Saturday, 8:56 p.m. – Battle of the Champions

Posted in Event Coverage on July 16, 2011

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

With the main event over for the day, it's time to turn our attention to the Battle of the Champions. This has been generating a lot of interest in Japan, and it's a pretty neat idea all round, which could easily spread to other Nationals over the next few years. Here's the English version of what appeared on our sister site a few weeks ago:

Magic is a game with a long history. This year will mark the occasion of the release of the latest Core Set, Magic 2012, as well as the 16th National Championship. To date, there have been 13 national champions (the number is lower than that of events due to two repeat champions). While the game has a rich history, Magic is also constantly refreshing itself, changing each year with the release of new expansions that add depth and variety to play.

Regardless of any changes, however, there is one constant: the National Champion is the best player of any given year. But, have you ever asked yourself, of all the different people to hold the title, which champion was the best? Is it Tsuyoshi Fujita, so far the only Japanese member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame? Takuma Morofuji, who led Japan to its team victory in 2005 at Yokohama, the same year Japan captured the individual World Championship title as well as Player of the Year? Katsuhiro Mori, two-time Champion as well as World Champion? And don't forget Masashi Oiso, 2003 Rookie of the Year and 6-time Pro Tour Top 8er, or Shuhei Nakamura, 2008 Player of the Year. All players with impressive resumes, to be sure, but who among them could be considered the all-time champion?

We'll be answering that question this year with the inaugural "Battle of Champions". All past champions have been issued a sponsor's invitation to this year's National Championship; 11 have accepted. Each day after the main event, the champions will play against each other over four Swiss rounds of Super Double Sealed Deck, a format where each player receives 12 packs of the same expansion, in this case Magic 2012, to build a minimum 40-card deck. After the four Swiss round are over, the top two players will build a new deck using the same rules and play off in a best-of-five match to determine the Champion of Champions. The winner will receive a foil set of Magic 2012 and an uncut sheet of cards. The runner-up will receive an uncut sheet of cards. The winner's feat will also be immortalized in a special trophy that will remain part of the National Championship set, traveling with it around the country.

We will of course be providing in-depth coverage of this special exhibition match online so those who are unable to join us in Osaka can follow the action. Until then, I encourage everyone reading this to take some time to look at the coverage of past Nationals in the archives at magicthegathering.com and mtg-jp.com to familiarize yourself with the names and see just how rich and storied the history of our favorite game is.

Although the cards used in those tournaments may be unfamiliar to you, you'll find that it's still Magic. Maybe the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, there you have it, and now the eleven players get to do battle.

There are going to be some fantastic matches played out over the next two evenings, and we've got a great feature match to end the day. Stay tuned!

Battle of Champions Feature Match: Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Masashi Oiso

An incredible start to the Battle of Champions saw these two towering titans of the Japanese Magic scene come face to face in the feature match area. Oiso: SIX Pro Tour top 8s. NINE Grand Prix top 8s. National Champion of 2008. Nakamura: FIVE Pro Tour Top 8s. SEVENTEEN Grand Prix top 8s, with three titles. Player of the Year 2008, and National Champion of 2009.

Fabulous.

Oiso opened with Llanowar Elves, Nakamura with Gideon's Lawkeeper. They surprisingly traded, with Oiso adding Garruk's Companion opposite Merfolk Looter for Nakamura. Oiso enchanted his Companion with Trollhide, making it a prime target for Nakamura's Pacifism. With Merfolk Looter now up and running, Nakamura had blunted the early assault. Blood Ogre as a vanilla 2/2 was no problem for Nakamura.

The 2008 Player of the Year tapped five mana for Belltower Sphinx, and with Serra Angel the following turn it was all going wrong for Oiso, who only had his Blood Ogre and a Goblin Fireslinger that was looking largely irrelevant. Such was the measure of Nakamura's dominance that he discarded Day of Judgment to his Merfolk Looter before casting Gideon Jura.

It will not tax your imagination, reader, to discover that the end followed soon after...

Nakamura 1 - 0 Oiso

The classic turn one Llanowar Elves led Oiso into Sacred Wolf on turn two, with Nakamura using a conventional two mana to cast Alabaster Mage. Trollhide on the Sacred Wolf once again proved an irresistible target, Nakamura using Oblivion Ring to generate a two-for-one.

Lurking Crocodile looked good for Oiso, with Nakamura using Divination to draw two further towards his power cards.

Oiso continued to threaten, dropping Nakamura to nine, before making Blood Ogre a genuine threat. Celestial Purge recognized and dealt with that threat, with Pacifism dealing with the Lurking Crocodile. Still Nakamura was fighting a rearguard action, as Oiso added Crimson Mage to the board.

Day of Judgment

Next from Nakamura - Day of Judgment.

Next from Nakamura - Gideon Jura.

Prepare for either an amazing comeback, or a very quick end...

Masashi Oiso loving the battle

Oiso wasn't done, firing burn spells to drop Nakamura to five, and casting Stingerfling Spider. Belltower Sphinx arrived for Nakamura, allowing Oiso to cast Chandra's Outrage. It didn't kill the Sphinx, but it did put Nakamura to just three life. Surely Oiso couldn't beat the planeswalker? He cast another Chandra's Outrage at Gideon, and now Nakamura was at one.


Next from Oiso - Fireball!!!

Next from Nakamura - Negate!!!!!!

Next from Oiso - Goblin Fireslinger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next from Nakamura - Cancel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shuuhei Nakamura 2 - 0 Masashi Oiso

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