Posted in NEWS on December 22, 2013

The Matchup

Tomoharu Saito, renowned deckbuilder and one of Japan's all-time greats, trying to re-establish himself after coming off suspension, up against amateur Kenji Matsuda, who fought his way to 3-0 with the help of just one bye.

Saito is playing Blue-White Control, relying on a suite of countermagic and planeswalkers backed by Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation. Matsuda is playing the new Black-White deck that pairs the Thoughtseize/Pack Rat "combo" with a number of powerful cards, most notably Blood Baron of Vizkopa.

The Games

After Matsuda mulliganed, he opened the match with Thoughtseize. Saito showed him a hand of two Supreme Verdicts, Dissolve, and three lands. Matsuda took Dissolve, but didn't have the Pack Rat follow-up. The parade of threats started on turn four with Desecration Demon. Saito wrathed it away. Matsuda tried a second, but it was locked under Detention Sphere. A third Demon forced out the second Supreme Verdict. Now that the way was clear, Matsuda dropped Blood Baron of Vizkopa. It resolved.

Saito had no immediate answer and took four. Matsuda added Xathrid Necromancer to his team and watched as Saito tapped his seven mana to draw four with Sphinx's Revelation. Saito untapped and thought hard for half a minute. Had he missed on a way to get rid of the Blood Baron? No. He calmly tapped four for a third Supreme Verdict, then paid two life to Hallowed Fountain so that he could get Jace, Architect of Thought online immediately. Elspeth, Sun's Champion took care of yet another Demon before falling to Mutavaults, but Saito had a second copy of the mighty planeswalker and started to grow an army of tokens. Dissolve on Obzedat, Ghost Council followed by a Sphinx's Revelation for eight was enough to convince Matsudo to move to game two.

Saito 1 - Matsuda 0

The second game was a slow burn, in stark contrast to the first. After Syncopating Matsuda's Xathrid Necromancer, Saito had to watch him resolve a pair of Pithing Needles, locking out both Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Duress forced Saito to cast Sphinx's Revelation for three, and he turned over a hand full of duds: 2 Jace, an Elspeth, Supreme Verdict, Last Breath, and lands. Matsuda stripped away the Verdict, and soon added Blood Baron to the board, beginning the assault.

Saito bought himself a turn by playing out the useless Elspeth, which Matsuda was happy to attack and knock off the board. When Saito played one of his Jaces, Matsuda decided to leave it on the board and start working on Saito's life total. Saito had two Mutavaults, and activated both, preparing to block. Matsuda immediately played Hero's Downfall, and then realised his error as Saito was now free to let the Blood Baron through. Thoughtseize from Matsuda left Saito with a blank hand.

Fortune was kind to Saito, and served up a Sphinx's Revelation. Saito drew six. Among them was a Detention Sphere to knock out both Pithing Needles. Jace hit play to slow the bleeding and was soon joined by Elspeth. Matsuda tried Renounce the Guilds. Saito Dissolved. He played a second, and it resolved, but Saito had another Detention Sphere in reserve. Soon Matsuda was down to no cards in hand and Saito was resolving a Revelation for ten. Matsuda extended the hand.

Tomoharu Saito defeats Kenji Matsuda 2-0

The Aftermath

I spoke briefly with Saito and he said that this was not that difficult a matchup, despite the presence of Blood Baron. Between Elspeth and Supreme Verdicts he has more than enough answers. Against regular mono-black he is forced to play control-on-control and fight through Underworld Connections, but Black-White is a much more straightforward battle.