In the inaugural season of the Pro Tour Team Series, Genesis and Musashi were the top two performing teams. This means that they earned the right to face off against each other to determine who would get trophies.
For the playoffs, the teams split in two groups of three. Each group was given a Team Sealed pool and tasked with building three 40-card decks from twelve boosters of Ixalan. Their decks were built on Thursday morning and held by the judges while various team members competed in the individual World Championship, but now the time had come to battle. On this first match of Sunday morning, the first group of three faced off against their opposite numbers.
Masashi's first trio was comprised of some of the best current players in Japan:
- Yuuya Watanabe: a member of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, with 573 lifetime Pro Points and four Pro Tour Top 8s to his name.
- Teruya Kakumae: a relatively inexperienced player on the Pro Tour, at least compared to his teammates, but he did already have 3 Grand Prix Top 8s with two wins on his resume.
- Shota Yasooka: another Hall of Famer, considered a control master with 537 lifetime Pro Points who recently became the Pro Tour Kaladesh champion.
Genesis was more of an international collaboration, and their first trio consisted of:
- Thomas Hendriks: Gold level pro from the Netherlands and Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 competitor, who replaced Michael Majors mid-season when Majors started working inside Wizards of the Coast.
- Seth Manfield: The 2015 World Champion, three-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor, and a regular sight at nearly every North American Grand Prix.
- Lukas Blohon: The Pro Tour Eldritch Moon champion from the Czech Republic who is widely considered to be one of the top players from Europe right now.
The two 2016-17 Pro Tour Team Series finalists—Musashi and Genesis—face off to determine who is the team that reigns supreme in their first of a potential three team matches.
Seat A: Yuuya Watanabe (G/U Merfolk) vs. Thomas Hendriks (R/W Dinosaurs)
Watanabe's deck featured 2 One with the Wind and 2 Jade Guardian, which together could yield a powerful 5/5 flying hexproof creature that would be hard to block and nearly impossible to kill. To increase the consistency of assembling his combo, Watanabe's deck had 4 Opt. If the board stalled out, then he could also dig for River's Rebuke.
Hendriks could come out of the gates quickly, as his deck featured multiple copies of Raptor Companion, Territorial Hammerskull, and Pterodon Knight. He could back up his assault with such red spells as Sure Strike or Firecannon Blast, so his deck would have the capability of racing a 5/5 flying hexproof creature.
In Game 1, Hendriks had an aggressive start with 2 Fathom Firebrand and Territorial Hammerskull, while Watanabe's first plays were a turn-four Jade Guardian and a turn-five Tishana's Wayfinder. Although Watanabe had a slower start, he was able to negate Territorial Hammerskull's triggers via hexproof from Jade Guardian and Dive Down. Watanabe then reset the board with River's Rebuke, which bought him a lot of time, but Hendriks rebuilt, used Ixalan's Binding to clear the way, conservatively played around Perilous Voyage, and assembled a lethal attack.
Game 2 was a race where hardly anyone was blocking, thanks to Territorial Hammerskull on Hendriks's side and One with the Wind on Watanabe's side. Watanabe also added Eleborate Firecannon, another way of dealing damage that could not be blocked. In a crucial turn, Hendriks made an all-out attack and had the choice between casting pump spells that could present lethal, or casting Pious Interdiction to pacify the Ixalli's Keeper enchanted with One with the Wind. He chose the latter, which would be better against everything except Dive Down, but Watanabe had the instant and won on the next turn.
Hendriks 2 – Watanabe 1
Seat C – Shota Yasooka (Four-Color Pirates) vs. Lukas Blohon (U/B Pirates)
Yasooka's deck looked like a masterpiece. The core of his deck was a U/B Pirate deck, complete with 2 Pirate's Cutlass and 2 Deadeye Plunderers. But given that he had five Treasure-generating cards along with Glacial Fortress, Musashi figured that they could splash red and white as well in Yasooka's deck. The white splash was for two Call to the Feast, which would work particularly well with Anointed Deacon. The red splash was for Captivating Crew, Lightning-Rig Crew, and Vance's Blasting Cannons.
Blohon's deck may been disguised as another U/B Pirate deck, complete with Pirate's Cutlass and Deadeye Quartermaster to fetch it, but in reality it was more of an Overflowing Insight deck. His game plan was to make trades and hold the ground with such cards as Contract Killing and Sailor of Means, ramp up to seven mana for Overflowing Insight, and bury his opponent in card advantage.
Team Musashi's first squad of Yuuya Watanabe, Teruya Kakumae, and Shota Yasooka managed some interesting decks from their Team Sealed pool.
In Game 1, after conferring with Seth Manfield, Blohon mulliganed a risky hand with one Island and one Opt, but his six-card hand was better. As the game got underway, the board clogged up. To break the board stall, Blohon had Deathless Ancient to attack in the air, but Yasooka had an even better threat: Captivating Crew. He had enough mana to activate it twice per turn, giving Blohon a taste of his own creatures. Without an answer to the 4/3, Blohon succumbed to assaults from his own treacherous creatures.
Game 2 took 26 minutes, involved an Overflowing Insight being cast, a Vance's Blasting Cannons being transformed, and overall was one of the more interesting Limited games to watch this weekend. Be sure to check it out in the Twitch archives if you have a chance. As the game entered the mid-game, Yasooka's Captivating Crew was again dominating the battlefield, while Blohon struggled to find an answer. When Yasooka made a suspicious attack, Blohon gave himself the best chance to win by making an obvious double-block, but Yasooka wasn't going to expose his Captivating Crew like that: He had Skullduggery to save his bomb rare. But then an explore creature revealed Contract Killing on Blohon's deck, and the 4/3 ultimately hit the bin. At that point, Yasooka may have figured that he had the long game locked up with Vance's Blasting Cannons, but Blohon had an even more powerful card draw spell: Overflowing Insight. This gave Blohon enough resources to win the game, and ultimately, after navigating many complicated turns and combat steps, his motley crew of Pirates attacked for the win.
With both players tied, the final game was held to ensure all deciding games would be shown on camera.
Seat B – Teruya Kakumae (Red-White Dinosaurs) vs. Seth Manfield (Blue-Green Merfolk)
Kakumae's deck contained a lot of Dinosaur synergies. He had 2 Kinjalli's Caller along with eleven Dinosaurs to ramp out, so he was capable of some amazing starts. His curve topped with three Shining Aerosaur. Beyond Kinjalli's Caller, he also had Dinosaur Stampede and Thrash of Raptors as notable tribal payoffs.
Manfield's deck had a lot of Merfolk, including multiple copies of River Sneak, Watertrap Weaver, and Storm Sculptor. He backed them up with strong green tribal payoff cards in the form of River Heralds' Boon and Vineshaper Mystic.
In Game 1, Kakumae, on the play, started with Adanto Vanguard on turn two and Rampaging Ferocidon on turn three. Manfield then fearlessly attacked his 2/1 Shaper Apprentice into the 3/3, representing Crash the Ramparts. Kakumae just took the damage, although it was actually a beautiful bluff to enable raid for Chart a Course post-combat. That may have been a small psychological victory for Manfield, but drawing cards rather than developing your board against an aggressive red-white deck can backfire. Kakumae followed up with Bonded Horncrest and a combat trick, kept attacking, and overwhelmed Manfield.
Genesis's first squad of Lukas Blohon, Seth Manfield, and Thomas Hendriks look to upset the leaders in the 2016-17 Team Series leaderboard.
In Game 2, the roles were reversed, and Manfield had the fast start this time: Kumena's Speaker on turn one, River Sneak on turn two, and River Heralds' Boon when Kakumae blocked with Kinjalli's Caller on turn three. Forcing Kakumae to take a defensive stance, the key play of the game came when Manfield attacked with Grazing Whiptail and Kakumae double-blocked with Emissary of Sunrise and Thrash of Raptors. Manfield cast Run Aground to effectively get a two-for-one, eat a free creature, and leave Kakumae with no creatures on the battlefield. Kakumae was unable to come back from that blowout.
Game 3 was an extremely fast affair. Both players stalled on three lands, but the difference was that Manfield had two River Sneak and boosted them with Vineshaper Mystic. The unblockable Merfolk closed out the game in short order.
Manfield 2 – Kakumae 1
Genesis's first squad defeats Musashi's first squad 2-1. If Genesis's second squad of Brad Nelson-Martin Müller-Martin Dang would prevail in the next match as well, then they would claim the Team Series Championship. If Musashi's second squad of Ken Yukuhiro-Yuuki Ichikawa-Kentaro Yamamoto would even the score, then a tiebreak match would be necessary to determine which team would get the trophy. But at this point, the score could be summarized as "match point, Genesis."