What do you want when you have seven Grand Prix wins, with nearly two dozen total Top 8 appearances alongside them already? Another win, obviously.
The several-time former Player of the Year and 11th-ranked Yuuya Watanabe had marched through the final matches of Grand Prix Washington D.C. in his attempt to secure an eighth Grand Prix title. As one of the world-traveling monstrous masters of the Grand Prix state, Watanabe was a player you never counted out and never stopped battling.
Mike Sigrist didn’t carry over a decade of Grand Prix wins to his name, but his Top 8 appearance at Grand Prix Richmond and a ninth-place finish at Grand Prix Philadelphia this year put him firmly into a class of rising stars. Cutting a similar run through the Top 8, Sigrist was more than ready to take on a champion like Watanabe.
Of course, nobody told either they needed to be serious about the whole affair.
"Let's trade one card!" Sigrist offered an Ordeal of Thassa after fishing it out of his sideboard. Watanabe smiled and laughed along, humoring him by pulling three cards from his deck face down and shuffling them. "That's not fair! Mine's from the sideboard!"
A moment later it dawned on Sigrist he was going first, even as the seventh seed of the Top 8.
"I get to choose to go first! How lucky is this?" Sigrist said.
"Eighth place. Seventh place." Watanabe waved at himself and Sigrist, agreeing at the unlikely outcome.
"This is great! Maybe being on the draw is good?"
They laughed again. Smiles and shuffling are a reassuring sight for the finals of a Grand Prix.
The first game started with a stumble for Sigrist, who missed his third land drop for several turns. While Mogis's Warhound was diminished by Cast into Darkness from Watanabe, double Nyxborn Rollicker let the stymied player push through damage anyway.
Watanabe's Marshmist Titan threatened to stop the assault, so Sigrist delayed it another turn with Hubris to find time for a third land. When the Warhound eventually ran into the Titan, Hour of Need turned the tables to put a 4/4 flying Sphinx onto the battlefield. Ahead on life, Sigrist was making a show of what a little mana could do.
Brain Maggot let Watanabe take Stormchaser Chimera from Sigrist's hand, revealing plenty of other action to follow. With 11 life to Watanabe's 12, Sigrist looked to find the right route to take out of the pinch he was in. Putting Watanabe down to 7 life, Sigrist played his fourth land and Triton Cavalry to at least represent a block. Watanabe decided to attack anyway, casting Sip of Hemlock to kill the Sphinx token after Sigrist declined to block.
At 3 life Sigrist seemed out of options. Bouncing Brain Maggot with Triton Cavalry, Sigrist attacked to drop Watanabe to 3 life as well. Like in his quarterfinal match, Cast into Darkness was waiting to clear the last blocker, a lonely Nyxborn Rollicker, for Watanabe.
Sigrist 0 – Watanabe 1
Leading with a second-turn Brain Maggot in the second game revealed Sigrist's hand skewed towards land to Watanabe, but Magma Spray ensured Stormchaser Chimera came down for Sigrist on a timely fourth turn anyway. Prescient Chimera followed, and Sigrist's aerial army was online.
The small creatures Watanabe offered to fend off the Kraken wasn't enough as Sigrist bestowed Nimbus on the Shipbreaker to put all of his forces in the air. Watanabe blocked the onslaught as well as he could, staying afloat at 9 life but without an obvious way to stop the flying Kraken. Feast of Dreams was, however, and Watanabe followed it up with Sip of Hemlock on Prescient Chimera on his turn proper.
Sigrist had been waiting.
Sigrist's Hour of Need trap was sprung, undoing Watanabe's hard work stabilizing. With a fresh flying army facing an depleted hand, Sigrist flew to victory from there.
Sigrist 1 – Watanabe 1
Triton Shorestalker was an intruging start for Sigrist, and Watanabe took no chances by casting Viper's Kiss immediately. If Ordeal of Purphoros or Ordeal of Thassa were in Sigrist's hand, they'd have to wait. Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass was more than enough for both Grim Guardian and Spiteful Returned to handle, and it got even bigger when Ordeal of Purphoros was placed upon it.
Watanabe had been right with having Viper's Kiss at the ready, but he still needed more answers.
Sigrist looked in command of the game, even after Watanabe bestowed Nyxborn Eidolon on Grim Guardian so it could profitably trade with Sigrist's champion. At least until Nimbus Naiad was bestowed in reply by Sigrist. Falling to 5 life Watanabe was forced to put his trust in Eater of Hope, and hope Sigrist couldn't simply clear it out of the way.
Sigrist attacked, using the completed Ordeal of Purphoros to kill Spiteful Returned and pump the flying Cyclops enough to eat the Eater. Watanabe drew for his turn and humbly extended his hand: An eighth Grand Prix win would have to wait. It was Sigrist's time to shine.
Mike Sigrist defeated (11) Yuuya Watanabe, 2-1, becoming champion of Grand Prix Washington D.C.!