Fumiya Matsumoto has one Grand Prix Top 8 under his belt, but let's not call him a grizzled veteran just yet. It has been barely a month since he made the Top 4 at Grand Prix Kyoto. However, he is quickly proving himself to be one of the biggest up-and-coming stars.
Usually just a local grinder within his small community of Ishikawa, he has only began traveling outside of Japan for Grand Prix in the last year. Stepping out of his comfort zone, he has now nabbed the interest of the Japanese community and befriended many of the tenured pros who have been given him a lot of helpful tips on how he can go pro.
"Kenta Harane and Tomonori Hirami are my close friends and we decided we wanted to help each other reach a common goal. Our aim for this season is to become Silver together, and that's why we formed a team for Grand Prix Kyoto. With this Top 8, I am much closer to my target and I am so happy to have so much support from the Japanese community."
Mark Lawrence Tubola's story is similarly inspiring. He, too, comes from a little town going by the name of Iloilo, with just over four hundred thousand inhabitants and a relatively-small Magic community. The city of Iloilo is on an offshore island nearly 500 miles away from Manila, the capital of Philippines and also the heart of Magic activity. This isolation has made his Magic community a very close-knitted one and for him to make it all the way to the finals in his very first Grand Prix Top 8 is yet another source of pride, not only for himself but also his entire team cheering him on!
Mark Lawrence Tubola (left) and Fumiya Matsumoto (right)
With the knowledge that the metagame was filled with White-Blue Flash and Vehicles, it would seem like such a matchup was unavoidable. For it to happen in the finals is further proof that these two decks will remain benchmarks of the new Standard format. Who will reign supreme?
Owing to his higher Swiss standings, Tubola earned the right to be on the play but was forced to mulligan down to six. Nonetheless, he opened with Smuggler's Copter, but had no creature pilot it. This allowed Matsumoto to draw first blood because he had led with Toolcraft Exemplar and Scrapheap Scrounger on turns one and two.
Matsumoto might look like he's taking forty winks, but he's really doing a ton of math in his head.
Having no effective blockers, Tubola was forced to flash in Spell Queller to trade with Toolcraft Exemplar. After combat, now that the coast was clear, Matsumoto dropped Cultivator's Caravan and then Inventor's Apprentice, keeping up the pressure and maximizing his mana perfectly.
Tubola offered Selfless Spirit to block, but the addition of Veteran Motorist and Toolcraft Exemplar were proving too much to handle. Crewing Cultivator's Caravan with Veteran Motorist, Matsumoto attacked with it and Scrapheap Scrounger. Tubola tapped Selfless Spirit to crew Smuggler's Copter to block Scrapheap Scrounger, taking six damage in the process. Sacrificing Selfless Spirit kept his Smuggler's Copter alive. Matsumoto then resurrected Scrapheap Scrounger to maintain his board.
The next turn, Tubola had no other play other than to summon another Selfless Spirit. However, he was facing four creatures against his one potential blocker and folded under the immense pressure, not having found his fifth land to cast a pair of Archangel Avacyn stuck in his hand.
Fumiya Matsumoto 1 – Mark Lawrence Tubola 0
Tubola had to run back both games if he wanted to keep his dreams of winning a Grand Prix alive, but he was forced to mulligan not once, but twice. However, he started out fine, opening with Thraben Inspector and Smuggler's Copter. In the face of Toolcraft Exemplar, he decided to pass his third turn with three mana open. Matsumoto decided to kill Thraben Inspector with an end of turn Galvanic Bombardment and pondered if he should walk into the Spell Queller which Tubola was representing.
Tubola tries his very best to recover from the mulligans.
Matsumoto decided to take the gamble, dropping Depala, Pilot Exemplar. Tubola had no response, aside from sacrificing a clue. Finding a fourth land and a second copy of Thraben Inspector, he once against passed the turn.
Resolving Smuggler's Copter, he decided to swing with a 4/3 Toolcraft Exemplar. Tubola declined to block, taking four damage before sacrificing his second clue. This series of cycling attempts brought him up to five mana, meaning that Archangel Avacyn would soon surface.
When Matsumoto crewed Smuggler's Copter with Depala, Pilot Exemplar in an attempt to draw some cards (he failed), Tubola snared the Smuggler's Copter with Stasis Snare. Matsumoto replaced with a second copy, attacking Tubola for another four damage. This brought him down to 12 life.
Matsumoto tapped Depala to crew Smuggler's Copter, this time receiving another Toolcraft Exemplar for his efforts. Tubola could take it no more, and pointed a second Stasis Snare at Depala. Matsumoto flipped over five cards, finding Veteran Motorist and a third copy of Toolcraft Exemplar. Unfortunately, Matsumoto replaced the Depala as well and continued to play the waiting game until he could crush his opponent with card advantage.
When Archangel Avacyn jumped into play, Matsumoto was ready with Harnessed Lightning to kill it – he had gained a couple of energy from a pair of Aether Hubs earlier on, while a timely Galvanic Bombardment removed Smuggler's Copter for the handshake.
Unable to recover from his unfortunate mulligans, Tubola could only extend his hand and congratulate his opponent on the well-deserved win! Just like that, Matsumoto had "upgraded" his Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Kyoto with a Champion title here at Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur!
Fumiya Matsumoto 2 – Mark Lawrence Tubola 0
Congratulations to Fumiya Matsumoto for winning Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur!