Round 12 Featured Match: Satou Rei vs. Ken Yukuhiro

Posted in Event Coverage on January 31, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Ken Yukuhiro has needed little introduction ever since he made it to the Top 4 of Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. With five Grand Prix Top 8 appearances and a Champion title under his belt, Yukuhiro has however slipped away from the competitive circuit.

Despite cashing in the last three Pro Tours (Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, Pro Tour Magic Origins and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar), he finds himself not qualified for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch next weekend.

The bubbly and jovial Ken Yukuhiro

His opponent Satou Rei is lesser-known on an international scale, but is well-known within the Japanese community. The last time he was seen performing at high level Premier Play was during Grand Prix Shanghai 2012, where he placed the Top 4 to qualify for his 8th lifetime Pro Tour.

Both players went 7-2 yesterday, but climbed back by winning the first two rounds of Day 2. The winner here would be the sole 3-0 player at the first Draft Pod, while the fallen will have their hopes of making the Top 8 dashed.

Despite both players understanding the stakes, the atmosphere was nothing but amicable. Both players were cheery and animated as always. Both players had Red-Green decks, dismissing the notion that Green was a lackluster color. However, Rei's deck was more controllish, Yukuhiro's the stark opposite. Let's see which strategy will work out better in this "mirror match"!

Game 1

Yukuhiro's blistering deck was engineered to kill. Leading with Makindi Sliderunner and Netcaster Spider, both creatures were quickly Supported by Saddleback Lagac. Within two attack steps, Rei had dropped from 20, to 17 and then 10.

Rei wasn't without a plan though, using Pilgrim's Eye to fetch his fourth land, enabling him to summon Eyeless Watcher. The Eldrazi Scions aided him in accelerating into a Turn 5 Deceiver of Form, hampering Yukuhiro's assaults.

Unable to attack, Yukuhiro could only attempt to flood board and win with sheer numbers, before Rei does the same and flips over a huge creature from the top of his deck. However, those worries were unfounded because Rei never revealed anything that could transform his team. Flipping over Boulder Salvo, Unnatural Connections, Mountain and Outnumber, that gave plenty of time for Yukuhiro to attain critical mass.

Now that Rei was outnumbered 7 to 4 in terms of creature count, all Yukuhiro needed to do was to convince Deceiver of Form to switch sides with a topdecked Press into Service, and that was sufficient to push the final 6 damage.

Satou Rei 0—Ken Yukuhiro 1

Game 2

The combination of Makindi Sliderunner, Retreat to Valakut and Saddleback Lagac was good enough to reduce Rei to 11 life, but not enough to close the game. Rei was unfazed and chose to develop his board with Zada's Commando, Eyeless Watcher and then ramping into Birthing Hulk.

Satou Rei evens the score quickly.

Thereafter, Rei used Seek the Wilds to find Kozilek's Channeler, while a Surged Boulder Salvo dealt with Yukuhiro's only dangerous threat, the trampling Makindi Sliderunner. The green men and Eldrazi soon flooded the board and Yukuhiro decided not to waste time on this futile mission.

Satou Rei 1—Ken Yukuhiro 1

Game 3

Since Rei was on the draw, the sideboarded Jaddi Offshoot would go a long way in preserving his life total. Scion Summoner and the summoned Scion quickly received +/1/+1 counters from Saddleback Lagac, creating a 3/3 threat that the 0/3 couldn't block.

Rei stumbled on mana, but was able to still summon a 2/3 Tajuru Stalwart and a 2/3 Sylvan Advocate on consecutive turns. Tajuru Warcaller's Overrun trigger prevented them from blocking profitably, and a timely Brute Strength took both of them out when Rei chose to block the turn later. Yukuhiro was simply too far ahead, and all he needed to do was press the advantage.

"Please, please, please don't draw any Allies," Rei pleaded.

Yukuhiro ignored that request and summoned Zada's Commando, hoping to close the game before Rei could recover from his mana problems. Another Tajuru Stalwart triggered Tajuru Warcaller for the finishing blow.

Rei revealed the Chandra, Flamecaller that he couldn't cast with Unknown Shores, Crumbling Vestige, 1 Mountain and 3 Forests and extended the hand with a round of well wishes.

"I'm so lucky!!!" cheered the happy-go-lucky Ken Yukuhiro.

Satou Rei 1—Ken Yukuhiro 2

Ken Yukuhiro defeats Satou Rei and moves up to 10-2. If he wins out in the next Draft, he will get a shot at the Top 8!

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