TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Blog - 3:33 p.m. - Round 11 - You Can Do It! vs. Tanii Monogatari
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 2:41 p.m. - Dech Tech: Full Burn
by Eli Kaplan
- Blog - 2:09 p.m. - Round 10 Feature Match - Limit Break v. Dirty Nurse
by Eli Kaplan
- Blog - 1:46 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 12:20 p.m. - Deck Tech from Day 1
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 11:17 a.m. - Round 8 Feature Match: Paper Addiction vs. Limit Break
by Eli Kaplan
- Blog - 9:23 a.m. - When a Beer Garden really is a Beer Garden
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 8:44 a.m. - What the Heck Happened?
by Ted Knutson
Yesterday was an odd one here in Hamamatsu. The Top 32 of a Grand Prix here usually reads like a who's who of Japanese Magic, which in the last year also reads like who's who at the Pro Tour. The pros always seem to succeed here, which is what made yesterday's results so shocking. Out of the teams to watch that we listed yesterday, only Itaru Ishida and Akira Asahara could be considered household names, while virtually every other Japanese star was left sitting on the sidelines for Day 2.The Face is clearly awesome.
I asked both coverage reporters and players what they thought of yesterday's results, and heard a variety of theories about why things went down the way they did. Noted Japanese Coverage Reporter Koichiro "The Face" Maki said that he thought the format was a little luck-based in that the chances of getting bad matchups dramatically increase in the Team Constructed format. Also, the deck structure of unified Constructed means that a lot of the fine-tuning that Japanese pros normally get out of formats disappears due to card pool constraints, leaving decks slightly crippled and unable to do as much to fix bad matchups as they normally would.
I think Maki makes some strong points (and to be fair, there would probably be more pros in Day 2 if we had run an eighth round, since a bunch were sitting at 5-2), but I think a little bit of what happened here this weekend and also in Hawaii can be traced to last year's success. Having reached the pinnacle of the game, the best Japanese players have done what so many Americans and Europeans have done over the years - they let off the gas. People at the top often get complacent after a great deal of success, and more than a few of the Japanese players here this weekend said they haven't been putting much time into the game lately, or they have been working more on Limited in anticipation of next month's Pro Tour-Prague. Prague occurs during a period of Japanese holidays, so attendance is expected to be high, just like it was in Hawaii. Japanese pros often struggle a bit in Limited, so it will be interesting to see how much they success they have over in Europe. Obviously it's far too early to write anyone off, but after a rough March and April, it's possible the Japanese are showing signs of returning to Earth after their stratospheric success in 2005.
Sunday, April 9: 9:23 a.m. - When a Beer Garden really is a Beer Garden
I love Japan, though it can be easy to forget that when you are gone from the country for five months. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane at Narita, I was reminded just how cool the people are here and how enjoyable it is to come visit. The food here varies from solid to amazing, it's clean, the weather is always decent, and the emphasis on technology in society is welcome for a geeky guy like me.
Last night at dinner, however, was a surreal experience. After enjoying some very good teppan-yaki on Friday night, one of our local guides led us to a "beer garden" located not too far from the hotel here in Hamamatsu. Now I've been to plenty a beer garden in my time, and when I hear those specific words, I typically think "oo, German food." Except we're in Japan… there's no way we're going to get German food. It turns out I was wrong. The place we were led was called Mein Schloss, and it was, in fact, a giant German beer garden, complete with a huge collection of steins on the wall. And sausage and kraut on the menu. And a stage… with an oompah band*.
As if that wasn't enough, there were at least two large parties going on, one of which seemed to involve a lot of clapping in unison with fifty Japanese men encouraging other members of the party to "Chug" in Japanese. All in all, it ended up as one of the stranger dining experiences I've had in Japan, but there was food and beer and friendly people around, so it was a good meal.
Oh, and tonight there will be karaoke, likely with Kenji Tsumura and pals. I love Japan.
*Okay, technically it wasn't an oompah band (no tubas or accordions were injured during the telling of this story), it was a group of Japanese folks singing American folks songs, but it was close enough. Michael Row the Boat Ashore probably added to the surreal experience more than the Chicken Dance would have.
Sunday, April 9: 11:17 a.m. - Round 8 Feature Match: Paper Addiction vs. Limit Break
Seat A: Taiga Watanabe (B/W Husk) v. Takuya Oosawa (Zoo)
Seat B: Hidehisa Taniguchi (Zoo) v. Ryou Ogura (Orzhov Aggro)
Seat C: Kazuki Kurashima (U/R Wildfire) v. Itaru Ishida (U/R Magnivore with Ebony Owl Netsuke)
In a battle of undefeated teams, Limit Break brought more experience to the table than Paper Addiction. But they forgot to bring a deck. Takuya Oosawa came to the table and made a frantic search of his deck. He apologized to the judges and dashed back to his hotel room, returning just in time with one minute to spare. He gladly took the game loss.
Most of the crowd hovered over the C seat to watch Itaru Ishida's innovative Magnivore deck in action. Tokyo's mad scientist relied on Ebony Owl Netsuke, Howling Mine, Stone Rain, and bounce as a backup plan to the trusty red Lhurgoyf. Kazuki Kurashima pieced together a spectacular mana base in the first game with three Izzet Signets and a complete Urzatron. Ishida had an early Netsuke on the table but couldn't capitalize on it. He made a Howling Mine but couldn't keep Kurashima's board in check. It took Kurashima seven grueling turns, but Keiga, the Tide Star finished Ishida off.
1-0 Kurashima - Ishida
Both players checked in with their teammates. Oosawa had a handful of burn to play a tiebreaker against Taiga Watanabe. Ogura's Hands of Honor and Castigates took out Taniguchi's action cards in his first game, but Kird Ape and a well-fed Scab-Clan Mauler demanded that Ogura play a third match against Hidehisa Taniguchi.
"Yeah, this should go much more smoothly this time." Ishida sideboarded in several copies of Sowing Salt, Shattering Spree, and Thoughts of Ruin to focus his attack on Kurashima's lands. His plans came to fruition. Ishida's Annexes and land kill kept Kurashima from stabilizing. Kurashima had a few moments where he thought his Keiga could stay on the table, but Itaru used Eye of Nowhere and Wildfire to banish the Dragon. Shattering Spree cleared away two Izzet Signets, and another Wildfire set up Ishida's lethal Magnivore.Kazuki Kurashima
1-1 Kurashima - Ishida
With ten minutes on the clock going into game 3, an unintentional draw loomed on the horizon. Ogura won his match against Zoo with Paladin En-Vec and Umezawa's Jitte. Oosawa sideboarded in Glare of Subdual and Loxodon Hierarchs to stop Watanabe's spirit assault and had a great early start with two Selesnya Guildmages, but Watanabe's Dark Confidant fueled a vicious Nantuko Husk/Grave Pact combo that overwhelmed Oosawa's token production.
Ishida sliced up Kurashima's land with a seismic scalpel. He Wildfired twice and destroyed a pair of Signets. Kurashima had no permanents on the board when time was called. Ishida didn't have enough mana to dig for a lethal Magnivore. Both teams still enjoyed excellent chances to make Top 8.
Paper Addiction draws with Limit Break 1-1-1.
Sunday, April 9: 12:20 p.m. - Deck Tech from Day 1
While Eli is busy covering feature match action, I decided to take a minute and check for deck tech around the tournament. Yesterday, the cub reporter brought you the story of Michael French's mono-Green beats deck, a deck that helped his team make Day 2 at 5-0-2, without any byes, but that deck was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of interesting decks here in Hamamatsu.
I thought Tomoharu Saito was pretty boring as a deck designer back during Extended season, because all he did was play Affinity 24/7. Let him get his hands on Standard, however, and you end up with an entirely different story. Back in Hawaii, Saito's Ninja Stompy deck put three of the four players running the deck into Day 2, giving hope to both ninja lovers and players looking to use Thoughts of Ruin in a competitive deck. This weekend he's gone in an entirely different direction, taking a Fungus Fires shell and warping it to his own nefarious purposes.
Mike Flores fell in love with Godo a while ago, but the Japanese loved him first, adding him to their Gifts Ungiven decks during block season to create Godo's Gifts, perhaps the most successful version of the many Gifts iterations during the full Kamigawa Block. Saito is revisiting that love this weekend, using three copies of the Bandit Warlord to tutor up an impressive array of instants that includes both the obvious (Lighting Helix, Char, Seed Spark) and the incredibly clever (Congregation at Dawn, Parallectric Feedback out of the sideboard). One Spin only finished at 5-2 yesterday, but if you've been looking for something completely different of the control variety to play during the PTQ season (and something that might just fool your opponents into misplays by making them think you are playing Zoo), then this might be something to keep in mind.
As I mentioned yesterday during the Round 7 feature match, I was shocked by the combination of Magnivore and Ebony Owl Netsuke in Ishida's opening hand. It turns out that his deck really is a combination of Wildfire and Owl mashed together (the deck name and design are Itaru's). He said that he really liked Owl, but got tired of getting smashed by the aggro decks, so created this hybrid. Pre-sideboard the deck plays very much like a land destruction Owl deck, while post-sideboard it's all Wildfire. The sideboard here features some anti-beatdown tech (Electrolyze), but it's really designed to mash the control decks that have come out in recent weeks, with Sowing Salt plus Boseiju to demolish Tron decks, and additional land destruction in Thoughts of Ruin out of the board. When I talked to Ishida he was at 4-1-1 plus 2 byes on the weekend, and two rounds later it looks like his team is the first to lock up a place in the Top 4, so the deck clearly has some good stuff going for it.
Those of you who read the Hawaii coverage know that I thought Ghost Husk was awesome the moment I laid eyes on it, and I'm not the only one. Since that time both Antoine Ruel and Osyp Lebedowicz have stated they thought the deck might just be the best in the format, and Taiga Watanabe managed to ride the Husk's back to an undefeated record on Day 1, putting his Paper Addiction teammates in serious Top 4 contention.
Watanabe's decklist doesn't stray far from Michael Diezel's original design, adding a single Devouring Greed to the main, a heckuva surprise against unprepared opponents. The sideboard has more significant changes, including 3 Okiba-Gang Shinobi to help demolish control opponents nearly as well as Gravepact wrecks other creature strategies. Ben Goodman's Ghost Dad deck has (deservedly) received a lot of press and play since Hawaii, but this deck is just as good and gives you yet another interesting strategy for the B/W player to employ. (Then again, maybe Ghost Dad will start running a Devouring Greed or two of its own… you never know.)
Sunday, April 9: 1:46 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown
A normal metagame breakdown is kind of an odd thing to do in this format because any group of 3 decks are attached at the hip by the same cardpool, meaning that while there are 60 decks being played out there right now, there are 20 different combinations seeing play. The Japanese Sideboard Staff compiled a list of all the Day 2 strategies seeing play, while I aggregated all the similar decks together so that you could get a sense of which archetypes are seeing the most play and which crazy one-ofs are here as well.
Day 2 Archetypes
|10 Orzhov Aggro|
|6 Greater Good|
|3 Ghost Dad|
|2 Orzhov Control|
|2 Angel Control|
|1 R/W Burn|
|1 Owling Fire|
|1 Mono-Green Beats|
|1 Sea Stompy|
|1 Jushi Control|
|1 Owling Mine|
|1 Beach House|
(As noted earlier in the coverage, there's at least one or two Husk decks running around, but the Japanese have different names for some archetypes, so I don't know whether to take those out of the Ghost Dad set or the Orzhov Aggro.)
Day 2 Strategies
|Team Name||Seat A||Seat B||Seat C|
|Limit Break||Zoo||Orzhov Aggro||Izzetron|
|Paper Addiction||Orzhov Aggro||Heezy Street||Owling Fire|
|you can do it||Greater Good||Izzetron||Heezy Street|
|Dirty Nurse||Orzhov Aggro||Heartbeat||Greater Good|
|Manmoth Teikoku||Zoo||Orzhov Aggro||Izzetron|
|Hakujin Revolution||Orzhov Aggro||Magnivore||Mono Green|
|Love smky||Heartbeat||Heezy Street||Izzetron|
|Stardust Crusaders||Heartbeat||Orzhov Aggro||RW Burn|
|No.1||Heezy Street||Heartbeat||Orzhov Aggro|
|KJ of Wrath||Greater Good||Sea Stompy||Ghost Dad|
|Taniimonogatari||Ghost Dad||Izzetron||Greater Good|
|Oita TriNEET||Orzhov Aggro||Heezy Street||Heartbeat|
|KIOSK||Greater Good||Jushi Control||Boros Deck Wins|
|Ore no Mucha!||Izzetron||Orzhov Aggro||Heezy Street|
|Fuzen-no-Tomoshibi-BM||Ghost Dad||Owling Mine||Angel Control|
|non-Satopon||Heezy Street||Greater Good||Izzetron|
|Rikadaisuki||Heartbeat||WBG Hierarchy||Angel Control|
Sunday, April 9: 2:09 p.m. - Round 10 Feature Match - Limit Break v. Dirty NurseDirty Nurse
A - Takuya Oosawa (Zoo) v. Oliver Oks (Ghost Dad)
B - Ryou Ogura (Orzhov Descent) v. Jun Minato (Heartbeat)
C - Itaru Ishida (Modified Magnivore) v. Masataka Matsumoto (G/W Glare)
Australian Oliver Oks has been working in Japan and playing the best Magic of his career here. He and Jun Minato are no stranger to team formats, having made Top 8 at last year's Limited Team GP in Osaka with this reporter. This time around, the two tapped another Tokyo up and comer, Masataka Matsumoto. They faced off against Limit Break, at the pinnacle of the standings. The matchups favored Limit Break. Itaru Ishida's Wildfires and Howling Mines made him the heavy favorite against Matsumoto's Bird and Elf-heavy build. Minato's combo hates Ogura's post-sideboard discard suite of Cranial Extraction, Persecute, and Castigate.
Takuya Oosawa couldn't be happy in the first game. His opening hand had a Savannah Lions, Moldervine Cloak, Char, and four lands. Oks blocked the Lions with a Lions of his own and kept adding men to the table. Oosawa finally produced a Kird Ape and handed it a Moldervine Cloak. It was forced to stay home and ward off Oliver's Ghost Council of Orzhova. Oliver found a Promise of Bunrei, and flipped the Ghost Council enough times to take home the win.
1- 0 Oliver Oks - Takuya Oosawa.
Oosawa swapped out Volcanic Hammer, Savannah Lions, and Isamaru for larger fare. Selesnya Guildmages, Loxodon Hierarchs, and Glare of Subdual transformed his deck into one that resembled Katsuhiro Mori's at Worlds 2005, with a touch of burn.Limit Break
Oliver did his best to stabilize his position in the second game, but Oosawa's Glare of Subdual and Selesnya Guildmages forced the Australian to expend all his removal. He managed to clear the board once with Orzhoff Pontiff, Plagued Rusalka, and an Isamaru, but Dark Confidants kept eating into his life total. He dropped the ball with a critical error, sacrificing an unwanted Bob Maher to a Plagued Rusalka instead of keeping himself out of Char range. Bob's demands were too great, and Oosawa stole a win.
1-1 Oliver Oks - Takuya Oosawa
The two surveyed the other players. There were only ten minutes on the clock. As expected, Ishida's Wildfires decimated Matsumoto to take the match. Ogura was up a game and chipping away at Minato's life. Limit Break had the advantage.
After an Oks mulligan, Oosawa's Isamaru and Watchwolf came calling. Ollie used Mortify, Last Gasp, and Shining Shoal to keep his life total high, but Oosawa had an active Vitu-Ghazi, Loxodon Hierarch, and Glare of Subdual to prevent Oliver from blocking effectively. Time went off, and they checked the second table. Minato went off just in time to draw with Ogura. Oks couldn't break through Oosawa's Glare.
Takuya Oosawa defeats Oliver Oks 2-1. Limit Break defeats Dirty Nurse 2-0-1.
Sunday, April 9: 2:41 p.m. - Dech Tech: Full Burn
Everyone expects Akira Asahara to come up with crazy decks. From old Extended's Words of Wind / Verduran Enchantress combo, to Enduring Ideal and Balancing Tings at 2005 Worlds, his builds raise eyebrows. Today he stuck to the familiar road, helming Heartbeat of Spring combo. His Starlight Crusaders teammate Shota Yasooka took a different path.
Yasooka modestly praised the deck. "To be honest, it's not too great a deck, I've been getting pulled through by my teammates. It's been 3-5 in games where it counted. To be honest, it looks a lot worse in comparison to [Kamiel Cornielssen's] Wrath of God deck with Firemane Angel, but I wanted to play something simple this weekend. It's a lot of fun, though."
Full Burn does exactly what its name says. The deck uses lots of efficient burn spells and aims it at its opponent's head. If there's too many creatures on the board, play Wrath of God. Its strategy would be deceptively simple, if it weren't for the fact that there's no deceptiveness about it. Yasooka loves his opponent's reactions. "That's it?" I get that a lot.
In the deck's defense, he had some rough matchups. He won every match against Zoo, Steroid (the Japanese name for Green/Red beatdown), and black/white aggro decks. On the other hand, control decks like Greater Good, Wildfire, and Heartbeat of Spring are nightmares.
"That's what's so great about this format, though. I got to play with my friends, have fun, and even if I don't excel, it's still possible to win."
Stay tuned to see Full Burn's performance in the Top 4.
Sunday, April 9: 3:33 p.m. - Round 11 - You Can Do It! vs. Tanii Monogatari
Seat A: Masaki Yokoi vs. Kotatsu Saito
Seat B: Kentaro Nonaka vs. Takahiro Katayama
Seat C: Norihito Nishimura vs. Yusuke Tanii
This is it - one of these teams is going to the Top 4, while the other is going home (and to be fair, probably to Charleston as well). It's a battle to the death with fame, glory, and hot Magic groupies on the line - let's see how it plays out.
Saito had to mulligan his first hand, but was able to cast Isamaru, Hound of Konda on turn 1, while Yokoi rapidly ramped his mana, playing Llanowar Elves followed by Wood Elves. Tallowisp for Saito showed that he was playing Ghost Dad, but he was suddenly very behind when Yokoi cast and equipped Umezawa's Jitte, swinging with the Wood Elves to add counters to the legendary artifact.
Pillory of the Sleepless put the Elves on lock, but Yokoi obviously had more gas, throwing down Kodama of the North Tree like it ain't no thang. North Side represent, yo! Kami of Ancient Law let Saito fetch Enfeeblement from his deck, popping a cap in the Llanowar Elf, but the untapped North Side meant Saito's team had to stay at home. Pillory of the Sleepless dropped Yokoi to 12 during his upkeep. Yokoi used his Jitte counters during his own turn to get rid of the Koala and then cast Greater Good, giving him a card drawing engine in addition to blockers, but Shizo for Saito a turn later meant he was still on a pretty strong clock due to the Pillory and legendary puppy beats.
North Side got in a swing, dropping Saito to 13 and then took one for the team to hopefully provide Yokoi with an escape plan. Selesnya Guildmage and Sakura-Tribe Elder were a solid start, and a convoked maindeck Sundering Vitae got rid of the Pillory, and a turn later Yosei was in play and quickly sent to the graveyard, locking down Saito's board. Another Yosei a turn later gave Yokoi just enough damage to finish off his consistently color-screwed opponent.
Yokoi 1 - Saito 0
Unfortunately for Yokoi, both of his teammates dropped game 1, meaning he was up in his match, but You Can Do It! appeared more optimistic than practical at the moment.
Saito kept a questionable hand of two Isamaru, Shining Shoal, Sickening Shoal, two Plains and Dark Confidant, but got lucky and drew a Shizo, Death Storehouse on turn 2 to bring Bob online. Yokoi's mulligan gave him a turn 2 Jitte, but he was quickly under siege by Saito's miniature beaters. Shizo plus Isamaru again proved to be a hefty clock, and this time Saito was able to pull it out. Being able to fetch Pacifism to lock down Paladin en-Vec proved particularly useful that game.
Yokoi 1 - Saito 1
Norihito lost his match in Seat C, but Nonaka evened things up in his, meaning both A and B were going to game 3.
Saito got a first-turn Isamaru for the third game in a row, and then cast Castigate on turn 2, revealing a very solid hand for Yokoi of Hierarch, Paladin, Kodama of the North Tree, Wrath of God, and two lands. The elephant went to the graveyard. Yokoi cast the Paladin on his turn and then Wrathed the board clear a turn later. Saito cast Ghost Council as part of his recovery only to see it matched a turn later by Kodama. The Ghost Council was doing work though, dropping Yokoi to 8 and then 4 while Saito struggled to draw a creature. Wood Elves gave yokoi someone who could wield a Jitte, but Pacifism locked it down as well, and Shining Shoal removing the Ghost Council on the Council's blocked damage the next turn gave Saito and Tanii Monogatari the win.
Saito 2 - Yokoi 1
Tanii Monogatari 2 - You Can Do It! 1