Finals: The Golden Spike

Posted in Event Coverage on June 7, 2009

By Bill Stark

Kazuya Mitamura vs. Michal Hebky

This is Kazuya Mitamura’s third PT Top 8. Third time’s a charm?

The Finals of Pro Tour–Honolulu saw Japanese standout Kazuya Mitamura, in his third appearance in a Pro Tour Top 8, squaring off against the Czech Republic’s Michal Hebky. Kazuya—or “The Chief” as he is affectionately known on the Pro Tour thanks to an uncanny resemblance to the similarly titled character from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—was a favorite to win headed in to the single elimination rounds.

Mitamura was one of the most experienced players to show up Sunday morning, to be certain. His opponent, the young Michal Hebky, had dodged a Conley Woods–sized bullet in the Semifinals, escaping what was perceived by many to be a tough matchup for him. If that was the case, it didn’t seem to faze Hebky in the least, and the two competitors shuffled silently for the first game.

Game 1

Both players had two-drops, but only Michal’s was a creature. Mitamura instead accelerated his mana using Trace of Abundance, but when Michal’s follow-up to his second-turn Naya Hushblade was Valeron Outlander, the Czech player was able to swing, putting his opponent at 17. It was a solid aggressive start for Michal, but Mitamura quickly stole back momentum. Bloodbraid Elf revealed Ember Weaver, stymieing Hebky’s offense, and his follow-up play was Rhox Brute.

In the meanwhile, Hebky was struggling with his lands. He had missed one land drop, then could only find green and white mana, missing the blue for his Bant trifecta. Kazuya didn’t seem to notice, sending in his team and playing a second Ember Weaver. With only a 2/1 Naya Hushblade and a Court Homunculus to work with, Michal found himself at just 3 life. When the land he needed to stay alive wasn’t waiting for him on top, Hebky conceded.

Mitamura 1, Hebky 0

Game 2

Newcomer Michal Hebky starts out the match in a hole.

After having mana troubles in the first game, Michal Hebky was owed a favor by Fate. She didn’t seem to be listening, however, as he was forced to mulligan his opening hand for six. Content with the new set, and with Mitamura happy on seven, the two got under way.

Naya Hushblade was the first play of the game for the second time in the match, hitting the board as a 2/1 for Michal Hebky. In fact, the first few turns played out exactly as the first game, with Mitamura dropping Trace of Abundance on his second turn, and Hebky using Valeron Outlander to attack his opponent for 3 on the third turn. It wasn’t until Mitamura tapped out to landcycle Sylvan Bounty, floating one black mana, that the game changed in appearance from the first time around. Mitamura used his floating mana plus a red to play a Goblin Outlander, a powerful card against his opponent’s board of white creatures.

On the other side of the table, Michal Hebky shuffled the cards in his hand in frustration. Since opening on Forest and Plains, he had failed to draw a third source of mana, and could only watch helplessly as his opponent played Gorger Wurm followed by Naya Battlemage. As if on cue, an Island hopped into play for Hebky, fresh from the top of his library. It was a start, but he didn’t have much time to maneuver out of the situation. He used the new land to play a Deft Duelist, whose shroud ability would prove crucial for permitting it to block against Mitamura’s Battlemage.

With the turn back, the Japanese pro tried to figure out his best attack. He decided to send his Goblin Outlander and Gorger Wurm into the red zone. Michal traded his Hushblade and the freshly cast Duelist for the 5/5, falling to 7 as Mitamura pumped his Outlander with Battlemage. Post-combat he cycled Jungle Weaver, then passed. The cycle was an odd play considering the board; at six mana he needed just one more land in order to play the 5/6. When Michal attacked with his 2/2 Valeron Outlander, then tapped out to play Messenger Falcons, Mitamura revealed what he was up to. As Hebky passed the turn, Mitamura showed the Vengeful Rebirth in his hand; the sorcery could return the Weaver from Kazuya’s graveyard and deal a whopping 7 to Michal at the same time. Considering Hebky was tapped out and happened to be at exactly 7 life, the card was enough to send the players to their third game with the Czech Republic resident in an 0-2 hole.

Mitamura 2, Hebky 0

Game 3

In the first two games, Michal had faced a modicum of poor luck, having trouble with his mana and taking a mulligan. He was quick to keep for the third, however, and it was his opponent’s turn to send a hand back for six new cards.

Keeping his streak perfect, Michal Hebky kicked the game off with a two-drop for the third time in a row. His creature of choice this time? Deft Duelist, which was followed by Guardians of Akrasa, an exalted creature that allowed him to attack Mitamura to 17. Kazuya, meanwhile, landcycled Sylvan Bounty, then played Vithian Stinger.

All eyes are on the big screen as the Final match unfolds.

The hits kept coming for Michal as his deck finally showed up to play, and he plopped Messenger Falcons onto the board netting a free card for good measure. When he attacked with both the Falcons and his Deft Duelist the following turn, his opponent fell to 10. Kazuya was going to need some help to stay alive as Naya Hushblade hit for Hebky, but he found it in the form of Deadshot Minotaur. That provided a body big enough to block his opponent’s first strikers, while nailing the Falcons for free. Michal played Waveskimmer Aven and was able to attack Mitamura to 6.

Still grinding to dig himself out of the hole he was in, Mitamura played Bloodbraid Elf. The 3/2 revealed a free Blister Beetle, and Kazuya agonized over what to hit with the 1/1. He finally decided on Waveskimmer Aven, then turned his Elf sideways. Michal opted to block with his Guardians of Akrasa, which Kazuya happily shot with Vithian Stinger, then post-combat the Japanese pro played Sangrite Backlash on the Waveskimmer. That killed the 2/4, and Michal clucked his teeth in dismay; without his exalted team, he couldn’t send his Deft Duelist into combat sized larger than his opponent’s team.

Just like that, Kazuya Mitamura’s position had gone from bad to almost overwhelming. He had Naya Battlemage, Deadshot Minotaur, Vithian Stinger, Bloodbraid Elf, and Blister Beetle to his opponent’s Naya Hushblade and Deft Duelist. The only problem was his lack of life, as he was behind 18-6 in the race. Still, Bant players aren’t known for playing too many burn spells, and Michal’s play of Ethercaste Knight paled in comparison to Mitamura’s return-fire Goblin Outlander. The plucky 2/2 could hold off Hebky’s team indefinitely, as all of Michal’s actual removal was blue. When Michal played Obelisk of Alara, the bomb that had let him sneak by Zac Hill in the quarterfinals, however, the crowd watching in the background all murmured “Ooooohhhh.” Could Michal survive elimination on the back of his powerful artifact?

That was the question Mitamura had to answer on his own turn. He decided to send his Deadshot Minotaur and Goblin Outlander into the red zone, pumping the 3/4 Minotaur to kill both Naya Hushblade and Ethercaste Knight when his opponent double blocked. The combat step left Hebky down two creatures and at 10 life, but he was poised to take over with Obelisk.

Bant Charm from Hebky dealt with the pesky Naya Battlemage while Obelisk of Alara started putting him ahead on life, 5 points at a time. The problem with his plan was that Mitamura was still attacking him for nearly 5 a turn, though neither player was adding to the board. After cushioning his life to 14, Hebky decided to go back on the offensive, sending his Deft Duelist into combat. Mitamura opted not to chump with his Bloodbraid Elf, and fell to 4.

When Esper Cormorants entered play for Hebky, Mitamura had one turn to draw an answer. If he couldn’t kill the 3/3 flyer, a pump from Obelisk of Alara would spell his doom. He failed to do so, but rather than scoop shipped the turn back confidently, daring his opponent to take the risk of moving all-in on an attack. Michal wasn’t intimidated. He readily stepped to the plate, turned his Cormorants sideways and, when Kazuya couldn’t block, pumped to steal back the game and remain alive in the Top 8.

Mitamura 2, Hebky 1

Game 4

Hebky stages a dramatic recovery.

It was again Kazuya Mitamura’s turn to mulligan as the players prepared to battle for their fourth game. Ever the gentleman, Hebky followed suit keeping things fair with both players at six cards in hand. In the background, Michal’s vocal support group of Easter European compatriots voiced their disapproval with a coordinated groan. A brief smile flitted across the soft-spoken Czech player’s lips. The peanut gallery went wild, however, when Hebky’s first draw of the game revealed the Wildfield Borderpost he needed to make his six-carder hum.

The opening plays were Deft Duelist for Michal Hebky and Vithian Stinger for Mitamura, but Michal scrambled to seize early initiative and dropped a Valeron Outlander into play as well. The 2/2 looked particularly good as Mitamura passed his fourth turn with no play. Hebky’s attack put the Japanese player to 14, but the Czech didn’t have any plays himself.

Kazuya untapped and quickly played a land and a Carrion Thrash, but was dismayed to find his 4/4 lifeline sent to the bottom of his deck via Bant Charm. He was scrambling to keep up with his opponent’s horde of creatures, which had increased to include Waveskimmer Aven and Ethercaste Knight. Sangrite Backlash with a ping from Vithian Stinger attempted to kill the Aven, but Michal used Resounding Wave to save his 2/4.

Still, the Japanese player had bought himself enough time to find Quietus Spike and attach it to his Stinger. That created a veritable howitzer of a 0/1 as Kazuya quickly went to town pinging each of his opponent’s creatures. Because his Stinger was granted deathtouch by the Spike, one ping meant death. It wasn’t enough, however, as Michal continued playing threat after threat. He moved his creatures in for one final combat step. His opponent tried a desperation Violent Outburst to find a solution. What he found was Goblin Outlander, but it wasn’t enough, and the players were on to a fifth game.

Mitamura 2, Hebky 2

For the second time on Sunday Michal Hebky was headed to a fifth game against a more experienced opponent, playing a deck that was favored to win, after starting in an 0-2 hole. The miracle kid was just one more game away from pulling off the unthinkable in back-to-back rounds. Standing in his way was the formidable Mitamura, who didn’t seem the least bit affected that his two game lead had evaporated, forcing the entire outcome of his Pro Tour to come down to one final game.

Game 5

Mitamura looks for a way to seal the deal.

Hebky decided he couldn’t keep his opening hand, and mulliganed to six. For the first time in the match, both players had turn-one plays, Mitamura in the form of cycling Monstrous Carabid, and his opponent Michal with a Court Homunculus. Unfortunately for Hebky, he had neither a two-drop nor an artifact to pump his 1/1, and simply attacked before passing. Mitamura worked on his mana base, cycling a Sylvan Bounty to find a basic land, then untapping and passing the turn right back.

Violent Outburst from Kazuya dealt with the Homunculus by revealing a Sangrite Backlash, and the board was soon Rhox Brute on the Japanese side facing Aven Trailblazer and Esper Cormorants on the Czech side. When Mitamura played Deadshot Minotaur to kill his opponent’s 3/3 Cormorants while netting himself a free 3/4, Hebky seemed visibly frustrated. His deck was failing to give him a source of green mana, and he was forced to use Crystallize on his opponent’s Rhox Brute to try to stay in it.

Mitamura was not letting up on the pressure. He played Carrion Thrash to keep getting his beat on, the massive 4/4 and his 3/4 Minotaur vastly out-sizing his opponent’s 1/3 Ethercaste Knight and 2/1 Deft Duelist. Quietus Spike hit and snapped onto Deadshot Minotaur. Michal wasn’t happy to see the Equipment, and tried to figure out how he could block his opponent’s attack and still have a chance at winning the match.

One by one, Michal Hebky’s creatures fell to Kazuya Mitamura’s beefier monsters. When Jungle Weaver hit for the Japanese star, Michal knew the writing was on the wall. He had one draw step to find a solution, and when he peeled the top card and it wasn’t what he was looking for, he extended his hand in defeat.

Kazuya Mitamura defeats Michal Hebky 3–2 and wins Pro Tour–Honolulu!

Michal Hebky

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