Tomoharu Saito has to be among the most feared opponents on the Grand Prix circuit. With four wins, and a further fourteen top eight performances, this Japanese pro has plenty of great Grand Prix finishes, as well as substantial Pro Tour success, including being Player of the Year in 2007. Saito is not qualified for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, but with his passion for the game bringing him to Europe this weekend, it seems likely that Saito's time off the tour will be short lived.
Saito's opponent, Lukas Jaklovsky of the Slovak Republic, was treating Grand Prix Warsaw as an important testing session prior to Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. Currently on 21 Pro Points for the year, Jaklovsky isn't currently troubling the top 25 player list, but a good finish in Atlanta could change all that.
Saito felt his deck was 'so-so' at best, a blue white concoction light on true bombs. Meanwhile Jaklovsky was green black splashing red, with an aggressive suite of creatures, and the combat tricks to back them up. The match seemed likely to be a race between Saito's air force, and Jaklovsky's powerful creatures stuck on the ground.
Jaklovsky had a little smirk when the first real play from the Japanese player was a Griffin Dreamfinder. The Slovakian's green black deck was able to put Saito on the back foot from early on, thanks to a Nessian Courser, which was soon enchanted with Feral Invocation. Nessian Demolok soon came along and ate one of those Plains, and while Saito had an Akroan Skyguard to attack, and an Ephara's Warden to block with.
Hunter's Prowess on Nessian Demolok was plenty enough to put Jaklovsky far ahead in the game, a big attack took Saito down to six, and drew Jaklovsky four cards in spite of an Opaline Unicorn jumping under the Demolok bus.
A couple of pump spells on attacks were enough to secure game one for Jaklovsky in what can only be described as a rout.
Jaklovsky 1 - 0 Tomoharu Saito
While Lukas had handily taken down game one, for the next he found himself having to mulligan down to five cards. He had a Nylea's Presence to begin to dig his way out, fixing his mana along the way. That Saito hadn't had a blistering start seemed some consolation. Lagonna-Band Trailblazer was Saito's only play for a number of turns. It eventually got joined by Skyspear Cavalry, giving Saito some sort of offence. Supply-Line Cranes pumped the flying double-striker, and finally Saito was in action. Graverobber Spider came down for Jaklovsky, while Saito went for the deathblow with Archetype of Courage.
At no point had Lukas drawn a land that was not a Forest, and soon it was on to game three as Saito's deck was eventually able to muster the damage needed to finish off a hamstrung Jaklovsky.
Lukas Jaklovsky 1 - 1 Tomoharu Saito
For game three, there would be no mana worries for Jaklovsky, with a turn two Sylvan Caryatid. He soon had a Nessian Courser racing a Vaporkin from Saito. Jaklovsky had the bigger clock, but Saito would have an easier time blocking, as he soon had an Elite Skirmisher in play too.
Wary of tricks, Saito let the Courser through, only to see it joined by a newer centaur warrior in Phere-Band Thunderhoof. This new breed of warrior would be a tougher creature to get in a fight with, so Saito played Fate Foretold on his 3/1, hoping to at least get cards out of any future exchange.
Jaklovsky again got stuck in unimpeded, dropping Saito to 14, and following up with Setessan Oathsworn. The green heroics were potentially quite scary, while Akroan Skyguard and Skyspear Cavalry were Saito's hopes of racing.
Nyxborn Eidolon made Settesan Oathsworn into a 5/4, and Pharika's Cure, the last card in Jaklovsky's hand, killed off Skyspear Cavalry. Jaklovsky rumbled in. Saito went to just 6 life, and wasn't able to offer much in the way of an answer to the big attacks from Jaklovsky. While he was the one with cards in hand, it seemed unlikely they could beat the Slovak player's board. A Fall of the Hammer from Jaklovsky, the first red spell he'd played in the match, was enough to clear a path and secure Lukas the win.
Lukas Jaklovsky wins 2 - 1 over Tomoharu Saito!