Finals: Mihara Rides Storm to Victory

Posted in Event Coverage on December 3, 2006

By Ted Knutson

Ryo Ogura has been to a Worlds Top 8 before, but didn't make it past the quarterfinals back in San Francisco in 2004. This time he has a chance to heft his first Pro Tour trophy, provided his Katsuhiro Mori-designed Trisketron deck can see him through one final obstacle. The 22-year-old Magic player-and-Japanese-girl-band fan only went 3-2-1 in Standard to start the week, but he breezed past Paulo Carvalho in the quarters and then had to scrap tooth and nail to eke out a victory against Welshman Nick Lovett in the semis. Those victories have put him in position to take home a $50,000 grand prize and Magic immortality.

Ryo Ogura hoped his luck at Worlds would be better than two years ago.

Standing in Ogura's way is another Japanese player, Makihito Mihara. This is Mihara's first Pro Tour Top 8 appearance, but he finished 13th at Pro Tour-Honolulu, has three Japanese Nationals Top 8s on his resume, and a third-place a Grand Prix-Kitakyushu in 2005. He's also a renowned creative deck designer, including the extremely innovative CAL deck from Extended.

Mihara's road to the Finals was even tougher than Ogura's - he had to take down Player of the Year candidate Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa in a five-game dogfight in the quarterfinals, and then was the beneficiary of a rare Gabriel Nassif mistake in another five-game match in the semifinals before landing here to face his countryman. Talking to them before the match, both players were excited that Japan would once again take home the World Championship trophy, but both Ogura and Mihara desperately wanted to be the one holding the title for the next year.

Game 1

Ogura had to mulligan to six in Game 1, and kept a hand lacking any colored mana. Mihara opened with a Lotus Bloom and Telling Time, and Ogura still had no blue-producing land in play by the time Mihara cast Bogardan Hellkite. Three attacks and the result was academic in a lightning-quick first game.

Mihara 1 - Ogura 0

Game 2

Much like Paulo Carvalho back in the quarterfinals, Ogura must have felt as though fate was playing cruel tricks on him as he Parised again in Game 2. Turn-three Compulsive Research from Ogura opened the action, with Ogura discarding Commandeer and Mystical Teachings. A pair of Signets followed a turn later, as Mihara was merely waiting for his hand to get good, and then another Research plus Jester's Scepter prompted Mihara to cast a pair of Telling Times but nothing more.

Mihara met every turn with a careful count of available mana, trying to build up a high storm count.

Draw, go continued until Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir flashed into play on Ogura's side of the board. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock… went Teferi, gradually whittling away Mihara's life total. Mystical Teachings from Ogura snagged Trickbind from his deck. Turns passed, rivers changed course, mountains eroded, and still Teferi beat down with no response from Mihara.

Finally, at two life and with 13 counters on his storage lands, Mihara was forced into action. A Gigadrowse tapped the Jester's Scepter and all four of Ogura's blue-producing lands. A second Gigadrowse tried to tap Ogura's blue Signets, but Trickbind made sure it only hit one. A third Gigadrowse repeated the process, then Seething Song-Seething Song-Dragonstorm let Mihara blow through Ogura's last elements of resistance, taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.

Mihara 2 - Ogura 0

Game 3

Ogura was excited to find seven cards he could keep in his opening hand. On Mihara's turn, he cast Sleight of Hand, while Ogura's second turn saw Circle of Protection: Red hit the board. While Gigadrowse made certain Ogura would not be safe with just the Circle in play, its mere presence certainly complicated things.

A fully assembled UrzaTron on turn four gave Ogura plenty of mana to achieve his goals, and a second Jester's Scepter further tightened the soft lock he was creating for Mihara's combo. Perhaps instead of a lock, it would be better described as an ever-shrinking cage that Mihara would need to break out of soon before it squished the life from him. I can't tell you how many turns passed before it finally got him because nothing really happened along the way, but in the end, the cage won.

And here come the Gigadrowses!

…Or so one would think. On Ogura's turn with a third Scepter on the stack, two Circle on the board, and umpteen mana sources in play, Mihara cast a Gigadrowse with 13 targets - all of Ogura's lands and Scepters. Ogura countered two of them via Scepters, leaving up five mana from two Urza's pieces, but before the final Drowse resolved, Mihara Remanded his own 'Drowse, bringing it back to his hand.

On Mihara's own turn during his draw step, he 'Drowsed Ogura's last two lands (which Ogura sunk into his COP: Red five times), cast Sleight of Hand, a second Sleight, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, and then Dragonstormed for two Hellkites, two Hunted Dragons and a World Championship.

You see, when Ogura had sunk his mana into his Circles of Protection during Mihara's upkeep, the sources of damage were not in play, and therefore could not be chosen to be prevented. Thus the hail of flaming hell that Mihara rained down on Ogura tore right through what he thought was a stout defense, letting Mihara celebrate his first Pro Tour Top 8 by lifting the Championship trophy.

Mihara 3 - Ogura 0

Congratulations to Makihito Mihara, the 2006 Magic: The Gathering World Champion!

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