Shadowing Satoshi Nakamura

Posted in Event Coverage

By Wizards of the Coast

by Adrian Sullivan

Satoshi Nakamura is perhaps the most recognized player from Asia. Satsoshi first gained widespread notice at the 1998 Magic Invitational where his unconventional deckbuilding and a flair for unusual hats made him hard to miss. With a handful of Grand Prix Top Eight finishes, the Grand Prix Sapporo Champion is hoping to make a big splash.

Satoshi sat down to draft at a table full of big names. He was hoping to draft Green/Red and have a lot of creatures, but right from the beginning, he started in with White/Blue instead. To his right, Frenchmen Nicolas Labarre was drafting an unusual Green/Red splashing Blue for Repulses, while old school Tongo Nation Pro Pete Leiher's deck was anchored with the very strong Darigaaz the Igniter.

"I am playing against many strong players, and the cards were very strong but because of the people next to me I couldn't draft what I wanted. I ended up having to decide between White or Black to go with the Blue. Humphries was a few people away and took many of the Black cards. I didn't care about Labarre taking Blue cards. I cared about the player across the table going Black/Blue/White taking all of my cards, and I care that Humphries was taking Black/Blue."

Satoshi hoped to be mostly a two color deck with a splash of either Black or White, but he was wary of going for the highly contested Black cards instead of the less powerful White cards.

"I didn't want to be a three color deck. I just wanted to splash a color."

Satoshi is looking forward to doing well in this draft. "I don't think I drafted a good deck, because the colors aren't right. I went 3-0 last draft wearing my new hat, and so I hope to do well in this draft so that I can maybe make the hat into a good Lucky Charm."

Satoshi Nakamura

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Match 1 - Scott Johns

Many of the players, Satoshi included, felt that Scott had the best deck at their table. Scott's deck was Green/White with a splash for Red, and included a very tight mana curve and numerous Wax/Wanes and an Explosive Growth. Meteor Swarm and Armadillo Cloak supplied some of the over-the-top power necessary to a mostly Green/White deck.

Satoshi stabilized the ground with Lancer and other cards, but was taking a few points of damage in the air from Scott's Razorfoot Griffin. After fully locking up the ground, Satoshi used Exotic Curse to clear the air, and killed Scott with a few fliers. In the next game, Scott had a slow start, and was stopped completely by Satoshi's Teferi's Moat. A timely Wax/Wane combined with a large draw of creatures brought Satoshi low enough that Meteor Swarm finished the job.

Game three was perhaps the most interesting. Satoshi started the offensive first, with a Galina's Knight and Tower Drake. Scott brought out a Sunscape Apprentice and Verduran Emissary to return fire, and followed it up with a Razorfoot Griffin.

Nearly tapped out, Scott feel back a pace to Satoshi's Repulse, and was forced to discard it on Satoshi's turn when Satoshi played a Probe with kicker. After Satoshi's attack, Scott was at 14, and he traded his Apprentice for the Galina's Knight. Simoon killed the Tower Drake on Scott's turn and the only creature left on the table was Verduran Emissary.

Satoshi rebuilt his forces on the next turn with a Shoreline Raider and the first of his two Stormscape Apprentices. Scott came back in with his Verduran Emissary, and then blew up the world with a Breath of Darigaaz. Both players were left at 10 life. Scott played out his last card, a Llanowar Knight.

The next few turns were a flamboyant build up of creatures. Satoshi's army soon included a Goham Djinn as well as a Benalish Lancer and a Faerie Squadron with Kicker, while Scott added a Charging Troll and Sunscape Apprentice to his own lineup. At the end of Scott's turn, Satoshi used Dismantling Blow with kicker and had 5 cards to play with on his own turn. With things looking bleak, Scott drew an Explosive Growth and a Armadillo Cloak, and came in with the Cloak on his Troll. Satoshi blocked with his Goham Djinn, and the Sunscape Apprentice brought Satoshi down 1 life to 6, bringing Scott back to 16.

Satoshi returned fire with a Faerie Squadron to bring Scott to 13, and then Dismantling Blew with Kicker for a second time to remove the powerful Armadillo Cloak. Scott's next turn play of Rampant Elephant would threaten to end Satoshi's defense. Satoshi attacked again to bring Scott to 10, and put a Glimmering Angel into play. The Angel bought Satoshi at least one turn, since the Rampant Elephant could not clear all of Satoshi's blockers. Scott could bring Satoshi to 1, but no lower. Scott decided to wait another turn, and lay a second Rampant Elephant.

Satoshi dropped yet another creature to hold the fort, but could no longer attack with the Squadron if he wanted to survive. Scott did the math, and realizing he could not finish Satoshi off, held back another turn. "What an amazing game," said Scott.

Satoshi agreed, joking that it was like Magic: the Puzzling.

Satoshi dropped his second Stormscape Apprentice, and was in serious shape to take over the match. At the end of Scott's turn, Scott cast Harrow to add two more Forests and power up his Elephant. On his own turn, Scott attacked with everything, and forced everything but the Glimmering Angel to block his Elephant. With just enough to kill Satoshi unless he chump-blocked the Charging Troll with his Glimmering Angel, Scott lost his Elephant and very importantly, killed the Sunscape Apprentice. Satoshi was left at 1.

Satoshi looked at the table, and counting up the damage he could do in an all out attack, found he could reduce Scott to exactly 1 as well. With not enough to survive Scott's next turn, and no answer in hand, Satoshi conceded the match.

Sadly, after the match, it was discovered that Satoshi's dead Apprentice should have survived the Elephant's attack. Since Satoshi had a Benalish Lancer with Kicker, the First Strike should have eliminated the Elephant before it could deal damage to the Apprentice. Both players agree that the oversight very likely cost Satoshi the match.

"I needed either a Teferi's Moat or an Exotic Curse to have a chance. But, even if I had the Moat, he might have a Wax/Wane to eliminate it, so really I only could do one thing: my chance is with the Curse. I don't know if Scott noticed it and overlooked it, but the risk of something happening to him if he was caught versus the reward for just pretending everything was okay was huge. Many others overlooked it, though, too."

For full coverage of this match, click here

Round 2 - Nicolas Labarre

"His deck doesn't bother me."

Satoshi wasn't the only one who wasn't impressed by Labarre's deck. Labarre himself felt that his deck was a mess. Trying for a Green/Red deck, Labarre ended up with a Five-Color Green deck helped out with a few Harrows to fix the mana.

In the first game, Satoshi and Nicolas started an early creature race. Satoshi Repulses to steal a bit of Labarre's tempo and Labarre quickly comes back with a Repulse of his own to bring the game a bit more even. The exchange bought Satoshi enough time to safely lay a Teferi's Moat to keep Nicolas from attacking with anything useful. Eventually, a few fliers ended Labarre's hopes, and without a way to remove the Moat, they moved on to the next game.

The second game was similar, with a creature race starting early. Labarre's creatures were coming out a bit quicker, and he started Kamikaze attacking his creatures into Satoshi's building defense. With Satoshi reduced to 5, a Tribal Flames for 5 killed Satoshi, even though Labarre was basically left with nothing else.

The final game was similar to the first. A complicated race ensued, with Satoshi going low on life, but Labarre losing creatures with every turn, very similar to the first game. Labarre reduced Satoshi to 2 at the end of his turn with a Stormscape Apprentice, but was in dire straights, needing to topdeck any direct damage for the win. Failing to draw anything, he conceded. Satoshi smiled and showed his insurance.

"Samite Ministrations," he said, pointing to Labarre's burn in the graveyard to indicate he was ready for whatever Labarre would draw.

"It was a close game. I hope that it goes well for me next round."

Round 3 - David Humphries

Dave Humphries had frustrated Satoshi in the draft. More than anyone else, Dave took cards that would have been able to make it into Satoshi's deck. Playing a largely Black/Blue deck with a splash of White, Dave had Rout and numerous discard, but with three Recoils to deal with Satoshi's problem card for Labarre: the Moat.

Unsurprisingly, it was the Teferi's Moat that shut down Dave's initial offense of Duskwalker and Vodalian Serpent. A Recoil kept the Moat of the table for a turn, but it was only a temporary solution. The Moat came back, and Satoshi continued with his regular plan of building up fliers. Dave slowed down the aerial assault with Shackles, and played an Alloy Golem to have some sort of offense.

Vodalian Serpent with Kicker ended that hope. A few turns pass without much happening for Dave, and he dies to the aerial assault.

The next game featured a fast race, with Satoshi in the air and Dave on the ground. Dave Routed and then came back with new creatures. While Satoshi had two bounce spells, Dave's bounce more than overwhelmed the game as the match progressed, and it was on to game three.

Game three was fairly slow for some time. Satoshi found himself low on mana, while Humphries was mana-flooded. Satoshi spent several turns discarding, and Dave merely built up his mana-base. Satoshi had 5 three casting cost spells in his hand, but wouldn't for much longer.

Dave drew a Probe.

The Probe brought Dave into three new spells, and Satoshi dropped to five cards. On Satoshi's next turn, he still didn't find a land, and Dave started dropping creatures. Satoshi gets his land on the next turn and begins to lay creatures, only to have Dave first Recoil, then Repulse, and then Recoil his creatures. When Dave followed up his last bounce with Hypnotic Cloud, Satoshi found himself with literally no threats, and only land to answer Dave's creatures, now complemented with a Benalish Herald. Things didn't last too long from there.

After the Match

Satoshi was fairly cheery after the match.

"This is Magic. There is always a possibility of not having the mana. A game loss will happen. You only hope it doesn't happen too much."

Satoshi's initial discomfort with his deck ("This deck is bad, very bad...") has worn off. Most games, it seems, the same set of situations happen: Satoshi stabilizes the ground with large creatures like Vodalian Serpent and Stormscape Apprentice or he holds off the ground with a Moat, and then his large numbers of fliers take over the late game.

"The deck plays out better than I thought. I knew I might lose to Dave if he drew his Rout, but I brought in Twilight's Call just in case. Even in that last game when I had nothing in hand, I could come back if I drew it, because I discarded all of my creatures."

Despite liking his deck more, Satoshi plans to draw into Day 2 if given the opportunity.

"I haven't figured out if I can, but I will draw in if I get the chance."

The next round will be crucial for Satoshi Nakamura. We'll be sure to show you more coverage of Satoshi if he continues to Day Two.

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