Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 10, 2015

By Josh Bennett

The original Japanese wunderkind, Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura is gradually making his return to the world of professional Magic. Now that his responsibilities are fewer he’s been playing more, getting himself back into fighting shape. He streams Magic Online twice weekly to a viewership that stays well north of a thousand simultaneous viewers. He’s been brought on-board Team Hareruya, playing alongside heavyweights Tomoharu Saito and Kentaro Yamamoto. I asked him if this meant we’d be seeing lots of him at Grand Prix this year, but he said he couldn’t promise anything as he’s trying to keep his expenses down. “Next year, though!”

He sat down to his build and did a quick first pass through his pool. There were no standout rares, and half of them hit the bench immediately. Hardened Scales, Retribution of the Ancients and Empty the Pits were not what Tsumura was looking for. Having gotten an idea of what his colors were capable of, Tsumura turned his attention to the wealth of lands his pool offered. “Lands are one of the first things I look at in this format. You want to know how well you can support the colors, what colors you can splash easily. Here I had tons of dual lands, but none were green. I went back to look at the green, and it was only so-so. I knew I wouldn’t be playing it.”

Kenji Tsumura

He laid out a base of black-white cards, organizing creatures by casting cost. They suggested an aggressive build: Bloodsoaked Champion and Mardu Hateblade at one, then five two-drops including Chiefs of both the Scale and the Edge. Unfortunately he was short on cheap tricks. He fleshed out this skeleton by adding red to the mix: A Ride Down, a Burn Away and a Highspire Mantis. He consulted his lands again, then added a bunch of splashed morphs including Mistfire Weaver, Mystic of the Hidden Way, Efreet Weaponmaster, and Rattleclaw Mystic. He decided to get generous with red and added in the two Arrow Storms. By this point he had probably thirty cards laid out.

The first cuts were fairly straightforward. Thanks to the powerful splashed morphs he wouldn’t need things like War Behemoth. Likewise the aggro deck doesn’t care for Shambling Attendants and Dazzling Rampart. The creature curve looked good, but there was a jam-up of expensive spells. Rite of the Serpent and Smite the Monstrous fell under the axe, and Throttle’s position was looking less and less secure. Going over the remainder of his pool for alternatives, Tsumura decided to check the viability of a different base. He swapped out the black for blue, but it was almost a non-starter. Despite gaining a pair of Jeskai Windscout, Winterflame and Master the Way the deck was much less focused this way. “With two Flooded Strand I thought I should try it out, but it wasn’t as good as black-white.” He went back to the original plan and soon had his starting forty set.

I asked Tsumura if he preferred aggro in Khans Sealed. “I hate aggro. I like playing midrange or control, both in Constructed and Limited. This pool though, the deck wanted to be very aggressive.” I asked him about splashing so many morph creatures. “They’re all very strong and with so many lands it’s easy to splash them. It’s a little strange, though, an aggro deck with seven tapped lands.” I noted that he’d added three basic mountains, stretching his mana to support the Arrow Storms. “The mana worked out okay, and this deck really wants to have finishers. Without them I only have one – the Rush of Battle – and that’s not enough.” I asked if he’d considered Master the Way as well. “I didn’t want it because I only have two lands that produce blue, not really enough.” I asked him if there was anything he felt like the deck was missing and he smiled. “Did you see my tweet?” Before sitting down to build he sent out a message praying for Wingmate Roc. “You always want Wingmate Roc.” Lastly, did he think this deck could carry him to Day 2? He thought it over briefly and then clasped his hands in prayer. “PLEASE!”