Grand Prix
Yokohama 2013
Day 1 Coverage

Posted in Event Coverage on March 2, 2013

By Wizards of the Coast

Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise

by Nate Price

It's time for some homework! Gatecrash Sealed Deck is still a fairly young format, so there are still a broad range of views on how to approach Sealed Deck building with the set. In order to help those of you who want to improve their skills, we have cracked our own Sealed Deck pool, which we will be taking around the room to various Pro players to get their input on how to best build a 40-card deck. Below is the list of cards we will be passing around. Feel free to take a crack at it, maybe post your build on the message boards, and check back frequently to compare your builds to what others have come up with, including the panel of Pros we'll be enlisting here in Yokohama.

Saturday, 1:11 p.m. – Mountains and Valleys: The Last Twelve Months of Japanese Magic

by Ben Swartz

The last twelve months have seen soaring highs and crushing lows for the Japanese Magic community. The highs include record attendance for Japanese tournaments, spectacular performance for Japanese players, and the induction of two Japanese players into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. The highs are contrasted with the lows of the Japanese performance at Pro Tour Gatecrash and the passing of one Japan's greats, Itaru Ishida.

The record for attendance for Japanese Grand Prix has been shattered three times over the past year. June saw Grand Prix Yokohama with a record breaking 1523 players showing up to play with their Modern decks. Jyun'ichi Miyajima was the last man standing, attacking his way to victory with his White-Black Tokens deck. Following Yokohama was Grand Prix Nagoya in December with 1689 players. Yuuji Okita was eventually crowned champion with his unconventional Humans Reanimator deck. Of course, the attendance this weekend is nothing short of amazing with 2281 players here in Yokohama battling Gatecrash limited.

Outside of tournament attendance, Japanese players have had a banner year. The Japanese performance at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored kicked things off: two Japanese players, Naoki Shimizu and Ken Yukuhiro made the Top 8 in Barcelona. This signified a passing of the torch to the younger crop of Japanese players with Ken Yukuhiro spearheading it. After his performance at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, Ken won Grand Prix Singapore at the beginning of 2013 cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with in Japanese Magic.

The true force in Japanese Magic over the past year, however, is Yuuya Watanabe. Yuuya won the inaugural Players Championship and became the 2012 Player of the Year. He followed that performance up with his second place finish at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Seattle. Leading the current Player of the Year race at 62 Pro Points, another Player of the Year title may be in his future.

Also at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Seattle, Kenji Tsumura and Masashi Oiso were immortalized in the Pro Tour Hall of Fame. Kenji took no time to reimmerse himself into the game making the Top 8 at Grand Prix Nagoya in December.

While Japanese Magic has stayed strong over the past twelve months, a lowlight to the past year was the Japanese performance at Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal. Former World Champion Makihito Mihara was the best performing Japanese player finishing a heartbreaking 28th place after dropping the last few rounds to miss Top 8.

Finally, the passing of Japanese great, Itaru Ishida, shocked and saddened the Magic community. Along with being a talented player and a gifted deck builder, Ishida was a passionate leader of the Japanese community, passing the torch to the new crop of players in the 21st century. Players such as Shuhei Nakamura, Kenji Tsumura, and Katsuhiro Mori would not have the accomplishments they have today had it not been for Ishida. The entire community mourns the loss of one of the greats.

Saturday, 4:26 p.m. – Quick Questions: What is the strongest guild in Sealed Deck?

by Nate Price
Shuhei Nakamura: Boros. In terms of raw power, it is the best. But everyone knows that it is a really good guild, so I don’t like it as much.
Kenji Tsumura: I want to play Orzhov, but Simic is a close second and Dimir is third. (Gruul is fourth and Boros is last.)
Shahar Shenhar: Orzhov. Better yet, Borzhov. There are a lot of playable black and white cards, which makes the decks really easy to build. For me, I think the Orzhov cards are the most powerful.
Yuuya Watanabe: Boros. They have the best commons and the strongest creatures, like Wojek Halberdiers and Daring Skyjek. White is very strong in Sealed Deck.
Makihito Mihara: Boros. They have many strong common and uncommon creatures.
"Prince" Naoki Shimizu: Simic is always the best, of course! While I may not be king of the Simic, I am at least a prince. Future king. Besides, Gatecrash doesn't have any guilds other than Simic!

Saturday, 4:39 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise with Christian Calcano

by Ben Swartz

World Traveler, Christian Calcano, made his way out to Yokohama for the first of three consecutive Grand Prix. Well versed in Gatecrash sealed, having played both Grand Prix London and Grand Prix Charlotte, Christian is a prime candidate for taking a look at our sealed pool.

"This is really tough," Christian muttered as he laid out the cards by color and by guild. "I don't think this black is deep enough," he mentioned as he slid those cards to the side. Christian's next move was to pick up the Red and Green colored cards. Boros Reckoner was the first to catch his eye.

Christian Calcano

Christian was quick to lay out the playable Red and Green cards for his deck but spent some time trying to decide if he wanted to splash some white cards. Thanks to the Prismatic Lens in the pool he found that splashing the Angelic Edict would be easy. After adding White he went to figure out which lands he wanted to use.

"I think the 18th land is necessary because of Rubblehulk," Christian said as he laid out his lands. "Three sources for the one white card is more than enough and any extra white can be spent on Boros Reckoner, so it works out really nicely."

When asked about his final choices, he mentioned, "Towering Thunderfist and Martial Glory are really closely on the bench. Towering Thunderfist might just be better than Millennial Gargoyle, but flying is a weakness for this type of deck."

Overall Christian felt that his deck was "good, not bad, but not great. The green cards are pretty strong and Rubblehulk is insane." He continued, "I try to play two colors as much as possible. Mana is really important in this format. I've had a lot of trouble stumbling on mana in previous sealed tournaments"

Christian Calcano

Download Arena Decklist

Round 5 Feature Match – Shuhei Nakamura vs. Toshiyuki Kadooka

by Ben Swartz

"Here, I want you to have this," Shuhei Nakamura said to Toshiyuki Kadooka while he handed him an "I Played A Pro Tour Hall of Famer Pin."

"Eh, what is this?" Toshiyuki Kadooka called back.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer and world traveler Shuhei Nakamura is normally seen boarding an airplane to go to some far away place to play in a Grand Prix, but, this weekend, he was able to stay at home and play a Grand Prix in his own backyard.

Toshiyuki Kadooka, is no stranger to success in tournaments in Yokohama; he finished 4th place at the previous Grand Prix Yokohama.

Syndic of Tithes

Shuhei started the match off with a Syndic of Tithes, which Toshiyuki wasted no time using Devour Flesh to remove the pesky extorter. Shuhei began amassing his army by casting a Frontline Medic and a Zairichi Tiger.

At the end of the turn Toshiyuki used Beckon Apparition to make a 1/1 Spirit token.

"Do you want Gerry Thompson, Brian Kibler, Patrick Chapin, or Brad Nelson?" Shuhei asked, showing custom made tokens of other famous players.

Kibler, Toshiyuki decided.

Toshiyuki had an Orzhov Charm for Shuhei's Frontline Medic but was running low on offense on his own.

A Cinder Elemental and a Kingpin's Pet entered the battlefield for Shuhei, while the only thing Toshiyuki could muster was as Millenial Gargoyle.

Shuhei attacked with the Zairichi Tiger and then cast a Gateway Shade, using the Kingpin's Pet's extort ability to drop Toshiyuki down to seven.

Toshiyuki found a temporary answer in the form of Knight Watch to clog the board and prevent Shuhei from attacking. With time running out, Toshiyuki drew Angel Skirmisher, which forced Shuhei to use his Cinder Elemental to remove the Angel.

But Toshiyuki had another haymaker in the form of Gift of Orzhova, which enchanted a Knight token. The super sized Knight put Shuhei on the brink of death, but a timely Killing Glare removed the token and gave Shuhei some breathing room.

Shuhei Nakamura

Toshiyuki, however, was not out of gas, repopulating the board with a Daring Skyjek and using a pair of removal spells, Angelic Edict and Grisly Spectacle, to reduce Shuhei's board to only a pair of creatures.

Unfazed, Shuhei calmly played a Firemane Avenger, which, with Battalion enabled by Shuhei's other creatures, prompted a concession from Toshiyuki.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 0 Toshiyuki Kadooka

Toshiyuki chose to draw for game two had a quick start with a Thrull Parasite, a Kingpin's Pet and a Daring Skyjek. Shuhei, on the other hand, had a slow start casting only a Prismatic Lens, an Orzhov Signet and finally an Assault Griffin.

Vizkopa Confessor

Shuhei then cast a Vizkopa Confessor revealing Toshiyuki's hand of Orzhov Charm, Death's Approach, Millennial Gargoyle, and Purge the Profane.

Shuhei took the Orzhov Charm, but Toshiyuki got to work by playing his Millennial Gargoyle. The Gargoyle and the Daring Skyjek attacked a couple of times, finally forcing Shuhei to trade off his Assault Griffin for the Gargoyle.

Toshiyuki then halved Shuhei's hand with Purge the Profane. Shuhei discarded a Plains and Debtors Pulpit but kept a Pit Fight to take out Kadooka's Kingpin's Pet

Gift of Orzhova made a repeat performance for Toshiyuki, making his Daring Skyjek a force to be reckoned with, but Shuhei had a Killing Glare on his turn to take out the super powered Skyjek.

Toshiyuki was not completely out of threats, casting a Nightveil Specter and using Grisly Spectacle to take out Shuhei's only flyer, clearing the way for the newly minted Specter.

The Nightveil Specter attacked two times but it was only able to exile lands; Toshiyuki didn't need them though, and an Angelic Skirmisher from Toshiyuki's own deck made short work of the Hall of Famer driving the match to a deciding game three.

Shuhei Nakamura 1 – 1 Toshiyuki Kadooka

The third game started with a Daring Skyjek for Toshiyuki and a Basilica Screecher for Shuhei. Toshiyuki offered the trade by attacking with his Daring Skyjek and Shuhei quickly obliged. Shuhei had a Skyjek of his own, but Toshiyuki had a Kingpin's Pet and Nav Squad Commando to construct a powerful board.

Toshiyuki Kadooka

The Nav Squad Commando drew a Smite from Shuhei, but an Urbis Protector from Kadooka insured he still had an army left over.

Killing Glare from Shuhei took out Toshiyuki's Pet, but Toshiyuki had Angelic Skirmisher waiting in his hand.

Shuhei could not find an answer for the Angelic Skirmisher and fell to it a few turns later.

Toshiyuki Kadooka 2 - 1 Shuhei Nakamura

Saturday, 7:32 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise with Kenji Tsumura

by Ben Swartz

Recently minted Pro Tour Hall of Famer, Kenji Tsumura has come to Grand Prix Yokohama prepared; using Magic Online he was able to play in 20 different sealed deck tournaments. He rose to the challenge of constructing one more for our sealed deck building exercise.

Kenji dove straight into the Gruul cards in our pool, and laid out a solid straight Gruul deck. He then picked up the white cards seeing if Boros would be a possibility but noted that "it's probably not good enough."

His next exploration was Dimir. After laying out the Dimir cards and seeing a glut of three and four drops he mentioned, "I need it to be faster. This deck has a number of strong cards, but it is not fast enough to deal with the fast decks that are common in this format."

Kenji Tsumura

He then moved back to the original Gruul stack and took a look to see if he could splash some white cards with the aid of Boros Keyrune and Prismatic Lens. "I want to add this card," he said pointing to Debtor's Pulpit, "but, I have so many green two-drops that I don't want to risk getting bad draws by adding White."

Overall Kenji thinks that this deck is "strong; it has two Pit Fights on top of powerful creatures." He continued, "I would really want one more powerful card." After counting up the cards he pointed out that there were around 19 very powerful cards, but the last four playables were a little lacking.

With regards to his decision not to add White, Kenji explains, "Having good mana in this format is very important. There are many games that are decided upon whether or not you can cast your spells. Even with mana fixers like Prismatic Lens, it still can be tough in a two color deck."

Here is what Kenji Tsumura came up with:

Kenji Tsumura

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Round 6 Feature Match – Alexander Hayne vs. Katsuhiro Mori

by Nate Price

Katsuhiro Mori is one of the most feared Japanese players on the planet. While he rarely travels outside of Japan for Magic anymore, at one point, no part of the world was safe. While the rest of the world may have been given a respite, a wild Mori still appears at Japanese Grand Prix, and his game is just as good as it was when he won the World Championships in 2005, right here in Yokohama. In fact, if any player can claim to own Yokohama, it would be Mori, who won the Extended Grand Prix here in 2010 in addition to his Worlds title.

Still, his opponent has found his own amount of high level success, and more recently. Canadian Alexander Hayne and his UW Miracles deck took Pro Tour Avacyn Restored by storm. Recently, he and his team, Team Manadeprived, have been collaborating with a group of east Asian players, including players from Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong. Here and ready to take care of business, Hayne is one of the few high-level professional players who decided to make the trip to Japan. Both he and Mori sit currently at 4-1.

Alexander Hayne

"Where are you from," the former World Champion asked his Pro Tour Champion opponent? When Hayne responded that he was from Canada, Mori asked him, "Do you know Rich? Hoaen?" Hoaen's relationship with Kenji Tsumura and many of the other top Japanese pros is fairly legendary. Hayne smiled and replied that he did, Mori giving a respectful nod.

Mori started quickly, playing a Wasteland Viper on his first turn, followed by a Slaughterhorn on his third. Hayne had been forced to mulligan, and his six-card hand didn't give him an incredibly fast start to the game. He made a Warmind Infantry and tried to block the Slaughterhorn, but Mori showed a third bloodrush creature, a Scab-Clan Charger, keeping the 3/2 Beast alive.

Hayne was in trouble. Sitting behind a clear board and facing down some aggressive creatures on Mori's side, he was in the even more unfortunate predicament of having no fourth land drop. He simply played the loneliest Ember Beast and passed the turn. Mori took yet another chunk out of his life and passed the turn. Hayne found a fourth land, getting himself a Boros Keyrune and a Disciple of the Old Ways, giving him a teammate for the Ember Beast. This held Mori's ground troops at bay.

With the ground blocked off, Mori took to the skies, making a Mindeye Drake and a Sapphire Drake on consecutive turns. An Urban Evolution filled his hand with goodies as well, preparing to finish off the wounded Canadian. Hayne didn't have an answer to the flying troops, and Mori wasn't going to give him a chance to find one. He flashed in a Shambleshark at the end of Hayne's turn, untapped and added a creature to evolve it, and then sent for nine damage in the air.

Alexander Hayne 0 – Katsuhiro Mori 1


Hayne's draw for the second game was good enough to keep, albeit a bit slow. While it seemed that Mori's draw was potentially faster than his last, his Cloudfin Raptor and Crocanura didn't really set the pace for the game. It was Hayne, who had a slow yet powerful draw, that determined how the game would progress. He began with an Ember Beast and a Rubbleback Raiders, sending his massive beaters in at Mori. He could do nothing but take the damage since his Crocanura had yet to evolve. Mori added a Slaughterhorn to his team, much better than the Bomber Corps that Hayne had added, but he was still at the Canadian's mercy. Hayne once again attacked, hitting Mori for one with the Corps. Fearing a combat trick, Mori took the damage, taking yet one more massive hit. When he tried to block on the following attack, Hayne showed the Zhur-Taa Swine he was holding, making his unblocked Bomber Corps large enough to end the game. Three swings was all it took for Hayne to even the match.

Alexander Hayne 1 – Katsuhiro Mori 1

Both players had to mulligan in the final game of the match, with Hayne dropping all the way to five cards. Hayne was the first on the board with a Disciple of the Old Ways, but Mori dealt the first damage. At the end of his turn, Mori flashed in a Shambleshark, untapping and attacking for two. He stumbled a bit on mana, failing to find a third land for a turn. Hayne did the same, but he was still able to add a Bomber Corps to his team. Drawing a third land on his next turn, Mori added a Slaughterhorn to his side, evolving his Fish Crab in the process. When Mori attacked with his creatures on the following turn, Hayne tried to block the 3/2 Shambleshark with his Disciple and give it first strike, but Mori had another Slaughterhorn to keep it around. After combat, Mori added a 0/1 Cloudfin Raptor to his team and passed the turn.

Hayne was very much behind at this point, and his board was fairly weak. He had drawn two more lands bringing him up to four, and he used them to make a Scorchwalker. The Walker immediately traded for the Shambleshark's next attack, lending a touch of parity to the board.

Mori still held a slight advantage, but he had played no additional creatures, leaving his Raptor a mere 0/1. When Hayne played a Zhur-Taa Swine, the needle swung hugely in his favor. Still, with his giant creature, he was wary of an additional trick when Mori sent in his Slaughterhorn. He took the three and was soon proven correct, as Mori added a Scab-Clan Charger to his team after combat. This finally evolved his Raptor, giving him a flying attacker. With Hayne down to 6, the Raptor was going to prove quite a problem.

Hayne had been slowly pecking away at Mori with his Bomber Corps, attacking for one a turn, but he was soon going to find himself needing the blocker. Mori attacked with his team. Hayne blocked the Charger with his Swine and the Slaughterhorn with his Cinder Elemental. Mori thought for a minute about what he should do, telegraphing a trick. He tapped his lands to bloodrush Rubblehulk, giving the Charger +4/+4, keeping it alive. This decision by Mori would come back to be very important as the game continued. Hayne's team evaporated, leaving him merely a Bomber Corps behind. He added a Rubbleback Raiders to his team, giving him a fairly substantial body, and passed the turn.

Katsuhiro Mori

Mori was in an interesting spot. His desire to not lose his main attacker to removal had let Hayne live a bit longer. His Cloudfin Raptor was still only a 1/2, a few turns from being able to kill Hayne. Now, Hayne had a creature big enough to not only stop his Charger, but possibly begin attacking soon. On his turn, all he could do was pass the turn. Hayne continued to build, adding a Warmind Infantry to his side. Now that he had yet another creature that could safely block the Charger, Hayne began attacking with his Raiders. Mori's life started to drop.

Mori added a Simic Fluxmage to his side, but without many cards in hand, and apparently no creatures that could evolve his 1/2 Raptor, it seemed unlikely that they would immediately impact the game. Still, Hayne blew them away with a Mugging before killing the Raptor with a Massive Raid, emptying his hand. Mori still had some juice left on his side, using a Totally Lost to return the Raiders to the top of Hayne's deck, denying him a fresh card. When he untapped and played a Sapphire Drake, the game was over. With the Raiders on top of his deck, Hayne had no way to deal with the lethal flier and conceded the match to Mori.

Alexander Hayne 1 – Katsuhiro Mori 2

Saturday, 7:45 p.m. – Quick Questions: What are the strongest common, uncommon, and rare/mythic rare in Sealed Deck?

by Nate Price
Shuhei Nakamura: Common – Grisly Spectacle, Uncommon – Gift of Orzhova, Rare – Obzedat, Ghost Council. (I'm Orzhov!)
Kenji Tsumura: Common – Grisly Spectacle, Uncommon – Truefire Paladin, Rare – Consuming Aberration
Sam Black: Common – Grisly Spectacle, Uncommon – One Thousand Lashes, Rare – Obzedat, Ghost Council. Though Clan Defiance is the best non-mythic rare.
Yuuya Watanabe: Common – Mugging, Uncommon – Truefire Paladin, Rare – Gideon, Champion of Justice
Ken Yukuhiro: Common – Grisly Spectacle, Uncommon – Ghor-Clan Rampager, Rare – Angelic Skirmisher
"Prince" Naoki Shimizu: Common – Cloudfin Raptor, Uncommon – Zamek Guildmage, Rare – Master Biomancer

Saturday, 8:37 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise with Shuhei Nakamura

by Nate Price

I hope that all of you have been enjoying our little Sealed Deck exercise! It's always fun to take the same card pool up to multiple exceptional players to see the differences between each of their builds and hear them explain why they made the choices they made. The card pool we opened for our exercise isn't the strongest pool, but it certainly has its share of cards to work with. Even better, there are reasonable enough cards for each of the colors that there is no clear consensus about how to build it. One of the first people we approached with our pool is the Hall-of-Famer Shuhei Nakamura. During his three byes, Nakamura had plenty of time to sit down with us and take a look at our pool.

As is standard during Sealed Deck building, Nakamura set about pulling the unplayable cards out of the pile and organizing the remaining cards. He made five rows of cards, one for each base color. The gold cards were set aside, organized into their own guilds. Certain monocolored cards made their ways into the guild piles, such as Dutiful Thrull in the Orzhov pile, Spire Tracer in the Gruul pile, and Devour Flesh in the Dimir pile.

With things organized, he counted the cards in each of the piles of monocolored cards.

"It is important to have enough of the base color cards in your deck," Nakamura told me. "Organizing and counting cards like this is important because it lets you know which color combinations you have enough cards to play. In this pool, I think green is best. It has a lot of cards, and many of them are above average. Black is probably the worst."

After taking stock of the colors in the pool, Nakamura set about trying out different builds. First up was Simic, unsurprising given his predilection for the guild.

"This looks decent," he told me. "It has some good removal, a large amount of two-drops, some good evolve creatures... I can even splash red if I wanted for some good bloodrush cards."

He ultimately decided that this version should splash for a few Gruul cards (Rubblehulk, Zhur-Taa Swine, Skaarg Guildmage, and Mugging). Notably, he opted not to play his Simic Keyrune.

"I don't like it much," he explained. "Simic is about playing creatures to evolve your other creatures. The Simic Keyrune doesn't evolve your creatures, and most of my creatures are inexpensive, so I don't want to play it. I would strongly consider playing a Gruul Keyrune if I had one, though. It being a 3/2 trampler is a bit more important, plus it would help my red splash."

Noting once more that his green options were very strong, Nakamura gave Gruul a try next.

"I am not the happiest playing the Boros Reckoner in this build," he sighed. "Without great mana fixing, it can be a very frustrating card. I can see myself having it stuck in my hand without a way to play it. It can really be frustrating in Gruul or Orzhov. Still, I do have two Pit Fights, so it will certainly be valuable if I can get it into play."

The Gruul build had a bit more late-game presence than the Simic build did, but its curve was rather weak.

"I have many two-drops, and a few good five-drops, but there is very little in between. Despite that, I still feel that this is a more powerful deck than the Simic option. It has better creatures, more consistency, and the chance for a better splash."

With that in mind, he turned his attention to his white cards. White seemed to be the color most players wanted to be in for Gatecrash Sealed Deck. Sam Black went so far as to say that the decks that win the most are either white or have Clan Defiance.

Nakamura took a look through his remaining cards and immediately dismissed Boros.

"There aren't enough cards for Boros."

The pool has a couple of reasonable black removal spells, so Nakamura decided to take a look at the Orzhov version of the deck.

"I do like the fact that two Dimir Guildgates makes it possible to splash blue easily," he told me. "Still, this deck is much weaker. It has cards in it that don't belong in the same deck."

Nakamura went on to point to Debtor's Pulpit and Court Street Denizen as perfect examples. One wants to be in the slower control deck, while the other wants to be in an aggressive deck. Still, the deck was a bit light on cards, so he was going to have to play them all if he wanted to be Orzhov. After a little more thought, he scrapped the deck and went back to the Gruul deck, what he felt was the most powerful of the options offered.

Here's what he built:

Untitled Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Saturday, 8:45 p.m. – Quick Questions: What is the most important ingredient in an undefeated deck?

by Nate Price
Christian Calcano: Mana. I had powerful cards last weekend but didn't have the mana, and I lost. You just can't afford to be unable to play your spells in this format. I don't think I'd splash for a card without three or four reliable mana sources, like Keyrunes, Guildgates, or a Prophetic Prism.
Kenji Tsumura: Being two colors. Being two colors is better than three colors. I don't like to splash because solid mana is really important. Having a good sideboard is also very important. You have to be able to change the game speed to fight against the speed of your opponent's deck. You have to bring in fast cards to fight the fast decks and slow cards to fight the slow decks. Pacing is very important.
Sam Black: Lots of removal. You’ll inevitably face off against bomb-laden decks as you continue to win, and you need to be able to reliably kill them.
Shahar Shenhar: A high average power level. You don’t need bombs, just solid cards. You don’t want to be playing any filler cards if at all possible.
Ken Yukuhiro: Having a good mana curve is very important. You must have a good number of two- and three-drops.
Makihito Mihara: The mana curve of your deck. Your creatures must have a nice curve. You want to have a good amount of early plays, like two-drops and three-drops.

Saturday, 9:40 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise with Yuuya Watanabe

by Ben Swartz

The final player to take a stab at our Sealed Deck Building Exercise was none other than reigning Player of the Year, Yuuya Watanabe.

After sorting the cards, Yuuya, unlike our other three pros, went straight for the playable Dimir cards. While the number of playable Dimir cards were limited, he really liked what he had there. He then went searching through the White cards to see if he could make an Esper deck.

He then scoured through the rest of the playable cards, the Gruul cards, to see what was there. Side by side he laid out both decks--the Esper on the left and the Gruul on the righ--and started to perfect each simultaneously. He was keen to add a Psychic Strike, a card that he mentioned he really liked in a sealed deck like this.

While he wanted to place the Boros Reckoner in both decks, he was honest with himself, placing the three mana card in the four drop slot for the Gruul deck, while placing it in the six drop slot for the Esper deck.

With the decks perfected he went on to explain why he preferred the Esper deck: "While the Gruul deck has a number of very powerful two drops, after that the power level falls off. Two mana drops are very important in this format." As he pointed at the two drops in his Esper deck, he continued, "These are the type of two drops that make a good sealed deck. There is a chance that I might play the Gruul deck in a sideboarded game, but I would start the Esper deck."

Unlike the other three pros that took a look at our sealed pool, Yuuya was the only one to see the hidden power of the Esper cards. While he gave up on some of the powerful rares in Gruul--Boros Reckoner and Rubblehulk--the removal in the Esper deck made up for what was lost in power level.

Here is the final Esper list that Yuuya created:

Yuuya Watanabe

Download Arena Decklist

Round 9 Roundup – Black Bracket

by Ben Swartz

The final round of day one at Grand Prix Yokohama saw many players battling – some battling to stay undefeated, some battling to go into day two with a great record, while others battled for their tournament lives. I caught up with five matches in the final round in the black bracket.

Christian Calcano vs. Yusuke Kawachi

With both players sitting on 8-0 records they were playing for the right to be undefeated at the end of the day. Calcano was sporting his aggressive Boros deck, while Yusuke Kawachi came prepared with an Orzhov deck. Kawachi's Orzhov deck featuring Obzedat, Ghost Council was no match for Calcano's Syndic of Tithes, Wojek Halberdiers and all-star Legion Loyalist, which, in three games overran Kawachi.

Christian Calcano 2 - 1 Yusuke Kawachi

Shahar Shenhar vs. Ryouta Endou

Another clash of undefeated players pitted Shahar Shenhar's Gruul deck against Ryouta Endou's Boros deck. While Shahar had many powerful Gruul cards including a Rubblehulk, Ryouta's consistent Boros deck, which featured multiple copies of both Syndic of Tithes and Skynight Legionnaire, made quick work the Israeli.

Shahar Shenhar 0 - 2 Ryouta Endou

Masaya Kitayama vs. Shintarou Ishimura

Two more undefeated players, 2007 Japanese National Champion, Masaya Kitayama and Pro Tour Paris Top 8 competitor Shintarou Ishimura entered the feature match area to see who would remain undefeated. While Ishimura had a powerful removal heavy Boros deck, Kitayama's Esper deck, featuring Consuming Aberration and Merciless Eviction, was the eventual winner allowing the former Japanese National Champion to advance to day two unscathed.

Masaya Kitayama 2 - 1 Shintarou Ishimura

Kenji Tsumura vs. Yohei Hoshino

Both players entered this round with 7-1 and were looking to cement their lead going into day two. Kenji was playing a synergistic Simic deck that featured tons of Evolve creatures including Fathom Mage. Yohei was on a controlling Esper deck. The match culminated with a lengthy game three, where, although Kenji was able to build a formidable army, Yohei eventually stabilized and was able to punch through to finish off the Hall of Famer.

Kenji Tsumura 1 - 2 Yohei Hoshino

Masashi Oiso vs. Hajime Nakashima

The other newly minted Hall of Famer, Masashi Oiso, was also found sitting at 7-1 in round nine facing off against up and comer Hajime Nakashima. Oiso, brought an evolve heavy Red-Blue-Green deck to face off against Nakashima's aggressive Boros deck. Oiso's larger and more synergistic creatures made short work Nakashima's little army.

Masashi Oiso 2 - 1 Hajime Nakashima

Shuhei Nakamura vs. Joe Van Sickle

With both players sitting at 6-2 going into the final round of day one, they were battling for their tournament lives. On my way over to this match, I came to an empty table. Talking to Joe after the match, Shuhei was unable to mount much of a defense; thus Joe Van Sickle and not Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura will be advancing to the second day of competition

Shuhei Nakamura 0 - 2 Joe Van Sickle

Round 9 Roundup – Blue Bracket

by Nate Price

With one round to go before the end of Day 1, some big names were making some big plays when jockeying for position on the next day of play.

Akira Asahara

Sitting at 7-1 before this round, Asahara was already locked into Day 2, but a win here would put him in a much better position to make a run at Top 8. He was playing Orzhov against Takahito Kobayashi's aggressive Boros deck. Asahara was able to set up a defensive front early on with a couple of 1/4 creatures, but his castle crumbled in the face of Kobayashi's bomb: Assemble the Legion. Asahara watched as Kobayashi placed counter after counter on the powerful enchantment. Kobayashi wasn't attacking and throwing away his 1/1s, which left him with a massive six 1/1s when Assemble hit three counters. He sent in his entire team before giving them an immense boost with Righteous Charge. All of a sudden, six points of damage became eighteen points of damage, letting enough slip through for Kobayashi to take the game. The second game of the match went south in a different, yet still lethal fashion. This time, Asahara's defenses were much weaker, and Kobayashi's speedy Boros deck quickly ground him to dust.

Shouta Yasooka

Yasooka is known far more for his intricate and unorthodox Constructed decks, viewed by many in the world as one of the, if not the, best deckbuilder on the planet. His love of the unorthodox appeared to carry over to his experiment in Sealed Deck today, as he was shuffling up a four-color deck for the first game. He had a handful of Guildgates, as well as a pair of Greenside Watchers to help power out some large and impressive beasts. They served him no good, however, as his opponent's cards simply outclassed him. Masashi Konno's Dimir deck was the stuff of dreams, sporting a slew of powerful bombs and removal spells. He summarily dispatched Yasooka with a Simic Manipulator and Ogre Slumlord game one.

This was apparently enough to spur Yasooka to get serious, as he sided into a streamlined Borzhov deck. Apparently, he had been siding into the Borzhov about 50% of the time, mostly based on his opponent's deck. If it was either chock full of removal or lightning quick, he felt that his four-color deck was a weaker choice. It was a little slow to develop and reliant on its heavy-hitters to win. The Borzhov deck still had a lot of power, but it was more consistent on average.

With the Borzhov deck in hand, Yasooka managed to fight his way past a very good draw by Konno to force a third game. With the match on the line, he battled unflinchingly as Konno made both a Consuming Aberration and Sepulchral Primordial, giving him two massive attackers and an extort creature from Yasooka's graveyard. Things did not look good, but when Yasooka put his eggs into one basket, Konna found himself unable to break them. Foundry Champion wearing a Shadow Slice and a Holy Mantle to make it unblockable made short work of Konna, killing him in a mere two swings.

Yuuya Watanabe

At first glance, Yuuya Watanabe appeared to simply be on the losing end of a Boros mirror match against Hiroshi Murase. After taking the first game away from the World Champion, Murase began to thumb through his deck, giving me a better look. Apparently, he only needed half of his colors to take the first game away from Watanabe. Murase's deck was a full four colors, dipping into blue and red to support an Orzhov base. He had a boatload of removal, and he used it to great effect in his first game against Watanabe.

The second game went a little better for Watanabe, as he managed to keep his Holy Mantle-bearing Syndicate Enforcer alive long enough to force the final game of the match. And what a final game it was. Watanabe came out strong with a Burning-Tree Emissary, Skinbrand Goblin, and Ember Beast. He got in for a ridiculous amount of damage early before Murase's splashed Aurelia's Fury killed the two supporting creatures. Left with only an Ember Beast, Watanabe suddenly found himself without an offense.

At this point, Murase went on the offensive. Deathcult Rogue was going to be the car he drove to victory. It began taking two point chunks out of Watanabe's life as the daunting Japanese pro drew land after land. Watanabe tried to kill off the Rogue with a Pit Fight, but an Orzhov Charm killed the Beast, dropping Murase to 7 in the process. The Rogue continued his assault, killing Watanabe two points at a time. With Watanabe at 8, Murase gave the Rogue a Way of the Thief, giving Watanabe one turn to deal with it. What Murase didn't know was that Watanabe didn't intend to deal with it, at least not in the sense of killing it. An Act of Treason brought the Rogue over to Watanabe's side. He then gave it a Madcap Skills, turning it into a seven-power, unblockable creature. Murase sighed with a smile as he appreciated the elegant play, losing the match, but in an impressive manner to one of the game's best.

Sam Black

"The deck that I opened for registration was one of the better Orzhov decks I've seen," Black admitted. "I was upset when I had to pass it. Until I received a better one, that is."

Black's deck is absolutely laden with removal. Riding this removal to a 7-1 record, he was looking to destroy yet one more opponent before calling it a night. Splitting games one and two with his opponent, Black let it all ride with game three. As time ran down, with a crowd around him, Black went to work. The first three turns brought three creatures for Black, after which he turned to the cards that had taken him this far. Grisly Spectacle, Death's Approach, and Killing Glare dispatched creature after creature, clearing the path for his trio of attackers, giving him the match.

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