The early rounds of a GP are an exercise in maintaining focus. There's a lot of Magic to be played across the weekend, and every win counts. This round saw one of Canada's up-and-coming players take on a living legend.
Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura is in for a whirlwind July. He's been holidaying in Las Vegas since Modern Masters 2015 Weekend, but couldn't resist the trek to Montreal this weekend, even if it meant catching a redeye. He'll be back in Vegas briefly, but then heads off to test with Channel Fireball for the upcoming Pro Tour. After being confronted with his sealed pool he found himself regretting his decision to come out. "Hopefully I Day 2. Or lose fast, and change my flight."
This round he faces Montreal's own Kar Yung Tom. KYT, as he's popularly known, is the man behind ManaDeprived.com and The Eh Team podcast. He's a fixture at Grand Prix in the northeast and will be competing at Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver. "I had qualified for Brussels but deferred my invitation because of a wedding. I'm feeling pretty good about it, my game has been getting better over the past year." He's still looking for that first marquee finish, having come close with a couple of Grand Prix Top 16s.
Kar Yung Tom and Shuhei Nakamura
Nakamura opened with a curve of Typhoid Rats into Kolaghan Skirmisher, but KYT put up a big stop sign by the name of Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Nakamura didn't have an immediate answer and so chose to grow his board with Hand of Silumgar. KYT took to the air with Abzan Skycaptain, but was dismayed when Nakamura's next play was the mighty Outpost Siege. It would be tough for KYT to outlast its long-term card advantage. He hit for two in the air and added a morph to his board.
Things got worse for him from there. Nakamura took out Alesha with Roast, and with the remainder of his mana he dashed out Vaultbreaker, cycling away a plains. KYT traded his morph for the Hand and took a big chunk of damage. He retook the ground with Great-Horn Krushok. Nakamura held back and played Vulturous Aven, exploiting away a useless 2/2.
KYT had no play on five mana and passed. Nakamura swung with his Aven and lost it to Sandblast. KYT hit for two in the air and looked to take over the game with Thunderbreak Regent. Nakamura's Douse in Gloom killed the Skycaptain in response to keep it from growing the Regent, and then he seized the initiative with Elite Scaleguard. The resulting attack gave KYT the choice of losing the Regent, his path to victory, or falling to a precarious two life. He chose the latter, drew his next card, and scooped.
Kar Yung Tom
Nakamura 1 – KYT 0
KYT got a quick start to go with the play in game two. He spilled out a board of Dromoka Warrior, Lightwalker, and then Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Nakamura had Douse in Gloom for the legend, but his life total was falling fast. He tried to get a Hardened Berserker in the way but KYT's Wild Slash kept the path clear.
Nakamura dropped out a second Berserker and a Mardu Scout but had to trade them both away while KYT kept growing his board with Abzan Skycaptain and then Sandsteppe Outcast. Nakamura managed to get a pause for breath behind Vulturous Aven and Silumgar Butcher, but seemed like he was out of gas. Sandblast cleared out the Aven, and with no answers for KYT's air force Nakamura decided to shuffle up for game three.
Nakamura 1 – KYT 1
Nakamura put KYT on the play for the decider. He rolled out Arashin Cleric and Alesha while Nakamura built up Kolaghan Skirmisher and Hardened Berserker. Glaring Aegis tapped the Berserker and let Alesha through for four, and KYT added a post-combat Sandsteppe Outcast with its 1/1 flier. Roast dispatched Alesha.
Again KYT shifted his focus to the air with Abzan Skycaptain. Nakamura frowned and took a moment to think. He decided to go for a race, dashing in Goblin Heelcutter and attacking for six. KYT accepted the challenge and took the damage. He untapped and fired back for four, then added Lightwalker to his team.
Nakamura repeated his previous turn to bring KYT to eleven life, but had no play on his four mana even with the discount from the Berserker. KYT returned fire to leave Nakamura at just five life. Nakamura evened the score but still had no play. The enemy forces crashed in again, and Nakamura was forced to try to stave off lethal with Collateral Damage. KYT showed him Artful Maneuver to take the match.
Kar Yung Tom defeats Shuhei Nakamura 2-1
While Nakamura went to the rail to watch the outcomes of the remaining feature matches, KYT was spirited away by teammate and former Canadian National Champion Dan Lanthier. Complications had arisen in their pre-Vancouver prep plans and needed ironing out.