Atsuki Kihara might not have previous successes on the Grand Prix circuit but he was slowing making a name for himself within the local community. Hareruya runs tournaments not unlike the StarCityGames.com Open Series and the winner of the "Invitations" equivalent is crowned the "God" for displaying prowess in the tournament's format. In Kihara's case, he was crowned the "God of Standard" in Hareruya's very first one.
Nonetheless, he has proven that he also knows a thing or two about Legacy and piloted Miracles all the way to the finals. Just one match win away from the title, he found himself matched up against a very difficult last boss.
This was Kentaro Yamamoto's 9th visit to the Top 8 but the win had always eluded him. Three months ago, he made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Guangzhou with Goryo's Vengeance and was well-equipped with know-how on cheating Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield. Instead of Goryo's Vengeance and Through the Breach, he—wisely—swapped them out for Show and Tell and Sneak Attack instead. Essentially the same style of deck, Yamamoto was intent on using his experience to pull through the last match of Grand Prix Chiba.
Kentaro Yamamoto and Atsuki Kihara
Game 1 ended before even Kihara could put a permanent onto the battlefield. And when he did, it was because Yamamoto had resolved Show and Tell. There is no long version of the story, because Yamamoto was on the play in Game 1 and was dealt the following hand.
Playing City of Traitors and Lotus Petal, that enabled Show and Tell. Even if Kihara had Force of Will—which he didn't, Yamamoto could simply "force" back. The only chance Kihara had was to drop a white source through Show and Tell and pray to flip over Terminus but to no avail.
Yamamoto claims Game 1 with a "god draw".
Atsuki Kihara 0 – Kentaro Yamamoto 1
In Game 2, Kihara opened with Tundra and a fetch land, while Yamamoto led with Underground Sea and a fetch land too. Kihara decided to flash out Snapcaster Mage and begin to pressure. Yamamoto didn't budge, because the two damage meant nothing to him.
At the end of Kihara's third turn, Yamamoto tapped his Underground Sea for Brainstorm and put two cards back. Logic would dictate that he sacrifice his fetch land to shuffle away two unwanted cards but that did not happen. Instead, Yamamoto untapped and drew a card.
If I were Kihara, I would be extremely worried.
The act of not sacrificing a fetch land was an indication that he wanted the card he had put back and had almost no "bad cards" in his hand he wanted to shuffle away. Glancing over at his hand, it was confirmed that he had all the combo pieces he needed.
Yamamoto calmly played his third land and passed the turn back. Kihara attacked for two more damage with his Snapcaster Mage and resolved Sensei's Divining Top. When Kihara ended his fourth turn, Yamamoto decided to check if the coast was clear with Vendilion Clique. Kihara was left with little choice other than to counter it with Pyroblast to preserve his hand.
Kihara tries to win the counterwar.
On his fourth turn, Yamamoto laid City of Traitors to go up to five mana and tapped four of it to cast Sneak Attack, leaving up a spare mana for Pyroblast. Kihara pitched a blue card to cast Force of Blue but Yamamoto let it slide, because he had a second copy of Sneak Attack anyway. Kihara had a second Force of Will but was down to a single card in his hand. This was when Yamamoto decided to use Pyroblast.
Sneak Attack resolved and Yamamoto activated it to drop Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Fortunately for Kihara, he was able to spin his Sensei's Divining Top to find Terminus to delay his doom. Having cheated death, Kihara drew back Sensei's Divining Top and recast it with no other play.
Yamamoto did not have a creature in his hand at this time that would win him the game and match. He needed to find Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn quickly and tried to do so with Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
"I use Jace to 'Brainstorm'," muttered Yamamoto.
"Ok," was Kihara's grim reply.
As Yamamoto drew three cards, the crowd started to stir. Clearly, he had found what he needed. Two copies of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn were sitting on the top of his library as if it was a gift bestowed by the heavens. Even if Kihara did have another Terminus, Yamamoto could just sneak in another copy!
Atsuki Kihara 0 – Kentaro Yamamoto 2
Kihara extended his hand and congratulated Yamamoto for his well-deserved, long-awaited win. It was rare that we get to witness a solemn-natured Yamamoto smile.
But today, we did.
Congratulations to Kentaro Yamamoto for winning Grand Prix Chiba 2016!