Zen Takahashi established himself young in the New Zealand Magic scene, making his first Grand Prix Top 8 in Sydney in 2013 at the age of 15. He's recently picked up steam, finishing in the Top 8 of 3 of the last 4 Grand Prix events held in Australia. He had originally decided to play Burn this weekend, but in the lead up to the event, couldn't for the life of him start any fires with the deck. He implored his teammate No. 11 Lee Shi Tian to "break the format” for him so he could play literally anything else, and Lee did just that, coming up with a new version of his beloved Dredge deck, despite the recent banning of Golgari Grave-Troll. Takahashi faced Lee in the Dredge mirror in the semifinals and was fortunate enough to come away the victor to advance to the finals to face Australian Magic veteran, Oliver Oks.
At nearly double Takahashi's age (and yet still younger than me) Oks has been a mainstay of the Australian Magic scene for a long time, even when he was living in Japan and while he was leading the Estonian National Team at the World Magic Cup in 2012. He's since settled back in Australia, gotten married and is now a solicitor. To say this finals pitted youthful exuberance against wizened experience is putting it mildly.
Oks finished second in the Swiss with his trusty Lantern Control deck, something he first picked up a year ago in the lead up to Grand Prix Melbourne 2016. After finishing 27th there, Oks continued to work on the deck, playing it in local events and on Magic Online until he had truly mastered the strategy inside and out.
"Who was the highest seed?" Takahashi asked as they shuffled up to play.
"I think it was me," Oks answered with a smile.
"What seed were you?"
"Ah, right. Ok then," Takahashi laughed.
Oks quickly deployed an antique store's worth of tiny Artifacts while Takahashi tried to mount an attack, but quickly found an Ensnaring Bridge quelling his assault. Takahashi dredged repeatedly trying to set up Plan B: a series of large Conflagrates to the face, but Oks had unfortunately also found and played out an Inventors' Fair, and his life total begun to climb north of 20. Oks soon joined in on the fun of milling the top of Takahashi's library with his Codex Shredder and a Pyxis of Pandemonium, and Takahashi took the hint and scooped up his cards.
Oks 1 – Takahashi 0
Takahashi began Game 2 with a Faithless Looting, discarding a Stinkweed Imp and a Prized Amalgam, which is quite probably the dream start for his deck. Oks started his turn with a Grafdigger's Cage, which is probably the dream response. Takahashi followed up with Cathartic Reunion, discarding Conflagrate and Life from the Loam, before Oks cast Ancient Stirrings for Spellskite, and played a Codex Shredder.
Takahashi dredged a Stinkweed Imp during his upkeep, finding a Narcomoeba, and in response to the trigger, played Abrupt Decay on the Cage. He then played a land to bring back a Bloodghast, and at the end of his turn, the Prized Amalgam joined them on the battlefield. Oks played the Spellskite and another Shredder and passed it back.
Oliver Oks is looking for a Bridge to hide under.
Takahashi went for the throat, dredging frantically and attacking Oks while Oks tried to find a Bridge to hide under. However, the top of Oks' library came up short, they were soon off to Game 3.
Oks 1 – Takahashi 1
Oks began game 3 with a land, a Mox Opal, a Mishra's Bauble, a Grafdigger's Cage, and Inquisition of Kozilek, denying Takahashi a Faithless Looting and revealing that Takahashi had kept a one land hand. Takahashi played his land and passed it back, only to see Oks cap off his absurd first turn with a second land and an Ensnaring Bridge.
Zen Takahashi tries to dredge up a plan of attack.
Takahashi found a second land of his own, but the Grafdigger's Cage made following his Conflagrate plan noticeably difficult. A few turns later, with a Lantern of Insight in play, Oks played Lost Legacy on Takahashi and named "Ancient Grudge”, earning an immediate concession from the New Zealander and leaving Oks stunned.
"...I just won a Grand Prix," Oks uttered in amazement, "I didn't think that would ever happen!"
Oliver Oks defeats Zen Takahashi 2-1 to become the Grand Prix Brisbane champion for 2017!
Oks and Takahashi will be joined by Timothy Cheng and Lee Shi Tian in competing at Pro Tour Amonkhet in May, and we wish them all the best of luck!