Semifinals: Carlos Ballester (White-Green Tokens) vs. Riku Kumagai (Naya Midrange)

Posted in GRAND PRIX TOKYO 2016 on May 8, 2016

By Chapman Sim

As advertised, White-Green Tokens has been living up to expectations all weekend. As a matter of fact, both copies which made the Top 8 have advanced to the semifinals, one of them in the hands of Carlos Ballester.

This is Riku Kumagai's first visit to a Grand Prix 8 and he shares that this weekend has certainly exceeded his own expectations. A humble man with a mild demeanor, he came with Naya Midrange, a concoction which he feels was good against other control decks on the back of the high quantity of Planeswalkers.

However, if you think about it, both decks aren't all that different. They're essentially running the best White and Green cards you can ask for in Standard. Oath of Nissa you find your excellent creatures such as Sylvan Advocate and Archangel Avacyn. In addition, it can also fetch any Planeswalker and even help you cast them even if you're color-screwed.

What Kumagai has that Ballester doesn't were the Red options.

"Nahiri, the Harbinger has been very good for me all weekend. Also, Dragonlord Atarka is a big deal in those creature standstill, and I believe the Radiant Flames will make a big difference."

We'll see about that!

Game 1

Ballester curved out beautifully, leading with Thraben Inspector, Sylvan Advocate, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This is THE dream opening any White-Green player could ask for! After churning out a few Plants and a couple of Soldiers, he finally pulled the trigger and gave his entire team +1/+1 counters.

Apparently good enough in the current metagame to be played in the main.

While it would seem like Kumagai's in trouble, he actually wasn't. A timely (maindecked) Radiant Flames reduced the board down to something more manageable, buying him some time to drop Linvala, the Preserver.

That was an excellent, excellent comeback, and from that point onward it was all downhill for Ballester. Kumagai summoned Nissa, Vastwood Seer, which promptly transformed into Nissa, Sage Animist to create Ashaya, the Awoken World.

Ballester attempts to wrestle his way to a win.

However, Ballester could still win if Kumagai made a mistake. Using Secure the Wastes for 6 Soldier tokens, Ballester attacked with his entire team. However, Kumagai wasn't about to throw the game away. Blocking very carefully and ensuring that as little damage slipped through as possible, he was able to simply counterattack for the win.

Carlos Ballester 0 – Riku Kumagai 1

Game 2

Despite being on the draw, Kumagai led with Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker while Ballester replied with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Despite being able to churn up a couple of Plant tokens, they all ended up as sacrificial lambs simply to keep Nissa alive.

Things promised to change once Ballester passed his fifth turn with all his mana untapped. Kumagai could smell the Avacyn from a mile away and was ready with Stasis Snare when it appeared.

Kumagai presses the advantage and pressures the Planeswalkers.

Unfortunately, things went horribly awry for Ballester, since he started to become land-flooded. As I peeked over his shoulder, he still had three lands in his hand to go with the seven on the board, in addition to an irrelevant Clip Wings.

Oops, I take it back. Kumagai just flashed out Archangel Avacyn. When Kumagai tried a second copy the next turn, Ballester responded with a freshly-peeled Stasis Snare.

Quite literally the "War of the Avacyns", so how did this tussle eventually end?

Kumagai topped things off with Dragonlord Atarka, sending himself into the finals and Ballester packing up his cards. Will there be an all White-Green finals?

Carlos Ballester 0 – Riku Kumagai 2