Posted in NEWS on April 13, 2014

By Josh Bennett

The Players

Yuuki Hirabayshi and his teammates at "Chagam Fireball" have become a regular sight at Japanese Grand Prix. What began as a highly informal gaming group from Nagano has become a legitimate team, almost despite its members' best efforts.

Of course, when you put up a 10-1 record, you start running into Bosses. Facing down Tzu Ching Kuo of Team MTG Mint Card (whose roster includes Shi-Tian Lee and Shouta Yasooka) is a far cry from busting your buddies' heads in a pick-up draft.

Yuuki Hirabayashi vs. Tzu Ching Kuo

Both are 2-0 and looking to complete the sweep of Draft 1.

The Decks

Unsurprisingly both decks are powerhouses. Kuo is with a 16-land Red-White heroic deck, and Hirabayashi has a Black-White Control deck. He took his cues from Hall of Famer Frank Karsten, studying his power rankings for Born of the Gods / Theros draft. Opening Herald of Torment put him in black, and the table cooperated, giving him the lion's share. His deck seems like a perfect foil for Kuo's, packed with removal and strong defensive creatures.

The Games

Game one started out in Kuo's favor as he rolled out Akroan Skyguard into Elite Skirmisher. Scholar of Athreos hit play for Hirabashi to snarl the ground. Kuo gave his Skyguard a Dragon Mantle and started to pour his red mana into it when Hirabayashi showed that he was stuck on just three plains.

Yuuki Hirabayashi

It was only a momentary lapse. His deck served up a swamp and he passed the turn with all his mana up, a sure sign of Divine Verdict. Kuo refused to bite, holding his Skyguard back. However, he was drawing a lot of land and couldn't really build an alternate offense. When the following turn yielded nothing he decided to cash in Spark Jolt for a counter on his Skyguard, and Hirabayashi responded with Pharika's Cure to completely shut him down. From there Hirabayshi added Keepsake Gorgon and as more mana came off his deck his Scholar was able to lock up the game.

Hirabayashi 1 - Kuo 0

When you draw up a gameplan for your aggro deck, rarely does it read "Do nothing until you cast a fourth-turn Bronze Sable". Kuo stared across the table at two Returned Phalanxes that left him no room to maneuver. Hirabayshi had no mana troubles this game, and rattled off Pharika's Cure for a tardy Akroan Skyguard, and Asphyxiate for Akroan Conscriptor.

Tzu Ching Kuo

Hirabayashi played it slow and cautious, and Kuo was never able to develop a fighting board. Scholar of Athreos soon showed up and brought inevitability with him. Hirabayashi's teammates quietly pumped their fists as he drained away the last of Kuo's life.

Yuuki Hirabayashi defeats Tzu Ching Kuo 2-0