By Matthew Vienneau
Satoshi "of the many hats" Nakamura is well known in Japan though he humbly refuses to say he is the country's best player. He came in 38th at Grand Prix Kyoto last weekend and brought his TurboLand deck with Horn of Greed to Grand Prix Sydney to see if he could do even better. Of the four Japanese players who came to Sydney, only two of them made second day.
The four Singaporean players, on the other hand, all made second day - including Royce Chai who was playing NecroDonate. Chai came in 14th at the 1999 World Championships though he too modestly claims he is not the best player in his diminutive country. These two met up on the first day of the Grand Prix and Chai came out on top but Nakamura was determined to turn things around this time. Chai offered a draw as he only needed one more match point to make Top 8, but Nakamura came to play, as he needed a win and a draw.
Nakamura's opening hand of Exploration, Spike Weaver, Arcane Denial, Impulse and three lands seemed decent if not explosive. Even playing two land on his first turn, he was unable to do anything about Chai's turn two Mox (the second one), Necropotence and Force of Will for the Arcane Denial. After Chai drew 10 extra cards, Nakamura began rubbing the salamander attached to one of his trademark hats for luck. He Impulsed for Gush but the Gush was Force of Willed leaving him with a hand of Spike Weaver, Island and Oath of Druids. The Oath was Duressed by Chai, and seeing that Nakamura had nothing in his hand, Chai began humming to himself as he drew five more cards, cast Illusions, drew 13 more cards and Donated the Illusions to Nakamura.
After Necroing for his 29th and 30th extra cards, Chai drew into the Pyroblast and put Nakamura out of his misery during his end step.
Nakamura's second game opening hand of Impulse, Scroll Rack, Exploration and four lands did not seem all that good, but Chai came out slowly as well as he didn't get the traditional second turn Necropotence that is so often the bane of NecroDonate opponents. Chai did Annul Nakamura's Scroll Rack but that left Nakamura the opportunity to cast the bomb - Horn of Greed - the following turn!
Drawing two cards off of his land drop gave Chai a Necropotence but Nakamura Annulled it and looked to be in good shape. After a couple of turns of playing two lands a turn and drawing two additional cards, Nakamura slapped down a *second* Horn of Greed and rapidly filled his hand with counterspells as he began serving with a Spike Weaver.
Chai did not give up, however, and Consulted for and cast a Duress. Nakamura didn't even bother to counter it as he revealed a hand of three Force of Will, two Arcane Denial and an Annul. Chai took the Annul and attempted to play Necropotence. In a surprise move, Nakamura allowed it with Chai at 14 life. Chai began drawing extra cards but Nakamura was keeping up with his two Horn of Greeds and Exploration. Nakamura drew two Spike Feeders and played them both putting him out of range for a single Illusions.
Chai still didn't give up and after drawing a couple more cards made an attempt to cast Illusions of Grandeur. In an epic counter war, nine counterspells of various types were cast including four Force of Wills, with Nakamura playing risky and casting Gush in hopes of getting a blue spell for the final Force of Will instead of just removing Gush itself. Chai finally gave in, as the horde of Spikes was about to defeat him.
After the Horn of Greed beating he received the second game, Chai again offered to Intentionally Draw. But Nakamura still wanted to play and they began the third game.
Nakamura had no early plays as Chai played a first turn Mox Diamond and a second turn Phyrexian Negator that Nakamura surprisingly chose not to Force of Will and remove Arcane Denial from the game. Chai pressed his advantage with a turn three Necropotence with a Pyroblast kicker for Nakamura's Arcane. Drawing 10 extra cards put Chai in an excellent position and Nakamura's third turn Exploration was not a comparable play to Chai casting a second Negator.
Nakamura desperately needed a fourth land so he could cast a Hunted Wumpus and block the Negator. He drew the land and cast the Wumpus hoping that Chai didn't have a Force of Will, but his hopes were in vain as the Wumpus was countered and Nakamura extended his hand in concession. Chai was in the top eight!
Royce Chai 2
Satoshi Nakamura 1