Finals: Gerry Thompson vs. (22) Yuuya Watanabe

Posted in Event Coverage on May 14, 2017

By Corbin Hosler

The finals of Pro Tour Amonkhet couldn't have been more stacked. One Hall of Famer, one great player making his second Pro Tour Top 8 appearance after years of paying his dues in tournaments and content creation. No. 22-ranked Yuuya Watanabe was riding high after his induction into the Hall of Fame last year, while Gerry Thompson came in looking to break through after years of near-misses at the game's highest levels. Both are extremely respected players who have intertwined community contributions with exceptional play, and the viewing area at the Pro Tour was filled with friends and fans of both players.

But only one could leave with the trophy. Would it be Thompson, who had bested Marc Tobiasch's Temur Marvel in the quarters before squeezing past Ken Yukuhiro's Black-Green Energy in the semis? Or would it be Watanabe, who defeated Chris Fennell's Zombies in the quarterfinals before taking down the mirror against Martin Müller in the semifinals?

The Decks

The final match was a face-off between the two breakout decks of Pro Tour Amonkhet. Thompson's Mono-Black Zombies deck utilized both old cards from Shadows over Innistrad block and new additions from Amonkhet to form an aggressive tribal deck that also had the ability to play the long game with card draw from Cryptbreaker and recursion from Dread Wanderer and Relentless Dead. The deck began the Standard season as an oddity, but came into Nashville as the third-most popular deck. It managed to push three copies into the Top 8.

Watanabe was playing the most successful deck in terms of the Top 8, Temur Aetherworks Marvel. While the decks in the Top 8 shared colors and an overall game plan, they were quite different in practice. Rather than go heavy on cards like Chandra, Flamecaller, Watanabe had access to Censor, Glimmer of Genius, and Torrential Gearhulk to play a more controlling game. The deck retained the ability to cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger off Marvel as early as turn four, but also had a solid backup plan if games played out differently.

The Games

A mulligan to six revealed a risky decision for Watanabe. Keep a land with Attune with Aether and two Harnessed Lightnings but just one Spirebluff Canal, or go down to five? He chose the former, as any land off the top of his deck would put him in a good position against the aggressive starts Thompson's deck was capable of. Unfortunately, while that aggressive start materialized for Thompson, Watanabe's second land never did, and the first game was over in the blink of an eye.

Yuuya Watanabe's risky move did not pay off in Game 1.

Watanabe wouldn't be missing land drops in the second game, as Attune with Aether netted him both energy and a land on the first turn. Meanwhile, Thompson developed his board with Dread Wanderer and Metallic Mimic to get aggressive early.

Watanabe tried to pump the brakes on that with Rogue Refiner, but it met a Dark Salvation as the Japanese pro fell to 14 and faced down 7 power of creatures on just the third turn. Whirler Virtuoso with seven energy up was a good comeback play, but Thompson had Lord of the Accursed to make his team even scarier while rendering the 1/1 Thopters Watanabe could create much less effective. Watanabe was suddenly facing down the prospect of taking 10 damage.

Gerry Thompson waits so see if Watanabe has an answer to his board state.

The Hall of Famer opted to spend his energy on two tokens, using both and the Virtuoso itself to trade with Thompson's Metallic Mimic and Dread Wanderer. Not usually a desirable play, but it did the most to protect his life total. Rogue Refiner and Woodweaver's Puzzleknot helped him survive the next attack, but he still fell to 6 life while squaring off against 16 power.

Watanabe needed Aetherworks Marvel to save the day, so he cast it from his hand and spun the wheel. When it yielded no answer, he quietly picked up his cards as a lightning-fast game ended.

Again, Thompson had the ideal one-drop in Dread Wanderer, while a follow-up Transgress the Mind relieved Watanabe of a Rogue Refiner.

But this time it was Thompson who would have trouble with his mana base. He stumbled on two lands for several turns, while Watanabe used Glimmer of Genius to find and then activate Aetherworks Marvel. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger came off the top and in return relieved Thompson of his two lands. A laugh and a small handshake from Thompson and it was on to Game 4.

Another Dread Wanderer led the way for Thompson, and he followed it up with Metallic Mimic. Once again he was missing a third land, but had Cryptbreaker to tap his three Zombies and draw a card. It wasn't a land, and Thompson passed the turn back.

Revealing the reason for his passive play over the first two turns, Watanabe wiped the board with Radiant Flames, a strong play in the matchup. But though Thompson was still short on lands, he refilled immediately with another Dread Wanderer and Cryptbreaker. Watanabe was only able to pass on his next turn, and had Shielded Aether Thief to soak up damage on Thompson's next attack.

Yuuya Watanabe thinks about how the matchup has changed after sideboarding.

A third land finally appeared for Thompson, and Lord of the Accursed joined the team. He passed with the intention of drawing a card at the end of Watanabe's turn, while the Hall of Famer used the opportunity to resolve Glimmer of Genius to set up his net turn. That turn didn't yield a Marvel, but it did give him a Rogue Refiner to play defense. On Thompson's next turn Harnessed Lightning took down the Lord of the Accursed, but a second replaced it immediately.

Betraying a possible sweeper, Watanabe attacked with Rogue Refiner, prompting a trade from Thompson, who untapped and calmly cast Transgress the Mind. That prompted Torrential Gearhulk for Watanabe, and it rebought Harnessed Lightning to take down Lord of the Accursed.

If Thompson was frustrated by the steady stream of removal, he didn't show it. He merely followed up by playing a 7/7 Diregraf Colossus and putting Watanabe on the back foot by wresting control of the "biggest creature on the board" race.

Working with naught but lands and another Shielded Aether Thief in hand, Watanabe was forced to watch as Thompson resolved another Diregraf Colossus, bringing along a token thanks to the first and taking his Zombie count to five total creatures. A big attack followed and Watanabe made a big block, throwing his team of three creatures and an animated Lumbering Falls in front of the Colossus. A timely Grasp of Darkness by Thompson made the attempted block a blowout that cost Watanabe his land and Torrential Gearhulk.

Woodweaver's Puzzleknot off the top for Watanabe bought time but did little to advance his cause against the swarm of undead. Relentless Dead for Thompson added some protection against sweepers, and this time the attack was a pair of 7/7 Diregraf Colossuses. He drew two cards from the Shielded Aether Thiefs blocking and finally found an Aetherworks Marvel, which he cast on the next turn. He needed of a lot of help facing down 30 power of creatures plus the possibly of a Westvale Abbey transformation.

Aware of the danger of letting Thompson untap, Watanabe spun the wheel on Marvel for perhaps the last time. He picked up the six cards and began to work through his options. When all it revealed was a Harnessed Lightning, Thompson allowed himself the smallest of sighs. Lord of the Accursed hit the battlefield and Thompson turned his team sideways. One last draw from Shielded Aether Thief and Watanabe extended his hand, congratulating Thompson on becoming the Champion of Pro Tour Amonkhet.

Gerry Thompson defeated Yuuya Watanabe 3-1 to rise among the worthy as Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion!


Gerry Thompson - Mono-Black Zombies

Download Arena Decklist

Yuuya Watanabe - Temur Aetherworks Marvel

Download Arena Decklist


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