by Bill StarkFriday, 8:05 p.m.:Metagame Breakdown
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 7:Tsuyoshi Ikeda vs. Koutarou Ootsuka
by Bill StarkFriday, 7:33 p.m.:Judge the Game, See the World?
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 5:Katsuhiro Mori vs. Masaya Kitayama
by Bill StarkFriday, 4:38 p.m.:Drafting with Katsuhiro Mori
by Bill StarkFeature:Planeswalker Symbology
by Bill StarkFeature Match Round 3:Kaoru Amino vs. Yuuya Watanabe
by Bill StarkDeck Lists:Standard Grinder Winners
by Bill StarkFriday, 12:30 p.m.:Japan's Champions
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Fact Sheet
Friday, 12:30 p.m. – Japan's Champions
Behind the United States, it is arguably the second most storied Magic-playing nation in the world. But Japan, home to numerous Pro Tour champions, Players of the Year, and even a Hall of Famer, wasn't always a powerhouse. In the early days of the Pro Tour, in fact, Japanese players were generally considered weak opponents due to the fact that high level understanding of the game took longer to spread through Asia after migrating across the United States and Europe. But the advent of the internet and Magic Online gave Japanese players more than enough resources to make up for lost time and today the country is consistently one of the top performers on the Pro Tour stage. To kick off Japan Nationals weekend, we take a moment to examine some of the nation's former champions.Kazuya Mitamura
Kazuya Mitamura had already spent some time in the Pro Tour Sunday limelight before the second Pro Tour-Honolulu. But it was there that his Shards of Alara Block drafting skills allowed him to hold on through the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and past the last match to hoist the Pro Tour trophy as its champion. Nicknamed "The Chief" for his resemblance in appearance and stoicism to the character from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Kazuya clearly holds the game of Magic near to his heart; his win in Honolulu after failing to close in previous Top 8 finishes left him visibly, though happily, emotional.Kenji Tsumura
The polar opposite of Mitamura, Kenji Tsumura is slight in stature and loud and outgoing in nature. That has endeared him to legions of American and European fans in addition to the hometown crowd and he has been a Magic media darling since he burst onto the Pro Tour stage. He is a former Player of the Year, a multiple Pro Tour Top 8'er, and one of a tiny, tiny handful of players who have been mentioned amongst the company of Jon Finkel and Kai Budde as one of the best players of all time. He is a probable inclusion into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame despite the fact clinching a Pro Tour title has always eluded him and that work and studies have forced him away from competing regularly over the past few Pro Tour seasons.Masashi Oiso
When he won the Rookie of the Year, Masashi helped beckon the modern era of Japanese Magic pros onto the scene. He seemed unstoppable during his time on the Pro Tour and helped move the modern perception of Japanese players away from easy Pro Tour wins to exactly the type of competitor you don't want to face on the big stage. It was in part through Masashi's prominence that other young players, like Kazuya Mitamura and Kenji Tsumura, took up the competitive call. School took him away from competing regularly but he returned from semi-retirement in 2008 to claim the title of Japanese National Champion. At the time he promised the crowd to return the team title to the soil of Japan at Worlds that year, but it was a promise an American team featuring Paul Cheon, Michael Jacob, and Sam Black proved powerful enough to force him to break. In attendance this weekend, one has to imagine Masashi feels even more pressure to return to the Japanese team in order to make good on that promise.Masashiro Kuroda
A member of the old guard, Masashiro Kuroda was the first Japanese player to win the Pro Tour, and he did so in his home country: Kobe, Japan in 2004. The win catapulted Japan to Pro Tour superstardom as Kuroda managed to, in one win, dispel the notion the country wasn't capable of being the best in the world. Now a full time businessman with a family Kuroda finds himself unable to travel for international events as much as he has in the past but with the World Championships to be held in Japan this year he's back in the saddle in an attempt to hunt up a national champion trophy.Masaya Kitayama
Masaya Kitayama is secretly one of Japan's best players and certainly so on the national stage. He managed to take the title of Japan National Champion approximately one half decade ago and since has enjoyed a successful Pro Tour career that sees him on the gravy train year in and year out. The question is whether he can repeat as national champion, a quest as rare in Japan as it is in most everywhere else in the world.Shuhei Nakamura
A former Player of the Year, Shuhei Nakamura has cemented himself as one of the game's very best players. The manner in which he manages to do so? By taking a page out of Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel's book and traveling to nearly every event he can get to. That means he racks up a lot of extra Pro Points from Grand Prixs, and those points pay off big time at the end of each season. A year after winning the Player of the Year title he finished a narrow second to Yuuya Watanabe. Shuhei is also the defending Japan National Champion and no doubt hopes to add to his Pro Points for this year by defending his title.Tsuyoshi Fujita
The only Japanese Hall of Famer in the world (though admittedly probably not for very long), Tsuyoshi Fujita is the player who arguably most paved the way for future generations of Japanese competitors after him. Without his Finals finish against Zvi Mowshowitz at Pro Tour-Tokyo in 2001, barely losing as an entire country watched with anticipation and yearning for their first champion, there may never have been Masashiro Kuroda, Kenji Tsumura, and Shuhei Nakamura. But Fujita did make that Finals as well as many more top finishes including a turn as national champion. There is no doubt he is one player who hopes to return to hoisting the trophy here in Kyoto.Yuuya Watanabe
When Yuuya Watanabe burst onto the scene with a Rookie of the Year win in 2007 he was asked what his goal for the next year of competition was going to be. His answer? Winning Player of the Year. At the time it seemed like a cheeky response to the question but within two years Watanabe had done exactly that winning a race against Pro Tour star Martin Juza and countryman Shuhei Nakamura. The win was improbable until you consider Yuuya's resume, with multiple Pro Tour Top 8s and consistent finishes on the Grand Prix stage as well. In 2009 he was also a member of Japan's national team, a place he hopes to return this weekend.
Deck Lists – Standard Grinder Winners
It wouldn't be a National Qualifier without those players hoping to make the very final cut in by way of the National Grinders. Single elimination tournaments, they are held one day prior to the main event and allow the final few players to sneak in qualified. Of course, once you've lost you're out meaning you can sign up for a second. Below are all the winners decklists from the Standard grinders.
In addition to the Standard winners, a few brave souls also qualified via the Sealed Grinders. Their names are:
Feature Match Round 3 - Kaoru Amino vs. Yuuya Watanabe
A defending Japan national team member, Yuuya Watanabe entered his first feature match of the 2010 tournament undefeated. He was also the reigning Player of the Year and no doubt hoped to pad his Pro Points total for 2010 with a top level finish on the weekend. His opponent, Kaoru Amino, did not have the resume his opponent had but he did have a wilder outfit dressed in the costume of one of his favorite anime characters.Kaoru Amino
Kaoru won the right to go first and watched patiently as his opponent opened on a mulligan. Yuuya kept his hand of six and the game got underway. Opening on Mountain, Mountain Amino made good with his red mana symbol-sleeved deck revealing himself to be playing Red Deck Wins and casting Hellspark Elemental. Yuuya opened on Rootbound Crag, Rootbound Crag, and Island but fell to 11 from an attack and unearth out of his opponent's first Hellspark, then a second copy of the 3/1. His own fetch-land dropped him to 10 and the pro needed to get his deck kicked into high gear if he hoped to keep up with a Mountains player on a full grip of cards in hand at just half his starting life total.
At four mana Yuuya cast Vengevine but rather than keep the 4/3 home to block he sent it to the red zone. Kaoru simply unearthed his second Hellspark and attacked to put Yuuya on 7. When Watanabe untapped with four mana for the second time he revealed why he had been so aggressive by casting a second Vengevine and sending that sideways. The two Vengevine attackers left his opponent at 8 life, dead in just one more turn.
Unfortunately for the reigning Player of the Year that turn wouldn't come. Kaoru did what red decks do, sending a Lightning Bolt to drop Yuuya to 4 at the end of his turn. Untapping, Amino revealed a second Lightning Bolt and a Burst Lightning to finish off the final points and the players headed off to their sideboards.
Kaoru Amino 1, Yuuya Watanabe 0Yuuya Watanabe
A Noble Hierarch to kick things off for Yuuya was quickly destroyed by Burst Lightning from Kaoru. The red player cast a Goblin Guide to begin attacking, but the 2/2 was stymied by a Sea Gate Oracle for his opponent. Unafraid of the blocker, Amino cast a Ball Lightning and sent both of his team members to the red zone. Watanabe went into the tank to figure out the best play, then opted to block the Goblin Guide and fell to 11.
Yuuya fired back with a Bloodbraid Elf that cascaded into a free Lotus Cobra. He turned his 3/2 Elf sideways to knock Kaoru down to 15 life but lost his entire board to a 3-point Earthquake a turn later. That reset the game with the score 12-7 in Kaoru's favor and Yuuya had a lot of thinking to do on his turn. With his opponent on three cards left in hand, the successful pro knew he had his work cut out for him if he was going to stabilize long enough to win.
A second Lotus Cobra hit the battlefield for Yuuya, replacing the one killed by Earthquake, and he went to 6 in order to use a Misty Rainforest to dig up an Island. His Snake let him generate two mana from the fetch which gave him enough to cast a Vengevine and a Noble Hierarch. The Vengevine attacked for 5 and Watanabe passed, holding his breath to see what the remaining cards in his opponent's hand were. Kaoru untapped and cast Hell's Thunder, then played his land for the turn: Teetering Peaks. That made the Thunder a 6/4 and with no flying blockers or mana up for removal Yuuya was dead.
Kaoru Amino 2, Yuuya Watanabe 0
Feature - Planeswalker Symbology
That symbol first began appearing on the Pro Tour and in Magic a few short years ago. At first it was background noise, something you might not even notice if you weren't paying attention. Before long, however, it was everywhere, so much so that DailyMTG.com even ran an Arcana on it explaining what it is and why it exists.
Prior to this weekend, however, I had never realized each symbol, which the Arcana refers to as the "planeswalker symbol," can correlate to a specific planeswalker. That is the case here in Kyoto, however, as the central stage features pillars representing each of the five original planeswalkers. Each planeswalker also has their own unique planeswalker symbol designed to evoke the very essence that defines the planeswalkers themselves. I took a moment to snap some shots of each.
Here's the massive stage each visitor is greeted by as they enter the Japan Nationals convention hall in Kyoto.
Here's Ajani who, as a white planeswalker, loves order and apparently took a nod from the Greeks in designing his symbol to match their marbled architecture.
Chandra's symbol is as fiery as she is.
Garruk's symbol is a thorny subject. Heh.
Jace's symbol seemed the most mercurial, brooding in a fashion that I couldn't help but notice reminded me of Mr. Beleren himself.
Finally, Liliana's planeswalker symbol is the type of sign I feel you wouldn't want to stumble across in a dark alley, which is funny because I've always kind of felt the same about Liliana.
Friday, 4:38 p.m. – Drafting with Katsuhiro Mori
Katsuhiro Mori is a former rookie of the year, Japan National Champion, World Champion, and the only player who has ever made back-to-back-to-back World Championship Top 8s. As the 2010 Japan National Championships headed to the first draft portion after four rounds of Swiss competition, he found himself on 12 Swiss points, undefeated at 4-0. That was a good spot to be in and the coverage team took the opportunity to watch the former champ's draft.
His table was a tough one featuring Masaya Kityama and Masihiko Morita amongst other top level pros. Katsuhiro opened his first pack of Rise of the Eldrazi and found both a Vendetta and a Dawnglare Invoker staring back at him. They were just bumps on the way to his snap pick, however, as he flipped to his rare and found a Magmaw staring back at him.
The 4/4 is a build-around style rare, very powerful in a deck that can utilize it correctly. Katsuhiro went right to work with that concept in mind nabbing a second pick Nest Invader over Makindi Griffin, which he considered briefly. The Spawn token generated by the 2/2 would be exactly the type of fodder perfect for Magmaw, and it seemed Mori might attempt to draft a Spawn strategy to utilize the rare. His third pick, however, offered up a Venerated Teacher and he took it over Growth Spasm. Blue was a new color but being only three picks into the draft meant he had plenty of room to figure out which colors and strategies he wanted to use.
Katsuhiro's very next pick was a second Venerated Teacher without considering any other cards in the pack, and then he had to choose between Battle-Rattle Shaman and Akoum Boulderfoot. The Shaman was definitely better in a deck with Spawn, allowing him to pump the innocuous 0/1s in order to attack each turn if he had no better use for them. The Boulderfoot was a beefier threat and perhaps better in a vacuum, but Mori opted to take the 2/2 Goblin. His next pick had Ondu Giant and he happily selected it after considering momentarily the Oust in the pack.
From there Mori's picks shifted once again to black cards as he picked Dread Drone then Skeletal Wurm, taking the monstrous regenerator after again considering a cheap white removal spell in the form of Guard Duty. The pack rounded itself out with a host of late picks, though Katsuhiro did find himself with a surprising Seat Gate Oracle in 10th. He finished with pack one and flipped through his contents. His deck was a bit scattered, setting itself up as a red-green build set to abuse Magmaw or perhaps a Venerated Teacher style deck after he picked up an Ikral Outrider late to go with his two early Venerated Teachers. And then there were his black cards; Katsuhiro was certainly keeping his options open and flexible.
The second pack started well for the champion as he opened Heat Ray. But he didn't simply take the card immediately; instead he looked longingly at a Venerated Teacher, Kabira Vindicator, and Halimar Wavewatch. The blue and white cards would have been great in a leveler deck, but ultimately Mori decided the removal spell was the most powerful and placed it onto his stack. His second pick had a Vent Sentinel, Rapacious One, Kozilek's Predator, and Beastbreaker of Bala Ged. He spent the maximum time allowed over the decision before finally taking the Predator.
In the third pick was a pack featuring Corpsehatch and Artisan of Kozilek. The removal spell after already having taken some black spells in the first pack would be good for his deck, but he settled on the Artisan to stay flexible. When he saw a second Corpsehatch as his next pick he was visibly disappointed in that decision and decided to pull the trigger on black removal. Mori's deck was increasingly becoming spread across multiple colors and when he saw a Prophetic Prism up next he very seriously considered taking it. His pick instead? Nest Invader, his second, followed by a Snake Umbra. He then got Might of the Masses but when he had a chance at Prey's Vengeance a pick later took Wrap in Flames over it, even considering a Mnemonic Wall for good measure.
The second pack rounded itself up with mostly red cards for Mori and as he shuffled around his first and second pack during the card examination period his deck seemed only slightly less unfocused as it had after the first pack. His plan to abuse Magmaw was looking good, and red was certainly going to be one of his primary colors. The question was whether he would stick with the green cards to supplement it or switch to black after his picks from the first pack and the Corpsehatch in the second.
It was all down to the third pack and Mori cracked it flipping to the back to look at the rare. It was a whiff and he shuffled to look at the rest of the contents. The cards that caught his eye? Emrakul's Hatcher, Boar Umbra, Heat Ray, and Vendetta. He shuffled them in his apparent preferred order and put the 3/3 first, selecting it as the judge announcing the draft called for players to make their choices. Up next he looked at Induce Despair and Spawning Breath, opting to take the black removal spell. Better than Corpsehatch on a splash the pick was perfectly fine considering Mori already had an Ondu Giant.
A Spawning Breath was next, followed by another Emrakul's Hatcher. He then picked Evolving Wilds over Daggerback Basilisk, a sign he was intending to splash. With the sixth pick came a gift: Bramblesnap. The 1/1 is generally a solid pick but in Mori's deck it was even better, a plan b if he hoped to abuse Spawn tokens. He quickly added it to his pile to make sure he had a backup in the event Magmaw didn't make an appearance during his games.
Things slowed down considerably from there. Mori's last few picks featured Essence Feed (another black card), Pathrazer of Ulamog (a marginal inclusion), Naturalize, Hand of Emrakul, and late picks he wasn't going to play. At the end of the draft his deck looked like a red-green concoction with a game plan: abuse Magmaw and Bramblesnap with Eldrazi Spawn. Unfortunately for Mori that was a fragile plan and he didn't exactly have a solid backup against an opponent with removal spells for those creatures. When I asked him how he felt the draft went he responded quickly, "Very badly. Deck is very bad." But how did he expect to do? With a huge grin he answered like a true champion:
Feature Match Round 5 - Katsuhiro Mori vs. Masaya Kitayama
Both undefeated, Katsuhiro Mori and Masaya Kitayama entered the fifth round of competition at the 2010 Japan National Championship on 12 Swiss points. Both had national championship titles, Mori winning in 2006 and Kitayama taking the honor just one year later. Mori won the right to play first and opened on Bramblesnap. Unfortunately for the 1/1 trampler, Kitayama had Ogre Sentry to block and Brimstone Mage a turn later; the red leveler definitely meant trouble for Katsuhiro's board position.
Kitayama missed his fourth land drop but tried to pressure his opponent by casting Staggershock targeting the Bramblesnap. Mori responded with Might of the Masses and tapping the 1/1 to itself to pump, but took 2 from an attack out of Brimstone Mage. He cast Emrakul's Hatcher on his turn to make sure his Bramblesnap could survive the rebound from Staggershock, but lost a Brood Birthing out of his hand when his opponent cast an Inquisition of Kozilek.Katsuhiro Mori
The mana troubles of Masaya Kitayama were beginning to cost him heavily. Unable to kill the Bramblesnap he was powerless to stop it as Mori cast a Magmaw and began attacking with the trampler. Kitayama took a gamble and opted to chump with his team, exactly enough damage to kill the creature even if Mori used all of his other creatures to pump. Katsuhiro moved his green creature to the graveyard and watched as Masaya's Ogre Sentry and Brimstone Mage were binned as well.
Snake Umbra hit for Mori targeting his Magmaw and he began attacking with the 4/4 (5/5 with the Umbra) and his 3/3 Hatcher; Masaya fell to 12. A turn later Masaya drew his card and slammed his hand onto the table. His frustration was faux as he gave a big grin to his opponent before reaching for his sideboard for the second game, felled in the first by mana screw.
Katsuhiro Mori 1, Masaya Kitayama 0
Masaya Kitayama started the second game off with an Inquisition of Kozilek seeing a hand from his opponent that featured Battle Rampart, Artisan of Kozilek, Spawning Breath, and a grip of Mountains. He binned the Wall and the next turn cast Arrogant Bloodlord, a powerful threat that could dominate the battlefield is his opponent couldn't come up with an answer.Masaya Kitayama
Mori cast Ondu Giant and fetched up a Swamp, but took 5 as Masaya had a pre-combat Tuktuk the Explorer to join his Arrogant Bloodlord. A second attack dropped him lower and Mori was forced to cast Snake Umbra on his own Ondu Giant to make it large enough to block safely.
For the second game in a row Kitayama found himself slightly manascrewed on only three lands while his opponent's board exploded to contain eight. Despite the massive access to mana, however, Katsuhiro was having trouble finding spells to cast. When Masaya found a fourth mana he cast Battle-Rattle Shaman, used it to make his Bloodlord a 6/4, and sent the fatty to the red zone. Mori cast Spawning Breath to ding Kitayama for 1, then traded his Spawn token for the black attacker.
With the turn back Katsuhiro finally hit enough mana for Artisan of Kozilek which he cast, returning Battle Rampart from the graveyard. Masaya found a Zulaport Enforcer he could hope to begin leveling but Mori started sending his Artisan in to attack. The 10/9 crashed in with its annihilator ability forcing Masaya to sacrifice two permanents. He opted to bin Tuktuk, getting himself a 5/5 Goblin Golem, and his Enforcer. He absorbed the damage rather than trade his team to block and fell precariously low on life.
A fifth land came off the top for Masaya who couldn't contain his excitement. Why? Because he had a Corpsehatch to destroy his opponent's Eldrazi. Out of cards, Mori appeared to be out of gas and had to chump with his Ondu Giant as Masaya attacked with his 5/5 Goblin token pumped by Battle-Rattle. The Snake Umbra on the Giant bit one for the team and Mori preserved his life total but his chances weren't looking good.
That is, they weren't until he went to draw for the turn. On the top of his deck he found himself a Pathrazer of Ulamog and quickly plunked the fatty to the table and gave it haste with his Battle Rampart. Kitayama's shoulders sunk as he surveyed the battlefield. He needed to sacrifice three permanents, block with most of his creatures, and somehow still have enough resources on his turn to dig himself out. He decided he couldn't accomplish that herculean feat and excused himself from the match.
Katsuhiro Mori 2, Masaya Kitayama 0
Friday, 7:33 p.m. – Judge the Game, See the World?
Naoaki Umesaki is a level 3 judge and the Premier Events organizer for Tokyo, one of Japan's busiest tournament areas. Throughout the years he has judged many competitive events including multiple Japan Nationals, but this year he found himself qualified for the event and opted to take advantage. You might say gaming is in his blood as Umesaki works full time on behalf of the National Shogi Federation in Japan, shogi being a Japanese form of chess. I sat down to talk to Naoaki about his unique perspective in the Magic world as both a premier level player and judge, and this is what he had to say.
I asked Umesaki how long he had been playing, and he pointed out it was a full eight years. I expected my second question, how long he had been judging, to have a different answer but was surprised when Naoaki said he started judging at the same time he had begun playing. His friend Kamishiwa, who at the time worked for the Magic distributor in Japan, had recruited him for the job and he'd been hooked ever since. What makes him play rather than serve as a judge on a weekend like the National Championship? "I want to keep high level judging, so I play to understand the high level game. If you don't play, you're not as good a judge," he explained.
He is no slouch in the playing arena either, having qualified for Nationals via ratings invite which had also qualified him for Worlds in Rome in 2009. All told, how many Pro Tours had he been to? "I've played two Pro Tours," Umesaki replied before correcting himself, "wait, no three!" It's no surprise the judge has managed to be successful competitively considering he plays at none other than Tomoharu Saito's recently opened shop near Tokyo.
"I prefer judging," Umesaki said, "but because I judge I interact with a lot of players. Without that I wouldn't know them. It has helped me network." It certainly made sense judging by how much Naoaki had traveled over the years with the judge program that he had built relationships with other Japanese pros, but being a judge could potentially lead to some difficult calls because of that. Had any of his testing partners ever pressured him to give them a favorable ruling because they knew each other? "No. 100% no." Umesaki responded immediately.
Naoaki, who primarily plays on Magic Online, specializes in Limited. "My Limited rating is 2050." I asked him how it had gotten so high and he described a trip to the Czech Republic for Grand Prix-Prague last summer. "I went 12-2-1. I was there half for vacation and half research. European Grand Prixs are so large they split into two tournaments and I wanted to learn about that to become a better tournament organizer and judge." It was a remarkably noble reason for attending such an event, so it seemed fitting he had been rewarded karmically with his solid performance.
In addition to judging and playing, Naoaki also does a lot of community work. On the official Magic website in Japan, http://www.mtg-jp.com, Umesaki did the video shooting for a video featuring Shuhei Nakamura. That video focused on Nakamura's travels around the world playing the game and has inspired numerous other players to follow in his footsteps.
In closing I asked Naoaki what his words for fellow judges reading would be, and he had just one thing to say. "Most judges in Japan are retired from playing. I would say play more! Enjoy Magic!" Wiser words have never been spoken…
Feature Match Round 7 - Tsuyoshi Ikeda vs. Koutarou Ootsuka
Both big names old school Japan star Tsuyoshi Ikeda and Koutarou Ootsuka squared off against one another for the final match of the day on Friday competition at the 2010 Japan National Championships. They were battling to keep their Top 8 hopes alive, both having picked up two losses earlier in the day.Tsuyoshi Ikeda
Ikeda started on a mulligan and his keep didn't help him early. He missed a land drop before casting a Pawn of Ulamog one turn behind schedule. Meanwhile Koutarou had started quite well with Lagac Lizard and Sea Gate Oracle gassing him up to Explosive Revelation to take out the Pawn. Tsuyoshi reached four mana and cast Thoughtgorger discarding his entire hand and making the creature a monstrous 6/6.
Ootsuka was ready, however, and used Narcolepsy to put the 'Gorger on ice. Having his powerful threat nullified without having it go to the graveyard so he could draw fuel to replace his discarded cards was a huge loss for Tsuyoshi and when he found only red cards on the top of his deck, red cards he couldn't cast thanks to his all-Swamps manabase on the battlefield, he scooped things up.
Koutarou Ootsuka 1, Tsuyoshi Ikeda 0
The first game had whizzed by, knocking less than ten minutes off the round clock and was arguably the best performance Lagac Lizard had ever seen on the feature match stage. Tsuyoshi Ikeda's start in the second game was considerably stronger than his start from the first as he cast Bloodthrone Vampire on his second turn. He traded it for Skywatcher Adept from his opponent then used Cadaver Imp to get it back.Koutarou Ootsuka
Koutarou cast Halimar Wavewatch and Sea Gate Oracle to build his side of the table but began taking 3-point beats as Ikeda cast Battle-Rattle Shaman to start pumping his Imp. The Shaman bit the dust at the hands of Flame Slash from Ootsuka who began sending in his Oracle and leveling his Wavewatch. Tsuyoshi cast Goblin Tunneler and then re-cast his Bloodthrone but had to watch as his opponent cast Emrakul's Hatcher.
Hoping to be aggressive enough to outrace his opponent Tsuyoshi used his Tunneler to make his Bloodthrone Vampire unblockable and attacked Koutarou to 14. Ootsuka was having none of it, sending back with his own team to make the scores 14-10, while using Disaster Radius to wipe his opponent's board. A turn later he cast his Lagac Lizard for the second game in a row and Tsuoyoshi was soon outmatched by the 3/3.
In the background the clock for the round ticked down to 44 minutes…
Koutarou Ootsuka 2, Tsuyoshi Ikeda 0
Friday, 8:05 p.m. – Metagame Breakdown
Here is the breakdown of the Standard metagame at the 2010 Japan National Championship.
|Deck||Player #||% of field|
|WU Tap Out||17||5.67|
|UG Turbo Land||14||4.67|
|UGR Jace,Bloodbraid and Vengevine||12||4|
|Next Level Bant||4||1.33|
|Open the Vaults||3||1|
|WU Library Out||1||0.33|
Jund turned up as the most popular archetype, no small feat considering the tournament is the largest Nationals event ever held in Japan or elsewhere. Bant Conscription was the second most popular archetype, followed closely by Red Deck Wins at 21 players. The Mountains players were no doubt gunning for the popular Jund strategy as they're generally favored to win the matchup.
One of the more interesting decks on the day, played by 12 players including reigning Player of the Year and defending Japanese national team member Yuuya Watanabe, was a red, green, and blue Jacerator deck featuring Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Vengevine, and the most powerful cards across the three colors. We'll be looking more in depth at that deck tomorrow.
A few decks surprised with low numbers. Polymorph, which earned Kenji Tsumura his spot at Nationals via National Qualifier, has clearly fallen out of favor with the Japanese players as only three brave souls opted to play it. Brilliant Ultimatum, a deck that has consistently popped up on large independent tournament circuits in the United States, also had only one backer though that number is not too far off from what you might expect at a tournament of this caliber.
Which archetype will reign supreme? We'll know Sunday and we'll have more deck techs, lists, and coverage for you tomorrow and all weekend long!