With three rounds to go here in Standard both players have only two losses on the weekend. Win here, and they'll be on the cusp of the top 8. Lose, and there's still plenty of work to do. Although he's facing the 2006 Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka, Shouhei Yamamoto has plenty of Nationals pedigree, having made the top 8 on three occasions.
Yasooka began with a double mulligan, and against Celestial Colonnade and Darkslick Shores from Yamamoto, that wasn't a good sign. At least Yasooka had some land to play, casting a mixture of blue and black lands that also included Inkmoth Nexus, the first clue as to what he was playing. On turn five he offered Tumble Magnet, which Yamamoto allowed to resolve. He also allowed Ratchet Bomb from Yasooka. Seven land in play, and Yamamoto hadn't cast a spell. Yasooka aimed for Torpor Orb, and that resolved as well.
Finally, a spell from Yamamoto, in the form of Batterskull. Yasooka cast Everflowing Chalice for one, and used his Tumble Magnet to tap down the Batterskull. Yamamoto used his second main phase to cast Gideon Jura, while a planeswalker also appeared for Yasooka, casting Jace Beleren, and drawing himself a card.
Yamamoto activated his Celestial Colonnade and piled his team into Jace, offing the planeswalker. Yasooka had another which promptly drew him a card. Ratchet Bomb was up to four counters by this point. In fact, there seemed to be counters everywhere - one on Everflowing Chalice, one on Tumble Magnet, four on Ratchet Bomb, two on Jace Beleren, eight on Gideon Jura....it might be time to buy shares in a dice company...
Yamamoto attacked and killed Jace, before Yasooka cast Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing two Go for the Throat and two Mana Leak in Yamamoto's hand. He took a Mana leak, and despite his double mulligan had been given the time to get back into the game. When Yamamoto went to attack, Yasooka blew the Ratchet Bomb, causing Yamamoto to return Batterskull to hand, with Gideon going to the graveyard. Down came the mighty Equipment once more to end the turn.
For six mana Yasooka tried for Wurmcoil Engine, leaving exactly three mana open to render the Mana Leak worthless. Yamamoto didn't try, and the Engine resolved. Now Yamamoto cast Grave Titan, which didn't get the 2/2 Zombies due to Yasooka's Torpor Orb. Inquisition of Kozilek from Yasooka revealed the two Go for the Throat and Mana Leak, with him taking a Go for the Throat. He activated Creeping Tar Pit, and sent in his team, causing Yamamoto to use his second Go for the Throat on the Creeping Tar Pit.
Back we went, and a big crowd had gathered to watch an epic game.
Celestial Colonnade activated for Yamamoto, who forced Yasooka to remove his last Tumble Magnet counter. Fortunately he had another waiting. Wurmcoil Engine attacked the other way, with Yamamoto now at fifteen. Once again his Mana Leak couldn't stop Yasooka from casting Consecrated Sphinx.
When Yamamoto cast Squadron Hawk he found Torpor Orb scuppering his plans again. Wurmcoil Engine continued the assault, Yamamoto letting his Batterskull token die, before seeing Yasooka attempt a Batterskull of his own. For this Yamamoto made him pay three extra, leaving Yasooka short on mana.
Both players drew at the start of Yamamoto's turn, and his Inquisition of Kozilek revealed Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, Consume the Meek, and Sorin's Vengeance from M12.Yamamoto was finally able to attack and generate a pair of 2/2s, but Yasooka was ready to pull the trigger on Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. The loyalty went to four, netting Yasooka an Everflowing Chalice. Yamamoto came back with Gideon Jura, which killed the Consecrated Sphinx. In came Yamamoto with Grave Titan, Squadron Hawk, and Inkmoth Nexus. Consume the Meek from Yasooka made this attack less profitable, and Yamamoto passed the turn.
Down came a flurry of artifacts, taking Yasooka to eight in total. Two times eight is sixteen, and that's how much life Yamamoto lost to the planeswalker's game-ending ultimate ability. What a game!
Yasooka 1 - 0 Yamamoto
The players sideboarded quickly and were into action once more, this time with seven cards each. Yasooka attempted to accelerate with Everflowing Chalice for one, which Yamamoto decided was unacceptable, using Mana Leak to counter it. Sword of Feast and Famine was turn three for Yamamoto, with Memoricide on turn four, naming Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. That caused Yasooka to take a long hard look at his sideboard. Was it possible that he had almost no routes to victory left? Well, no, but it was going to be a lot more difficult! It didn't help that apart from Tezzeret in hand - lost to the Memoricide - he had nothing but land.
Inquisition of Kozilek revealed Preordain, Oblivion Ring, and a land in Yamamoto's hand, and Yasooka took Preordain. Inkmoth Nexus traded with Inkmoth Nexus, before Yamamoto cast another. He was able to equip it with the Sword of Feast and Famine, then follow up with a Squadron Hawk. This time that resolved, and he went to his deck in search of the rest of the formation flying team.
Yasooka replied with Batterskull, while Sea Gate Oracle and a Squadron Hawk continued to build Yamamoto's board. Oh, and the Sword of Feast and Famine on the first Hawk wasn't exactly bad news either...
Yasooka was down to one card, and Inquisition of Kozilek revealed that to be a land. Yamamoto cast Jace Beleren, drew himself a card, smashed into the red zone, and added Batterskull. Jace Beleren from Yasooka merely dealt with the opposite planeswalker but did nothing to change the likely outcome, which was game three moments away...
Yasooka 1 - 1 Yamamoto
After the mauling of Memoricide, Yasooka elected to take out two Doom Blade, and put back in the Consecrated Sphinxes that had done him so well in game one. A 'diverse threat base' they call it. Possibly.
On the play Yasooka knew he could get Torpor Orb into play unmolested on turn two, and that's how he began. Yamamoto cast Squadron Hawk knowing the same thing. Again being one turn ahead was critical, as Yasooka landed Jace Beleren and drew a card. Yamamoto pushed two cards to the bottom with Preordain, laid Inkmoth Nexus, and attacked Jace with his Squadron Hawk. Yasooka kept Jace alive by allowing both players to draw a card. After a Preordain and a Creeping Tar Pit, he passed.
Squadron Hawk again attacked Jace, this time down to two counters, but Yasooka was ready with the Mana Leak when Yamamoto went for Sword of Feast and Famine. Inquisition of Kozilek revealed two Batterskull, Liliana Vess and Go for the Throat, so Yasooka sent Go for the Throat to the graveyard. He cast Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and swiftly turned his Torpor Orb into a 5/5 before attacking with it. Now the Squadron Hawk had two planeswalkers to aim at, with Yamamoto choosing Tezzeret.
He closed the turn by dropping Batterskull.
Yasooka drew from Jace, activated his Inkmoth Nexus, and sacrificed Tezzeret as he made the 1/1 poisonous flyer a 5/5. Down came Tumble Magnet. Desperate times then for Yamamoto, who saw his Batterskull tapped before it could attack. When he cast Solemn Simulacrum he yet again failed to get any value due to that terribly annoying Torpor Orb. Yasooka attacked, leaving Yamamoto to block with his Solemn Simulacrum. A second Tumble Magnet surely left Yamamoto in terrible trouble. He attempted Batterskull to no avail. Stoic Rebuttal was there when Yasooka needed it, and the 2006 Player of the Year took another giant stride towards a bunch of Pro Points, and another crack at the biggest title in the game.
Shouta Yasooka 2 - 1 Shouhei Yamamoto