Makihito Mihara (Valakut) vs. Ryuuichirou Ishida (Tempered Steel)
Tomoya Fujimoto (Green-White) vs. Yoshihiko Ikawa (Tempered Steel)
Both players arrive here in the semifinals knowing that they will both be on the plane for Worlds in San Francisco. The winner here advances to the title match, while the loser faces the toughest match of the Magic year, coming off a loss before facing the 3rd/4th playoff which will determine the final member of the National team for Worlds.
Neither player dropped a game in the opening elimination round, so come here ready to battle with confidence.
Ishida began with a double mulligan, so his chance for an explosive start was small, especially as he was on the draw. Evolving Wilds began the match, before Ishida had Memnite into Glint Hawk into Memnite. Oh, ok then, explosive start after all. Mihara cast Rampant Growth on turn two, his own version of the explosive start, and we were under way.
Ishida attacked for three, cast Vault Skirge, but couldn't improve his position further, having no second land. That wasn't a problem for Mihara, who cast Cultivate to take him to five mana on turn three, one of which was Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. He was already up to three Mountains. No second land was waiting for Ishida who attacked for four, before seeing Mihara land Primeval Titan, fetching a second Valakut and a fourth Mountain. Best guess? 1-0 to Mihara...
Ishida took one more look for a second land, didn't find it, but continued to push in, dropping Mihara to ten. He cast Glint Hawk, returned his Memnite, and recast it. Primeval Titan attacked, Mihara found two Mountains, and best guess became fact moments later.
Mihara 1 - 0 Ishida
On the second table things were going rather better for the Tempered Steel player, with Yoshihiko Ikawa up a game over his green-white opponent Tomoya Fujimoto.
Ikawa 1 - 0 Fujimoto
Ishida was happy to keep his opening seven, beginning with Vault Skirge and Memnite on turn one. Turn two saw him attack for two, cast Glint Hawk Idol, and pass, leaving Mihara to fetch a Forest from his opening Evolving Wilds. Rampant Growth was all he could expect from turn two, but that opened the way for plenty of beats on turn three.
Tempered Steel meant Mihara took ten damage from the Glint Hawk Idol, Memnite, and Vault Skirge, with Mox Opal activating the Idol before attacking. Mihara was - as they say - dead on the desk, and he had no answer to the blistering opening from Ishida.
Mihara 1 - 1 Ishida
If you thought it was blistering here, you should have seen the other table! TWO games had been completed while these two were 'slogging' their way through game two, meaning it was time to check in on the other semifinal before it was done!
Ikawa 1 - 2 Fujimoto
Ikawa had two Memnite and an Origin Spellbomb token early in game four, while Fujimoto also had early action with Birds of Paradise, Lotus Cobra, and Nest Invader. Ikawa landed Tempered Steel and swung for the fences. He had three cards in hand to Fujimoto's four, with Fujimoto happy to lose his Nest Invader token to soak up some damage.
He cast a second Lotus Cobra and then Acidic Slime for the Tempered Steel. Nest Invader and Lotus Cobra attacked, leaving Ikawa at sixteen. He had another Tempered Steel at the ready, with Acidic Slime taking out a Memnite.
For six mana Fujimoto cast Wurmcoil Engine, and we had reached the pivotal moment. If Ikawa could deal with it, he still had the chance to force Fujimoto to block unprofitably. If the Wurmcoil got to attack, Fujimoto would be heading out of sight. Revoke Existence from Ikawa answered that question, and he attacked once more. Nest Invader and Lotus Cobra blocked the Memnite, trading two-for-one, and Fujimoto was down to just two life. Down came Vault Skirge for Ikawa.
Fujimoto drew for the turn, and cast Hero of Bladehold, emptying his hand with Stirring Wildwood. Ikawa attacked with the Vault Skirge, forcing Fujimoto to block with Birds of Paradise. Now Fujimoto needed a flyer, and he didn't get one...
Ikawa 2 - 2 Fujimoto
Across the hall, Tempered Steel now led the match 2-1, Ishida having come from behind to lead Mihara's Valakut deck.
Now we got ready for game five, still only half an hour into these semifinals! Fujimoto kept his opening seven, while Ikawa thought for a moment before setting the game in motion. Stirring Wildwood for Fujimoto met Vault Skirge from Ikawa. Fujimoto had Lotus Cobra on turn two, sending Ikawa deep into thought. For the second match running he was in an intricate game five.
In came the Vault Skirge. Glint Hawk Idol was Ikawa's play. Fujimoto's play was more exciting, using Lotus Cobra to help cast Hero of Bladehold, and then attacking with the Cobra, dropping Ikawa to seventeen. It looked as if Fujimoto was winning this particular episode of 'Who's the Beatdown?'
Spellskite from Ikawa triggered the Glint Hawk Idol, before he spilled Memnite and Signal Pest onto the table. Fujimoto had the perfect answer in Creeping Corrosion! It wasn't just the perfect answer for the turn, it was the perfect answer for the match, as Ikawa was quick to extend the hand in congratulation.
Yoshihiko Ikawa 2 - 3 Tomoya Fujimoto
Meanwhile in game four of the other semifinal, Ryuuichirou Ishida had Signal Pest, Memnite, Inkmoth Nexus, and Steel Overseer, all with two counters on them, facing Primeval Titan, Overgrown Battlement, and Tumble Magnet for Mihara. Two counters became three, and Ishida had a total of three copies of Inkmoth Nexus. Mihara, however, had a second copy of Primeval Titan arriving, and that was enough to force a deciding game five, which would see Ishida on the play with his Tempered Steel deck.
Mihara 2 - 2 Ishida
The first battle of the last battle was won by Ishida when he kept his opening seven and Mihara mulliganed. He kept six, and we were away, with turn one Vault Skirge and a Mox Opal for Ishida. Mihara laid Evolving Wilds. Turn two, and Ishida attacked, and dropped Shrine of Loyal Legions and a Signal Pest. He also had Contested War Zone in play, which might well be a factor. Evolving Wilds became a Mountain, and a turn two Forest led to his customary acceleration via Rampant Growth. How he must have wished for a Pyroclasm instead...
Porcelain Legionnaire joined the team, putting a second counter on the Shrine. Land four for Mihara, and that was enough for both Rampant Growth and Overgrown Battlement. The pressure was intense, and Mihara was clearly feeling it.
Ishida added a third counter to his Shrine, and Mihara elected not to block when Ishida sent in the team. Knowing that Mihara had to deal with what was on board, Ishida kept his three cards in hand back for a potential second wave - or third, given that the legions were on the way. Mihara, though, had kept his Overgrown Battlement safe for a reason. He cast a second Overgrown Battlement, tapped the first for two mana, taking him to five and casting Green Sun's Zenith for Oracle of Mul Daya. The top card of his deck was Cultivate, but Mihara had a Terramorphic Expanse ready to spin the wheel on the top of his deck.
Now the top was revealed as a Primeval Titan, causing a sharp intake of breath from the large crowd.
Ishida started doing the math, and made three tokens with his Shrine at end of turn. He untapped with a mighty army ready to rumble, and sent them in, activating the Contested War Zone. Mihara fell to just one life. He drew, but had no answer, and an ecstatic Ryuuichirou Ishida raised his hands aloft in triumph. He was through to a championship matchup against Tomoya Fujimoto, while Mihara would take on Yoshihiko Ikawa for the final slot on the National team.
Makihito Mihara 2 - 3 Ryuuichirou Ishida