ROUND 8: (11) SAMUEL BLACK VS. (9) YUUYA WATANABE

Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 3, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

After some less familiar drafting yesterday, it was clearly a bit comforting for players to move back into the well-worn, intimately known waters of Khans of Tarkir. Having just hosted a Pro Tour that featured the format, every single player knew precisely what they were doing as we moved into the start of Day Two.

Certainly No. 11 Sam Black and No. 9 Yuuya Watanabe, who had matching 4-3 records yesterday, were eager to move past positive but unexciting records from Day One. Black had started strong, finishing 2-1 in Vintage Masters, but stumbled out of the gate in Modern before picking up two wins to the end day above .500. (Read Black's full profile.)

Watanabe, meanwhile, had to rally to get where he was, taking down the final three rounds to recover from a 1-3 start. For a player who has won this tournament before—back in 2012—dropping further down would have been a massive disappointment. (Read his full profile.)

Both knew exactly what they had to do and how to do it. And, by the looks of their decks, they had certainly entered their comfort zone.

Both Samuel Black and Yuuya Watanabe are hoping to bounce back after a rough first day of competition.

The Decks

Watanabe looked like he had a strong Temur list, starting with Savage Knuckleblade and not dropping off much in power level from there.

Black, meanwhile, had concocted a four-color deck, splashing for Zurgo Helmsmasher and Mardu Charm to accompany a mostly Abzan base. He added two Abzan Charms to his Mardu one, and also had a Death Frenzy to clean up the board should he need to. He certainly had the power to keep up with Watanabe as long as his mana held up its end of the bargain. It appeared he had the fixing to make it work, but the true test was about to start.

The Games

Black easily hit his colors early, ensuring he could cast his powerful spells on time and on target. He started with a couple low drops and began to develop his board before finding out Rakshasa's Secret, forcing Watanabe to discard two cards.

One of those cards was the typically strong Force Away, but it indicated Watanabe was missing blue mana. He hadn't much need of it yet, but he certainly would.

On turn five, Black tapped five mana and Watanabe, expecting Zurgo Helmsmasher, reached for his life pad immediately. When Black dropped a Sagu Archer, the Japanese pro looked relieved.

"Yeah, this is probably a lot better for you," Black said.

The fact that it wasn't Zurgo meant Watanabe could start putting some pressure on Black. A Summit Prowler and Mardu Heart-Piercer managed to take down a 0/5 Wall, but Black was quite ready with yet more high-toughness creatures to stem the tide. War Behemoth effectively ended any and all attacks, and Hooting Mandrills tied up the ground even further.

Black's draft deck threatens a diverse collection of threats, spread across multiple colors.

This is how things went for several turns, both players adding to the board, but unable to break through. With no evasive creatures on the board for either player, attacking was a losing proposition for both pros.

Death Frenzy was the first major blow to the board stall, taking out two of Watanabe's creatures and allowing Black to attack in for a whopping two damage, all while gaining back a few life.

A less cluttered board allowed Watanabe to attack as well, and soon the battlefield was back to a manageable level.

Eventually, what we were looking at was a War Behemoth on Black's side holding off three creatures for Watanabe. Unfortunately for Black, one of those creatures was a Longshot Squad which, eventually, outlasted Black's 3/6 Behemoth.

See what I did there?

Ahem. At any rate, Black didn't draw anything useful to deal with the 6/6 on Watanabe's side, eventually forcing him to scoop up his cards with a quiet shrug.

The second game started with a bit of mana trouble for each player. Watanabe was missing the green that would have let him unleash his Savage Knuckleblade. Black, awkwardly, was missing black mana at first, and red mana after he found an Abzan Banner.

Watanabe's Temur deck, like many decks in this format, requires a large number of colors to operate on all cylinders.

That lack of red mana lingered ominously over the game when Black revealed Zurgo Helmsmasher to flip a Ruthless Ripper, letting Watanabe know where his fate would fall should Black ever find his fourth color.

Meanwhile, Watanabe was still struggling to find his third, his hand increasingly locked in place by the lack of Forests. He managed to hold off a Hooting Mandrills with a 2/2 and a 2/3, but he would need to find some help before Black found the mana to cast the Mardu khan.

The light for Watanabe, however, was that Black, while he wasn't drawing red mana, was certainly drawing other lands.

"I have not drawn well this game," he mused, playing his ninth land of the game.

It was Watanabe who was first able to break serve with a Forest, enabling him to flip up a Snowhorn Rider, increasing his pressure and pushing the game to a point where even Zurgo might not matter.

Ultimately, Black could do little but watch as Watanabe, finally free of his mana troubles, threw down creature after creature. When the final blow was delivered, Black simply flipped up a hand of three lands, shrugged—and started talking Magic again.

"Do you think I should have chosen to draw first?" Black asked his opponent. "I have so much removal. So it's close."

Watanabe indicated that his deck was aggressive enough that he might not want to, but agreed, with the removal Black could have at his disposal, it might be close.

Of course, that would require drawing non-land cards.

Now at 5-3 and with a strong draft deck, could Watanabe possibly repeat? There were six rounds to find out, but not a single person in the room would think of doubting him.

Black 0 – Watanabe 2