique was quite a contrast from his neighbor. His style could only be described as frenetic as he cut as many cards as possible on his first pass. Clearly Julien considered sealed deck an exercise in squeezing every inch of power out of a deck. At the end of his eliminations, he had piles of his strongest cards representing every color.Julien tries another permutation
Right away Julien determined Green was going to be a starter, due to creatures like Ursapine and Gruul Guildmage, and very necessary fixing. Black was next to be labeled a staple, for its creature base and very solid removal options. Interestingly, Julien labeled his deck a success even before he was finished, due to the Godless Shrine that "paid for the trip".
Despite the presence of a dual land, a bounce land, and two Signets, the mana situation was clearly troubling Mr. Nuijten. Julien would speak to himself about mana curve and mana ratios, inclusions and exclusions, alternating between English and Dutch. Piles would be haphazardly created and destroyed, while Julien tried to find the combination that met his approval.
"I don't know if I can play every color. I probably can."
Time started winding down for Julien, forcing him into heavy decision mode. The White splash of Lightning Helix and Pillory of the Sleepless hit the bench due of mana concerns, a decision that seemed to truly pain the competitor. He resolved the choice by informing me that with his now four color deck, he could get away with 15 lands. Flooding had been another concern for Julien since construction began, and this option eased his mind considerably. With only a few minutes remaining, Julien went with this last model and started scratching out a registered deck. Literally seconds before the deck construction clock hit zero, Julien Nuijten had finished his deck. After his massage, cigars, and catnap, when Julien's three byes run out he'll definitely be ready for action.
Saturday, Aug. 19: 2:48 p.m. - You Call That a Knife?
One of the absolute joys of traveling around the globe is being able to experience the local culture. In Japan that means fish, shrines (more on that later), and for this blog, sword conventions. The sacred art of sword craft has not been forgotten in Hiroshima. Luckily for the competitors and staff, not 9 meters away was an exhibition of some famous Japanese katana-kaji. Here's a sampling of some of the blades on display:
How much does one of these incredible works cost?
Well that's ¥3,600,000. In American dollars, that's about $310,000. Looks like another incentive to do well this weekend.
Saturday, Aug. 19: 4:54 p.m. - Round 4: Julien Nuijten vs. Helmut SummersbergerJulien Nuijten held all the cards.
Both players cashed in their three byes expecting to play against a Japanese player for round 4. The math was on their side; there are maybe 20 or so non-Japanese players competing at Grand Prix: Hiroshima. Yet these guys are high-echelon. There aren't that many players at 3-0. When you're among the traveling elite, matchups like this will happen. No one was complaining of course; these guys are professionals. One simply got the sense these two wished they were playing each other a little further down the road.
Julien's deck construction had been covered previously in this blog. Now it was time to see how his deck fared in the field. Opposing him was Austria's Helmut Summersberger, a player featuring one Pro Tour top 8, three Grand Prix top 8, and two Grand Prix wins. Clearly these players' respect for each other was justified.Helmut Summersberger
Game 1: Helmut started off in a bad way, with two mulligans going first. His five card hand was a Watery Grave-all Green cards special. It did contain Moldervine Cloak however, one card that's well known for stealing wins. Julien kept his initial seven and used his early turns to fix his mana through Simic Signet, Civic Wayfinder, and Terrarion. After missing a land drop, Helmut scraped his way to three mana, but still had no play. Julien continued to fix things with a Gruul Turf, finally playing out a double spelled turn with Torch Drake, Seal of Fire and then Leafdrake Roost. Helmut could only chuckle at his dwindling position but came back well enough with Greater Mossdog and Golgari Rotwurm. Drakes increased and continued to bring Helmut lower in life. Needing to go on the offensive, Helmut Cloaked up Greater Mossdog and swung with his team, hoping for a double block from Julien to garner a little breathing room. The former world champion wasn't having any of that and took his lumps like a man. His return strike brought Helmut down to eight life, and Galvanic Arc + Seal of Fire + Recollect + Seal of Fire earned Julien game 1.
During sideboard time, Julien pulled out and consider the idea of bringing in his White cards. Presumably, he wanted an answer to Moldervine Cloak, and Pillory of the Sleepless fit the bill nicely. The in/out columns were studied for a couple of minutes, with Julien ultimately deciding to incorporate color number five. Despite the rapid and decisive beating of the first game, Helmut remained confident with his original 40.A strong board position.
Game 2: Helmut was again on the play and kept his initial hand, as did Julien. Things started off much better for the Austrian as his Dryad Sophisticate came down on the second turn. It eventually died to Seal of Fire, but not before doing six points to the opposition. Helmut replaced the 2/1 with Greater Mossdog, but Julien began to develop his own board with Torch Drake and Gruul Guildmage. The Guildmage prevented Helmut from making any reasonable attacks, and both players spent their turns prolonging the standoff. Helmust lost the Jester to Julien's Last Gasp, but got to upgrade to Siege Wurm. The following turn, Helmut studied the board for a bit and decided on a Pillory of the Sleepless on Julien's Torch Drake, combined with an attack from Siege Wurm. The tide turned very swiftly when Julien flashed a Peel From Reality, removing both Helmut's Pillory and his Siege Wurm from play. That sharp tempo boost gave Julien a lot of time, and he used it to play Bramble Elemental and Strands of Undeath. The Strands was absolutely devastating, giving Julien two tokens to Helmut's loss of two cards. Helmut lost everything but his Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi and an uncastable Borborygmos. Helmut did his best with a topdecked Sporeback Troll leading to a 5/8 Guardian, but the game was definitely slipping away. Julien continued to develop his board and make attacks with Torch Drake. A clutch Stinkweed Imp gave Helmut a little hope, until Julien's Civic Wayfinder found a Plains, allowing Julien's own Pillory. Pillory pings plus Torch Drake pumps finished the game and match.
Nuijten: "Sorry about the first game."
Summersberger: "Yes but your deck is way better than mine anyway."
Saturday, Aug. 19: 6:33 p.m. - Round 6: Takuma Morofuji vs. Shota YasookaCharleston champion Shota Yasooka
Skirmishing this round was Takuma Morofuji, a pharmacist who earned the respect of his country last year as the 2005 Japanese national champion. Takuma will have to give up his sash next week as Japanese citizens fight over a new national champ. Takuma's 5-0 status would indicate he still has some chance at retaining the title. His opponent this round is Shota Yasooka, who burst onto the international scene earlier this year as a member of Pro Tour: Charleston's winning team Kajiharu80. Shota's undefeated status shows he too is a contender for the champion title. First though these fighters had to get through round 6 of GP Hiroshima.
Game 1: Takuma kept his initial seven. Not a very difficult decision, as it contained one of the best combinations in Ravnica sealed: Dimir Aqueduct and Ribbons of Night. Shota mulliganed his first hand and seemed very uneasy over his next six. He gave a shrug and decided to give it a shot. Takuma started off beautifully with Aqueduct, Civic Wayfinder, and Screeching Griffin. Shota's concerns were rapidly realized when he couldn't find a second land, forcing multiple discards. Faced with Takuma's perfect mana and growing army, Shota quickly conceded.
Game 2: Interestingly Shota chose to draw first in the second game, a rarely employed option at the higher levels of a Grand Prix. Takuma had a bit of a pickle with his initial seven; Blind Hunter, Sewerdreg, Vulturous Zombie with zero Swamps. Takuma kept anyway, perhaps recalling Shota's deck's betrayal in the first game. This time the positions were reversed, as Takuma was stuck with uncastables while Shota laid out a perfect mana curve. A two-drop, three-drop, and four-drop had Takuma reeling. A late Dimir Guildmage was castable, but it wasn't enough to turn the game around and Shota quickly won Game 2.
Takuma Morofuji: "Very quick games!"
After Morofuji's own mana-determined loss, Takuma decided to rework his deck. Out went Sewerdreg and other heavy Black cards, and in went some easier to cast Red spells. This process took a few minutes, about as long as the first two games combined.
Game 3: Takuma on the play had another agonizing mulligan decision. His opening hand contained Centaur Safeguard, Junktroller, and five various lands. In the opinion of this author that's an instant mulligan, but Takuma decided to keep. Shota had no qualms about his seven.Takuma Morofuji was plagued with mana troubles
A freshly drawn Veteran Armorer went well with the Centaur Safeguard to give Takuma some early pressure. Shota spent his fourth turn on a Sunhome Enforcer, who came into play wielding a very large stop sign. A follow up Conclave Phalanx from Shota stymied any chance of a ground assault from Takuma. With his defenses established, Shota summoned a Screeching Griffin and began to attack for two in the air. All Takuma could do was continue with ineffective ground creatures like Golgari Brownscale, Guardian of the Guildpact, and Elves of Deep Shadow.
A drawn Last Gasp did give Takuma some options. Would he play Last Gasp to eliminate the annoying Griffin, or use it in conjunction with Guardian of the Guildpact to remove Sunhome Enforcer? Thoughts of preservation prevailed and the Griffin bit the dust. Undeterred, Shota cast Demand and then a fetched Skyknight Legionnaire. Blind Hunter for Takuma gave him some hope…until Shota found a Green source and tapped everything for the mighty Simic Sky Swallower. A follow up Faith's Fetters on the Blind Hunter earned Takuma's concession.
The Charleston champion remains undefeated at 6-0 and locks himself into day two.
Saturday, Aug. 19: 6:58 p.m. - Kenji Tsumura's Special DayA very handsome birthday cake.
Kenji Tsumura, Player of the Year and one of the most respected pros in Japan, celebrated a birthday today. And what is a birthday without cake? Kenji's friends and countrymen pitched in to get Tsumura a very special birthday present. Incidentally, Kenji turned 20 today, which in Japan is the legal drinking age. At 6-1, the question on our minds isn't whether Kenji will make day two, but whether Tsumura-san will actually be able to play. Check back tomorrow to find out.Kenji Tsumura, looking suitably embarrassed
Saturday, Aug. 19: 9:09 p.m. - Round 8: Pierre Canali vs. Tetsuya KajiPierre Canali
Tiebreaker scenarios and Pascal's Triangle weren't needed this round. The math is pretty simple. Win and you make day two. Lose and you're out. On one side of the table is the handsomest player in whatever country he finds himself, Pierre Canali. The French Salsa instructor and general peoples' choice comes into this round at 5-1-1. Opposing him, also at 16 points is Tetsuya Kaji, a Japanese player hailing from the Nagoya region. The mood was jovial, but both players were well aware this round was an elimination match. Despite the heavy air, Pierre still had the time to give his praises to Japan.
Canali: "I love Japan, this is my third time. It's the best place I ever visit."
Game 1: Pierre kept his opening seven with an enthusiastic thumbs up. Tetsuya's decision was a little more involved. Tetsuya's opening contained a bounce land, a Signet, a basic land, a Moldervine Cloak, a Civic Wayfinder; basically everything you could want except an actual Green source. Tetsuya hemmed and hawed for a bit but decided to send it back. Forbidden look at the top card? Forest.
Pierre started with the happiest of Ravnica starts, a bounce land into Civic Wayfinder. Tetsuya could only manage a Centaur Safeguard, which was held off by Pierre's Surveilling Sprite. Tetsuya did have a plan though, his freshly cast Simic Ragworm combined with a Hypervolt Grasp. Visions of Crab-Study crumbled when Pierre aimed Galvanic Arc directly at the Ragworm. Determined to get his Grasp into play, Tetsuya enchanted and activated his Safeguard, allowing a Bloodthirsted Bloodscale Prowler into play. Ribbons of Night took down the Safeguard and the Grasp, and Tetsuya fell way behind. After combat, Pierre played a Mark of Eviction on the Bloodscale Prowler. Tetsuya untapped and attacked with the 4/2. Post-combat, he Repealed his own Prowler and played it again. This had the dual effect of removing the Mark permanently, as well as having the Prowler Bloodthirst itself. It wasn't enough though, as by this point Tetsuya was too low on life. Pierre continued to attack and Tetsuya had to pack it in.
Game 2: Tetsuya chose to draw first this game, earning a gracious and sincere arigato from Pierre. Tetsuya did use the extra card to find and play his own third turn Civic Awesome. Pierre's Elves of Deep Shadow received a Galvanic Arc and a lightly placed Mark of Eviction on top. Pierre's head was almost bowed in prayer as he waited and hoped his Elves reached his next upkeep. Tetsuya tapped three mana while Pierre peeked out of his hands. Compulsive Research ok? Big thumbs up from Canali. His grin faded a little when Tetsuya cast Recollect on it, but for now, the Arc, Mark, and Elves were safely returned.
Yet despite a reusable Arc, Pierre was falling behind. The double Compulsives gave Tetsuya a lot of gas, while Pierre seemed to be losing momentum. Tetsuya's attempted Skyknight Legionnaire plus Moldervine Cloak hit a snag with Last Gasp, but after that Pierre was totally depleted. Land after land Pierre drew, while Tetsuya continued to lay a stream of monsters. While Pierre bought as much time as he could with Mark of Eviction and his lone Arc, Repeal, Siege Wurm, and Helium Squirter all had Pierre on the ropes. One turn had Tetsuya tapping eight mana for Bloodscale Prowler, Goblin Spelunkers, and Selesnya Evangel. Pierre untapped and studied the board. He cast Flight of Fancy on Spelunkers and started drawing cards. After his first, he grew a bit thoughtful and gave me a look. Had he drawn the answer? Yes but he had made a mistake too. Cleansing Beam took out the Red creatures, but had he cast Flight of Fancy on the Evangel, he could have recovered it with his Mark of Eviction. We don't know whether that would have mattered, as Tetsuya continued to play large men while Pierre continued to play lands. A few turns later it was over.
Game 3: Kaji was the one the Civic Wayfinder early in the third game, a move that historically had predicted the game's winner. Pierre had some mana fixing of his own with Elves of Deep Shadow and a Signet, and he threw that mana into Bramble Elemental. Tetsuya went for defense with a Wojek Embermage, enchanted with Moldervine Cloak. Pierre looked a bit sad and frustrated and had to pass back, unable to pierce the 4/5. Tetsuya ran the advantage as well as he could, with a Selesnya Evangel and Hypervolt Grasp. Pierre's Terraformer traded with Tetsuya's Civic Wayfinder, only to have the Wayfinder come back via Recollect. With growing frustration, Pierre could only play land after land as Kaji's growing army became murderous. On his final turn, Pierre drew and laughed and laid out his entire hand: all lands. Pierre had drawn four spells and 12 mana sources that game, ending his chances for Hiroshima glory.
Tetsuya Kaji advances to day two where he will join the top 64 as they face off with Coldsnap booster draft.