What a weekend! Some of the best Magic players in the world showed up to give their all in an effort to be the last person standing. Only one managed the feat, but before we tell his story we tell that of the people who almost made it. Players like Akihiro Takakuwa and Yuuya Watanabe, who managed to earn the final spots on the National Team. Or Shingou Kurihara and Masihiko Morita, prominent pro players who also found themselves just outside of the champion’s circle.

But it was one man who would hoist the final trophy: Masashi Oiso. After a meteoric rise on the Pro Tour Masashi’s career has cooled of late. That didn’t seem to affect him at all over the weekend as he shook off the cobwebs to seal the deal. His Reveillark control deck plowed through the competition before forcing a three hour final against Mono-red Storm. For Oiso, who finally takes home an individual trophy he can call his own, one can only imagine the long day makes the victory taste that much sweeter.

Congratulations to the 2008 National Champion, Masashi Oiso!

top 8 bracket


(1) Mihara Makihito

(8) Takakuwa Akihiro

(4) Senba Kouraou

(5) Kurihara Shingou

(2) Takahashi Yuuta

(7) Oiso Masashi

(3) Watanabe Yuuya

(6) Yamamoto Shouhei


Takakuwa Akihiro, 3-1

Kurihara Shingou, 3-2

Oiso Masashi, 3-0

Watanabe Yuuya, 3-1


Takakuwa Akihiro, 3-2

Oiso Masashi, 3-1


Masashi Oiso, 3-1


3rd Place Playoff


3rd Place Playoff

Watanabe Yuuya

Kurihara Shingou

3rd Place

Watanabe Yuuya, 3-0



  • by Bill Stark
    Finals: Akihiro Takakuwa Versus Masashi Oiso
  • by Bill Stark
    Semifinals: Masashi Oiso Versus Yuuya Watanbe
  • by Bill Stark
    3rd-4th Playoff: Shingou Kurihara Versus Yuuya Watanabe
  • by Bill Stark
    Quarterfinals: Yuuya Watanabe Versus Shouhei Yamamoto
  • by Bill Stark
    Quarterfinals: Makihito Mihara Versus Akihiro Takakuwa
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    The Top 8 Decks
  • by Keita Mori / Ron Foster
    The Top 8 Player Profiles
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 2 Blog Archive, Undefeated Draft Players, Featured Matches and More!
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Day 1 Blog Archive, Featured Matches, Qualifier Desklists and More!
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet


pairings, results, standings


14 13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


14 13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


14 13 12 11 10 9 8

7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Top 8 Player profiles


高桑 祥広/Akihiro Takakuwa

Name: Akihiro Takakuwa
Age: 23
Hometown: Kanagawa Prefecture
Profession: Company employee

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
I won the Kurouto Cup! I’ve also been in a GP Top 8.

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
I’m in charge of Sexy Lobster RoM.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Howling Mine.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Yuuta Takahashi.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
Mono-red Storm, designed by Jun’ya Takahashi.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
I’m happy that Cancel is being reprinted..

大礒 正嗣/Masashi Oiso

Name: Masashi Oiso
Age: 24
Hometown: Nagano (Hiroshima)
Profession: Observing the Sexy Lobster Community

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
I don’t know. (Editor’s note: Oiso was a member of the champion Team Japan in 2005, and has 5 Pro Tour Top 8 appearances.)

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
I lost a game by forgetting to pay for Pact of Negation. Oh, and I passed on turn 1 without suspending an Ancestral Vision.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Stream Hopper.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?
Living an easy life.

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Yuuta Takahashi.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A Reveillark deck designed by Gabriel Nassif, Kenji Tsumura, and Masaya Kitayama.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
A comeback of combo decks.

仙波 恒太郎/Koutaro Senba

Name: Koutarou Senba
Age: 27
Hometown: Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture
Profession: Company employee

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
Winning a Prefectural Champs, winning the AKB Cup, winning the Lunatic Moon Convention, winning the Chiban Dragon Convention, and winning the Evil Magician’s Cup.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?
Bowling, golf, and karaoke.

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Makihito Mihara.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A blue-black faerie deck designed by Shun Iizuka and Ryouji Ishigaki.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
The return of Oblivion Ring.

渡辺 雄也/Yuuya Watanabe

Name: Yuuya Watanabe
Age: 19
Hometown: Kanagawa Prefecture
Profession: “Mister PWC”

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
Grand Prix Kyoto Champion, The Finals 2006 Finalist, The Finals 2007 Top 8.

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
2007 Rookie of The Year

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?
None—I love Magic!

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Either me or Yuuta Takahashi.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A blue-white Reveillark I built myself.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
Limited play looks really interesting.

高橋 優太/Yuuta Takahashi

Name: Yuuta Takahashi
Age: 22
Hometown: Tokyo
Profession: Student
What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
Grand Prix Shizuoka and Kobe.

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
I’d like to shout out to Hobby Station and Card Shop Ogre.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Ancestral Vision.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?
Jazz and the piano.

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A blue-black faerie deck of my own design.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
The strong one mana creature and the three mana instant draw spell.

山本 昇平/Shohei Yamamoto

Name: Shouhei Yamamoto
Age: 26
Hometown: Hiroshima Prefecture
Profession: Company employee

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
Japan Nationals

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
Playing at Worlds on the Japan National Team.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Rage Forger.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Not me.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A Wall of Roots/Reveillark deck.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
Fun Limited play.

三原 槙仁/Makihito Mihara

Name: Makihito Mihara
Age: 26
Hometown: Chiba
Profession: Company employee

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
Top 8 at the 2003, 2004, and 2005 National Championship, Worlds 2006 Champion.

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
I’ve made the Top 8 of the Lunatic Moon Convention several times.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Greater Gargadon.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Yuuta Takahashi.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A Reveillark deck of my own design.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
Limited play looks interesting.

栗原 伸豪/Shingou Kurihara

Name: Shingou Kurihara
Age: 25
Hometown: Tokyo
Profession: Level 8 Magic Player

What other Magic tournaments have you made Top 8 in?
Three Grand Prix Top 8s, one Pro Tour Top 8 (2 if you count team), one Worlds Top 8.

What are some of your other Magic achievements?
That’s about it.

Which card was your MVP card this weekend?
Seismic Assault.

What hobbies or interests other than Magic do you have?
Maid cafes.

Who do you think will be this year’s National Champion?
Akihito Takakuwa.

What deck did you play in the Standard portion of the tournament, and who designed it?
A red-blue Swans/Assault deck.

What are you looking forward to in Shards of Alara?
Reading Akira Asahara’s preview articles on TakaraTomy’s web site.

The Top 8 Decks

by Event Coverage Staff

Mihara Makihito


Takahashi Yuta

Sorcery (4)
4 Ancestral Vision
Instant (8)
4 Cryptic Command 4 Rune Snag
Artifact (2)
2 Loxodon Warhammer
Enchantment (4)
4 Bitterblossom
Tribal instant (3)
3 Nameless Inversion
60 Cards



Watanabe Yuya



Senba Koutaro



Kurihara Shingou



Yamamoto Shohei



Oiso Masashi



Takakuwa Akihiro



by Bill Stark

Akihiro Takakuwa, one of the less familiar names in the Top 8, chatted excitedly with his opponent and the Japanese coverage reporter while shuffling up for his first game in the single elimination rounds. No doubt the player was excited to have the opportunity to keep playing on Sunday morning, and both he and his opponent leaned in to mug for the camera. Mihara, in slight contrast, patiently shuffled. After winning the World Championships in 2006 he was no stranger to the bright lights of Top 8 stage.

Takakuwa’s Storm deck promised to be a fun one to watch and his opening hand was a combination of one-mana burn spells, lands, and a Grapeshot. Not satisfied with the level of explosiveness in his grip, Akihiro sent it back before keeping six. Mihara copied the mulligan, and the game got underway with Takakuwa playing a Spinerock Knoll. A Lotus Bloom also entered play on suspend, promising an exciting fourth turn.

Makihito Mihara stares down the deck that made him a champion.Mihara, meanwhile, started on an Island but quickly revealed he had kept a risky opener. Beyond his first, he had no land drops and was eventually forced to discard. By the time Lotus Bloom was resolving for Takakuwa it seemed all but over, and the 23 year old started doing some math to determine whether he could kill his opponent. One couldn’t help but consider the implications: Makihito Mihara, World Champion thanks to his Dragonstorm deck, down a game in the quarterfinals at the hands of the newest incarnation of that very archetype!

But Mihara had at least another turn. With the math not working out Takakuwa simply played a second Spinerock Knoll, hiding a Grapeshot. Makihito paused dramatically before drawing his card for the turn, then, when it turned out to not be a land sheepishly passed after discarding. Akihiro felt he had what he needed for his turn. He sacced the Lotus Bloom, played Rite of Flame, Tarfire, and two Grapeshots. That let him cast Ignite Memories to try to end it. The first flip revealed Coldsteel Heart and Mihara survived. The second copy revealed...Body Double. Laughing at his luck Makihito scooped up his cards.

Akihiro Takakuwa: 1, Makihito Mihara: 0

Makihito Mihara’s at-rest facial expression could fool a person into believing he’s in a constantly dour mood, but no player in the feature match area this weekend is as quick to break into a wide grin when talking with his opponent’s as the former World Champion is. Despite having been beaten on a one-land draw, Mihara remained in good spirits and joked with his opponent while shuffling for the second game. Even when his opener wasn’t strong enough to keep Mihara simply smiled offering a mock gasp of disgust before re-shuffling for six. Akihiro Takakuwa smiled and played along, waiting to look at his own hand until Mihara had finished with his mulligans and getting the second game under way.

Attempting to assemble his own combo before Takakuwa could, Makihito played a third turn Bonded Fetch. That forced Akihiro to consider his own plays, most notably whether or not he should use a Shock on his opponent’s 0/2. When Mihara activated the Fetch to draw a card at the end of Akihiro’s turn, Takakuwa did exactly that. No doubt he was also happy to see his opponent discard a Rune Snag to his graveyard instead of a creature like Body Double, a cornerstone of the Reveillark combo.

Takakuwa built up his mana via a Molten Slagheap and Mountains before making a very ominous play: suspending two Rift Bolts. Clearly indicating he was going to attempt to go off the following turn, Mihara seemed not to care, tapping out to play a Body Double copying Bonded Fetch. When Akihiro attempted Pyromancer’s Swath, his opponent was ready with Pact of Negation, though the counter did up the storm count. Takakuwa played a Grapeshot to deal a total of 12 damage to his opponent, then activated a Spinerock Knoll to reveal an Ignite Memories that would resolve for seven copies. With only two cards in hand Mihara quickly revealed them via flips to be a Rune Snag and a Battlefield Forge meaning Takakuwa would need some luck to finish the deed. After a series of die rolls to determine the fate of Mihara, Akihiro ended the turn with his opponent at 2 life.

Makihito quickly rebuilt. Knowing his opponent needed a single burn spell to finish the game he played a Mulldrifter, than a turn later used Momentary Blink to refill his hand even further. Takakuwa went to the top of his deck to find the burn spell he needed, but hit a Guttural Response instead. When Mihara untapped and revealed a Greater Gargadon and Reveillark, completing the combo, Takakuwa was back to an event game count.

Akihiro Takakuwa: 1, Makihito Mihara: 1

For the third game in a row Akihiro Takakuwa kicked things off with a Spinerock Knoll, further improving his board by suspending a Lotus Bloom. If Mihara wanted to win the third game, it seemed, he’d need to do so in hasty fashion or risk a big turn when the artifact finally spun into play. To that end Mihara got a jump start on his own mana with a Coldsteel Heart.

Across the board Takakuwa had managed a Molten Slagheap as well as a Mountain, suspending a Rift Bolt timed to go off with his Lotus Bloom. Mihara simply suspended a pair of Greater Gargadons while leaving up just enough mana to Rune Snag, but short the five mana he’d need to pay for a Pact of Negation should he have to cast it. Akihiro’s big turn began.

Rift Bolt and Lotus Bloom hit play dropping Mihara to 17. A Manamorphose earned a Rune Snag, but Takakuwa had Guttural Response adding a free duo of spells to the stack and drawing a card from the Manamorphose in the process. That put the storm count at five, but Akihiro had to stop to re-check his math. The counter war had used up some precious mana, and he was no longer certain he could kill his opponent.

After considering things, the player finally decided his plan could go forward. He played a Shard Volley, then a massive Empty the Warrens. That put a sufficiently lethal amount of 1/1 Goblin tokens into play, but if Mihara had a Wrath of God Akihiro would be out of steam against an opponent able to take complete control of the game. When Makihito inhaled sharply as he drew his card for the turn Takakuwa knew the former champion would have to get lucky to hit the WoG. Clearly not finding it waiting for him Makihito conceded.

Akihiro Takakuwa: 2, Makihito Mihara: 1

Could Akihiro Takakuwa beat a former World Champion?Mihara had a Vivid land for his first play while Akihiro’s turn was a bit stronger: Spinerock Knoll and two Lotus Blooms. In mock protest Mihara teased his opponent from across the table, before becoming even more “enraged” when Takakuwa’s second land was revealed to be a Fungal Reaches. A second copy joined the board a turn later while Mihara’s manabase progressed rapidly on the backs of two Coldsteel Hearts and a Bonded Fetch. By the time the Blooms were ready to hit play, however, Mihara was tapped out.

Takakuwa moved his storm count die to two as his Lotus Blooms joined his side of the board. A Manamorphose quickly turned into a second Manamorphose and generated a total of eight mana. A Rite of Flame bumped that number up to nine and made the storm count five. Rift Bolt put Mihara to 17, Shock put him at 15, and a Grapeshot dropped him low enough for a second Rift Bolt and a Knollspine’d Grapeshot to send Akihiro Takakuwa to the semifinals.

Akihiro Takakuwa defeats Makihito Mihara 3-1.


by Bill Stark

Yuuya Watanabe and Shouhei Yamamoto talked excitedly while shuffling up during the pre-game. Regardless of how much Pro Tour experience one has, getting to play for the title of “National Champion” is enough to make even the most seasoned player excited to be playing cards. In Japanese fashion, the two players agreed to roll a mittful of six-sided dice to determine who would go first with Watanabe coming out on top.

Trying to set the pace of the game, Yuuya opened on a Ponder, taking a pain from an Adarkar Wastes in order to do so. Not finding cards he liked, he reshuffled before drawing from the cantrip. His second play was to suspend a Riftwing Cloudskate while Yamamoto opted to accelerate his manabase using a Wall of Roots. A little light on lands, Watanabe continued playing draw spells to keep the necessary flow of mana coming for his Reveillark deck.

The players parried back and forth for turn after turn. Draw spells in the form of Mulldrifters and Ponders helped both build manabases while a pair of Riftwing Cloudskates from Yuuya tried to keep Shouhei behind. Still, with the control-on-control mirror it seemed likely the players would be settling in for a long game.

Shouhei Yamamoto works to take out the R.O.Y.A Firespout managed to deal with Yuuya’s Cloudskates but he trumped by hardcasting a Reveillark against his tapped out opponent. Shouhei continued working on accelerating his mana via Coalition Relic, but when Yuuya had a Momentary Blink to flip his Reveillark in and out of the game, returning both Cloudskates, Yamamoto was right back to ground zero. Consternating Yamamoto was the fact his opponent also had an air force with 8-power worth of attackers. At 14 life, he would need to find answers to the creatures to stay alive.

Venser, Shaper Savant was a short-term method of stemming the bleeding, but Yamamoto was forced to target his opponent’s Reveillark. That caused a leaves-play trigger providing Yuuya with a Mulldrifter, and that drew him into a Momentary Blink he used on a Cloudskate to leave his opponent at three land and a Wall of Roots for mana, with a flyingless Venser unable to block. Yuuya attacked his opponent to 8 with lethal on the board and Shouhei was down to one card. When it wasn’t the Firespout he needed to buy him a turn, he promptly conceded.

Yuuya Watanabe: 1, Shouhei Yamamoto: 0

Before the quarterfinals had begun, Shuhei Nakamura had quizzed the coverage team on who they thought might win. When asked himself Shuhei was quick to respond “Yuuya! He’s my teammate, I play his decks, and I stayed at his house last night!” Already up a game the Rookie of the Year was doing his best to make his friend’s prediction come true.

The second game of the match started more aggressively for Shouhei as he made a second-turn Vexing Shusher to put himself in the role of the beatdown. Yuuya simply copied his strategy from the first game, playing card drawing spells in order to build up his manabase, making an additional “land drop” in the form of Mind Stone. By the time he was at six mana, Yuuya had managed to steal his opponent’s Shusher with a Sower of Temptation.

Not wanting to be out done, Shouhei fired back with a Sower of his own, trying to convince Watanabe’s Faerie to join Yamamoto’s team. Instead, Yuuya played a Momentary Blink on his Riftwing Cloudskate to bounce his opponent’s Sower. With Yuuya tapped out, Yamamoto discarded a Faerie Macabre targeting the Blink to make sure his opponent’s instant couldn’t cause any more problems.

Shouhei was still in trouble, facing an army of Grizzly Bears whose attacks were starting to add up. At 12 life and staring down six-power worth of creatures Yamamoto replayed his Sower, stealing Yuuya’s. Undeterred Watanabe fired back with a second copy of the card, sitting on a hand full of lands and Reveillarks.

The combination of cards in Watanabe’s hand quickly turned out to be a liability. With no action to interfere with his opponent’s turn and not enough Riftwing Cloudskate pressure to keep his opponent short on mana, Shouhei had managed to land a Reveillark. With plenty of mana Yuuya decided to crack a Mind Stone to find some action. He got what he was looking for in a Mulldrifter, and had enough blockers to survive any potential shenanigans from his opponent who had a Sower, Vexing Shusher, and Reveillark in play with a suspended Greater Gargadon on just four counters.

Shouhei had a trump, however, playing a Cloudthresher and attacking. Yuuya managed some careful chumps to survive the turn, then had a solid plan for his own. He evoked a Reveillark to target the two Sowers of Temptation in his graveyard. By returning them he could steal his opponent’s 7/7 as well as Yamamoto’s Reveillark and handily turn things around. Shouhei was having none of it, however, revealing a Faerie Macabre from his hand to RFG the Sowers and leave Yuuya dead on board.

Yuuya Watanabe: 1, Shouhei Yamamoto: 1

Trying to get out to an early advantage, Yuuya kicked the third game of the match off in similar fashion to those already played by suspending a Riftwing Cloudskate. If he could keep a significant mana advantage against his opponent he’d be way ahead to win. Turning up the heat further Watanabe opted to go on the offensive on his third turn with an activated Mutavault.

Yuuya Watanabe looks to expand on his Rookie of the Year title.Yamamoto, meanwhile, had had no play on the second turn and missed his third land drop, forcing him to discard a Venser, Shaper Savant. Yuuya was clearly excited at that reality initially but quickly shifted back to his game face using a Ponder to keep the gas flowing. The Cloudskate came in to set Yamamoto back even further before the 2/2 was joined by a Reveillark. In danger of falling behind to lethal excess Yamamoto worked on playing catch up by managing a third land and a Coalition Relic. Yuuya simply went on the offensive with his Reveillark, Riftwing, and a Mutavault getting in to put his opponent at 6.

Yamamoto put up his last stand with a Vexing Shusher and hardcasting Faerie Macabre, but Yuuya revealed a Sower of Temptation to steal his opponent’s only flying blocker and Yamamoto scooped up his cards.

Yuuya Watanabe: 2, Shouhei Yamamoto: 1

For the third time in the match Yuuya Watanabe started the game with a second-turn Riftwing Cloudskate suspended. Because his opponent was on the play, however, Watanabe’s 2/2 wouldn’t hit play until Yamamoto had had plenty of time to get ahead on the board. Missing mana acceleration, he still managed to do so nicely with four straight land drops and a Vexing Shusher to start on the offensive.

Yuuya accelerated with a Coldsteel Heart and Mind Stone while a Wall of Roots showed up late to the party for Shouhei. That drew action from Watanabe who decide to Sower the 0/5 to not only further his own mana development while stunting his opponent’s, but to provide a blocker for the 2/2 Vexing Shusher. Then, worried his concentration was waning, Yuuya copyied his testing partner Tomoharu Saito, slapping himself on the face to re-focus.

A Venser from Yamamoto earned him his Wall of Roots back while Yuuya went on the offensive. After his Riftwing Cloudskate had entered play he had made a Mulldrifter and the 2/2s got in over the top of the Wall. The life totals stood 14-12 in Yuuya’s favor.

At a distinct mana disadvantage despite his best efforts Yamamoto did what he could to remain in the game, but Yuuya wasn’t having it. Playing a Venser of his own, Watanabe legend-ruled his opponent’s while bouncing Shouhei’s Coalition Relic. When Shouhei attempted a Mulldrifter, tapping out, Yuuya revealed a Pact of Negation. When Yamamoto didn’t concede, Watanabe pointed out he had lethal damage in attackers, motioning to an innocent Mutavault nestled in amongst Yuuya’s stack of lands, in plain view but overlooked by Yamamoto. Shouhei checked the life totals, then nodded in agreement and conceded.

Yuuya Watanabe defeats Shouhei Yamamoto 3-1.

3rd-4th Playoff

by Bill Stark

Watanabe lost the roll but had the first play of the game suspending a Riftwing Cloudskate. When he tried for a Mind Stone, however, his opponent found the play serious enough to merit a Rune Snag. Unfortunately for Kurihara, that was the only early action he’d see as he missed a land drop, then was forced back to two lands by his opponent’s Cloudskate.

Yuuya, meanwhile, used a Ponder to find Venser and set Kurihara back to one land, though Shingou was able to wipe his opponent’s board of creatures the following turn with a Pyroclasm. Slowly crawling back into the game he finally started hitting his land drops, eventually managing a Swans of Bryn Argoll. Unfortunately that left him tapped out and Yuuya took advantage by evoking a Reveillark to bounce two of his opponent’s permanents, a land and the Swans. Shingou used an Incinerate to kill the in-play Reveillark, then wiped his opponent’s board for a second time with Pyroclasm.

The constant mana disruption from Yuuya wreaked havoc on Shingou’s game plan. Though he was able to crawl towards five mana, he couldn’t keep relevant threats on the board as some manner of Riftwing Cloudskate, Venser, Shaper Savant, and Reveillark to return them put Kurihara on the back foot. Facing lethal damage from his opponent’s Reveillark and Venser, Shingou actually had to use a Cryptic Command to Fog, hoping to hit more lands so he could somehow turn the game around, though that prospect didn’t seem likely.

Shingou Kurihara faces a control mirror in the playoff.A pair of Kitchen Finks for Yuuya made his board even more threatening, and promised to spell the end for Kurihara if the pro couldn’t find a miracle. Cryptic Command number two bought him at least another turn, though he was facing down a competent opponent playing control with a plethora of untapped lands and a hand full of cards.

With the turn back Yuuya was all too happy to send his team into the red zone. Kurihara played a Teferi, which resolved, and promptly set it in front of a Kitchen Finks. He followed that up with a Skred targeting Yuuya’s Reveillark. That saved Shingou 4 damage, but meant Yuuya got to return two copies of Riftwing Cloudskate, which promptly bounced a Cascade Bluffs and the Teferi. A second Skred forced Yuuya’s other Kitchen Finks to persist back into play, and Shingou managed to survive the turn. He had only to look at the top card of his library before he realized the gig was up. No savior was waiting there and Kurihara wisely moved to Game 2.

Yuuya Watanabe: 1, Shingou Kurihara: 0

The second game of the match started off slowly with both players building up their manabases. Yuuya practically exploded with Mind Stones playing three by his third turn, but soon cashed one in for action as he hit plenty of lands. He finally found a small threat in Kitchen Finks. Kurihara simply continued making his land drops and suspended an Ancestral Vision, buying time before using a Remove Soul on his opponent’s second Finks.

Kurihara finally got tired of waiting around, attempting a Teferi on his opponent’s combat step. Yuuya was waiting with a Pact of Negation and, with his opponent tapped out, also resolved a Reveillark. Not wanting to be outdone, Shingou simply played a second copy of Teferi on his own turn. Watanabe pressed the red zone with his Reveillark, Kitchen Finks, and twin copies of Mutavault leaving his opponent at 1. Teferi alone wouldn’t be enough to get Shingou out of the mess he was in.

As Yuuya attacked, Shingou made a surprise blocker: Swans of Bryn Argoll. Combined with his own Mutavault he traded for his opponent’s team, keeping the Swans and Teferi himself. Unfortunately for Shingou, Yuuya got to return a Mulldrifter to play and draw four extra cards from the damage he had dealt to his opponent’s Swans. That gave him more than enough gas, including Venser to bounce his opponent’s Teferi, to counter Shingou’s hail mary Cryptic Command the following turn and bashing for the dubya.

Yuuya Watanabe: 2, Shingou Kurihara: 0

His back against a wall, the third game of the match started well for Shingou Kurihara as he suspended an early Ancestral Vision. It didn’t take long for everything to turn sour though as he missed his third land drop and had to deal with both a Mulldrifter and Venser, Shaper Savant from his opponent. A second turn passed with no land for Shingou while Yuuya had more than he knew what to do with and a second copy of Mulldrifter forced onto the board through Shingou’s Remove Soul by way of a Pact of Negation.

Could his opponent’s Swans hold Yuuya Watanabe off?The Ancestral Vision seemed to be taking forever to resolve for Shingou, sitting on two counters as Yuuya started to run away with the game. Squarely on the defensive Shingou had to Skred his opponent’s Kitchen Finks to keep his head above water. Clearly frustrated with the situation he gave a sigh of disbelief as the third straight turn without a land went by. When his Ancestral Vision finally managed to spin down to zero counters, Watanabe was ready with a Venser to counter. It looked like the reigning Rookie of the Year was a few turns away from joining his national team. When he revealed a Rune Snag for a Sower of Temptation that forced Kurihara to tap out, Shingou nodded sanguinely and scooped up his cards.

Yuuya Watane defeats Shingou Kurihara 3-0.


by Bill Stark

Japan is well known for its recent domination of Magic’s Pro Tour scene, but in order for the newest generation of Japanese superstars to be as successful as they have been, they needed a previous generation to pave the way. Masashi Oiso is one of those players with a rise to stardom that began with a Rookie of the Year title and quickly developed into enough Top 8s to give him the Pro Points to make him eligible for the Hall of Fame nearly a half decade before people could even vote for him. His opponent for the semifinals was a member of the generation that benefited so much from Oiso’s efforts, and a Rookie of the Year himself: Yuuya Watanabe.

Yuuya won the die roll but was clearly unhappy when his opponent opened on a suspended Ancestral Vision, meeting the play with a joking proclamation of protest. He had a suspended card of his own in the form of Riftwing Cloudskate, and further attempted going on the offensive with a Kitchen Finks on his third turn. Oiso simply stayed with the card advantage theme, evoking a Mulldrifter.

Masahi Oiso ws once Rookie of the Year...The first relevant threat from Masashi was a Reveillark which Yuuya quickly neutralized via Sower of Temptation. Like many of the young player’s matches throughout the weekend, his army was comprised of a surprisingly dangerous mix of Grizzly Bears that could come out of nowhere to put an intense amount of pressure on an opponent. Not wanting to fall behind, Masashi evoked a second Reveillark to return a Venser, Shaper Savant and Mulldrifter. The legend bounced his opponent’s Sower of Temptation which was merely replayed the following turn, again stealing Reveillark. The life totals stod 18-7 in Yuuya’s favor.

Still, Masashi was starting to get ahead on board. When he attempted to hard cast a Riftwing Cloudskate, Yuuya went deep into the tank. Though he was tapped out, Watanabe could counter with Pact of Negation. However, at just five lands and with Masashi having a Venser in play, that would be a risky venture. Should Oiso be holding Momentary Blink he could flip his 2/2 out and back in to play, setting Yuuya back to four lands and winning the game on Watanabe’s upkeep as he failed to pay for Pact. Letting the Cloudskate resolve, however, would leave Yuuya in worse shape as it would stabilize Masashi and allow him to take over the pace of the game. Finally he decided, revealing the Pact to his opponent. Masashi nodded stoically then flashed the Momentary Blink, earning him the concession.

Masashi Oiso: 1, Yuuya Watanabe: 0

The second game kicked off to little fanfare. Oiso opened on a mulligan, but the players simply played lands and artifact acceleration. The first action of note was an end-of-turn Venser, Shaper Savant from Yuuya that attempted to jump Masashi’s Prismatic Lens back to his hand. Oiso was ready with a Rune Snag, then revealed a second copy when Yuuya tried a mainphase Glen Elendra Archmage. Undeterred it seemed Watanabe was using the spells to bait his opponent.

Refueling, Oiso evoked a Mulldrifter to ensure hitting his land drop and trying to find more countermagic for his opponent’s spells. When Yuuya played a Riftwing Cloudskate, however, Masashi simply allowed the 2/2 to hit play, losing his Prismatic Lens (briefly) in the process. The mid-game rushed into being with the players trading card draw spells and counters.

Oiso finally landed a Riftwing Cloudskate to bounce one of his opponent’s lands. When that successfully resolved, Oiso decided to go for it, using a Momentary Blink to leave Yuuya with just three sources of mana in play. It did allow Watanabe to successfully resolve a second Glen Elendra Archmage, but Oiso paid no mind flashing back his Momentary Blink on his Cloudskate to bounce the opposing 2/2. After Yuuya and Masashi amicably traded opposing Riftwing Cloudskates during combat, the match settled back into the cadence of a control mirror: draw, play a land, go.

The cadence broke as Masashi played a Mulldrifter and Yuuya quickly stole it with a Sower of Temptation. That allowed him to go on the offensive, and the attack left the life totals at 12-10 in Yuuya’s favor. A flurry of Vensers and counters from both players reset the board to a Riftwing Cloudskate for Yuuya and a Mulldrifter for Masashi. When Watanabe tried to evoke a Reveillark Oiso had a Remove Soul. In an effort to rip a Pact of Negation to counter, Yuuya sacrificed a Mind Stone to draw a card but missed the one he wanted and watched his 4/3 get binned with no effect.

The game started to go very long. While the other semifinals match was finishing up Game 3, Oiso and Watanabe were deeply mired into just their second battle. When Yuuya tried a Sower of Temptation, Oiso had a swift response: a Teferi Mage of Zhalfir which allowed him to evoke Reveillark at instant speed, returning both Venser and a Riftwing Cloudskate to the board. That put Masashi very far ahead in the creature department and finally one player seemed firmly on the back foot. Unfortunately for Yuuya Watanabe, that player was him and he quickly checked his opponent’s graveyard trying to come up with a game plan. It wasn’t to be, however, as a flow of countermagic meant Oiso was able to stop each of his opponent’s few remaining big plays, finally allowing him to overwhelm with his superior attacking force.

Masashi Oiso: 2, Yuuya Watanabe: 0

The two players mirrored each other throughout the early turns of the third game, both playing artifact accelerants and both suspending Riftwing Cloudskates. Yuuya had the advantage with his however as it would enter play before Masashi’s and because Watanabe had managed to find a second and suspend it as well. The first met a Remove Soul from Oiso.

...as was his opponent Yuuya Watanabe.Maneuvering for control over the early turns of the game, Watanabe tried a mainphase spell in the form of Glen Elendra Archmage. Masashi bounced it with his Riftwing Cloudskate as it entered play then, with his opponent on just two untapped mana, tried a main phase Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. That made it through and permanently stranded Yuuya’s second Riftwing Cloudskate in the removed from game zone as he wasn’t able to play it from suspend thanks to Oiso’s 3/4. Not wanting to fall further behind Yuuya summoned a Reveillark.

The two players stared each other down, neither willing to flinch. Masashi had Teferi, Mulldrifter, and Cloudskate while Yuuya had managed double Reveillark and a Glen Elendra Archmage with a -1/-1 counter. Watanabe worked diligently to turn the board around in his favor, using a Venser targeting his own Reveillark to kill his opponent’s copy of the 2/2 as well as return a Mulldrifter and the Venser back to play. That left Masashi seriously behind on the board, and he struggled to re-adjust. Tapping five he dropped a Reveillark, but Yuuya was ready with a Pact of Negation. Oiso riposted with a Pact of his own and Yuuya allowed it to resolve. The Reveillark hadn’t entered play yet, however, as Yuuya revealed a second copy of Pact putting an end to Oiso’s plans. Doing some quick calculations, Masashi scooped to Yuuya’s now overwhelming board position.

Masashi Oiso: 2, Yuuya Watanabe: 1

Masashi bounced right back for the fourth game of the match opening on a suspended Ancestral Vision. Not to be outdone his opponent quickly burst forth with a Coldsteel Heart and Mind Stone before taking the opportunity to get in for 2 with a Mutavault. Watanabe’s first big play was a Glen Elendra Archmage which was countered by way of a Masashi Oiso Cryptic Command. Yuuya simply bashed for 2 more with his Mutavault.

Staying on the offensive Yuuya forced a Reveillark to the board with a Pact of Negation to stop Masashi’s attempt to Venser the 4/3. Because of his head start on mana, that also meant Yuuya could bash in with his Mutavault again leaving the score 20-14 in his favor. Behind on land and on creatures on board Masashi needed to get some action going, but he did have an Ancestral Vision to resolve that would probably help.

Sure enough a Venser came down from Oiso which took care of Yuuya’s Reveillark, though at the cost of returning Yuuya his Glen Elendra Archmage. Unfazed Watanabe cracked back sending his Archmage and a Mutavault into the red zone, losing the creature-land to his opponent’s Venser. The two continued trying to play small fliers with Yuuya making a Sower of Temptation to steal his opponent’s Riftwing Cloudskate.

Yuuya tried for another Reveillark, but Oiso had Pact of Negation to counter. Learning his lesson from a previous feature match on the weekend, Masashi made sure to put a marker on top of his library to remind him to pay for the instant. Watanabe continued the Grizzly Bear beatdown sending in the stolen Riftwing Cloudskate alongside a Mutavault and leaving the score 20-8 his lead. With the turn back, Masashi asked his opponent for a cards-in-hand count. Despite the fact the answer was only two, Oiso made no plays and fell to 4 on his opponent’s next attack. When Yuuya followed the combat step by playing a Mutavult as his land for the turn, things looked terrible for Oiso.

Oiso’s library dwindled to nearly nothing.The Pro Tour standout did his best to make a go of it by tapping five and playing a Mulldrifter. He failed to play any other spells, however, and passed the turn back to his opponent. Barring any shenanigans, Masashi had enough blockers to survive at least one more turn. Yuuya took his turn to draw but found a land waiting on top, leaving him with two Plains in hand and no way to interact with his opponent. Carefully surveying the board, Yuuya made the decision not to attack, shipping the turn back and giving Masashi a window to take over.

Oiso obliged by playing a Riftwing Cloudskate to bounce his opponent’s Mutavault, then passing back himself. The two players squared off in a game of draw-go, Yuuya ripping a bevy of lands and Oiso trying to make sure he didn’t die. It was Masashi who made the first significant series of plays using an evoked Reveillark to net him two Mulldrifters and, for the first time in the game, a significant lead on creatures. It didn’t last long.

Yuuya attacked with his Sower of Temptation. Oiso was obliged to block, and with damage on the stack Yuuya bounced his Faerie with a Venser, re-playing the Control Magic on wings and putting the creature lead back on his side of the table. Masashi, significantly ahead on cards, simply played another Mulldrifter along with a Momentary Blink to draw himself a whole grip of new cards. An all-out attack from Yuuya left the only creature on the board a Mulldrifter for Masashi.

Clearly at the advantage in every tangible measurement save life total, Oiso finally went on the offensive. After a few attacks with his Mulldrifter, he added a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to the board. Because of the amount of cards he had drawn over the course of the game, however, it started to look like Yuuya might be able to deck his opponent. It wasn’t to be, however, as Oiso managed to keep his opponent off any relevant spells long enough for Teferi to finish the job.

Masashi Oiso defeats Yuuya Watanabe 3-1.


by Bill Stark

After two and a half days of intense competition it was down to two: Akihiro Takakuwa squaring off against Masashi Oiso. The younger of the two, Takakuwa has seen Top 8 play on the Grand Prix circuit but it was hands down Oiso who had the most experience with nearly a half dozen Pro Tour Top 8s as well as a previous berth on Japan’s National team.

Takakuwa got a boon to kick start the first game, winning the die roll against his opponent. The Mono-red Storm deck Akihiro was piloting had served him well on the weekend against control decks like Oiso’s. Still, it didn’t hurt to have a full turn advantage and Takakuwa got an added bonus when his mulligan was met by one from his opponent. The Storm player led with a Mountain and suspended a Lotus Bloom.

Masashi Oiso looks to return to the national team.Masashi played out his first few turns with lands and was no doubt happy to see his opponent stumble on the same type of permanents himself, going two straight turns without making a second land drop. Akihiro didn’t back down, however, suspending a Rift Bolt timed with his Lotus Bloom and threatening to combo. When the big turn came, Masashi had different plans using a Rune Snag to counter the Lotus Bloom and stranding Akihiro without mana for the turn. The Rift Bolt set the scores at 20-17 in Takakuwa’s favor.

Still on a single land, Akihiro had to watch even that disappear from play as Masashi used a Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce his opponent’s Mountain. The play left Oiso tapped out and Takakuwa sought to take advantage. A second Rift Bolt came off suspend, sending Oiso to 14 and a Rite of Flame followed by double Manamorphose allowed Akihiro to drop his opponent to just 8 with Grapeshot, though he still hadn’t found a second land.

With enough mana to start running away with the game, Masashiro played a Kitchen Finks to recoup some precious life. Sitting on a Momentary Blink meant Oiso’s score was a good 4-6 points higher than Akihiro could tell, and a Mulldrifter increased Masashi’s army while also fueling his hand. Akihiro simply found his second land of the game, a Molten Slagheap, then a third in the form of Spinerock Knoll.

When a Masashi attack took Akihiro to 6 life with the team lethal on the following turn Akihiro tried to go for it. He tapped out to charge his Slagheap, hoping to have enough mana to string together a series of relevant spells. Instead, Oiso had a surprise of his own using six mana to play Momentary Blink on his Venser and then flash the instant back bouncing Takakuwa’s Knoll and Slagheap. Out of options Akihiro conceded.

Masashi Oiso: 1, Akihiro Takakuwa: 0

For the second time in the match, Akihiro Takakuwa had to send his opening hand back. Unfortunately for him, Masashi was perfectly fine with his opener, going so far as to suspend an Ancestral Vision on the first turn. Akihiro could only watch and work on charging a Fungal Reach. At least this time he had more than one land.

With Oiso on an Island and Plains Akihiro made arguably the best play his deck could offer up in the form of a Howling Mine. The two-mana artifact would help keep his hand full of low casting-cost cards. Though his opponent would draw more than Takakuwa, many of the cards in Oiso’s deck cost four or five mana meaning he couldn’t force a critical mass of them through in one turn. If Akihiro could keep the Tenth Edition reprint on the table long enough, Oiso would be in a lot of trouble. In an effort to keep up Masashi played a Kitchen Finks followed by evoking a Mulldrifter.

A second Howling Mine soon hit play for Akihiro and created a big turn for Oiso who drew a total of six cards as his Ancestral Vision resolved. A land and a Prismatic Lens were the only things he was able to play, however, moving to his discard step with Cryptic Command mana up. When Akihiro tapped out to charge a Fungal Reach, Oiso opted to use a Venser to bounce the charge-land before discarding a Wrath of God and two Mulldrifters, likely trying to lower the average casting cost in his hand in case of a big Ignite Memories from his opponent.

Akihiro Takakuwa looks to finish the weekend strong.With an overflow of cards in his hand, Akihiro started a big turn. He replayed the bounced Fungal Reach, then started the storm count with a Rite of Flame. That led to a Shock for Oiso which dropped him to 20. A second copy of the Stronghold common put Oiso at 16, and Akihiro’s big finish was an Empty the Warrens for eight Goblin tokens. If Masashi regretted his decision to discard Wrath of God he didn’t let on, and Takakuwa passed the turn with a hand still full of action.

Masashi went to town on his opponent’s horde attacking with a Venser and Kitchen Finks. The wily Takakuwa, however, recognized he was potentially favored to win a long game with Howling Mines on the board and used his medium-sized Empty the Warrens to buy him time, sacrificing two of the Goblins as chump blockers. Masashiro then used a Momentary Blink on Venser to further stunt his opponent’s mana development before passing. Takakuwa simply attacked with a few tokens, leaving enough back to block.

Oiso kept with the mana-restriction plan, using a Cryptic Command on his opponent’s following upkeep to tap the remaining Goblin tokens as well as bounce a Fungal Reach. Takakuwa wasn’t having it, using a Guttural Response to counter. The second time Oiso tried the trick, it stuck and dropped Takakuwa down to a single land thanks to a Masashi Riftwing Cloudskate. Fortunately the newcomer had a Lotus Bloom ready to come into play in a single turn, offering him up the hope of pulling the game out. When he passed back to Oiso, the totals stood 14-11 in Masashi’s favor.

The big turn had finally arrived for Akihiro. His Lotus Bloom left the suspend zone and Masashi sent a Cryptic Command at its head choosing to counter the Bloom and bounce a land. Akihiro had a Guttural Response to counter, but Oiso had a Rune Snag to make sure the Bloom disappeared. Takakuwa’s Rift Bolt did manage to connect knocking his opponent to 11, but at just 6 life himself and again down to a single land Takakuwa needed a bit of help to pull this one off. When he couldn’t find it over the course of two draw steps, Oiso’s Finks and Cloudskate finished the deed.

Masashi Oiso: 2, Akihiro Takakuwa: 0

Despite playing a combo deck, Akihiro Takakuwa’s finals match had already stretched well over an hour by the time he was sitting down to his third game. In a big hole he couldn’t afford to lose a single game if he wanted to walk home with the biggest trophy. Masashi Oiso showed no signs of fatigue after three full days of playing, joking with his opponent as they shuffled for the third game of their match. On the play Akihiro opened with Spinerock Knoll and double Lotus Bloom. Oiso, who had been forced to mulligan to five, meekly played a Snow-Covered Island. It looked like the third game of the match would make up for in time what the others had cost.

Oiso hit every land drop but had no spells he could play in his hand. Akihiro’s Blooms finally hit the table and the storm count moved to two. A Pyromancer’s Swath brought it to three followed by a second Swath to tip it to four. Shock deal 6 damage on its own, and the Grapeshot following ended the game in under 10 minutes.

Masashi Oiso: 2, Akihiro Takakuwa: 1

On the play for the first time in the match, Masashi Oiso was disappointed to open on a one land hand, forced to mulligan. His second hand also had a single land staring back at him, but with double Ancestral Visions and a Riftwing Cloudskate plus the fact he knew his opponent was playing Howling Mine, Oiso decided to keep. When he ripped the second land on his first draw step he let out an audible cheer of excitement, quickly suspending his Cloudskate. Akihiro simply played lands and a Howling Mine. It looked like Oiso’s gamble might pay off in a big way.

While Masashi had managed to find some lands, he hadn’t been able to find spells he could actually cast. Kitchen Finks, Wrath of Gods of God, Cryptic Command, and a Venser all waited in his hand while he sat on just three Snow-Covered Islands in play. Akihiro decided to Shock Oiso at the end of the turn, possibly to avoid having to discard later, then watched as his opponent resolved his Ancestral Vision and Riftwing Cloudskate, sending Takakuwa back to three lands in play.

Up five cards on the turn Oiso decided to set his opponent’s mana back further playing a mainphase Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce Akihiro’s Molten Slagheap. Oiso passed the turn but did so with eight cards in his hand, losing his Venser and Riftwing to a pair of Shocks from Takakuwa. A judge leaned in to remind Oiso about discarding and he binned a spare Wrath of God. The players transitioned to a mid game with a ton of extra cards being draw left and right. When Oiso tried to get an attack started with a creature, Takakuwa would spend a small modicum of burn to preserve his life total at the expense of the offending threat’s.

After building up a massive amount of lands, Masashi used a Riftwing Cloudskate to bounce Akihiro’s Howling Mine, possibly hoping to use Pact of Negation on a return play from Takakuwa. That did tap Oiso out, a fact his opponent recognized immediately and which sent him deep into thought on his own turn. Ultimately he decided to simply replay his Howling Mine and Masashi let it resolve, using the artifact to put him even further ahead of his opponent on cards.

By the time Akihiro’s next turn rolled around things were looking poor for him. Oiso had built a small force of attackers in the form of a Kitchen Finks and Riftwing Cloudskate, had a grip full of cards, and a seemingly endless supply of lands in play. To make matters worse, Takakuwa didn’t have a Guttural Response to counter his opponent’s Cryptic Command on his un-suspending Lotus Bloom. Akihiro soldiered on playing a Shard Volley that enabled him to drop Masashi to 17 and play an Empty the Warrens for eight Goblins.

Little did the Storm player know his opponent was sandbagging a Wrath of God for just such an occasion. To top it all off, Masashi even got to return his Kitchen Finks back to play sending the life totals to 19-8 in his favor. When Akihiro’s second Lotus Bloom tried to enter play, Oiso had a second Cryptic Command and Takakuwa literally looked up at the heavens in consternation. Instead of bouncing a permanent with the Command, Oiso opted to draw a card. Takakuwa simply nodded and the instant finished resolving.

The hits kept coming for Oiso with a Mulldrifter feeding him a Rune Snag and Kitchen Finks, putting him above 20 for the first time in the game and leaving him with multiple counters for his opponent. Thanks to the Howling Mine Akihiro had plenty of cards in his hand meaning he had a chance, but that chance was getting smaller and smaller. When Oiso’s next draw step yielded him a Momntary Blink and another Rune Snag it was all but over. Moving his creatures into the red zone, Oiso accepted the handshake of his overwhelmed opponent.

Masashi Oiso defeats Akihiro Takakuwa 3-1 to become the 2008 Japanese National Champion.

Osio and Takakuwa showing off their new trophies

We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more