Hron/Hayne/Hoaen vs. Mihara/Yamamoto/Bandou
It all came down to this. It has been a rare occurrence for a non-Japanese player to take home a Japanese Grand Prix, and an even rarer one still for it to be a team event. The last time that happened was all the way back in 2001, when Chris Benafel and Team ABU stole the show in Yokohama. Here in Kyoto, over a decade later, Mike Hron, Alex Hayne, and Rich Hoaen have the chance to repeat history. Standing in their way is the highest-ranked player left in the tournament: Makihito Mihara. Joining Mihara are Jun'ichiro Bandou and Kentarou Yamamoto, both with Grand Prix Top 8s to their name. The battle would be fierce, as there was quite a lot on the line. Beyond money and prestige, there is pride on the line, as Japan has a long history of defending its Grand Prix from outside victors.
Rich Hoaen (Red/Black) vs. Jun'ichiro Bandou (Green/Red)
Hoaen's match was the first to draw blood and the first to end it. His aggressive red/black Minotaur deck opened with Deathbellow Raider and Felhide Minotaur. His aggression was much faster than Bandou's but fell short on size. While the Canadian's early forces were able to whittle away at Bandou's life, the Japanese player's monsters soon began to assert control of the board. Ill-Tempered Cyclops, Vulpine Goliath, and a massively-enchanted Borderland Minotaur simply outclassed Hoaen's creatures, taking control of the game. With Bandou sitting on single digits, Hoaen could do nothing but watch as the game slipped out of reach.
In the second game, things didn't go much better. Hoaen opened with a quick Firedrinker Satyr, putting the beatdown down on Bandou. The Japanese players didn't offer much resistance until turn four, when Polukranos, World Eater, made his appearance. From here, the game turned extremely sour for Hoaen. Polukranos went monstrous on the following turn, killing the Satyr and damaging Hoaen for quite a large amount. Hoaen had a chance to prevent Bandou from getting too far ahead, but he failed to find a sixth land for his Sip of Hemlock. This let Bandou deal another large amount of damage, as well as add a Vulpine Goliath to his team. Now well behind, Hoaen could only sit and sigh as Bandou cast Coordinated Assault and attacked for lethal, giving the first match to the defending Japanese team.
Alexander Hayne (Green/Black/Blue) vs. Kentarou Yamamoto (Green/Blue)
In the middle game of this match, Alex Hayne's BUG deck had its hands full with Kentarou Yamamoto's green/blue tempo deck. Yamamoto began with an aggressive foray involving Triton Fortune Hunter and a pair of enchantments, forcing Hayne to reset things with Voyage's End. Rather than replay the Triton, Yamamoto switched gears, adding a Staunch-Hearted Warrior to his side, enchanting it with Aqueous Form and Ordeal of Thassa.
Hayne used Erebos, God of the Dead, to dig through his deck searching for an answer. He found a Prophet of Kruphix, which he used to begin building his team, but it failed to help him deal with an Agent of Horizons that Yamamoto got in play. The Agent dropped Hayne all the way down to one before earning the concession.
Hayne turned things around in the second game, using a hastily-assembled Shipwreck Singer/Returned Phalanx duo to utterly dominate the early board. Even when Yamamoto got an Anthousa, Setassan Hero, into play and enchanted it with Aqueous Form, Hayne was able to race it. When he flashed in a Horizon Chimera to both add to his clock and detract from Yamamoto's, Hayne's advantage was sealed.
For such a well-fought first two games of the match, the third left a lot to be desired. Yamamoto's deck failed to cough up more than two lands, and he conceded without putting up a fight.
Mike Hron (Green/White) vs. Makihito Mihara (Blue/Black/White)
The first game of the final match was a short and sweet affair. Hron opened with a Favored Hoplite and Wingsteed Rider, enhancing them with Feral Invocation and Dauntless Onslaught. A Gods Willing for good measure dropped Mihara to two on the fifth turn, and he was quick to reach for his sideboard.
Mihara exerted control of the second game early, stripping a Wingsteed Rider from Hron with a Thoughtseize. He then let his rares do the talking, adding both Triad of Fates and Daxos of Meletis to his side of the table. The Triad was used in an offensive capability against Hron, providing the safety of a Flicker should Hron have anything too crazy to stop Daxos.
Mihara tried to force his way past Hron's 2/4 Leafcrown Dryad with a Battlewise Valor, but a Gods Willing kept things as they were. He tried again on the following turn with a Boon of Erebos, but a Feral Invocation again kept things static. Still, Mihara was able to ratchet up his offense. He added two Vaporkins to his side of the table, and Hron was unable to block them, as his Dryad was tied up dealing with Daxos.
And then, one turn, Hron began to attack. He sent his team in, leaving two mana open and a Nemesis of Mortals in play. Smelling Savage Surge, Mihara just took the damage and geared up to remove the potentially threatening Dryad with his Triad. Now safe from a trick, Mihara used Griptide to send the Nemesis to the top of Hron's deck, right where it could be removed with Daxos. A Cavern Lampad gave Daxos intimidate, and he attacked over to remove the Nemesis and gain an important six life. With that attack, the wind left Hron's sails, and he conceded the game soon thereafter, unable to deal with Daxos.
The final game was the perfect way to end an incredibly interesting event. Stalling on lands early, Hron looked like he might fall behind, yet he was still able to churn out a reasonable army, including Leafcrown Dryad, Chronicler of Heroes, and Traveling Philosophers. He even managed to crack through Mihara's defenses with a Dauntless Onslaught, getting through for a reasonable amount of damage and killing one of Mihara's creatures.
From there, however, Mihara took over. He began to accrue flier after flier, adding a pair of Prescient Chimeras to his Coastline Chimera, stopping Hron cold. While Mihara was assembling his air force, Hron began to draw lands, creating larger ground creatures. With things nearing a potentially epic end, the levee broke. Mihara added a pair of Scourgemarks to his fliers and attacked, forcing a chump block from Hron. He then added a Cavern Lampad to his largest flier, doing exactly half of Hron's remaining life in damage. With one turn left to go, Hron had no choice but to go for it. With Mihara down to eight life, he used Gods Willing on his Centaur Battlemaster, making it an unblockable 6/6. Combined with his other attackers, he was able to force through exactly the amount of damage needed to finish Mihara off, ending an incredible match, the perfect cap to an incredible tournament.
Makihito Mihara Congratulates Mike Hron
Mike Hron, Alex Hane, and Rich Hoaen defeat Makihito Mihara, Kentarou Yamamoto, and Jun'ichiro Bandou to become the 2013 Grand Prix Kyoto champions!