The final round of Swiss, and two, one, or maybe even neither of these players will return tomorrow for the top 8. Ten minutes ago, Mihara was in the box seat, already at 33 points from his eleven wins and just two losses. Now, though, he has been paired down against Akiyama, who still has top 8 chances. A win for Mihara guarantees him a place in the top 8. Even a loss, and his tiebreaks may hold up. Akiyama needs to win, and hope his tiebreaks are good enough.
Ah, the last round of Swiss...
Mihara cast Explore and laid Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle as his extra land for the turn. He attempted a further Explore on turn three, leading into Rampant Growth, which Akiyama again allowed to resolve.
Mihara cast Oracle of Mul Daya, and swiftly found it in his graveyard via Doom Blade. Akiyama's fourth land was Tectonic Edge, which he used to kill Mihara's Valakut. Mihara went for Cultivate, and again it resolved, taking him to seven mana, four of them Mountains. Another Tectonic Edge followed from Akiyama, who seemed content to bide his time.
That changed when Mihara tapped out for Avenger of Zendikar. It resolved, netting him seven 0/1 plants. All Akiyama could do was cast Into the Roil with kicker to return the Avenger and draw a card, hopefully a more permanent answer. What is certain is that Mana Leak was ready when Mihara tried again, though Akiyama showed no signs of relief. Inquisition of Kozilek revealed two Green Sun's Zenith in Mihara's hand, with one at least no longer a threat.
What about the second? Stoic Rebuttal answered that problem, and now Akiyama felt sufficiently in control to activate Creeping Tar Pit and begin the journey to victory. Mihara, however, had other ideas, ripping a third Green Sun's Zenith, and successfully resolving it, gaining both a Primeval Titan and double Valakut. He laid a third copy of the amazing land, and passed. Tectonic Edge reduced the Valakut threat to two at the end of the turn.
Back to Akiyama, who cast Ratchet Bomb and passed. Mihara knew his many plants were destined for death, so he didn't activate his Raging Ravine. He attacked, triggering the Primeval Titan, and the two Mountains, coupled with one in Mihara's hand, were more than enough to get the job done, and take the 2006 World Champion to within one game of the top 8.
Mihara 1 - 0 Akiyama
Inquisition of Kozilek from Akiyama found Thran the last troll, two Mountains, a Forest, Terramorphic Expanse, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Rampant Growth. There was only one target then, and Rampant Growth going away meant a less than great opening for Mihara.
He tried for Explore on turn three, with Akiyama taking long enough to at least represent a Mana Leak before allowing it. Akiyama cast Spreading Seas on Mihara's Forest, ensuring that Mihara would use Terramorphic Expanse to find another. When Mihara went for Cultivate, Akiyama pulled the trigger on his Mana Leak, and had a sideboarded Flashfreeze at the ready for another Cultivate soon after.
Mihara continued to lay lands, casting Oracle of Mul Daya, revealing Avenger of Zendikar on the top of his library. When he drew the Avenger, Cultivate was on top, so still no free lands. Still, Mihara was up to seven lands, and he added to the future threat with a third copy of Valakut coming down. Only the Spreading Seas on the second Forest was preventing him from trying for the Avenger.
Akiyama activated Creeping Tar Pit and attacked, but had nothing else.
Still Mihara found spells on top of his deck, drawing the Cultivate to reveal a backup Oracle of Mul Daya. He cast the Cultivate. Akiyama responded with Doom Blade for the Oracle before allowing the Cultivate to resolve, Mihara choosing to find one Forest and one Mountain, opening up the possibility of Avenger of Zendikar the following turn.
Spreading Seas averted that threat for the second time in the game, Akiyama again activating his Creeping Tar Pit and hitting Mihara down to fourteen. Mihara laid Evolving Wilds, and passed. Now Akiyama had a precious bit of breathing room. He spent five mana on Liliana Vess, and sent her loyalty to three, going in search of future answers to present problems. As expected, Mihara searched up a Forest at end of turn, and the stage was set.
Finally Mihara had the mana he wanted. He began with Oracle of Mul Daya which resolved, getting him both Terramorphic Expanse and Verdant Catacombs, which he swiftly cracked for another Forest. This time Primeval Titan was revealed on top of the deck. Finally, it was time.
Mihara swept his land sideways, and went for the Avenger, which would be worth twelve tokens. Moments later, the tokens were on the battlefield. Now what for Akiyama?
Whatever he had found with Liliana needed to be good. Mihara had Terramorphic Expanse ready to find a Mountain, he had a Mountain in hand, an Oracle of Mul Daya in play...Akiyama didn't have the look of someone who was ready to find a way out. He cast Jace Beleren and used Liliana's ability to tutor up a card, which he then drew with Jace.
The trouble is, when you look through your deck and know that there's no answer, there really is no hope.
It had taken an extra round, but now Makihito Mihara was firmly into the top 8 of Japan Nationals 2011.
Makihito Mihara 2 - 0 Takashi Akiyama