No. 23 Yuuki Ichikawa, the only player from the Top 25 rankings who made it all the way to the Top 8, is one of Japan’s rising stars. He made the Top 8 of both Pro Tour Journey into Nyx and Pro Tour Magic 2015 last season, but prior to this event he only had a single Grand Prix Top 8 to his name, making him one of the few players who had fewer Grand Prix Top 8s than Pro Tour Top 8s. After this event, however, he has evened up the count.
As for his drafting strategy: He had been favoring controlling decks with high-toughness creatures all weekend, and it has worked out very well for him so far. Let’s see how his Top 8 draft went!
Ichikawa’s draft started with an Archers' Parapet from a relatively weak booster, and he shortly combined it with Kin-Tree Invocation. He then moved into Sultai, although Scoured Barrens still gave him an outside shot at Abzan if he wanted.
Ichikawa started off the draft with an Archers' Parapet.
At the end of the first booster, I peeked at the drafters to Ichikawa’s right. His direct right neighbor was drafting Mardu, and the person to that player’s right was on Temur. So Sultai would be open, at least in the third booster. But would it also be open in the second booster? Let’s take a look!
After receiving a third-pick Sultai Charm and a fourth-pick Abomination of Gudul, Ichikawa was locked into Sultai. Now, most Sultai decks are controlling in nature, based around the synergy of delve cards like Sultai Scavenger and graveyard-fueling cards like Scout the Borders, but Ichikawa decided to take his draft in a different direction: his deck was starting to look like Sultai aggro. With combat tricks like Become Immense and tempo spells like Singing Bell Strike, he would be able to push his advantage if he could get on board early.
Ichikawa making his picks.
However, at the end of the second pack, he didn’t quite have the creature count necessary to take advantage of his combat tricks and tempo spells yet. So, filling out his creature base was bound to be on his mind for the last pack.
With the third pack, Ichikawa rounded out his creature count and curve. His mana base looked good as well, with two copies of Opulent Palace that would give him access to all of his colors. Now it was on to the deck construction table.
Ichikawa building his deck.
You will be able to find Ichikawa’s final list in the Top 8 decklists. When asked what he thought of his deck, Ichikawa replied with a non-committal “so-so”. As it turned out, he managed to quickly win his quarterfinals 2-0, but then fell to Akito Shinoda in the semifinals.