We didn't know for sure if we would get one of these, but the trophy for the inaugural season of the Pro Tour Team Series would ultimately come down to a tiebreak match between Genesis and Musashi. Earlier today, the two top two performing teams from last season had split into two groups of three for two Ixalan Team Sealed matches. Genesis had won the first match. In the second match, Martin Dang was one game win away from claiming it all for Genesis, but Musashi fought back and managed to even the score.
You can read more about the decks, the players, and their first matches here and here, but indeed a tiebreak was needed, and it would play out between the two groups that had won their respective matches. Doing battle on behalf of Musashi were three of Japan's best, all with at least two Pro Tour Top 8s to their name: Ken Yukuhiro, Yuuki Ichikawa, and Kentaro Yamamoto. The representatives for Genesis were Gold-level Pro Thomas Hendriks, 2015 World Champion Seth Manfield, and Pro Tour Eldritch Moon champion Lukas Blohon.
Seat A - Thomas Hendriks (R/W Dinosaurs) vs. Ken Yukuhiro (G/R Dinosaurs)
Hendriks's deck had a low curve backed up with combat tricks and Territorial Hammerskull to make blocking difficult for the opponent. It was a good example of the type of aggressive R/W Dinosaur deck that many pros like in this format. Yet, if the game would go long, then Yukuhiro's R/G Dinosaur deck might have an advantage, as he could go larger with such creatures as Colossal Dreadmaw.
Before Game 1 even started, Hendriks showing his opening hand to both Seth Manfield and Lukas Blohon, asking them for input. This was a team event after all, which means that communication is allowed, and Hendriks wanted to take full advantage of his teammates' insight before committing to a mulligan. His six-card hand offered a good curve of Raptor Companion on turn two and Frenzied Raptor on turn three, but Yukuhiro's Raptor Hatchling completely blanked the Raptor Companion, and Hendriks was unable to mount an offense. Eventually, Yukuhiro was able to turn River Heralds' Boon into a two-for-one trade and found another two-for-one with a mid-combat Unfriendly Fire. That was more than enough to win the first game.
For Game 2, Hendriks naturally chose to play first and once again faced a tough choice as he looked at the following seven cards.
He had both colors of mana and good removal for Yukuhiro's six-mana Dinosaurs, but his hand was slow and lacked early creatures. After first asking Seth Manfield for input, he went down all the way to Lukas Blohon to make sure that the collective insight of his team was applied to these difficult calls. Both of his teammates recommended a mulligan, and that's what he did. His six-card hand wasn't much better, so he had to go all the way down to five cards.
Genesis had surmounted an early lead in the Team Series Championship, but found themselves in a precarious situation after play moved to a tiebreaker match.
His five-card hand was surprisingly serviceable. After Yukuhiro flooded his board with relatively small creatures, Hendriks stabilized with the 4/4 Glorifier of Dusk. The game turned into a board stall where no player could profitably attack, but Yukuhiro kept adding creatures. When Hendriks tapped out for Ixalan's Binding to deal with both Colossal Dreadmaw, Yukuhiro no longer had to be afraid of any combat tricks, attacked with several of his creatures, and used River Heralds' Boon to kill Glorifier of Dusk in combat. He then freed his exiled Colossal Dreadmaw via Crushing Canopy, his team of humongous creatures got Hendriks down to 1, and even though Hendriks managed to clear the board and stay alive at 1 life, Yukuhiro's Jade Guardian from the top attacked for the win.
Hendriks 0 - Yukuhiro 2
Seat C - Lukas Blohon (U/B Pirates) vs. Kentaro Yamamoto (W/B Vampires)
Unusually, Yamamoto's main deck was comprised of only commons, but there were plenty of synergies for the Vampire tribe with the commons. Blohon's deck largely revolved around Overflowing Insight. He hoped to make trades early on, buy time, and win after drawing seven more cards than his opponent, but Yamamoto would try not to let it come to that.
Game 1 looked to turn into a board stall until Yamamoto found a way to break through via Skymarch Bloodletter. Combined with a boost from Anointed Deacon, it started to attack for 4 damage per turn in the air. Blohon had no flying blocker nor a removal spell. His only game plan was a damage race, where his two menacing Dire Fleet Interloper made blocking slightly more difficult for Yamamoto. But Yamamoto stayed alive for long enough, and used a crucial Vampire's Zeal to shave one turn off his clock.
That was good enough to clinch the first game. The second game was held to ensure all deciding games would be shown on camera.
Seat B - Seth Manfield (G/U Merfolk) vs. Yuuki Ichikawa (U/B Pirates)
The matchup between Manfield and Ichikawa was one between two decks with relatively small, yet aggressive creatures and various ways to boost them. Ichikawa was playing a tempo deck with Pirate's Cutlass, while Manfield had River Herald's Boon and Vineshaper Mystic to boost his Merfolk.
Musashi went from behind to being only one match away from leaving victorious.
In Game 1, after the early trades of creatures and removal spells, high-toughness creatures started clogging up the board. This meant that evasion was the name of the game. Manfield's Wind Strider and Storm Sculptor were left unanswered, and Ichikawa had no way of blocking them.
In Game 2, Ichikawa had one of the quickest starts possible in the format with Wanted Scoundrels and Pirate's Cutlass, allowing him to attack for six on turn 3. Manfield's locked it down for a turn with Watertrap Weaver and re-used the enters-the-battlefield ability by picking up the creature with Storm Sculptor. But eventually, Wanted Scoundrels was thawed from the ice, attacked, and was saved from a double-block by Dive Down. Manfield, who had missed a land drop and had bounced one of his own creatures, found himself way behind on board after that. He was unable to come back.
Game 3 featured small creatures all around. At some point, there were five creatures in total on the battlefield, and the biggest ones were Ichikawa's Tempest Caller and Manfield's Atzocan Archer. Ichikawa then cast Mark of the Vampire on Skittering Heartstopper, turning it into a 3/4 that was way bigger than anything else on the board, and turned it sideways. This put Manfield in a tough spot because lifelink meant that he had to deal with it, but deathtouch meant that he couldn't get favorable trades with all his small creatures. Moreover, both players had to take such tricks as Skulduggery, Dive Down, and River Heralds' Boon into consideration. At least there were three players on each side of the table to figure out the puzzle. An all-out attack, double-block and a flurry of exactly those three combat tricks later, the 3/4 lifelinking deathtouching creature was still around.
Manfield then took down the creature with a double-block on the next turn (which Ichikawa declined to break up with Vanquish the Weak) after which then the game turned into a suspenseful top-deck war. It was tense, but the life totals favored Ichikawa. What's more, Ichikawa found Deadeye Plunderers on top of his deck: a 5/5 at that point that could immediately grow into a 6/6.
Manfield was in chump block mode. He found Run Aground as an answer, but it was only a very temporary one as Ichikawa bounced his own Plunderers with Depths of Desire in response so that he could still present a lethal attack on the next turn.
Manfield was unable to answer or trade for the Treasure-loving Pirate. Facing a lethal attack, Genesis collectively extended their hands in defeat as Shota Yasooka, Teruya Kakumae, and Yuuya Watanabe rushed into the Feature Match area to congratulate their teammates.
Ichikawa 2 – Manfield 1
Musashi, with a decisive victory in the third and final match, wins the title of 2016-17 Pro Tour Team Series champions!