Opening the Vaults with Taisuke Ishii

Posted in GRAND PRIX GUANGZHOU 2016 on August 27, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Most may not be able to recall specifics of Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2009. To be honest, I'm a little foggy on the details myself. However, I'll rattle off the names of some esteemed players who made the Top 8 seven years ago.

Yuuya Watanabe, Ken Yukuhiro, Masashi Oiso, Katsuhiro Mori, Jun'ya Iyanaga, Sugaya Hironobu. To illustrate how stacked that particular Top 8 was, these six players have a combined of 62 Grand Prix Top 8s and 16 wins as of today. However, when the dust settled, it was relative unknown and underdog Taisuke Ishii who lifted the Champion trophy, displaying his mastery in Zendikar Limited.


Taisuke Ishii, Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2009 Champion

Despite his win, Ishii doesn't consider himself a pro player but a "grinder" who strives to enjoy the game every step of the way. He's never really stopped playing, often finding time amidst his busy schedule to enjoy a well-natured weekend with old friends. Since he has never attended a Grand Prix in Guangzhou (and neither has anyone else), he decided to make the trip and has showed up with a rather interesting brew of his own.

I hope I've succeeded in piquing your interest. Perhaps the most insane interaction is Krark-Clan Ironworks' ability to turn Mox Opal into Black Lotus, similar to what Reshape does to Lotus Bloom. Ishii explains, "I was playing Magic Online and I saw a variant which my opponent was playing. The concept had a lot of potential so I reverse-engineered the deck and tuned it to the best of my abilities. I tried it out for a couple of months and I really like the product in my hands right now. It is a lot of fun to play and it is pretty good against most of the midrange decks in the format."

Ever since Sword of the Meek was released back into the waters, it hasn't seen quite as much action as Modern enthusiasts desire. For some reason, the combo with Thopter Foundry doesn't quite seem to be very sturdy in a world of Ancient Grudge, Abrupt Decay, Nature's Claim and Destructive Revelry.

The issue with this angle of attack is that most decks are too heavily invested on assembling the combo and lack other win conditions or paths to victory. The pair is also usually housed in control shells which often have problems closing the game. In addition, players can easily disrupt with discard spells such as Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek or by playing above-mentioned artifact removal spells. Another way to shut down the combo are anti-graveyard cards such as Rest in Peace, Surgical Extraction and Scavenging Ooze.

It is almost certain that Ishii will run into this extensive list of hate cards given the prevalence of these staples but Ishii has it all thought out and has decided to take another approach.

Running Ensoul Artifact and Monastery Mentor in his transformational sideboard, he will be able to dodge any incoming bullets and close the game quickly while oblivious opponents draw ineffective sideboard cards. Hmm... A 5/5 Chromatic Star or Darksteel Citadel might not be new tech, but if it gets Ishii to the finish line, why not?

Chromatic Star, Terrarion, Ichor Wellspring and Prophetic Prism offer his deck a certain amount of card selection, and consistency. Tearing through his deck brings him one step closer to assembling the two-card combo. However, that is not the ultimate game plan.

All these artifacts also have "put into graveyard" triggers, which make perfect sacrificial fodder for Krark-Clan Ironworks. With all this mana at his disposal, Ishii will be able to channel it into making a horde of Thopters and also cast Open the Vaults and Faith's Reward to bring it all back for a second, third or fourth round!

Such an engine is reminiscent of Stanislav Cifka's Eggs deck he used to win Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. If anyone is to be held responsible for the banning of Second Sunrise, Cifka will likely plead guilty as charged. No matter, because Ishii is somehow making it work by making do!

Ishii will also be happy to invest 15 mana in Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, a singleton he has wisely chosen to help him trump the control matchups. Since he is also in real danger of drawing his entire deck, discarding the Eldrazi will also save him from library death.

Other interesting inclusions are a lone copy of each Codex Shredder, Fabricate and Tezzeret the Seeker, all of which serve a specific role.

"Codex Shredder is the deck's Eternal Witness. When I have a ton of mana, the heavy activation cost doesn't matter. Together with Open the Vaults or Second Sunrise, it is an infinite loop! It also helps me win against "infinite life" decks such as Abzan Company because I can actually mill out my opponent with it. When I have nothing better to do, I can also mill myself to fill up my graveyard."

Fabricate allows Ishii to tutor for his singletons as well as other cards that he don't want to play additional copies of. For example, additional copies of Sword of the Meek are as good as mulligans and one copy is all your need. Tezzeret the Seeker works like Fabricate, except that it can also serve as a win condition.


Taisuke Ishii tries to shoot the Eldritch Moon and is eyeing a second Grand Prix trophy!

Ishii is heading into Round 8 at the time of press and is sitting at a respectable 5-2 record. He will just need to win one more match to secure his spot in Day 2.

One thing's for sure. Regardless of your psychographic profile, there is something to love about Ishii's masterpiece. Spike will love the fact that this deck is capable of generating and abusing unfair mana. Timmy will enjoy large and flashy spells such as Open the Vaults and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Johnny will enjoy the challenge which comes with winning stylishly with cards that are under-represented in the metagame.

So how about it guys?

Modern is rarely uninteresting but if you're looking for a change of scenery, perhaps you can try Opening the Vaults together with Ishii!

Taisuke Ishii's Open the Vaults

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