Round 1 Feature Match: Sturla Bingen (Norway) vs. Satoshi Nakamura (Japan)

Posted in Event Coverage

By Wizards of the Coast

by Kim Eikefet

In the very first round of 2000 Pro Tour Chicago, two Pro Tour veterans were pitted against each other. Satoshi Nakamura from Japan has been one of his country's finest players for a long, long time, and he recently won Grand Prix Sapporo. Sturla Bingen, on the other hand, was the first Norwegian player ever to make Top 8 at a Pro Tour. But after being on the gravy train for years, he fell off, and without any qualifiers in his home town, it wasn't too easy for him to get back on. However, he managed to qualify at Worlds in a huge qualifier by simply picking up a Cowardice deck. Cowardice was perfect for Bingen, and while other people would agonize over all the decisions and the long games, Sturla enjoyed himself tremendously while drawing tons of cards and bouncing creatures everywhere.

The Norwegian chose to go blue and white for Chicago as well, playing Counter-Rebels. A lot of people seemed to run versions of the deck that was built around a rebel chain and then countermagic and Wrath of Gods or Routs for creature removal. The decks also pack library manipulation cards to draw into the cards they need.

Satoshi had moved in the opposite direction and played on of the other decktypes that had been predicted to be dominating the field - Fires of Yavimaya. Sporting a lot of green critters like Blastoderm, Lumbering Satyr and Saproling Burst, the deck would often bust out a turn two Fires and then a turn three Blastoderm. Nakamura had his special tech in the deck though, he had added Ancient Hydras to the mix - a big creature and also creature removal at the same time.

While the feature match area was pretty much like the one at the Team Pro Tour in New York this year, it had one new feature. Huge boards marking the playing fields were placed on the tables, and the boards had separated fields for the library, the graveyard, the lands and for the non-land permanents. Finally, there was a "red zone" in the middle of the board for the stack and for attacking creatures. Mark Rosewater informed the players that the boards were there in order to get the playing field more consistent for ESPN, and that the boards would be used in the playoff. He added that he also expected all the Top 8 players to have a feature match at some point, and then he went on to explaining the various fields on the board before the players got to start their matches.

Game 1

Bingen won the die roll and chose to play first. His opening hand contained two Adarkar Wastes, an Island, a Coastal Tower, a Rout, a Counterspell and a Fact or Fiction, and he was happy with it. Nakamura drew a Karplusan Forest, a Shivan Oasis, a Mountain, a Llanowar Elves, a Blastoderm, a Tranquil Grove and an Ancient Hydra, and he kept his hand as well.

Sturla played lands during his first turns, while Satoshi got out a turn one Llanowar Elves that attacked a few times over the next turns. Nakamura then dropped a Rishadan Port and tapped down Sturla's Tower. But Sturla kept laying lands, and when Satoshi attempted to cast a turn three Blastoderm, the Norwegian was able to counter the threat. After that, Sturla got a turn's break as Satoshi had to play his Shivan Oasis before he could cast his Ancient Hydra, and he used that break to play a Fact or Fiction. The five cards he placed on the table were two islands, two Counterspells and a Defiant Vanguard, and after a little thinking, Satoshi placed the two Counterspells in one pile and the rest of the cards in the other. Sturla picked the two lands and the Vanguard.

The Norwegian then cast the Vanguard during his own turn, but Satoshi dropped his Ancient Hydra. Then, during his following turn, Satoshi put the Hydra ability on the stack and then he shot the Vanguard twice. In response, Sturla activated the Vanguard to get a Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, but Satoshi shot her as well. He then attacked with his Llanowar Elves to bring Sturla down to 16, and then he played another one.

Sturla merely played a land during his turn, and the two Elves took him down to 14. But then he drew into another Defiant Vanguard, which he cast. Unfortunately, Satoshi had drawn another Ancient Hydra, and the Hydra shot the Vanguard Twice before it was able to do any good. Then it died along with the two Elves as Sturla cast Wrath of God.

Satoshi tried to get some offense going, but his Blastoderm was Absorbed and then his Fires of Yavimaya was Dismantling Blown with kicker, but the cards he drew were a Rebel Informer and a Plains, not really cards he needed. However, the Norwegian then topdecked a Ramosian Sergeant, and this time Satoshi didn't draw a response. All the Japanese could do was to attempt to cast a River Boa, but Sturla Absorbed again and Satoshi shook his head while Sturla raised his life total to 20.

With an active rebel searcher, Sturla built up his rebel army. First, he searched for a Defiant Falcon, then he let the Falcon get a Lin Sivvi while the Sergeant got another Sergeant. He then used the Lin Sivvi to shuffle the rebels in his graveyard back into his library, and then he went for the Ramosian Sky Marshal before starting to attack for real. Satoshi dropped a River Boa, but at 20 life and with the rebel chain going for him, Sturla didn't care about it. He simply fetched a couple of more rebels and Satoshi scooped.

Bingen 1 - Nakamura 0

Game 2

Nakamura chose to take out his four Tangle Wires and his four Saproling Bursts in favor of four Urza's Rages and four Kavu Chameleons. Sturla spent a little more time sideboarding, and after a while, he took out his Rebel Informer, two Fact or Fictions, an Absorb, a Dismantling Blow and the Sky Marshal and put in two Circles of Protection: Green, two additional Wrath of Gods, a Disenchant and a Thermal Glider. The two players then shuffled for game two.

Satoshi chose to play first, and he then drew an opening hand that held two Mountains, a Llanowar Elves, a Birds of Paradise, a Fires of Yavimaya, a Blastoderm and an Ancient Hydra. Seeing that he would have to draw into a Forest in order to get his game started, he chose to mulligan instead. His second hand held a Forest, a Karplusan Forest, a Lumbering Satyr, a Blastoderm, a Kavu Chameleon and an Urza's Rage, and he chose to keep it.

Bingen's opening hand was pretty strong. He had lands, a couple of rebels and a Brainstorm, and he summoned a turn one Ramosian Sergeant while Satoshi played land only during his first two turns. The Japanese then played a Fires of Yavimaya, while Sturla Brainstormed into a CoP: Green and another Brainstorm.

Unfortunately, Satoshi failed to draw a fourth land, and he did nothing at all during his own fourth turn. Sturla used his Sergeant to go search for a Defiant Falcon, but Satoshi chose to Urza's Rage the Falcon to slow Sturla down a turn. However, the Japanese was still unable to draw a land, and he missed his land drop again on turns five and six. So Sturla Brainstormed away two cards he didn't need, and then he searched for a Ramosian Lieutenant that eventually got a Lin Sivvi into play. He also attacked a couple of times with the Sergeant, and as Satoshi had used his Karplusan Forest a couple of times, he soon found himself at 13 life.

Satoshi never drew a fourth land. He got out a turn seven Llanowar Elves, but it looked really, really small when Sturla tapped six lands to let the Lin Sivvi get the Jhovall Queen. In a last attempt to survive, Nakamura tried to cast a River Boa so that he would have a blocker, but things were definitely going Sturla's way as he Brainstormed into a Counterspell. The Norwegian then searched for a Thermal Glider, and soon, Satoshi was down to one life.

"Attack!" Satoshi claimed and sent his Llanowar Elves into the red zone, then sacrificing both his Fires of Yavimaya to pump it to 5/5. Sturla shrugged and blocked with his Jhovall Queen - and Satoshi couldn't do anything but scoop: "You win."

Final Result: Sturla Bingen 2 - Satoshi Nakamura 0

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