- Feature Match: Round 14
Katsuhiro Mori Versus Masami Kanekoby Bill Stark
- Blog - Saturday, 5:24 p.m.: Undefeated Draft Players
by Bill Stark
- Feature Match: Round 13
Shu Komuro Versus Akio Chibaby Bill Stark
- Feature Match: Round 12
Masashi Oiso Versus Yuuta Takahashiby Bill Stark
- Feature Match: Round 11
Tomoharu Saito Versus Min-Su Kimby Bill Stark
- Blog - Saturday, 1:46 p.m.: Photo Essay #2
by Bill Stark
- Blog - Saturday, 12:53 p.m.: So Much More Than A Tournament...
by Bill Stark
- Feature Match: Round 9
Feature Match Shingou Kurihara Versus Yuuya Watanabeby Bill Stark
- Feature Match: Round 8
Shuhei Nakamura Versus Makihito Miharaby Bill Stark
- Blog - 10:42 a.m.: Drafting With Shuhei Nakamura
by Bill Stark
by Event Coverage StaffInfo: Day 1 Blog Archive, Featured Matches, Qualifier Desklists and More!
Blog - Saturday, 10:42 a.m.: Drafting With Shuhei Nakamura
Headed in to the second day of competition there was a big story developing: Shuhei Nakamura’s run at Player of the Year. After a solid performance at Grand Prix-Rimini Shuhei had managed to jump up to Level 8 and had taken a lead in the race headed into Japanese Nationals. During any other year that wouldn’t have mattered, but because Pro Points were added as an award for this year’s Nationals tournaments, and because Japan has one of the final events in the world, the possibility of Top 8ing gained added significance for Nakamura. That was the situation as the hall sat down to their final draft of the weekend.
Transitioning from Lorwyn/Morningtide on Day 1 to Shadowmoor/Eventide for Saturday play, Nakamura opened on a rather weak pack. After shuffling the entire stack of 15 around for the full time allotted, Nakamura finally settled on a Glamer Spinners , a card one can’t imagine Shuhei was hoping to first-pick. His second pick was a bit spicier in Burn Trail and Nakamura was soon on his way to drafting Mono-red picking up a Boggart Arsonists followed by Mudbrawler Cohort . When his fifth pick rolled around, however, the red had dried up and Shuhei opted to nab a Barrenton Cragheads, a throwback to his first-pick Spinners. The pack rounded out with a Prismwake Merrow , Rustrazor Butcher , Intimidator Initiate , Blistering Dieflyn , Smash to Smithereens , and Runes of the Deus .
Speaking to the complexity of the SSE format, Shuhei’s pick of Intimidator Initiate came over Last Breath and Wanderbrine Rootcutters , both cards he was considering taking from the pack. Because of the hybrid mechanic, Shadowmoor and Eventide provide a very dynamic drafting world, meaning Shuhei could have played any of the three cards. The Initiate fits perfectly with the aggressive red strategy, the Last Breath is a removal spell that he could play in a red-white build alongside his Barrenton Cragheads and Glamer Spinners , and the Rootcutters were an aggressive blue Hill Giant that he could play in blue-red, again alongside Cragheads and the Spinners. The pick of Initiate indicated Shuhei was sticking to his guns and trying to force Mono-red, a strategy many consider the best in the format but one which gets incredibly weaker when other players are taking your cards.
For the second Shadowmoor pack Shuhei had some ground to cover, but with a fresh look at 15 full cards anything seemed possible. As Nakamura shuffled through the cards, however, his shoulders slumped. There was but a single red card in the form of Ember Gale and only one hybrid in Grief Tyrant . And to add insult to injury, if he took one of those cards for his deck he’d have to pass a Wilt-Leaf Liege to one of his opponents! Ultimately the Tyrant made it to Shuhei’s stack, but things were definitely off to a rocky start.
They didn’t get much better. The second pick yielded just a Tattermunge Duo , a solid creature but not the thing second pick dreams are made of. The third pick was a good news/bad news situation: the good news was that Shuhei got a rare. The bad news was that it was just a Rage Reflection (though he took it over Giantbaiting , a card many consider critical in the Mono-red deck). Umbral Mantle joined the stack, followed by Mudbrawler Raiders , Lurebound Scarecrow , Ember Gale , Sootstoke Kindler , and Traitor’s Roar . Shuhei had managed to increase his red card count, but as he moved to examine his deck so far, he was visibly discontent with the pile’s contents.
Shuhei Nakamura tries to make sense of his pool.It was up to the Eventide pack to pull it all together, and Shuhei was certainly not the first player to be in such a position. The lack of red from the last pack was made up for in spades with his first pick, netting him Puncture Blast alongside a plethora of red and red-hybrid cards. Up second was Hearthfire Goblin, helping Shuhei to shore up a weak three-drop department, followed by a gifted third-pick Puncture Blast to join the one he had first-picked. All of a sudden the world was looking up for the tenacious Japanese pro. Cinder Pyromancer further improved his three-drop’s status and promised to allow him some aggressive reach. An Unwilling Recruit came around late to offer up a nasty surprise for his opponent’s and he filled out his two-drops with Mimics and Fang Skulkin s.
As he moved to deckbuilding it was clear Shuhei’s deck was not bonkers. Taking a medium strength signal to move into red had cost him as the second set of Shadowmoor packs were simply devoid of cards in the color he was looking for. Fortunately Eventide had helped smooth things over and, given a bit of luck, Shuhei could certainly walk away from the pod with a solid shot at the Top 8 and an increase in his lead for Player of the Year.
Feature Match: Round 8
To call the first feature match of the day a doozy would be some kind of understatement. The first and second ranked players in the tournament, Makihito Mihara and Shuhei Nakamura respectively, sat down to battle on their way to (they hoped) the Top 8. A World Champion against a Level 8 in the lead of the Player of the Year race, and to top things off the two players had been passing to each other in the draft!
After watching both of the players construct their decks, it definitely seemed like Mihara had the advantage in the matchup. Shuhei had put together an aggressive Mono-red deck, but the packs had been short on red cards and his stack wound up being slightly weaker than normal. Mihara’s deck, on the other hand, was a solid green build with enough flexibility to splash for potent removal, enough early blockers like Juvenile Gloomwidow to buy him time to hit the late game, and enough powerful big spells like Howl of the Night Pack to take over the game when he got there. To make things even better, the former World Champion had won the die roll while Nakamura had opened on a mulligan.
Shuhei Nakamura fights at a disadvantage.Shuhei was still quick to come out of the gates using a hasty Mudbrawler Cohort to get on the board. Mihara went right back on the offensive with a Hungry Spriggan , then followed up with Heartmender and Kithkin Spellduster . When Shuhei missed having a fourth turn creature, it looked all but over. After dropping to 10 from a Mihara attack, then drawing an unplayable card for his fifth turn, Shuhei agreed with the sentiment and conceded.
The game had taken less than five minutes.
Makihito Mihara: 1, Shuhei Nakamura: 0
Nakamura kept his opener for the second game with a monster curve: Intimidator Initiate into Rustrazor Butcher into Puncture Blast . He opted not to play it that way as Mihara whiffed on having a two-drop and a topdecked Inside Out provided Nakamura the opportunity to get in for an extra damage with his Faceless Butcher while trying to draw into some action with the blue-red cantrip.
Makihito Mihara, first after Day 1.Mihara wasn’t taking things easy though, and as Shuhei began to mana flood Mihara used a Farhaven Elder to accelerate into Kithkin Spellduster and Hill Giant s. When a Raven’s Run Dragoon s was enchanted with Shield of the Oversoul and Shuhei ripped a fifth land in a row, leaving him with a total of nine and no action, he could do nothing but shrug and shuffle up.
Makihito Mihara defeats Shuhei Nakamura 2-0 and remains undefeated.
Feature Match: Round 9
Yuuya Watanabe is a rising Japanese star who is already reigning Rookie of the Year. Shingou Kurihara is a well known professional himself with numerous Grand Prix and Pro Tour Top 8s. Both enter the ninth round of play at the 2008 Japanese National Championships with only a single loss and in solid position to play on Sunday.
After rolling a fistful of six-sided dice to determine who would go first, Kurihara started the match off on a mulligan. Both players were running blue, and Yuuya tried to put his opponent under the gun with a Rendclaw Trow enchanted with Helm of the Ghastlord . Shingou had an impressive board himself with a Slippery Bogle , Dream Thief , Silkbind Faerie , and Safehold Sentry . He was struggling with some mana issues that prevented him from both developing his board and dominating Yuuya’s with Q creatures however.
Shingou Kurihara tries to end the draft portion undefeated.Kurihara’s air force still managed to crack things open, soaring over Yuuya’s ground troops and applying significant pressure. Yuuya had managed more land drops and was up on cards after making his opponent discard two with hits from the Ghastlorded Trow, but if he didn’t find an answer to Shingou’s fliers it would be all over. A Briarberry Cohort from Shingou made things worse, but Yuuya found a Faerie Macabre to stem the bleeding. At least, that’s what Yuuya thought. Instead Shingou revealed the card he had been sandbagging out of sight of the Trow: Prison Term . That promised to lock the 2/2 Faerie down as well as any future threats that were more significant from Yuuya. The Rookie of the Year surveyed his options, trying to figure out what he could do. At just 6 life with his opponent at 11 it didn’t look good.
Watanabe finally decided on a Consign to Dream targeting Silkbind Faerie with Trow damage on the stack. With Kurihara out of cards in hand, the Faerie was the only thing he could discard when the damage resolved turning the bounce spell into a removal spell. While it was a heads-up play to be sure, Watanabe was still way behind and looking for help. When he found none on the top of his library, he packed it in for the second game.
Shingou Kurihara: 1, Yuuya Watanabe: 0
Kurihara kicked off the second game of the match with a nice curve of Somnomancer and Silkbind Faerie . Watanabe wasn’t far behind with Inkfathom Witch and Soot Imp . When Shingou played a second Somnomancer to allow him to get into the red zone he took a moment to determine which creature to tap. Twirling his pen in the air like a wand he pointed first at the Imp before settling on the Witch. His attack, complete with activating the Silkbind’s Q ability, left the totals at 18-15 in Shingou’s favor.
Yuuya Watanabe looks to make good.The player’s continued developing their boards, clogging the field until Shingou had his Silkbind Faerie , double Somnomancer , and Gravelgill Axeshark to Yuuya’s Inkfathom Witch , Gravelgill Duo , Soot Imp , and Faerie Macabre . To drastically shift the game in his favor Shingou played a monster of a spell: Inundate . That cut his opponent’s board by half and forced Yuuya to trade his remaining creatures for his opponent’s Somnomancer s. The totals were 17-11 in Kurihara’s favor.
To follow up Shingou had an Evershrike , but Yuuya quickly killed it. That simply gave Kurihara the ability to return it to play wearing a Prison Term , which soon enchanted a new recruit from Yuuya. When Shingou found a Glen Elendra Archmage to lock his opponent out, Yuuya conceded.
Shingou Kurihara defeats Yuuya Watanabe 2-0.
Deep in the heart of Tokyo, conveniently located just off a bustling subway station, sits a Shakey’s. Every Wednesday night a group of players from around the city meet there to do battle, eat pizza and pasta, and enjoy the game of Magic: The Gathering. After arriving in the country earlier this week some members of the coverage team joined those players for an evening of Elder Dragon Highlander and a relaxing meal after a long flight.
The food was delicious and the gaming was a blast. Conversation inevitably turned to the upcoming Nationals tournament and an offhand survey of how many Shakey’s denizens would be attending the event. Originally the survey seemed a moot point; with the Nationals event just up the road (not far from the subway station outside the restaurant) why would a player miss the event for anything? Shock ingly when asked a number of residents simply replied “I’m not going because I’m not a pro.” The contention was a blow to the reality of the event.
One of the greatest features of Magic is its ability to attract such a wide range of gamers. Fan of fantasy art? Magic has that. Enjoy a competitive outlet that stretches your mental capacity? Magic has that. Prefer a more casual game with friends outside the realm of winning and losing? Magic has that. And like the game, Nationals, Grand Prixs, and Pro Tours are so much more than simply winning and losing and competition.
Ookubo and Darrel Riche (L-R).As we’ve mentioned throughout the weekend not one but two artists are in residence for the event, happily signing away for fans and creating new pieces for those fortunate enough to hit the lines early. Japan resident Ookubo, whose world renowned 3-D cards have to be seen to be believed, and Darrell Riche both made the trip. The latter was featured in a blog piece Friday and has signed numerous copies of Chameleon Colossus , Rorix Bladewing, Battlefield Forge , and a host of other cards he’s illustrated. True art fans who make it to the event can also find themselves proud owners of an original piece of Magic artwork from Darrell or prints of their favorites from his work.
For members of the Magic world looking for the last few cards to fill their particular multiplayer deck, cool new deckbox accessories, or any manner of gaming supplies there are dealer booths set up to meet their needs. Trade your extra copies of cards you don’t want for cards you do, find gaming supplies unavailable in other parts of the world and country, and pick up all the pieces you need for whatever concoction is brewing in the back of your head. The dealer booths are a great way to spend an afternoon at Nationals regardless of whether you want to play or not.
The dealer booths are just one attraction at big Magic events.And for players who do want to play? The big events aren’t just about the main tournament. A vibrant Public Events section offers all sorts of play to keep one happy and busy. This weekend alone there are constant booster drafts and 2HG events running as soon as they attract 8 players. The very last Pro Tour Qualifier for Berlin is being held as this is typed, and a Grand Prix Trial for Oyama in November will begin soon as well. And that’s before you consider the coup de grace: an Open Standard event scheduled for Sunday that will award the winner an uncut, foil, rare sheet of Eventide. Not to mention all those events rack points up for your Magic Rewards program, increasing the amount of cool foils and promo cards you get just for doing something you love! And if a competitive tournament environment isn’t what you’re looking for you can join the legions of fans enjoying themselves with open gaming, pick up games of whatever format they choose with other players so inclined. Elder Dragon Highlander, Mental Magic, Pack Wars, Singleton...the list of games players have been seen playing could stretch on and on.
As for the players from Shakey’s? Some of them have definitely been spotted in the vicinity, enjoying themselves despite their preconceived notions about the event. And you? Check out the events locator at DailyMTG.com and find out when the next big event is coming to your area! No matter what type of Magic player you are, big events like Japanese Nationals have something for you to enjoy!
Osanbashi Hall, home of the 2008 Japanese National Championship, is essentially a floating building. Designed to compel visitors to feel as if they’re in an actual boat (hence its wooden construction), the building sways gently on top of the water.
As if that weren’t enough, Osanbashi Hall also has a living park on top of the convention area.
Osanbashi Hall’s neighbor.
What it all comes down to.
3-D card magician Ookubo hard at work.
And some more of the finished products.
A bird’s eye view of the tournament area.
Feature Match: Round 11
Tomoharu Saito is a player used to being in the hunt for the Top 8. The standing Player of the Year Saito has had a successful but not flawless weekend, entering the round with two losses. While his opponent didn’t have quite the Top 8 resume of Saito, Min-Su Kim’s previous single elimination berth did come at Japan Nationals possibly giving him the edge in the matchup.
Former Nationals Team Member Min-Su Kim.Back in the world of Standard after seven rounds of Limited spread across Friday and Saturday the two players quickly revealed they were both representing Mono-red. Saito came roaring out of the gates, his fast play indicating an in-depth knowledge of the matchup and a lot of familiarity with the Mountain s. Figure of Destiny and Blood Knight hit early for Tomoharu, who then used back-to-back Skred s to deal with his opponent’s blockers. A Murderous Redcap eventually bought Min-Su some time by taking out a Blood Knight , but after the bevy of the early turns were done, Kim sat with the score 19-9 in his opponent’s favor.
Min-Su managed to rip a Demigod of Revenge to start going on the offensive, but was forced to regret the decision to attack when Saito, all the cards in his hand played out on the table, ripped a copy of the 5/4 of his own. Down to 2, Min-Su was a single unfortunate draw away from being down a game in the match. When Saito found a Boggart Ram-Gang to give himself one more attacker than his opponent had blockers, Kim was forced to head for his sideboard for some help.
Tomoharu Saito: 1, Min-Su Kim: 0
It was Min-Su’s turn to have Boggart Ram-Gang in the second game, quickly sending his opponent to 17. Tomoharu tried to wiggle into a lead via Figures of Destiny but Kim answered them with Skred and a Murderous Redcap . The 2/2 Goblin was an ideal card for a red mirror posing as a relevant threat while potentially providing card advantage through 187ing an opponent’s Figure, then forcing them to use a burn spell to deal with the black-red hybrid.
Greater Gargadon s quickly entered the suspend zone for both players, with Saito hitting his first and finding himself able to sacrifice a few creatures to it in response to Kim’s burn spells, bring the 9/7 closer to entering play. A second Murderous Redcap hit for Kim and things were looking solid for the former Japanese National Team member. His opponent had fewer cards in hand, less action on board, and Kim had Saito nearly dead with burn spells in hand and creatures in play. Provided he could withstand possible Gargadon hijinks from his opponent, Min-Su was looking like a favorite to even things. Saito could only muster a second suspended Gargadon.
At 18-10 with Kim in the lead, the math was in. His two Flame Javelin s and Incinerate were enough to deal lethal and with three Snow-Covered Mountain s and two Keldon Megaliths in play the mana was there. Min-Su sent a Javelin and Incinerate on Saito’s end-of-turn, then when Saito didn’t have a miracle, Kim simply untapped and finished the deed with the second Javelin.
Tomoharu Saito: 1, Min-Su Kim: 1
The world’s most famous red mage, Dave Price, once said it was right to draw in the Mono-red mirror match when given the opportunity. For Tomoharu Saito the decision was clear: he would play, and play he did. The turns whizzed by with a Figure of Destiny joined by Blood Knight then both joined by Boggart Ram-Gang . Min-Su worked to stay ahead with a Figure of his own and a Skred to deal with the protection from white Knight.
Tomoharu Saito loves Mountains.Saito didn’t seem concerned soon following up his first Ram-Gang with a second copy and bashing his opponent to a 20-10 deficit. Kim-Su landed a suspended Greater Gargadon as well as a Murderous Redcap but the wither of the Ram-Gangs trumped the persist of the Goblin. A Puncture Blast from Kim helped address the problem of one Boggart and, thanks to the Gargadon, the Redcap was able to deal with the other despite wither (by stacking combat damage and sacrificing the 2/2 to the Gargadon Kim ensured persist would return it to play to ding the Boggart for the final point).
Taking a page from Craig Jones’ playbook, Saito mulled the board carefully. Realizing he needed to play to win, Saito sent a Flame Javelin to his opponent’s head dropping him to 6. A topdecked Demigod of Revenge sent Kim to 1 and when Saito revealed an Incinerate waiting in the wings, Kim packed it in, unable to return lethal fire for 20 with his cards in hand and in play.
Tomoharu Saito defeats Min-Su Kim 2-1.
Feature Match: Round 12
Question: How is it possible to be one of the best Japanese players in the history of the game, eligible for the Pro Tour Hall of Fame since its inception, but to have yet to receive a vote for entry? Answer? Because you’re Masashi Oiso and had such a meteoric rise to super stardom that you qualified for the Hall of Fame...class of 2012! While there are a few more years left before people will be able to vote for Mr. Oiso, it’s definitely a treat to see him in contention for yet another Top 8. Sitting across from him in Round 12 was Pro Tour-San Diego Top 8 competitor Yuuta Takahashi.
Yuuta Takahashi tries to rain on his opponent’s parade.Takahashi didn’t let on whether his opponent’s ample resume intimidated him, and no doubt felt much better when Oiso opened on a triple mulligan. Yuuta came out of the gates with an Ancestral Vision into Bitterblossom while Masashi played an Island , then did nothing for a few turns. With three missed land drops in a row while two Mutavault s and a second Ancestral Vision joined Takahashi’s board the game was promising to go down as an unfortunate lost for Oiso, doomed by the Fates.
For a few more turns Masashi put up a valiant effort but sometimes it’s not in the cards for even the game’s greatest and he succumbed to his opponent’s vast superiority in resources.
Yuuta Takahashi: 1, Masashi Oiso: 0
Able to start with a full hand in the second game, Masashi spent his second and third turns suspending Riftwing Cloudskate s. That left him tapped out and enabled Yuuta Takahashi to resolve a Jace Beleren , but a Kitchen Finks from Oiso put a target on Beleren’s head.
Masashi Oiso teaches the world a valuable lesson.In the end a Cryptic Command countering a Riftwing Cloudskate and bouncing Oiso’s Kitchen Finks kept Takahashi’s planeswalker in play but did give Oiso a free pair of life as he replayed the Ouphes. The two settled in for a drawn out match with Oiso ahead in the creature department via a re-played Kitchen Finks and a Riftwing Cloudskate that managed to stick to the board, though he was behind on land drops.
Wanting to keep the pressure on Takahashi, Masashi was forced to use a Pact of Negation on a Cryptic Command from his opponent targeting an un-suspending Riftwing Cloudskate . Conspicuously he failed to put a marker on the top of his deck to remind him to pay the requisite 3UU during his following upkeep. Yuuta’s turn went long after a series of plays and, sure enough, by the time Masashi got the turn back he had completely forgotten about his Pact. With an audible gasp Oiso drew for the turn as the audience could only watch in horror. Immediately realizing what he had done Oiso shuffled up his cards and conceded to Takahashi.
Yuuta Takahashi defeats Masashi Oiso 2-0.
Feature Match: Round 13
Shu Komuro is one of a plethora of Japanese pros who has multiple Top 8s to his name but has avoided the limelight of uber-fame like countrymen Kenji Tsumura or Tsuyoshi Fujita. Akio Chiba’s resume is less spectacular, but he was well on his way to improving it significantly sitting down to Round 13. Both players had 30 Swiss points and were within striking distance of the Top 8. Chiba kicked things off with a mulligan.
The two players squared off in a control mirror match with Reveillark combo, and literally mirrored each other for the first turns both opening on Vivid Creek , Reflecting Pool , and Coldsteel Heart . The first individual play came from Shu who suspended a Greater Gargadon before evoking Mulldrifter , drawing two cards, and sacrificing the 2/2 to his suspended 9/7. Akio’s play was to make a Kitchen Finks .
Shu Komuro is a hair’s width from Top 8.Komuro sought to keep a lead against Chiba by playing a second Mulldrifter . That kept his hand and lands juiced and put him ahead of Akio by a good deal. Recognizing the situation Chiba tried to initiate the beatdown using two Kitchen Finks to work his opponent’s life total. Shu answered by stealing one with Sower of Temptation . The game was threatening to go long, as most control mirrors do.
With Komuro’s Greater Gargadon at four suspend counters Akio opted to make a move, using a Murderous Redcap to kill Shu’s Sower and return Akio his 3/2 Finks. Shu considered for a while before allowing it to resolve. On his own turn he hardcast a Reveillark , then used a Bonded Fetch to discard Body Double . That allowed him to set up the Reveillark loop with Gargadon, and Akio conceded to save time.
Shu Komuro: 1, Akio Chiba: 0
The second game started slow as both players developed their manabases by playing lands and artifact accelerants, neither attempting any threats. Chiba tried to suspend a Greater Gargadon after making a Prismatic Lens but Komuro was quick to point out he had tapped his mana inappropriately and didn’t have the requisite red. Akio simply played the Gargadon a turn later, matching the one Shu had suspended in the interim.
Akio Chiba tries to take Komuro out.Shu was the first to play an actual creature in the form of Mulldrifter , but decided to evoke it instead of hard-casting it. That saved him enough mana to play yet another accelerant in the form of a Coldsteel Heart . When Chiba tried to play a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir Komuro’s full grip happily obliged him with a Remove Soul . Without any card drawing Chiba was hitting a bit of a mana glut, sandbagging a Momentary Blink and some lands to keep pressure on Shu and bluff countermagic.
Komuro eventually decided to get on the board, attacking his opponent with a Body Double that had copied Mulldrifter and two Mutavault s. That plan yielded results as Chiba continued to draw blanks in the form of lands and a Rune Snag . With plenty of time before Chiba could pose a threat, Komuro had the ability to simply steal the game on the back of being aggressive. After three straight turns of attacks from Komuro, Chiba drew yet another land and revealed his hand in defeat.
Shu Komuro defeats Akio Chiba 2-0.
Blog - Saturday, 5:24 p.m.
Undefeated drafters Makihito Mihara and Koutarou Senba.
Any player who has ever entered a grinder has tried to live the impossible dream: becoming National Champion against all odds. One such player competing this weekend was Koutarou Senba, who not only made it through a grinder flawlessly but just happened to have managed a feat that took him closer to the ultimate goal, making it through the Draft portion of the event undefeated as well. Only one other player managed the same feat, and it happened to be the name at the top of the standings from Day 1: Makihito Mihara.
It was all too funny for Mihara and Senba to join each other in that position. Why? Well there’s the fact that the two are practically neighbors in Kashikawa, Chiba prefecture. Or you could consider the fact that Senba’s biggest title, Chiba prefecture Champion (similar to the States tournament), came by way of beating Makihito in the finals.
Could the two players string their impressive Limited records, testing their skills at both Lorwyn/Morningtide and Shadowmoor/Eventide drafting, into a Top 8? There are only a few more rounds till we know.
Feature Match: Round 14
Not that long ago Katsuhiro was the World Champion, on his way to back-to-back World Top 8s. This weekend he’s been in the hunt for the Top 8 yet again, though headed in to the final round he’d need a win and some help from tie breakers to make the cut. Coming into the round one final player stood in his way: Grand Prix champion and Pro Tour-San Diego semifinalist Masami Kaneko. After sitting down at the table, the opponents quickly got down to business.
Despite taking a mulligan, Masami Kaneko had his Faeries deck’s best start with a suspended Ancestral Vision followed by Bitterblossom . Mori focused on building up his manabase via land drops and Mind Stone . His first spell was a Mystical Teachings and, after some thought, Kaneko let it resolve and Mori tutored up a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir . The first real exchange in the game came a turn later.
Who would make the cut, Masami Kaneko...Masami tried for a Scion of Oona at the end of Mori’s turn, but Katsuhiro responded by activating a Mutavault and sneaking a Mistbind Clique onto the board. When Kaneko tried to copy the Mistbind play on Mori’s upkeep, Katsuhiro forced his opponent to pause. After considering his options, the former World Champion decided to respond with a Vendilion Clique , sending a Kaneko Spellstutter Sprite to the bottom of the library from Masami’s hand. If he was concerned about the play, Mori’s opponent didn’t let on instead drawing a healthy dosage of cards as his Ancestral Vision finally resolved.
Katsuhiro was beginning to get overrun by Faerie tokens, and he struggled to keep up. His Vendilion Clique was forced to chump Masami’s Mistbind Clique and, with damage on the stack, Mori tried a saving throw by playing a Mistbind Clique of his own, potentially championing the soon-to-be-dead 3/1 flier. Kaneko considered his options, then used a Spellstutter Sprite he had managed to topdeck to counter. That meant Mori would need to find a big out waiting for him in his draw step. When he curled the card up and didn’t see what he was looking for, the players were on to the second game.
Masami Kaneko: 1, Katsuhiro Mori: 0
Masami had managed to win the first game in resounding fashion after a mulligan. For the second he decided to win the game by an even wider margin, doubling the number of mulligans from the first game and starting with just five cards in hand. Fortunately they were four lands and a Cryptic Command , followed quickly by drawing a second copy of the powerful instant. Unfortunately for Kaneko, he was color screwed and couldn’t play a Bitterblossom he had managed to draw. Looking on the bright side, Katsuhiro was doing little to put any type of pressure on his opponent. His first action spell was a Mystical Teachings that Masami countered by way of one of his Cryptic Command s.
The cantripped counter let Kaneko draw into the lands he needed to play his Bitterblossom with Cryptic Command backup. Unfortunately for him, Mori had two counters, a Rune Snag and double copies of Spellstutter Sprite , keeping the tribal enchantment off the board. Masami could only follow up with a suspended Ancestral Vision the following turn while Mori went on the offensive with his Sprites and used the flashback on his Mystical Teachings to find a second copy of the Time Spiral instant.
By the time Kaneko’s Visions was ready to resolve, Mori had prepared himself. His second Mystical Teachings had tutored up a Cryptic Command and he managed to find a Mistbind Clique he could play in response to the sorcery to prevent Masami from playing any of the spells he drew. With only a single card in his hand, Kaneko seemed to consider countering his opponent’s 4/4 before finally allowing it to resolve, floating some mana. When it was time to counter the Visions, Katsuhiro revealed not Cryptic Command but Imp’s Mischief . Masami couldn’t believe his luck and nodded glumly. Mori drew an extra three cards thanks to his opponent and with a 4/4 in play as well was in firm control. After seeing the next card in his library, Kaneko agreed and conceded.
Masami Kaneko: 1, Katsuhiro Mori: 1
For the final game of the match, Masami Kaneko finally got to keep a full hand opting not to mulligan. Instead it was the former world champion Mori who had to send his hand back for a second try. Katsuhiro would soon make up for the card disadvantage suspending not one but two copies of Ancestral Vision s, playing a Bitterblossom in between suspending the sorceries.
Kaneko opened on some card drawing of his own with a first turn Ancestral Vision s followed by Shadowmage Infiltrator . Unlike his opponent, however, he wasn’t stuck on two lands having missed back-to-back land drops. No, if anything Kaneko had the opposite problem: he was starting to get flooded having ripped three straight lands from his Ancestral Vision resolving and holding just a Thoughtseize for action in a grip of six that otherwise appeared quite menacing. When Kaneko ran out his discard spell, things only got worse: Mori was sitting on Cryptic Command and two copies of Mistbind Clique with his own Ancestral Vision a half-turn away from going off. Kaneko forced his opponent to discard one of the flying 4/4s.
...or Katsuhiro Mori?The game was developing into a quagmire, with both players struggling with disadvantages. Kaneko’s Ancestral Vision s could only find him lands, Mori’s couldn’t find him any. All the while Mori’s Bitterblossom continued spitting fliers onto the board, threatening to overwhelm Kaneko’s paltry defenses if left unchecked. Katsuhiro’s second Ancestral Vision s finally found him the goods. Land spit forth to get him back into the manabase game, and an Imp’s Mischief was just in time to allow Katsuhiro to steal his opponent’s second Visions. Kaneko simply smiled good naturedly, seemingly resigned to what was quickly turning into a not-so-pleasant fate.
Mori’s tokens built up enough mass to start eating Kaneko’s life in 2 and 3-point chunks while still leaving enough back to block his opponent’s Mutavault s and Shadowmage Infiltrator . With the totals at 11-10 in his opponent’s favor, Mori finally decided to go aggro, turning nearly all of his Faerie Rogues sideways and dropping his opponent to 6. On the follow-up attack for lethal, Kaneko forced his opponent to pause, playing Cryptic Command to tap the deadly 1/1s. Mori revealed a Rune Snag and Kaneko did a quick check of the graveyards to see if he could pay for the instant. When he realized he could, tapping out, Mori quickly revealed a second counter to take the match.
Katsuhiro Mori defeats Masami Kaneko 2-1.