Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Frank Karsten

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!

Pack 1

Pick Ichikawa’s choice Other notable options
1 Archers' Parapet Swiftwater Cliffs, Jungle Hollow, Abzan Guide, Mardu Charm
2 Woolly Loxodon Hooting Mandrills, Incremental Growth, Dismal Backwater
3 Kin-Tree Invocation Kill Shot, Monastery Flock, Sultai Scavenger
4 Opulent Palace Mardu Hateblade, Sagu Archer
5 Treasure Cruise Mardu Skullhunter, Waterwhirl
6 Scion of Glaciers Scoured Barrens, Canyon Lurkers
7 Scoured Barrens Arrow Storm, Become Immense
8 Jungle Hollow Glacial Crasher, War Behemoth
9 Rotting Mastodon Treasure Cruise
10 Smoke Teller Hooting Mandrills
11 Sultai Banner
12 Dutiful Return
13 Despise
14 Dutiful Return

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!

Pack 2

Pick Ichikawa’s choice Other notable options
1 Incremental Growth Riverwheel Aerialists, Rite of the Serpent, Monastery Flock, Tranquil Cove
2 Heir of the Wilds Thornwood Falls, Pine Walker, Throttle
3 Sultai Charm Armament Corps, Flooded Strand, Highland Game
4 Abomination of Gudul Sultai Scavenger, Monastery Flock
5 Become Immense Scout the Borders, Weave Fate
6 Singing Bell Strike Weave Fate, Scout the Borders
7 Singing Bell Strike Krumar Bond-Kin
8 Disdainful Stroke Longshot Squad
9 Rite of the Serpent Scaldkin
10 Tusked Colossodon Embodiment of Spring
11 Scaldkin
12 Kheru Dreadmaw
13 Defiant Strike
14 Brave the Sands

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.

Pack 3

Pick Ichikawa’s choice Other notable options
1 Icefeather Aven Smoke Teller, Archers' Parapet, Witness of the Ages
2 Scion of Glaciers Mantis Rider, Force Away, Frontier Bivouac
3 Opulent Palace Treasure Cruise, Longshot Squad, Awaken the Bear
4 Mystic of the Hidden Way Sultai Scavenger, Mer-Ek Nightblade
5 Clever Impersonator Krumar Bond-Kin, Crippling Chill
6 Glacial Crasher Sage of the Inward Eye
7 Monastery Flock Crippling Chill
8 Highland Game Glacial Crasher
9 Wetland Sambar Whirlwind Adept
10 Sagu Archer Embodiment of Spring
11 Treasure Cruise
12 Canyon Lurkers
13 Waterwhirl
14 Goblinslide

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.