Finals: The Best Name in Magic

Posted in Event Coverage on April 22, 2007

By Ted Knutson

Wilco Pinkster be damned, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is the best name in Magic. He's also proven to be one of the best deck designers in the game over the last two years, developing spicy concoctions for himself and Pierre Canali and becoming a household name in the process. That's in spite of the fact that his performance here in Yokohama was his first Pro Tour Top 8. Wins over tough competition in both the Quarterfinals and the semis mean he is just one win away from Magic immortality, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Japan's Kazuya Mitamura took out up-and-comer Sebastian Thaler and PT-Charleston winner Tomoharu Saito to get here.

Sitting across from the Frenchman is Kazuya Mitamura, an unexpected finalist when compared to the rest of the stars in the field, but that's why they play the games, eh? The 26-year-old student from Chiba, Japan already has a Block Constructed Top 8 under his belt (Pro Tour-Charleston), and has once again dominated in the smallest Constructed format here this weekend. When it comes to exceptional Magic players, the country of Japan never seems to stop churning them out, and while many people felt it might be his more recognized countrymen Oiso or Saito sitting in the spot, it is Mitamura who has a chance to take home the big check and trophy.

The deck matchup is a grueling one. Both players are running blue decks, with Wafo-Tapa wielding a full-bore control deck sporting the Mystical Teachings package, while Mitamura brings the Pickles engine of Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter to the table. The real test here will be whether Wafo-Tapa draws enough removal spells to keep Mitamura's efficient creatures at bay, or whether Mitamura is able to ride a wave of card advantage from Shadowmage Infiltrator to victory.

Game 1

Wafo-Tapa won the die roll and got off to the blazing start of three lands plus Prismatic Lens. Mitamura was even hotter, casting Shadowmage Infiltrator on turn three. Welcome to your typical Yokohama blue deck butter battle. Damnation from Wafo-Tapa made certain Jonny Magic didn't draw any cards, so Mitamura played Careful Consideration instead, with Guillaume matching that play on the next turn. Mitamura put a morph on the board, kicking off this match's key guessing game: Brine Elemental or Vesuvan Shapeshifter? Another Damnation from Wafo-Tapa revealed Vesuvan Shapeshifter to be the correct answer. Mitamura merely shrugged and asked the question again on his turn, sparking a volley of countermagic from Wafo-Tapa that was matched by the large Japanese player. Mystical Teachings for Tendrils of Corruption from Wafo showed that this time the answer was far more salty.

The sense of audience déjà vu deepened as the game moved to the middle stages, with Mitamura playing yet another morph. This one lived long enough to attack and even draw a card by copying Mitamura's Infiltrator on the next turn, while Wafo-Tapa brought Triskelavus to bear, again clogging the board. Action halted for a bit as Wafo-Tapa suspended Aeon Chronicler, while Mitamura responded with Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, meaning all the major players except Draining Whelk were now in attendance. That just gave Guillaume a reason to play his third Damnation of the game, again clearing the board of nuisances.

Action continued with few skirmishes, mostly over another Brine Elemental from Mitamura, while Wafo-Tapa began to beat down with his Chronicler. With his life total at a safe number from multiple Tendrils and a handful of cards, Wafo-Tapa was clearly in command, and though the game continued for a few more turns until Mitamura admitted the Frenchman was unlikely to make a mistake and sent the match to Game 2.

Wafo-Tapa 1, Mitamura 0

Game 1 Highlights

Game 2

Guillaume's opening hand in Game 2 looked like something you would want against a Mono-Red or White Weenie deck: two Tendrils of Corruption, two Damnation, and Sudden Death, plus a couple of lands. Clearly there was no way he was letting Mitamura's creature package live long enough to disrupt his funk style. Of course, that left him open to nasty spells that Mitamura might pack, assuming he could find any. As it happened, the early game went much like the first, with Mitamura tossing creatures on the board, and Wafo-Tapa getting a pair of two-for-ones via Damnations. Sudden Death and a Tendrils were also called on to stave off any beats at all, while Wafo-Tapa enjoyed plenty of card advantage from a suspended Chronicler. Guillaume's final Tendrils killed Willbender, finally opening the door for Mitamura to lock him down via Brine Elemental, but the full lock would never be applied, because Extirpate removed the last of Mitamura's Shapeshifters from his deck. A pair of beats from the Elemental dropped the Frenchman all the way down to… 21.

At this point, Wafo's card advantage was once again winning the day-his hand was loaded with Draining Whelk, Careful Consideration, Teferi, and Mystical Teachings, and Mitamura was struggling. Kazuya did manage to push both Brine Elemental and his Phyrexian Totem into the red zone, but conceded on the spot when Wafo-Tapa blocked the faux Negator with his Chronicler, stacked damage, and then played Mystical Teachings, presumably to fetch another Tendrils of Corruption for the full blow out. The diminutive Frenchman was now just one game away from being able to call himself a Pro Tour champion.

Wafo-Tapa 2, Mitamura 0

Game 2 Highlights

Game 3

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa defeated Portugal's Paulo Carvalho and PT-Honolulu champ Mark Herberholz of the U.S. to make the Finals.

Game 3 had a decidedly different tone than the earlier two. Instead of putting a series of creatures in harm's way and hoping that Wafo-Tapa would run out of removal, Mitamura played it safer, using Dismal Failure on a Careful Consideration to earn some card advantage and then bleeding Guillaume's removal a bit more slowly. It's uncertain if this strategy would have been successful on equal footing, but Wafo-Tapa was also mana-screwed for multiple turns, allowing Mitamura to pile on the pressure. Teferi gave Guillaume a stout blocker, but this time Mitamura switched roles and cleared the board with Damnation then smashed with an active Negator, searching for his first game win of the Finals.

A second Teferi answered Guillaume's call, but the Negator continued its smack down, and the situation became more dire when Mitamura played an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth on his side of the board, getting a legendary stone rain for no mana spent while also avoiding any Tendrils blowouts. Sudden Death after Teferi blocked the Negator looked to take care of the Totem, but Willbender unmorphed and took one for the team, forcing Wafo to Mystical Teachings for Disenchant just to stay alive. With the pressure off briefly, Wafo-Tafa summoned Triskelavus, tapping himself out, and Mitamura pounced with ol' Briny again.

Unfortunately, with the Trisk in the way and no other creatures at hand, Mitamura was unable to finish the beatings immediately, and the action slowed to a crawl for multiple turns. This continued until a freshly morphed Brine Elemental finally ended the stalemate, and a turn later the full lock was in place via Vesuvan Shapeshifter. Guillaume bought himself a turn of untap by using a pair of Trisk tokens to add damage to the Shapeshifter with its remorph on the stack, thus preventing Mitamura from using it without it dying immediately. Unfortunately for him, all Guillaume could do was delay the inevitable, capitulating to salty bashings two turns later.

Wafo-Tapa 2, Mitamura 1

Game 3 Highlights

Game 4

Both players kept their seven cards for game 4, with Cancel… erm, cancelling Shadowmage Infiltrator the first play of note in this game. A second Infiltrator on turn 4 gave Wafo pause, but just like all the other times, it died to Damnation before getting to attack. Wafo-Tapa's hand was sick again this game, and this time around he had mana and card drawing to go along with it. Suspended Aeon Chronicler gave him three turns of private Howling Mine action, and a bevy of removal kept the morph brigade off his back.
In fact, this time it was Mitamura's turn to get stuck on land for a few turns, allowing Wafo-Tapa to take complete control while under very little pressure. Draining Whelk on Teferi basically ended the game, though Mitamura obviously did not know he'd have to fight through Cancel and a pair of Mystical Teachings to even have a chance. Three swings from the burly Chronicler + Whelk duo plus a victorious counter war against a Whelk from Mitamura meant the best name in Magic could place "Pro Tour Champion" next to "Brilliant Deck Designer" on his Magic resume.

Wafo-Tapa 3, Mitamura 1

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is the Pro Tour-Yokohama champion!

Game 4 Highlights

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