An Esper Moment with Shota Yasooka

Posted in GRAND PRIX TAIPEI 2016 on June 25, 2016

By Chapman Sim

There are very few names in the world of Magic which are synonymous with Dimir and, by extension, Esper.

Shota Yasooka invariably ends up playing with a control deck of his own, regardless of the climate of the environment. The last high-level success Yasooka experienced was during Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, where he was one match from being crowned a Pro Tour Champion for a second time. However, that stellar performance wasn't for nothing, since it solidified him as one of the very best to have ever played the game, catapulting him right into the Hall of Fame.

"I think it is not a secret that I like to play with Blue and Black cards," Yasooka confessed.

In his mind, it has to be pretty uncomfortable to run along with format-dominating archetypes such as Green-White Tokens. After all, everyone has their own play style, their own unique niche, and their singular place in this wondrous galaxy. Did he ever consider playing anything else, especially with the mature Standard format being as diverse as ever?

"Just because a deck is good doesn't mean that I will like it. Green-White Tokens is a very strong deck but it's not for me. I briefly enjoyed Yuuki Ichikawa's Sultai Seasons Past deck, but even now he has switched over to Collected Company. I could play Bant Coco, because I can play with counterspells. But there are no Black cards, and I would have to play it very aggressively to great effect. I am a control player. It just wouldn't work. I would shift in my seat and feel awkward all day. Like an itch at the back of my head that I cannot scratch. It's just me, I guess."

Aside from these deep-seated preferences, another reason why he has decided to bring Esper Control to the tables is because he's extremely masterful as a control player. Putting some targeted removal, board sweepers, discard spells and countermagic in Yasooka grip is a surefire way to make him feel at home.

Aside from Dragonlord Ojutai and Dragonlord Silumgar, Yasooka has found some room for a bunch of singletons that will surprise many opponents, both with unexpectedness and with awe. Specifics will have to wait until Round 15, but what I can tell you now that he's absolutely crushing Day 1.


Shota Yasooka didn't come to play. He came to win.

"I might look very serious when I'm playing a match, but trust me when I tell you that I am having a lot of fun when I'm in firm grasp of the game state. Every card that I include is there for a reason. I have some cool choices in my deck but I'm not goofing around. There is a lot at stake. "

Why so serious, you might ask?

Since Yasooka is more than locked up for Platinum, there are only a handful of things that could be on his mind. First of all, the top three players in the Asia Pacific Geo-region will secure a spot at the upcoming World Championships in September. Secondly, the player with the most Pro Points of each country will also secure the title of National Champion and a captaincy spot at the World Magic Cup.

Coincidentally, the table below encompasses the situation for both races.


Top Players in Asia Pacific and Japan

Not to downplay Yasooka's endless list of achievements because it would be impossible to do so, a little piece of interestingly bizarre trivia is that Yasooka has never had the chance to be called the Japan National Champion, a title which (13) Yuuya Watanabe has been "hogging" in the past four seasons. Cruelly, Watanabe also denied Yasooka his second Player of the Year title back during the 2012 Player Championship.


The bittersweet finals of the 2012 World Championship

"I always strive to be the very best, in the same way that Watanabe-san does. Even though I have wanted to defeat him on numerous occasions, there is no shame in losing because he's just super, super good. We're the same type of person, and will stop at nothing to achieve our goals. This season, I'm blessed to have a slightly better results, and it is the perfect opportunity to fulfill one of my unmade dreams. I've also never played in a World Magic Cup and everything will boil down to Grand Prix Taipei, Grand Prix Sydney as well as Pro Tour Eldritch Moon."


Yasooka, doing his Magic.

Reaching the elimination rounds this weekend will also mark Yasooka's 20th lifetime Grand Prix, which is another milestone that is worthy of remembrance. 7-0 and going strong as we speak, his result is nothing less than what we expect from the legendary Shota Yasooka.

Esper, forever.

Shota Yasooka's Esper Control

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