After nine rounds of Sealed, three booster drafts, and eight additional rounds of Limited action on Sunday, the 3,551 players of Grand Prix Chiba has been left with only two.
On one side of the table is Junya Iyanaga, a player who has achieved a feat only a dedicated few around the world have managed. His win at the 2011 World Championship cemented Iyanaga into the minds of Magic players all across the world. Iyanaga demonstrated his prowess at the game by mustering together a saucy black-green deck filled with tokens, delights, and the occasional play involving the drawing of a ridiculous amount of cards with Culling Dais.
On the other side of the table is Yuki Matsumoto, a relative newcomer to the Magic scene who saw his first taste of Top 8 glory at Shizuoka earlier in the year. This marks Matsumoto's second Top 8 at a Grand Prix, with a set covering a span of modern Magic. Conveniently, that span of sets ends with the block that Matsumoto first started playing: Scars of Mirrodin. Staying true to his roots, he did not deviate far from his beginnings with a White-Blue artifact deck.
Only one of these players can be crowned Chiba's modern master. Who would it be?
The two players started with dueling 1-mana creatures. However, without a second artifact, Iyanaga's Tukatongue Thallid was far superior to Matsumoto's Court Homunculus. A Gust-Skimmer soon changed that and allowed it to trade with Iyanaga's Nest Invader.
Iyanaga had Algae Gharial, which threatened to get large, and it was followed with Scuttling Death. Matsumoto's Spectral Procession threatened to let him take to the skies, and with a hand of permission and tricks, he had the capability to do just that.
However, Iyanaga had Culling Dais, a card that threatened to put Iyanaga way over the top on...well, cards. A Dread Drone gave him ample fodder for the Gais if he wanted it, and his Algae Gharial profited while it all happened.
A Copper Carapace equipped onto the Gust-Skimmer and forced Iyanaga to sacrifice his Scuttling Death to attempt to stop it. However, Apostle's Blessing ensured his creature would go through. Iyanaga dug for more action with Culling Dais, popping it for two cards. After that, he sent in his Algae Gharial and Dread Drone. Matsumoto offered up the trade with a spirit token on the Dread Drone, dropping to 7 from the Algae Gharial.
Iyanaga already had a world championship title. Now he was looking to become a modern master.
After that, Iyanaga unleashed potent multikicked Wolfbriar Elemental, netting two wolves. The follow-up attack, backed up with removal for the one blocker Matsumoto left back, assured a game.
In the second game, Matsumoto led with a first-turn Kor Duelist, followed by Copper Carapace, which was equipped to the Duelist on the third turn. It was a quick start that put Iyanaga into the tank on chump-blocking with his second-turn Nest Invader's spawn token. A Tukatongue Thallid followed that up, offering him a solid chump-blocker on the next turn with the Duelist came in. The attack was followed by a Gust-Skimmer after that.
Meanwhile, Iyanaga kept attacking with his creatures, all while adding creatures that provided chump-blocking action after. Matsumoto mustered a Glassdust Hulk, hoping to break through Iyanaga's wall of spawn and saprolings.
Matsumoto, who was sitting on a Guile and only a single Island, was limited on options, especially when his Hulk was dispatched by Iyanaga's Grim Affliction after the Hulk blocked an attacking Nest Invader. Matsumoto was left to play out the remaining cards he could, and sit on his life total of 13 while Iyanaga added a Scuttling Death to his board.
But then, Mirran Crusader turned up, eliciting a rare reaction in a grimace from Iyanaga. Protection from (most of) your deck can do that.
The Crusader picked up the Copper Carapace and started swinging in, first eating an eldrazi spawn, then eventually chunks of life, with Matsumoto's Vapor Snag ensuring Iyanaga had no real chance to race. 12 became 4, then 4 became 0, and we were on to a third game.
Matsumoto leads a Crusade to gain the upper hand.
...and it got even uglier when Iyanaga's accelerated Precursor Golem turned the time-buying Vapor Snag into a makeshift Lightning Bolt to the face. With a massive life deficit, Iyanaga instead sat back on Vampire Outcasts to regain some lost ground.
However, he wouldn't have a lot of time. Copper Carapace and the three spirit tokens kept beating down, and while the vampire kept Iyanaga afloat for a turn, a Blinding Souleater threatened that lifeline. Without much option, Iyanaga used Nest Invader into Precursor Golem to flood the board.
Matsumoto pressed on, dropping Iyanaga to 3 with his spirit army. Blinding Souleater did its thing. Iyanaga dropped Matsumoto to 2, and then extended the hand when Matsumoto's army came in for the lethal attack.
Congratulations to Yuki Matsumoto, modern master and Grand Prix Chiba champion!