by Josh Bennett
Satoshi Nakamura is one of the most popular Japanese players. He is the champion of GP Sapporo, he came 3rd at Sydney, and has five GP Top 8s to his name. Scott Johns is a well known player with multiple Pro Tour top 8s of his own. Scott showed some confidence in his deck, but doubted it would live up to people's expectations of it. He has a G/W/r deck with many powerful monsters and Armadillo Cloak. Satoshi has a slower U/W/b deck with many fliers and a Teferi's Moat.
Johns accelerated early in game one, with a turn-two Fertile Ground and a turn-three Harrow and Verduran Emissary. Nakamura's side of the board showed only three plains. He kicked up a Prison Barricade to deal with Johns' expanding army and the players matched Razorfoot Griffins. Satoshi finally displayed blue mana and made a Stormscape Apprentice.
Johns Cloaked up his Griffin for one hit and cast another, while Nakamura held the ground with Vodalian Serpent. The battle in the sky raged on, with Johns' Sunscape Apprentice meaning that Satoshi's Griffin was no longer adequate defense against his own. They traded hits in the air, but Scott was way ahead.
Finally Nakamura drew a Swamp, enabling him to Exotic Curse the Griffin and turn the tide. He hit his stride with a Tower Drake, and then emptied Johns' hand with a Hypnotic Cloud. Scott showed three land. His injury turned to insult when he drew another land, and then Power Armor, which would have broken Nakamura's defenses in the early game, but was now worthless. He scooped.
The first play of game two was Scott's turn-four Rampant Elephant, which was met by Satoshi's kicked Prison Barricade. Scott had the Cloak, and the extra green mana to force the Barricade to block. Satoshi found a blue mana, and Repulsed to deal with the problem. Johns replayed the Elephant, and eliminated Nakamura's kicked Vodalian Serpent with an equally kicked Explosive Growth.
Satoshi played Teferi's Moat, naming white. Johns drew and exclaimed "Where are all my creatures? This deck is all creatures!" A Power Armor didn't get to do anything but let Satoshi draw two cards off Dismantling Blow. Johns did manage to eliminate a couple of creatures with Breath of Darigaaz, and finally began to dig into the creature portion of his deck. First Verduran Emissary, then Serpentine Kavu. Armadillo Cloak made things more grim.
Satoshi blocked and Cursed his way to a stable board by the time he hit four life. Unfortunately, Johns played Meteor Storm, and the game was over.
Nakamura found himself on the offensive early with Galina's Knight and Tower Drake. Johns made a few small ground creatures and a Razorfoot Griffin. Satoshi Repulsed to continue the beats. After a kicked Probe and a Simoon, things settled down. Satoshi's forces were again swept away by Breath of Darigaaz, the life totals even at ten. Johns played his last card: Llanowar Knight.
Satoshi cast a Lancer with kicker. Johns topdecked the incredible Charging Troll. Unfazed, Satoshi summoned Goham Djinn. Johns snuck in three points of damage while Nakamura was tapped out. On his next turn, he held back and cast his Sunscape Apprentice. Nakamura took the opportunity to Blow away Johns' Fertile Ground, finding a Faerie Squadron. Johns pounded his deck with his fist. It yielded Armadillo Cloak. He went deep into the Think Tank before deciding to enchant the Troll. He swung and Satoshi blocked with the Djinn. The Apprentice caused one damage to spill onto Satoshi.
Satoshi had the second Blow, and looked to be in good position to stabilize. Johns cast a pair of Rampant Elephants, but Nakamura had kept pace with blockers, and Scott did not have enough green mana to Falter for the win. Time was called on Johns' turn.
Turn one of the extra turns saw Satoshi create a Stormscape Apprentice. At the end of that turn, Johns Harrowed into an additional Forest. He calculated the attack over and over, but could only force through five damage. Satoshi was at six. If he had anything up his sleeve, anything at all, Johns would lose. He eventually threw caution to the wind, and sent in the clowns. He forced all but one of Nakamura's creatures to block one of his Elephants, resulting in the death of the Apprentice. The remaining one, a Glimmering Angel, jumped in front of the Troll. Satoshi drew, and saw only creatures. He counterattacked, but without tricks, it was hopeless. The Troll died at the hands of the Djinn, and Johns attacked again for the win.
Unfortunately, neither the players nor the spectators noticed that one of the creatures blocking the Elephant was the kicked Lancer. Its first strike ability would mean that the Rampant Elephant would not get to deal damage. As a result, the Apprentice should have lived, and been around to tap Johns' only blocker, clearing the way for lethal damage. This regrettable oversight cost Satoshi the match.