Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Josh Bennett

In Japan, Kentaro Yamamoto has long been a player with a strong reputation. However, international recognition eluded him. All that changed with this year's World Championship. Yamamoto took on the game's elite and proved that he belonged among them with a Top 4 finish. Now that 2015 is in full swing he's looking to build on that success. His 8-1 performance yesterday gave him a good position to make a run at the Top 8 here at Shizuoka.

For his first draft he found himself at a table without other big names, already a good sign. His opening pack offered him the choice between powerhouse rare Necropolis Fiend, strong uncommons in Winterflame and Mardu Charm, and green's #1 common Savage Punch. “It was an easy pick,” he said afterwards, “Necropolis Fiend is very powerful and not hard to enable.” Unfortunately there was no similarly easy follow-up. The only black card offered was Disowned Ancestor. Yamamoto stuck to his guns and took it, despite the presence of Master the Way in the pack. “Yes, Master the Way is a very strong card, but I'd much rather stay black than spread out my picks early.” Not even the presence of Warden of the Eye fourth pick could dissuade him.

Kentaro Yamamoto

As the pack wound down he collected a number of unexciting green and black creatures. “The card quality in this draft was very low, and not just for me. After pack 1 I was mostly interested in getting cards like Scout the Borders, Bitter Revelation and Rakshasa's Secret to enable delve.” It paid off better than Pack 1, giving him strong cards like Heir of the Wilds, Pinewalker, Sultai Scavenger and Woolly Loxodon. It looked like he would miss out on enablers for another pack, but then found both Scout the Borders and Bitter Revelation waiting for him eighth pick. He picked Scout the Borders, explaining “The difference between three and four mana is big, and Scout the Borders gives more cards for delve.” His deck to this point was solidly black-green. He had a couple of blue spells but no fixing for them.

The final pack started out strong with Incremental Growth, and led right in to Sultai Scavenger and Tuskguard Captain. Yamamoto passed on a Smoke Teller for Rakshasa's Secret, then snagged an Abzan Charm to go with the Blossoming Sands he'd gotten in pack 2. The strong removal spell was just what his deck was lacking. He also collected a pair of Bitter Revelations and wound up playing both. I asked him if he was concerned to be playing so many delve spells in his deck. He shook his head. “Sultai Scavengers are fine to cast even at full cost. Hooting Mandrills too. So it's really just the Shambling Attendants and the Necropolis Fiend that will need lots of cards in the graveyard.” Overall he wound up a couple playables short and was forced to maindeck a Despise. This draft was an exercise in making the best of a bad situation. Yamamoto wound up with a functional deck with a solid plan. He was confident he could manage a 2-1 record and stay on-pace for a Top 8 finish.

Draft 1 – (20) Kentaro Yamamoto

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