Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Freshly minted Hall of Famer Makahito Mihara, who has five Pro Tour Top 8s to his name, is one of Japan's greats. At the start of the second draft of the day, he is sitting at a 10-2 record, which means that he is still live for Top 8. Let's see his picks!

Mihara makes his picks.

Pack 1

Pick Mihara's choice Other notable options
1 Grim Haruspex Jeskai Windscout, Woolly Loxodon, Alabaster Kirin, Mardu Warshrieker
2 Debilitating Injury Ainok Bond-Kin, Watcher of the Roost, Bloodfell Caves, Woolly Loxodon
3 Death Frenzy Jeskai Charm, Arrow Storm, Blossoming Sands, Dragon's Eye Savants
4 Rite of the Serpent Winterflame, Throttle, Horde Ambusher
5 Archers' Parapet Shambling Attendants, Rakshasa's Secret, Wind-Scarred Crag
6 Dragonscale Boon Mardu Warshrieker, Awaken the Bear
7 Rite of the Serpent Abzan Guide, Rakshasa's Secret
8 Rite of the Serpent Awaken the Bear, Monastery Flock
9 Bitter Revelation Scion of Glaciers, Rotting Mastodon
10 Highland Game Defiant Strike
11 Taigam's Scheming
12 Sage-Eye Harrier
13 Embodiment of Spring
14 Dragon Throne of Tarkir

Mihara's early picks were relatively straightforward, taking the best card from the pack early on and then slowly but steadily moving into green-black. The third Rite of the Serpent was perhaps one six-drop too many, but as he hadn't drafted many non-defender creatures yet, Awaken the Bear didn't look so hit either.

At the end of the first booster, I peeked at Mihara's neighbors. The player to his left was drafting Temur, and the player to his right was drafting Mardu. So, although Mihara didn't know this with certainty yet, both green/black clans would be open to him. Yet, he would have to keep in mind that he didn't have any mana fixers yet.

Pack 2

Pick Mihara's choice Other notable options
1 Bellowing Saddlebrute Debilitating Injury, Mantis Rider, Smoke Teller
2 Mer-Ek Nightblade Mardu Hordechief, Mystic of the Hidden Way, Abomination of Gudul
3 Kin-Tree Invocation Awaken the Bear, Abzan Guide, Bitter Revelation
4 Longshot Squad Smoke Teller, Windstorm
5 Archers' Parapet Krumar Bond-Kin, Sagu Archer
6 Disowned Ancestor Hooting Mandrills, Mardu Skullhunter
7 Dismal Backwater Tusked Colossodon, Sagu Archer
8 Abzan Guide Awaken the Bear, Rotting Mastodon
9 Sultai Banner Tusked Colossodon
10 Kin-Tree Warden Rotting Mastodon
11 Venerable Lammasu
12 Seek the Horizons
13 Naturalize
14 Kheru Dreadmaw

Early on in the second pack, Mihara stuck to his guns and couldn't be swayed into a third color. He kept on taking high-toughness creatures that would work well with his Kin-Tree Invocation and Death Frenzy. When the black/green cards dried up, he took some speculative, non-committal picks from Abzan and Sultai, keeping his options open for a splash color. But why choose one splash color when you can have both?

Pack 3

Pick Mihara's choice Other notable options
1 Abzan Falconer Utter End, Opulent Palace, Awaken the Bear, Bitter Revelation
2 Mer-Ek Nightblade Ruthless Ripper, Bitter Revelation, Dismal Backwater
3 Tranquil Cove Dragonscale Boon, War Behemoth
4 Archers' Parapet Witness of the Ages, Glacial Crasher
5 Abzan Battle Priest Savage Punch, Molting Snakeskin
6 Disowned Ancestor Dragonscale Boon, Dutiful Return
7 Abomination of Gudul Shambling Attendants, Sultai Banner
8 Kin-Tree Invocation Savage Knuckleblade, Sidisi's Pet
9 Blossoming Sands Awaken the Bear, Kill Shot
10 Sultai Banner Scout the Borders, Rotting Mastodon
11 Dutiful Return
12 Defiant Strike
13 Warden of the Eye
14 Tomb of the Spirit Dragon

Abzan Falconer was good enough to sway Mihara into a third color. His subsequent picks were made with his deck in mind: While Ruthless Ripper, Dragonscale Boon, and Savage Punch are high picks for most decks, they didn't fit his deck very well. After all, he would kill his own Ruthless Ripper with Death Frenzy; he already had a Dragonscale Boon and wouldn't enter combat all that often; and he didn't have many big creatures for Savage Punch. Instead, Mihara added Mer-Ek Nightblade, Tranquil Cove, and Abzan Battle Priest to his deck, offering a stronger late-game presence and a mana-fixer for a late-pick Abomination of Gudul.

Mihara builds his deck.

In the end, Mihara built a deck that aimed to assemble the combo of Disowned Ancestor or Archers' Parapet plus Kin-Tree Invocation early on:

Mihara's final deck.

Makahito Mihara – Abzan draft deck, Grand Prix Shizuoka 2015

Download Arena Decklist

Scout the Borders was a peculiar inclusion, but he could put the extra lands to good use with his outlast creatures and Abomination of Gudul.

When I checked in with Mihara, he had just lost the first round of the draft, so his Top 8 hopes are shattered, but the dream of chaining Disowned Ancestor into Kin-Tree Invocation in the subsequent rounds is till very much alive.