Three players from Musashi and three from Genesis sat at the same tables where, minutes ago, half of Genesis had defeated half of Musashi in the first 3v3 match of the Team Series Championship. Like their second team playing today, Genesis's first round team was an international smorgasbord of talent, including Seth Manfield, Thomas Hendriks, and Lukas Blohon. Together they took down a half of Musashi that included two members of the Pro Tour Hall of Fame.
Ken Yukuhiro, Yuuki Ichikawa, and Kentaro Yamamoto would need to win two out of the three matches in front of them to push the Team Series Championship into a tiebreaker match. A win for Brad Nelson, Martin Dang, and Martin Müller, on the other hand, would mean a clean sweep of the finals for Genesis, and the players and their teammates hoisting the trophies sitting captivatingly close by.
Musashi's players had an impressive eight Pro Tour Top 8s between them. They included Ichikawa with two, Yukuhiro with three—including a third-place finish at Pro Tour Amonkhet earlier this year—and Yamamoto with three as well. These players, along with teammates Yasooka, Watanabe, and Kakumae, put up impressive Pro Tour results all season that had Musashi leading the Team Series from early on and finishing ten points clear of any other team in the field.
Genesis's team had its own impressive set of stats, as it included Brad Nelson--three-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor—nineteen-year-old Martin Müller, who put Genesis into contention for today's Team Series Finals with a fourth-place finish at PT Amonkhet, and Martin Dang, winner of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.
Now a match down in the full set, Musashi needed a win against Genesis in this match to ensure a tiebreaker in the Team Series Championship.
Players seated, decks shuffled, and opening hands drawn, it was time to play the second match of the Team Series Finals.
Seat A - Brad Nelson (R/W Dinosaurs) vs. Ken Yukuhiro (R/G Dinosaurs)
Nelson's deck was a hyper-aggressive take on Red-White Dinosaurs, with four Frenzied Raptors, two Pterodon Knights, and an Imperial Aerosaur, among other creatures. He played these eager attackers alongside a suite of combat tricks and burn-based removal, some of which could be pointed at players instead of creatures.
Yukuhiro's deck was also Dinosaur-based, but relied on the power of bigger, more expensive creatures like Bonded Horncrest, Charging Monstrosaur, and Colossal Dreadmaw. Creatures like Raptor Hatchling and Tishana's Wayfinder were expected to hold the ground in the early stages of the game, allowing Yukuhiro to cast his more impressive beasts later in the game.
In Game 1, Nelson had an aggressive start, with Kinjali's Caller on turn one leading into a Frenzied Raptor on turn two and a Captain Lannery Storm on turn three. Yukuhiro kept a land with three Forests but no red mana, and was forced to throw his first and only creature in front of Nelson's onslaught. No Mountains meant that Yukuhiro was dead on Nelson's next attack.
Genesis had the upper hand going into the match, and was looking to wrap things up to take home the trophies.
In Game 2, Nelson again curved one aggressive creature into another, as Kinjali's Caller allowed him to cast back-to-back Frenzied Raptors, followed by a Pterodon Knight. Yukuhiro held the ground with a Raptor Hatchling and Bonded Horncrest, and for a time managed to meet all of Nelson's evasive attackers with removal spells, but eventually a Sky Terror stuck. It looked like Yukuhiro might swing the match when he made an attack for twelve and used a Sure Strike to turn a trade into a trouncing. But a few key removal spells for Nelson kept him safe, and he put Yukuhiro to one and then played a Sun-Crowned Hunters, leaving the red-green based player no way out of taking lethal damage.
Nelson 2 – Yukuhiro 0
Seat B - Martin Müller (U/B Pirates) vs. Yuuki Ichikawa (U/B Pirates)
Evasive blue-black creatures like Air Elemental and Siren Stormtamer were a theme in Martin Müller's deck, which was hoping to have fliers push through damage while removal spells like Vanquish the Weak cleared the way and high-toughness creatures like Dusk Legion Dreadnought and Desperate Castaways held the ground.
Ichikawa's deck was also built around evasive blue-black fliers, with creatures like Watertrap Weaver and Tempest Caller clearing way for attackers on the ground. It also featured two Pirate's Cutlass, a card that pro players have grown increasingly fond of over the past few weeks, to further power-up Ichikawa's tempo- and evasion-oriented creatures.
In Game 1, Ichikawa and Müller raced to deal 20 points of damage, but Ichikawa's Watertrap Weavers and Tempest Callers eventually pressured Müller to trade away his Skymarch Bloodletter for one of Ichikawa's ground attackers. Even so, the pressure was eventually too much, and Ichikawa took the first game.
In Game 2, the two players once again traded damage in the air. Müller took 6 damage from his own Ruin Raider over the course of two turns, and that, along with a Tempest Caller tapping his blockers, let to Ichikawa once again winning the blue-black race.
Müller 0 – Ichikawa 2
Seat C - Martin Dang (G/W Dinosaurs) vs. Kentaro Yamamoto (W/B Vampires)
Martin Dang's deck was straight out of Jurassic Park. Cue the music, because it was one classic Dinosaur after another, plus a Priest of the Wakening Sun to search out the best of them, along with a handful of removal. It also had two powerhouse top-end cards in Wakening Sun's Avatar plus a Sunbird's Invocation.
Kentaro Yamamoto, on the other hand, played a much leaner white-black deck focused on Vampire synergies and pumping up 1/1 Vampire tokens or fliers like Skyblade of the Legion and Skymarch Bloodletter with two Pirate's Cutlass and three Anointed Deacon.
Musashi never let go of the lead in the 2016-17 season, and they weren't about ready to give up the championship.
In Game 1, Yamamoto took two mulligans and started with just five cards in hand. Despite that, he was able to hold on to the mid-game and establish a wide board. His creatures, however, were dwarfed by Dang's dinosaurs, and any dent he made in Dang's life total was repaired by Priest of the Wakening Sun. By the time Dang played a Thundering Spineback, Yamamoto was done for.
In Game 2, Yamamoto had an aggressive start, swinging in starting on turn three while Dang struggled to stabilize. It looked for a time as though Dang would once again take over the game, as a Ravenous Daggertooth buffered his life total and a Sunbird's Invocation began to net him substantial card advantage. Yamamoto's Shining Aerosaur carrying a Pirate's Cutlass, however, didn't die to Wakening Sun's Avatar, and finished Dang off.
Game 3 was the deciding game not only of Dang and Yamamoto's match, but of the entire matchup. Dang mulliganed to six, but Priest of the Wakening Sun on turn two once again kept the damage from Yamamoto's attackers to a minimum. Over the course of the game, it gained him almost another 20 points of life.
But with a Colossal Dreadmaw in hand, Dang couldn't get past his fifth land drop, and the flying attackers on Yamamoto's side of the battlefield again started adding up. A Blight Keeper added not only another flier for Yamamoto, but a way to finally deal with the last of Dang's life total
Dang 1 – Yamamoto 2
With their win, Yukuhiro, Ichikawa, and Yamamoto tie Genesis's earlier match win and secure a tiebreaker match, where the winner of the first Team Series Championship will be decided. They've earned themselves another chance at the trophy, and their match against Manfield, Hendriks, and Blohon, a showdown between two talented teams and two sets of proven Ixalan sealed decks, will be a nail biter for the players and their teammates watching.