by Matthew Vienneau
Kai Budde entered this round with a terrible burden weighing him down - he was 0-8 so far in the Invitational and rapidly becoming the butt of many a joke - even from Gary Wise who had a 2-13 record at last year's Invitational. Yoshikazu Ishii was 4-4 and looked determined to do Japan proud by finishing the second day with a greater than even record.
Ishii built a fast green/white/red deck that wanted to come out quickly and it did. His second turn Skyshroud Elf helped bring out a turn three Spirit Weaver and Llanowar Knight. Kai struggled to find a spell that cost less than six mana and decided to Mind Harness the Llanowar Knight to give him an early game blocker. Ishii refused to let up as he played a Mana Prism and a Knight of Dawn. Kai was forced to give up the Mind Harness and return the Llanowar Knight so that he could cast a Zanam Djinn.
The Djinn should have done the job but it was quickly Walloped and the board was clear for Ishii to attack with all three of his creatures. Kai had Zanam's black brother in play the next turn but the Gorham Djinn was unable to stop the two protected from black Knights. Kai finally drew the Plains that would allow him to cast the multiple white spells in his hand, but it was too late as Ishii used Surge of Strength to burst through a Lotus Guardian for the win.
Kai's opening hand was full of good creatures but they were all expensive. He kept a Swamp, Island, Lotus Guardian, Crypt Angel, Karmic Guide, Barbed Back Wurm and Fylmarid. Ishii came out fast with a turn two Fertile Ground and a turn three Wildfire Emissary that Kai's Fylmarid just wasn't going to stop. Kai's turn four Rainbow Crow was equally helpless especially when Ishii played Scragnoth and then gave it +2/+2 with Armor of Thorns and cast Cinder Seer.
It looked like Kai was headed for the ignominy of a 0-9 start but he drew a Plains and after Exiling the Scragnoth was suddenly in a much better, though still not very good, position. Ishii's deck started running out of steam as he revealed only one red card in his hand and cast an Elvish Healer. Kai's high quality opening hand began to look pretty good as he dropped a Barbed Back Wurm, Crypt Angel and Karmic Guide (bringing back a Lotus Guardian he discarded to the Krovikan Sorcerer). Despite slightly mistapping his lands and instantly realizing it, Kai was in no danger as Ishii was unable to match his card quality.
Again Ishii starts quickly with a turn two Quirion Elf and turn three Fertile Ground and Yavimaya Barbarian. Kai tried to buy some time by Exiling the Barbarian only to have Ishii play the popular Kookus! While Kookus is more popular with the fun players, Kai's next play - Tsabo's Assassin - is very popular with tournament players. It was quickly apparent why as Kai systematically destroyed every single one of Ishii's creatures. Ishii attempted to race with Kookus and a hasted Halam Djinn, but Kai had more big black creatures to give the Assassin time to do his dirty work.
Most of the players had an issue with Volrath's Laboratory being included in the draft but not any artifact removal. Ishii played the Lab but the Assassin easily handled any tokens it created. Ironically, Ishii was desperate for artifact removal as Kai's Lotus Guardian began serving for four each turn and there was nothing Ishii could do.
Kai kept drawing land and only cast six spells the entire game, but they were of such high quality that he was able to win the match! As it was announced to the room, everyone burst into cheers and Kai is able to enter the third day of competition in good spirits.
Kai Budde 2
Yoshikazu Ishii 1