by Alex Shvartsman
-->Tsukamoto is one of the best-known Japanese competitors. He is a two time national champion; with a number of other impressive finishes on his resume. Tsukamoto is also known for being one of the slowest players around, with many of his matches ending in draws because time runs out.
Shikata is a player from Osaka, who has not had a high tournament finish previously. However, he is the one entering the top 8 as the number 1 seed, at 33 points, whereas his opponent is the only player to make it in at 30 points, beating out five others on tiebreakers.
The draft did not go particularly well for either of the two players. Both ended up with versions of four-color or five-color green. Although both drafted a number of very strong cards, they were forced to run precarious mana configurations.
Shikata was forced to mulligan in the first game. Tsukamoto, on the other hand, had a perfect mana draw, with several lands and a Fertile Ground.
The two traded several creatures in combat over the first half a dozen turns. One of Shikata's creatures was a Pyre Zombie, promising him an advantage, should the game last for a long time.
Shikata cast a Kavu Climber, and enchanted it with Armadillo Cloak. Unfortunately for him, Tsukamoto was able to do the same to his Halam Djinn. For several turns, the players traded blows, life totals swinging frantically. Both players were mana flooded, and did not have much else to cast. Both were holding plenty of land in their hands, trying to bluff their opponent into believing they've got removal spells.
Things were beginning to look grim for Shikata, as Tsukamoto's larger creature was able to reduce his life total by the net of 3 per turn. Shikata drew exactly what he needed at that point - a Hunting Kavu. He took a couple more hits from the Djinn to get both the Hunting Kavu and the freshly resurrected Pyre Zombie into play. At this point Tsukamoto could neither attack (his Djinn would get removed from the game), nor block the Climber (his Djinn would then die to Pyre Zombie, leaving nothing on his side of the table).
As mentioned earlier, both players went through the first twelve or so turns of the game horribly mana-flooded. At this point, Shikata was finally able to draw several creatures. Tsukamoto was not as fortunate. He continued to peel land after land off the top of his deck, eventually forced to trade the Djinn in combat for the Climber.
With the Djinn off the table, Shikata's horde of smaller creatures was able to make short work of his opponent, despite the high life total he accrued thanks to the Cloak. Sabretooth Nishoba sealed the deal, trampling over Tsukamoto's only blocker.
Shikata was forced to mulligan again in the second game. This time around, his second draw was not nearly as good. He was able to cast his Pyre Zombie on turn three once again, but never had the opportunity to recycle it, once it got Zapped.
Tsukamoto played out a Razortooth Griffin on turn 3, thanks to his Fertile Ground, then summon a number of other creatures, including an Armored Guardian. Shikata was forced to sacrifice a Geothermal Crevice to generate green mana and cast Quirion Trailblazer, getting a Forest. He failed to draw a fifth land in time to put any kind of resistance, and with an active Guardian in play, soon it was too late anyway.
In the third game, Tsukamoto opened with a Kavu Scout. He played four different land types by turn 4, able to attack for four points. Shikata's opening draw was excellent, for once. He cast a turn 3 Hunting Kavu, enchanted it with Armadillo Cloak and went on to race against the Scout.
Tsukamoto had an answer - he used Shackles to keep the Kavu tapped after it hit once. However, Shikata was not out of gas. He cast Benalish Emissary with kicker, destroying Tsukamoto's only Plains. After this, Tsukamoto got stuck on four mana, without a source of white, and with plenty of white cards and five casting cost spells in hand.
Shikata summoned a Pouncing Kavu. He could have used Scorching Lava at any point to destroy Kavu Scout, which was now trading blow for blow with Pouncing Kavu, but chose to save the removal spell. This turned out to work out very well after Tsukamoto summoned an Attendant, and double-blocked the Pouncing Kavu. At this point Shikata used his Lava to kill the Scout, then removed an Attendant with first strike damage.
On that same turn, Shikata used a Capashen Unicorn he just summoned to destroy Shackles, threatening to attack with his Cloaked Hunting Kavu on the next turn. Tsukamoto drew his next card - not a land or a spell he could cast at this time - and conceded the game.
Final Result: Shikata 2 - Tsukamoto 1