Starting off 7-0 and locking up a spot in day 2, Ken Yukuhiro decided to bring an Esper deck to Grand Prix Kobe 2015. Compared to the many Esper players who made day 2, Ken took a different approach with his deck
This time you picked Esper colors, why did you decide on this deck?
I played a bunch of Abzan Aggro online. With Abzan Aggro I realized that games were decided based on whether you had the right amount of removal spells. It's really tough to have timely removal for Seeker of the Way and Hangarback Walker, making them ideal threats in this format.
Then why aren't you playing Seeker of the Way?
While Seeker of the Way is a splendid card versus Abzan Aggro, when compared to Hangarback Walker, there really isn't much difference. Hangarback Walker, on the other hand, is great in other matchups.
Compared to Seeker of the Way, Hangarback Walker is a great topdeck. If you're mana flooded it's a great way to spend a bunch of mana. Hangarback Walker is also a difficult card to play against—what do you do when it's played against you? Hangarback Walker combos well with Valorous Stance and is a great companion with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It's for these reasons that I think Hangarback Walker is better in this deck than Seeker of the Way and why I played it.
What are your thoughts on other decks
Although we're in a predominately Abzan Aggro metagame, there are 5-6 other decks that are of around the same power. I don't think I have any terrible matchups and I think that's in part to having Hangarback Walker. I also need to have Monastery Mentor against the Eldrazi Ramp Decks
Is Monastery Mentor also a key card in your deck?
Against Eldrazi Ramp and Abzan Aggro it is. In matchups that go long, it's a card I can't win without. The truth is that I think whether I win is based on my play and that I can win or lose against anything. That's why I chose this deck.
Looking at your list you don't have many 4-ofs.
In a lot of cases 1 copy is all I need. I have 4 copies of the important cards—Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Hangarback Walker, and Monastery Mentor—and three copies of Valorous Stance, but after that I only have 1 or 2 copies of the other cards.
You also have Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, right?
I only have 2 copies. Everyone has 4, but I don't think you need 4. I think it's really weak on the draw, but strong on the play, which is why I have a copy in my sideboard.
You have a lot of 1-ofs in your sideboard as well.
Yup. I have 4 copies of Arashin Cleric in order to slow down red decks. Most of the slots are metagame picks—if the metagame switches I could switch those spots. Because mono-red is only about 5% of the format, I can't give up those spots. If I did, I'd get run over by mono-red.