Posted in Event Coverage on March 16, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Yuuya Watanabe, the number eleven-ranked player, has a career more than worthy of his place in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Numerous Pro Tour and Grand Prix Top 8s, with more than his share of wins along the way, as well as Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year, and World Champion titles to his name, the potential for Watanabe to claim nearly any event was legendary.

But he wasn’t the only longtime player vying in this Top 8.

Andrew Cuneo had seen a resurgence in his career in recent years, earning Grand Prix Top 8s at Lincoln in 2012 and Washington D.C. in 2013, Cuneo made good use of his place in a powerhouse Pro Tour testing team to earn near continuous invitation to the next.

Constantly circling the edges of Top 8s, Cuneo was ready to claim a Grand Prix of his own.

The Decks

Both players had drafted aggressive decks, each taking an aggressive guild in their respective directions. Cuneo had a Jeskai deck with hits like Jeskai Charm to back up warden of the eye and an array of other powerful creatures to hit home with.

Watanabe had the Mardu angle, using multiple Ponyback Brigades alongside other sources of tokens and small creatures to set up a finishing Rush of Battle or Raiders’ Spoils.

Both looked to punch through and put the game away quickly.

The Games

Cuneo led off with an early Wandering Champion, but Watanabe’s plentiful removal handled it as his Chief of the Edge began to attack. Daghatar the Adamant was Yuuya’s fourth turn play.

Tormenting Voice into Suspension Field handled Daghatar, leading to a face-off between Highspire Mantis on each side. After combat, Cuneo used Howl of the Horde to magnify the effect of Tormenting Voice and drew six cards, stocking his hand fully.

Andrew Cuneo’s Howl of the Horde drew more than enough cards to handle Yuuya Watanabe’s wide army.

Watanabe was being buried in card advantage.

Riverwheel Aerialists joined Cuneo’s side as he began to take over the game. With the larger and more evasive army, Cuneo rolled over the Aven Skirmishers Watanabe gamely had to block.

The second game was a similar race, with Cuneo angling to push his Wandering Champion and morph through, but Watanabe resisted with Aven Skirmisher, Mardu Hordechief, and a morph of his own.

However, Cuneo’s morph was Watcher of the Roost after Jeskai Charm, giving Cuneo plenty of life to outrace Watanabe. With a Ponyback Brigade, Watanabe presented a wide army but Cuneo’s 3/3 Warden of the Eye returned Jeskai Charm for another round.

Yuuya Watanabe sat under the threat of Jeskai Charm the entire second game.

Take up Arms and a second Ponyback Brigade put a ton of creatures into play for Watanabe, who now had enough to bash through despite the attrition. A second Mardu Hordechief joined Watanabe’s side as Cuneo continued to hold back the Jeskai Charm: It’s life gain was the critical edge Cuneo needed to ensure the race stayed favorable for him.

However, it was another mode that mattered more: Howl of the Horde into a twice copied Jeskai Charm dealing 4 damage each shattered Watanabe’s life total, ending the game on the spot.

“How many War Flare/Overrun effects in your deck?” Cuneo asked. Watanabe handed him his library, revealing two Rush of Battle and a Raiders’ Spoilers waiting just out of reach.

“Good games,” Cuneo offered as Watanabe shook Cuneo’s hand, sighed, and cocked his head sideways in thought.

Andrew Cuneo defeated Yuuya Watanabe, 2-0.

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