Japan National Championship Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on July 16, 2011

By Wizards of the Coast

Saturday, 11:16 a.m. – M12 Cards to Watch

by Rich Hagon

With two formats ready to be explored, M12 is going to be a key component of any potential champion's bid for glory this weekend.

Let's take a look at some of the cards that might be pivotal:

Day of Judgment - Trading one piece of removal for one creature is fine. Trading for more than one creature is better. If Vampires, Goblins, Elves, and more start cluttering up the battlefield, it may be time for the iconic board sweeper to shine once again.

Grand Abolisher

Grand Abolisher - A 2/2 for two isn't exciting, especially in a color that wants more bang for the buck. So how good is that ability going to be in Standard?

Gideon's Lawkeeper - When it comes to Limited, getting your tapper online early can be good news, especially against the Bloodthirst deck that wants to hit you on turn two. A one-drop tapper? Thanks R&D, we love you.

Oblivion Ring - Permanent. That's the word you want to remember on this one. Permanent. Spelled p-l-a-n-e-s-w-a-l-k-e-r.

Jace, Memory Adept - Since there's also Jace's Archivist , Jace's Erasure , and Smart Ass (one of these may be fictional) it's not strictly true to say that anything with 'Jace' in the title is worthy of notice. But this definitely is.

Ponder - Go on. Just think about it. I'll wait.

Turn to Frog - Depending on your view, either the best or worst flavor since pistachio. Either way, turning their 6/6 trampling Carnage Wurm into a 1/1 anything at instant speed for two mana in blue is wonderful for Limited. Now this is a trick you can get behind. Ribbit indeed.

Vengeful Pharaoh

Vengeful Pharaoh - Sometimes they come back. Wait, that's catchy, someone should make a movie. But seriously, there were a lot of players here yesterday with this in their decks, testing for Standard.

We'll see.

Smallpox - The very definition of a symmetrical card, this is the kind of card that deckbuilders love to play around with, seeing if there's some way to beat the system. Early money suggests there isn't, but that's why we play the games.

Chandra, the Firebrand - For those of you who haven't read what this card does, pick one: (a) It's a Planeswalker, therefore it must be good. (b) It's a Chandra, therefore it must be bad. Now read the card.

What do you think now?

Fireball - You know that Green-White drafter who lays a Mountain as their ninth land in a draft match? That's because they're playing Fireball . Every time. Since this has been a truth universally acknowledged since the dawn of Fireball , the more interesting question is whether it finds a place in red decks within Standard.

Furyborn Hellkite - Just once this weekend, I want to see this on the battlefield as a 12/12.

Garruk, Primal Hunter

Garruk, Primal Hunter - You know how Planeswalkers generate the Star Trek red alert siren in your head when your opponent plays them? No?

Ah, just me then.

Rites of Flourishing - Just like Smallpox (the card, not the disease), Rites of Flourishing is a card that in theory you can't get any advantage out of using. Worse, it's like Howling Mine , in that your opponent gets to benefit first. Nonetheless, it would be awesome to see this doing the business in Standard. Anyone attempting to get value from this in draft is probably going to struggle.

Overrun - Good rules for Limited survival number one: If they're playing red, they're playing Fireball . Good rules for Limited survival number two: If they're playing green, they're playing Overrun .


Manalith - I've no idea whether this is going to be seeing much play this weekend in either format. All the fairly-cheap artifact mana producers through the years have been interesting barometers of the various expansions they've been a part of. Will this become an integral part of standard? Will players want this as a way to splash

in draft, or to ramp towards fatties? Watch this space. (I left a

gap so that you actually can watch that space, because I'm thoughtful like that.)

Solemn Simulacrum - You probably won't know Bryan Connolly from the UK Magic scene, but if you do you'll be well aware that for two years, every time he cast Solemn Simulacrum , he would loudly announce 'JENS!!!', since this was the winning card from Invitational winner Jens Thoren. Now Bryan can spend two more years raising smiles at tournaments, and you better believe that Jens means business here this weekend. You may think 2/2s for four mana aren't exciting. You're wrong.

Elixir of Immortality - If you devour everything from the world of coverage, you're going to here more about this card this weekend. I know this, because three of them are sitting in front of me, courtesy of my foray into Friday Night Magic. Seriously, is there a more deliciously insidious route to victory than your opponents knowing that they can never, ever beat you?

Well, that's 18 cards to watch out for this weekend. How many will make our top 5 feature come Monday evening? We've got seventeen rounds to find out.

Round 1: Feature Match – Shingou Kurihara vs. Koutarou Ootsuka

by Rich Hagon

Two well-known players get the ball rolling here in the feature match area. Shingou Kurihara came to global attention with his top 8 at Pro Tour Geneva in 2007, and also has a Grand Prix title to his name, winning in Bangkok in 2009. His opponent, meanwhile, has half a dozen Grand Prix top 8s, a Pro Tour top 8 from 2010 in San Juan, and a National title from back in 2003.

Game 1

After Ootsuka began with a mulligan, Kurihara opened with Ponder , sending all three cards away before drawing a card. Ootsuka's first turn was a Mountain , with no play. Preordain on turn two continued to send Kurihara to his library, with a Drowned Catacomb joining Darkslick Shores . A Forest led to Explore for Ootsuka, who laid Raging Ravine as his extra land for the turn.

Gitaxian Probe from Kurihara revealed three land, Overgrown Battlement and Oracle of Mul-Daya in Ootsuka's hand. Kurihara cast Preordain , before a Mountain and Pyromancer Ascension finally revealed what he was playing. Ootsuka cast the Oracle, laying the Mountain it revealed, and passed.

Burst Lightning dealt with the Oracle, and Kurihara was in good shape, knowing (thanks to the Gitaxian Probe ) that Ootsuka had little to offer in hand. Ootsuka activated his Raging Ravine , attacked, and laid a second Raging Ravine to end the turn. If left unchecked, the Ravines were going to do a lot of damage.

Shingou Kurihara (left) and Koutarou Ootsuka (right)

On Ootsuka's following turn, Overgrown Battlement met Mana Leak , and a second Burst Lightning from Kurihara at end of turn meant the Pyromancer Ascension now had two counters. He cast a second Pyromancer Ascension before passing back to Ootsuka, who was beating down hard with his Raging Ravine . In it came again, pushing Kurihara to just three life. Ootsuka cast Overgrown Battlement , which eventually Kurihara decided to Mana Leak . Ootsuka clearly did not have Lightning Bolt !

Kurihara fell to two when he cracked Scalding Tarn , which brought him into Shock range, if Ootsuka was playing them (he wasn't). Kurihara untapped, and began with Visions of Beyond . Whatever the visions he saw they were not to his liking, and the Raging Ravine , which was all Ootsuka had meaningfully done all game, had gone all the way.

Shingou Kurihara 0 - 1 Koutarou Ootsuka

Game 2

Ootsuka had taken the lead with almost none of the cards you might have expected from a Valakut deck, so now he would try to take the match in more conventional fashion. Game two began with Kurihara cracking Scalding Tarn and casting one of his many turn one plays, Gitaxian Probe . He saw two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle , Explore , Thrun, the Last Troll , Overgrown Battlement , Forest , and Terramorphic Expanse in Ootsuka's opening seven. Kurihara continued his turn one with Preordain , which sent him into deep thought. Finally both cards were sent to the bottom, allowing Kurihara to get something random off the top.

A more conventional Valakut board

Ootsuka had a much less involved turn one, laying Valakut, and within moments we were back to Kurihara. A second Gitaxian Probe revealed that Ootsuka had drawn Cultivate , and when Ootsuka attempted to cast Overgrown Battlement on turn two it found Mana Leak waiting. Kurihara cast Ponder , and this time left the three cards on top, finishing his turn with Pyromancer Ascension . Ootsuka cast Explore unopposed, and dropped the second Valakut, and Terramorphic Expanse onto the battlefield.

Coralhelm Commander was next for Kurihara, immediately levelling it to two, making it a 3/3 flyer. Three mana from Ootsuka meant Cultivate , and he followed it up with Rampant Growth . He now had three Mountain s in play alongside the threat of double Valakut. Ponder put the first counter on Pyromancer Ascension for Kurihara. He attacked with Coralhelm Commander , and cast Memoricide , taking Primeval Titan s, one of which was sitting in Ootsuka's hand, ready to cast next turn. That left Ootsuka with Oracle of Mul Daya , Thrun, the Last Troll , and a Forest in hand.

The former National Champion drew for the turn, and what a draw it was. Gaea's Revenge came off the top, the uncounterable 8/5 with Haste, and that was more than enough to take the game. It turned out that the Valakuts never did anything, but the Valakut player was still off to the perfect start, winning without dropping a game.

Shingou Kurihara 0 - 2 Koutarou Ootsuka

Saturday, 12:23 p.m. – Photo Essay

by Richard Hagon
One round down, thirteen to go, and the three hundred and fifty eight competitors are ready for action.This is what you look like when you don't know whether to mulligan or not. Or when you realize you've forgotten your girlfriend's birthday.On the battlefield, new Jace. In hand, old Gideon.Quiz time: Here on turn three, one of these decks is The Beatdown. Guess which one.Chances of Jace, Memory Adept staying alive through this attack from many Vampires? Not good.When a player fans his graveyard out like this, there's usually a reason, like the Pyromancer Ascension top left.With only five minutes gone in the round.....this is what the battlefield looks like when someone's playing mono-red.Full-on motion blur brings you all the action of the blue-white mirror matchTen minutes gone, and three of the four matches at this table are done. Blue-white on blue-white, not so much.Does new Standard mean a Rebirth for Kuldotha Red?Hundreds of stories, every round.

Round 3: Feature Match – Toshiyuki Kadooka vs. Yuuki Hirose

by Rich Hagon

At 2-0, Yuuki Hirose found himself at the feature match table facing the man last seen on the Sunday stage at Pro Tour Nagoya last month, Toshiyuki Kadooka. On that occasion the Japanese man couldn't quite bring off the home victory against the American David Sharfman, but he has started here with a handy couple of wins, and both players know that a win here will guarantee at least a positive record heading into the Limited rounds.

Pro Tour Nagoya Finalist Toshiyuki Kadooka

Game 1

Hirose opened with a Mountain , with Explore on turn two netting him a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle . Rampant Growth from Kadooka also accelerated him, suggesting a Valakut mirror might be on the way. Turn three saw Solemn Simulacrum for Hirose, finding a Forest . Kadooka had Everflowing Chalice for two, which he used to cast a second Everflowing Chalice for one. Maybe this wasn't a mirror match after all...

Hirose cast Explore , putting a Mountain into play before attacking with Solemn Simulacrum . Rampant Growth found him yet another land, leaving him two cards in hand. Back to Kadooka, who had eight mana to play with. Terramorphic Expanse dealt with Valakut, leaving Kadooka enough mana to cast Summoning Trap . He revealed Terastodon , targeting two of Hirose's Forest s, and his own 'minor' Everflowing Chalice .

Hirose had yet another Rampant Growth , but even the combined might of his two 'gifted' 3/3s and his own Solemn Simulacrum wouldn't be enough to block and trade for the Terastodon . Evolving Wilds was all he had.

Kadooka cast Everflowing Chalice for three, and then the new M12 artifact rare Quicksilver Amulet . When Hirose was unable to kill the Amulet, Kadooka was able to use it to put Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield. That's Emrakul, the Aeons Torn , the largest creature in the history of Magic. Quicksilver Amulet , we like you!

Hirose continued to try to struggle his way out of a dreadful situation, but another Summoning Trap from Kadooka was always going to make things even more ghastly. Wurmcoil Engine duly arrived, but at least Hirose was putting up some kind of fight, casting Avenger of Zendikar for eight 0/1 plants. Emrakul attacked, with plantlife disappearing almost as quickly as it had arrived. Hirose added Solemn Simulacrum to the battlefield, with Landfall triggering to make his remaining plants just that little bit bigger.

Quicksilver Amulet and Emrakul. Mmmmm.

Kadooka sent both Emrakul and Wurmcoil Engine into the fray, causing Hirose to once more work through his diminishing options. Shortly after 'diminishing' came 'none', and we were heading for game two.

Kadooka 1 - 0 Hirose

Game 2

Valakut opened the second game for Hirose, with no turn two acceleration. Kadooka did have a turn two play, with Rampant Growth fetching his third Forest . Rampant Growth from Hirose came a turn late, leaving Kadooka to accelerate further with Everflowing Chalice for two, and Everflowing Chalice for one, just as he had in his successful game one.

Nature's Claim destroyed the bigger Chalice, and Kadooka's Summoning Trap netted him a disappointing Overgrown Battlement . Oracle of Mul Daya from Hirose revealed Primeval Titan on top of his library. Hirose completed the turn with Tumble Magnet . What would a second Summoning Trap find? Terastodon , causing Hirose to slump in his chair. Kadooka leaned across the table, choosing his targets carefully. Tumble Magnet and two Forest s magically became nine power of beaters for Hirose, meaning Hirose would have no Green mana. That didn't matter though, as Valakut ensured he could get across the line, and force a deciding game.

Kadooka 1 - 1 Hirose

Yuuki Hirose

Game 3

Kadooka began the decider with turn two Rampant Growth in his mono-green confection, while Hirose cracked Evolving Wilds for a Forest , setting up a turn two Explore that landed a second Forest .

Kadooka cast Spellskite and Everflowing Chalice . The Spellskite quickly showed its value, dying to the Nature's Claim Hirose aimed at the Chalice. Hirose was not to be denied, however, a second Nature's Claim taking down the Chalice. Kadooka cast Explore , dropping Khalni Garden into play as his bonus land, with Hirose also accelerating with Harrow .

Now the battlelines were drawn. Kadooka had Eldrazi Temple , Hirose had Valakut. Kadooka went for Summoning Trap , and found Emrakul, the Aeons Torn waiting for him in his top seven. With only six land in play, Hirose faced utter destruction, averted at least temporarily with Avenger of Zendikar . Emrakul attacked, and six of the seven 0/1s bit the dust. The next turn, it was Hirose who bit the dust.

Toshiyuki Kadooka 2 - 1 Yuuki Hirose

Quicksilver Amulet

Note: You're probably quite excited by the whole ' Quicksilver Amulet into Emrakul' thing, but you'll have to contain yourselves a little bit longer. In the interests of fairness, we won't be publishing Standard decklists until tomorrow, but rest assured that a Kadooka deck tech is on the way!

Saturday, 3:05 p.m. – 249 Ways To Read Japanese

by Rich Hagon

'Would you like to play Friday Night Magic?' isn't a question I usually have too much trouble answering. 'Yes', obviously. Yesterday, however, there was a problem. Or closer to 249 problems. The format, you see, was M12 draft, and much to my surprise the 63 Japanese players in the 64 player field at Japanese Friday Night Magic here in Japan had opted for Japanese M12 boosters, featuring Japanese on all the Japanese cards.

I don't speak Japanese. I don't read Japanese.

As I believe I may have said earlier, 249 problems.

Still, surely it couldn't be that bad, could it? With an hour to go before decision time, I took my handy M12 Player's Guide, and started working out just how much I didn't know about the set that was only released yesterday. Here's the edited version, with all the swearing taken out:

First, 20 basic lands, know what those do. 229. Next, 119 cards I remember from 15 years of playing Magic. 110. Well, I managed to play a midnight pre-release draft last weekend, so I can eliminate the cards I played with and against there. That takes me to 90. That's still a lot of cards I don't know. So, let's eliminate all the Mythic Rares. If someone plays one against me, I'll just have to ask. And if I open one and don't know what it does, I'll take it anyway. I can always look it up after the draft! Now I can get rid of all the cards that are vanilla monsters, things like Armored Warhorse . Then there are the cards I can guess at, because in the middle of all the Japanese text you get the +1 +1 bit on cards like Benalish Veteran .

Hey, this is easy! Anyone can play with a set they don't know in a language they can't read!

By the time I sat down to begin this strangest of exams I hadn't prepared for, I felt like I had a reasonable chance of knowing what at least most of the cards in my deck would do. I worked on the basis that if a card was costing a lot less than it 'should', then I was probably going to find a nasty surprise waiting for me when I finished the draft. You know the sort of thing:

Gigantithon Wurm
When Gigantithon Wurm enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you discard your hand, sacrifice all your lands, remortgage your house and agree to file the tax returns for your closest 5000 friends.

In the event, things went (mostly) ok. I opened a five cost white flyer ( Peregrine Griffin ), found that blue was clearly open (with double Belltower Sphinx ), and opened the Garruk, Primal Hunter in the last pack, taking it anyway. I only got really stumped by this guy:

Merfolk Mesmerist

Right then. A 1/2 for two mana, with a tap ability that has to be sufficiently good to demand paying mana as well. Trouble is, because it's blue, that ability could be utterly pointless. I took it, and subsequently discovered it was Merfolk Mesmerist . Now, since I had double Belltower Sphinx , and had also picked up a couple of random late-pick Jace's Erasure s, there were possibilities. In the end, though, I came to the conclusion I was probably not going to need them. Here's what I ended up playing:

Yes, that's three copies of Elixir of Immortality . I won my first two rounds easily, never dropping into single figures before taking control with an endless supply of life gain, card draw, and countermagic, not to mention high-toughness flyers. I was worried about a potential black-red aggro deck, and did indeed meet that in the final, getting battered in game one, despite using Ice Cage on his turn one Goblin Fireslinger . It turns out that Goblin War Paint is quite an effective answer to Ice Cage ...

Still, all's well that ends well, and the Elixirs did their thing in games two and three. Friday Night Magic victory was mine!

Saturday, 5:13 p.m. – San...Ni...Ichi...Drafto

by Rich Hagon

It's draft time, and we're going to take a look at the picks and packs of 2006 Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka. That's 2006 Player of the Year, and possibly 2011 Player of the Year too, since Shouta is having an excellent year that sees him in sixth place. With ten Pro Points going to the National Champion, plus the chance to generate more at Worlds, this is a big weekend for Shouta, taking his crack at Nationals glory ahead of rivals like Americans Ben Stark, Owen Turtenwald, David Sharfman, and Luis Scott-Vargas, the Czech standout Martin Juza, and Brazil's Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa.

Gideon's Lawkeeper
Gideon's Avenger

Two white cards confronted Shouta in pack one. He could take Gideon's Lawkeeper , the 1/1 tapper for one, or go with the rare Gideon's Avenger . As the head judge counted down the last three seconds ('San, ni, ichi, drafto!) he took the Lawkeeper, but having avoided the double white in pack one immediately bit the bullet in pack two with Serra Angel . Tormented Soul was the best out of a mediocre third pack, but he was happy to get Garruk's Companion fourth. With Wring Flesh at five, and Llanowar Elves at six, he now had two cards in each of three colors. Child of Night and a late Sorin's Thirst seemed to push him towards black as pack one came to a close.

Rune-Scarred Demon

A second Gideon's Lawkeeper was waiting at the start of pack two, but he spent a long time considering Rune-Scarred Demon , the 6/6 flyer that also acts as a tutor for seven mana. This really was a crossroads in the draft, as the Demon would have definitely left him black, while the Lawkeeper would leave the door open to either white-black or white-green. He finally plumped for the Lawkeeper, and found a green rare in pack two, the 5/7 Arachnus Spinner . He was very quick to pick up Timely Reinforcements , and then the green goodness flowed his way.

Garruk's Companion , Titanic Growth , Jade Mage , Lurking Crocodile , Naturalize ...It looked as if he had navigated his way to a rich seam of playables. A highly usable Plummet right before the end of the pack confirmed that he was in a good spot going into the final pack.

Arachnus Web

Then came trouble. At first, as he flicked through the pack, he was pleased with another Garruk's Companion , a comfortable improvement on the other reasonable pick, an Armored Warhorse . Then he saw the rare - a second Rune-Scarred Demon ! The usually restrained Yasooka couldn't hold himself in, the frustration physically evident as he began to picture the black deck he could have had. Still, Garruk's Companion number three was no disaster, and he quickly marshalled his thoughts, taking Oblivion Ring second and Stingerfling Spider third. With double Arachnus Web and an Acidic Slime joining the ranks, plus a second Titanic Growth ready to help the Companions punch through, things had worked out rather nicely. And surely nobody would end up with both Rune-Scarred Demon s. Would they?

Saturday, 7:07 p.m. – How to reach 4-0

by Rich Hagon

With three hundred and fifty eight players, one thing the Swiss pairings system will do for you is present you with twenty or so players who get through the first four rounds undefeated. In this case, twenty two of them go into draft with the perfect record, and our friends with the Japanese language skills have been grinding them through the, er, grinder to come up with some numbers for us.

Solemn Simulacrum

Nine distinct archetypes exist within the 4-0 bracket, with some additional variations. Seven of the twenty-two are playing some version of a Valakut deck. The big name pilot for this archetype is 2006 World Champion Makahito Mihara. Where the difference lies is whether or not to invest in Solemn Simulacrum , the returning 2/2 for four. Amongst the seven there's a five-two split against the Sim, but that's by no means conclusive, with the champion still another seven Standard matches away from victory.

Tempered Steel

Next up comes the archetype with the most variations. Four undefeated players have some kind of Tempered Steel decks. One of the four is pure white, one has a black splash, while the others splash into blue.

And no, we can't tell you what for until tomorrow. Control players are up next, with three taking a blue-white and three taking a blue-black route to victory.

Blade Splicer

That leaves five players ploughing a lone furrow, and it's interesting that three of the five are very well-known players. Shouta Yasooka, the 2006 Player of the Year, is running Tezzeret, turning his artifacts into 5/5s. Defending National Champion, and former World Champion, Katsuhiro Mori, is running a blue-white aggro deck that features no fewer than six swords. There's also a Caw Blade deck that features Blade Splicer , and a white-green aggro deck.

Quicksilver Amulet

There's no doubt, though, that the most interesting deck we've seen in the undefeated section belongs to the finalist from Pro Tour Nagoya 2011, Toshiyuki Kadooka. He's built on his Pro Tour success with a green Eldrazi ramp deck that includes Quicksilver Amulet to run out such hits as Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre , and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn .

We'll have more on this later in the weekend.

As the 60 card decks are put away, and players add land to their 40 card concoctions, we're starting to see the shape of Standard with M12 in the mix. For a full metagame breakdown, and all the latest on the metagame musings, keep it right here at the home of Magic.

Feature Match: Round 7 – Shouta Yasooka vs. Tetsuya Kaji

by Rich Hagon
The players prepare for battle

Here in the final round of day one, both these players will be looking to take a giant step towards the top 8. Win here, and they'll go to bed tonight with a perfect record. Lose, and their 6-1 record - while still excellent - may well need to be replicated tomorrow if they are to make the top 8. Tetsuya Kaji is clearly the underdog, at least on pedigree. Who wouldn't be, when their opponent is a former Player of the Year like Yasooka? We followed Yasooka through the draft, and he ended up green-white, with triple Garruk's Companion . As for Kaji, we would have to see.

Game 1

Kaji opened with a Mountain opposite a forest, with Goblin Tunneler facing Garruk's Companion after two turns. Shock dealt with the Companion, leaving the Tunneler to attack for one. Yasooka replaced his Companion with another, and passed the turn. Slaughter Cry during combat from Kaji sent that one to the graveyard too. Kaji cast Griffin Sentinel , and the 1/1 Griffin Rider , which rather handily turned out to be a 4/4.

Yasooka cast Lurking Crocodile , and proceeded to run it into the Griffin - it was a bluff, with no tricks deployed on either side.

Yasooka added Jade Mage , but the target on its back found Incinerate waiting. Playing at a dizzying pace, Yasooka dropped the enormous 5/7 Arachnus Spinner .

Tetsuya Kaji

Kaji attacked through the air with his Griffin for four, finishing the turn with Stonehorn Dignitary , robbing Yasooka of his next attack.

Yasooka activated the Spinner, and got Arachnus Web for the Goblin Tunneler . Timely Reinforcements were exactly that, gaining him both six life and three 1/1 soldiers. Now the Arachnus Spinner attacked, with Yasooka emptying his hand with Vastwood Gorger and Gideon's Lawkeeper . At end of turn, Chandra's Outrage killed the Lawkeeper before it could become active.

Kaji went back to the air, and added more aerial threat with Peregrine Griffin . Vastwood Gorger attacked, but Kaji again using Slaughter Cry to good effect. Yasooka activated the Spinner once more, delivering the second Arachnus Web onto the 2/4 Peregrine Griffin . In came the Yasooka team, and Serra Angel joined the battle. As so often before in the history of the game, that was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

Yasooka 1 - 0 Kaji

Game 2

Goblin Fireslinger began game two for Kaji, with the 1/1 Griffin Rider not far behind, opposite Gideon's Lawkeeper for Yasooka. The Drake got tapped, Kaji had no third land, and Yasooka wa in business once again with Garruk's Companion . There was still no third land, so Yasooka saved his tap ability from the Lawkeeper. If Kaji wanted to attack, that was just fine with the former Player of the Year. Kaji did at least have a play, the 2/1 Crimson Mage . Garruk's Companion attacked, with Sacred Wolf from Yasooka ratcheting up the pressure.

Shouta Yasooka

When Kaji still saw no third land, Yasooka opted to now tap the Crimson Mage , causing Kaji to pass the turn. passes. Arachnus Web landed on the Goblin Fireslinger . Yasooka tapped down the 1/1 Griffin Rider and went to work, piling in with both Sacred Wolf and Garruk's Companion . When Kaji eventually drew a third land, he laid Griffin Sentinel , and mounted a fairly feeble attack. Yasooka, with huge spells in hand that he actually couldn't cast thanks to being stuck on five mana, cast Timely Reinforcements for more soldiers. The beats continued, with Kaji horribly hampered, although at least Incinerate took out the Lawkeeper.

Yasooka sent his men into the red zone once more, prompting a double block for Garruk's Companion from an increasingly desperate Kaji.

Yasooka reached his sixth land, and banged down Arachnus Spinner , spelling the end. A pyrrhic Act of Treason from Kaji at the last changed nothing, and it was Yasooka who would enter day two with the perfect record.

Shouta Yasooka 2 - 0 Tetsuya Kaji

Day 1 – Metagame Breakdown

by Event Coverage Staff

With many thanks to our Japanese Coverage colleagues, who have painstakingly worked their way through all three hundred and fifty eight decklists, to bring you this translated fact-pack:

Deck Type Number
Valakut 80
Mono-Red 43
UW-Control 33
Tempered Steel 27
UB-Control 22
Caw-Blade 21
UB Tezzereter 18
UR Twins 16
UBW Control 10
BR Vamp 7
Mono-Green Eldrazi 7
WG Beatdown 7
Boros 7
Birthing Pod 6
UR Ascension 6
Mono-Black Vampires 5
Mono-Black Control 4
UBR-twins 4
Green Elves 3
UWG Beat 3
Allies 3
RUG Big Mana 3
Puresteel 2
GWB-Vengevine 2
UG Eldrazi 2
RUG Twins 2
GUW Control 2
Fresh Meat 1
UWR Twins 1
Mass Polymorph 1
RUG Big Mana 1
Emeria 1
UW-beat 1
Infinite Life 1
Mono-Black Poison 1
Green Big Mana 1
RG Big Mana 1
Grand Architect 1
Green-Poison 1
Green-Blue Poison 1
Colorless 1
UBR Ascension 1
GW Eldrazi 1
RG-Vengevine 1

Come back tomorrow as our quest for the best decks in Standard continue!

Saturday, 8:56 p.m. – Battle of the Champions

by Rich Hagon

With the main event over for the day, it's time to turn our attention to the Battle of the Champions. This has been generating a lot of interest in Japan, and it's a pretty neat idea all round, which could easily spread to other Nationals over the next few years. Here's the English version of what appeared on our sister site a few weeks ago:

Magic is a game with a long history. This year will mark the occasion of the release of the latest Core Set, Magic 2012, as well as the 16th National Championship. To date, there have been 13 national champions (the number is lower than that of events due to two repeat champions). While the game has a rich history, Magic is also constantly refreshing itself, changing each year with the release of new expansions that add depth and variety to play.

Regardless of any changes, however, there is one constant: the National Champion is the best player of any given year. But, have you ever asked yourself, of all the different people to hold the title, which champion was the best? Is it Tsuyoshi Fujita, so far the only Japanese member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame? Takuma Morofuji, who led Japan to its team victory in 2005 at Yokohama, the same year Japan captured the individual World Championship title as well as Player of the Year? Katsuhiro Mori, two-time Champion as well as World Champion? And don't forget Masashi Oiso, 2003 Rookie of the Year and 6-time Pro Tour Top 8er, or Shuhei Nakamura, 2008 Player of the Year. All players with impressive resumes, to be sure, but who among them could be considered the all-time champion?

We'll be answering that question this year with the inaugural "Battle of Champions". All past champions have been issued a sponsor's invitation to this year's National Championship; 11 have accepted. Each day after the main event, the champions will play against each other over four Swiss rounds of Super Double Sealed Deck, a format where each player receives 12 packs of the same expansion, in this case Magic 2012, to build a minimum 40-card deck. After the four Swiss round are over, the top two players will build a new deck using the same rules and play off in a best-of-five match to determine the Champion of Champions. The winner will receive a foil set of Magic 2012 and an uncut sheet of cards. The runner-up will receive an uncut sheet of cards. The winner's feat will also be immortalized in a special trophy that will remain part of the National Championship set, traveling with it around the country.

We will of course be providing in-depth coverage of this special exhibition match online so those who are unable to join us in Osaka can follow the action. Until then, I encourage everyone reading this to take some time to look at the coverage of past Nationals in the archives at magicthegathering.com and mtg-jp.com to familiarize yourself with the names and see just how rich and storied the history of our favorite game is.

Although the cards used in those tournaments may be unfamiliar to you, you'll find that it's still Magic. Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, there you have it, and now the eleven players get to do battle.

There are going to be some fantastic matches played out over the next two evenings, and we've got a great feature match to end the day. Stay tuned!


Battle of Champions Feature Match: Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Masashi Oiso

An incredible start to the Battle of Champions saw these two towering titans of the Japanese Magic scene come face to face in the feature match area. Oiso: SIX Pro Tour top 8s. NINE Grand Prix top 8s. National Champion of 2008. Nakamura: FIVE Pro Tour Top 8s. SEVENTEEN Grand Prix top 8s, with three titles. Player of the Year 2008, and National Champion of 2009.


Oiso opened with Llanowar Elves , Nakamura with Gideon's Lawkeeper . They surprisingly traded, with Oiso adding Garruk's Companion opposite Merfolk Looter for Nakamura. Oiso enchanted his Companion with Trollhide , making it a prime target for Nakamura's Pacifism . With Merfolk Looter now up and running, Nakamura had blunted the early assault. Blood Ogre as a vanilla 2/2 was no problem for Nakamura.

The 2008 Player of the Year tapped five mana for Belltower Sphinx , and with Serra Angel the following turn it was all going wrong for Oiso, who only had his Blood Ogre and a Goblin Fireslinger that was looking largely irrelevant. Such was the measure of Nakamura's dominance that he discarded Day of Judgment to his Merfolk Looter before casting Gideon Jura .

It will not tax your imagination, reader, to discover that the end followed soon after...

Nakamura 1 - 0 Oiso

The classic turn one Llanowar Elves led Oiso into Sacred Wolf on turn two, with Nakamura using a conventional two mana to cast Alabaster Mage . Trollhide on the Sacred Wolf once again proved an irresistible target, Nakamura using Oblivion Ring to generate a two-for-one.

Lurking Crocodile looked good for Oiso, with Nakamura using Divination to draw two further towards his power cards.

Oiso continued to threaten, dropping Nakamura to nine, before making Blood Ogre a genuine threat. Celestial Purge recognized and dealt with that threat, with Pacifism dealing with the Lurking Crocodile . Still Nakamura was fighting a rearguard action, as Oiso added Crimson Mage to the board.

Day of JudgmentNext from Nakamura - Day of Judgment
Gideon JuraNext from Nakamura - Gideon Jura

Prepare for either an amazing comeback, or a very quick end...

Masashi Oiso loving the battle

Oiso wasn't done, firing burn spells to drop Nakamura to five, and casting Stingerfling Spider . Belltower Sphinx arrived for Nakamura, allowing Oiso to cast Chandra's Outrage . It didn't kill the Sphinx, but it did put Nakamura to just three life. Surely Oiso couldn't beat the planeswalker? He cast another Chandra's Outrage at Gideon, and now Nakamura was at one.

FireballNext from Oiso - Fireball!!!
NegateNext from Nakamura - Negate!!!!!!
Goblin FireslingerNext from Oiso - Goblin Fireslinger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CancelNext from Nakamura - Cancel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shuuhei Nakamura 2 - 0 Masashi Oiso

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