Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Frank Karsten

Kentaro Yamamoto, fresh off of a Top 4 finish at the World Championships, is one of the best players in Japan right now. He might be best known for introducing Mono Black Devotion to the world at the Top 8 of Pro Tour Theros last year, but he has also shown off his skills at Khans of Tarkir Limited with a recent Grand Prix Top 8 finish in Strasbourg. This morning, we covered Yamamoto’s draft and since then, he has gone 2-0 with his delve-themed Abzan deck.

Takayuki Matsushita (left) and Kentaro Yamamoto (right)

Takayuki Matsushita, on the other side of the table, may not have had the same Pro Tour success as Yamamoto, but he has managed to achieve an impressive 10-1 record at this tournament so far. He had drafted a raid-themed Mardu deck and now got to chance to battle it out to see who would go undefeated in their pod.

Game 1

The game really got underway when Matsushita, with 5 mana up, attacked his morph into Yamamoto’s 2/6 Disowned Ancestor. Yamamoto couldn’t think of any Mardu morph in the format that would punish him for blocking and quickly made the block. Indeed, there is no morph except for Ruthless Ripper that would win combat there, but Matsushita had Trottle in hand to win combat after all.

On the next turn, the situation was as follows: Facing a Sultai Scavenger as the sole untapped creature on Yamamoto’s side, Matsushita had a morph (a face-down Ainok Tracker), an Alabaster Kirin, and 5 lands in play along with two copies of Mardu Warshrieker and a Bring Low in hand. He had the option of attacking with just the morph in the hope that Yamamoto wouldn’t block, in which case he would be able to chain Mardu Warshriekers post-combat. However, he made the riskier, higher-reward play of attacking with the morph andAlabaster Kirin. He was possibly hoping that Yamamoto would play around Feat of Resistance, in which case he could bluff through two extra points of damage. However, Yamamoto, who was lacking green mana at that point, felt that he didn’t have the luxury of playing around tricks and blocked Alabaster Kirin with Sultai Scavenger. Matsushita was then forced to played an awkward mid-combat Bring Low to save his flyer and promptly lost both of his Warshriekers to Rakshasa’s Secret on the next turn.

Takayuki Matsushita

But that wasn’t the end of it. On the next turn, Matsushita added Mardu Roughrider to his board, and Yamamoto didn’t have a way to answer it. Matsushita quickly rode the 5/4 to victory.

Takayuki Matsushita 1 - Kentaro Yamamoto 0

Game 2

This was a game of mana troubles for Matsushita. While Yamamoto’s deck worked like a charm, chaining Scout the Borders into Shambling Attendants and bursting out Heir of the Wilds, Woolly Loxodon, and various other creatures in short order, Matsushita was missing white mana.

His deck then provided him with white mana sources, but not the Plains that Matsushita was looking for. First up was Mardu Warshrieker, which worked as a one-time mana fixer at the cost of throwing an attacker under the bus. Next up was Scoured Barrens, which delayed the mana production by another turn.

At that point, Matsushita was already too far behind and fell to Yamamoto’s monsters.

Takayuki Matsushita 1 - Kentaro Yamamoto 1

Game 3

After an opening salvo of creature trades and removal spells, we got an interesting combat step in which Matsushita attacked with Bloodsoaked Champion, Shambling Attendants, and a morph (which once again was an Ainok Tracker). Yamamoto had Longshot Squad, Sultai Scavenger, and Tuskguard Captain in play as potential blockers, and he decided to double-block the morph with a pair of 3/3s and to block the Bloodsoaked Champion with his Tuskguard Captain.

Kentaro Yamamoto

The double-block on the morph is a subtle play, but it requires a thorough knowledge of all the morphs in the format to realize that it is safe and that you don’t have to add a third blocker: against Mardu, except when the morph is Ashcloud Phoenix, you are guaranteed to take down the opposing morph in a one-for-one trade if you block with two 3/3s. And that’s what happened: Ainok Tracker unmorphed and traded for Longshot Squad.

Yamamoto then went on the offense with Sultai Scavenger while Matsushita was out of gas and even had to keep his creatures on the defense. This was not exactly what Matsushita’s aggressively oriented deck was made to do, and he eventually fell to Yamamoto’s late-game oriented deck after Yamamoto had grown his outlast creatures.

Takayuki Matsushita 1 - Kentaro Yamamoto 2

Kentaro Yamamoto has gone undefeated with his delve-themed Abzan deck and moves to 11-1. Takayuki Matsushita falls to 10-2, but he still has a chance of making the Top 8 if he manages to win out from here on.