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

Posted in Event Coverage on July 16, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

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 Mountains 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 Titans, 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

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