Semifinals: Martin Müller vs. (22) Yuuya Watanabe

Posted in Event Coverage on May 14, 2017

By Corbin Hosler

Two players ahead of the metagame. Two competitors with multiple Pro Tour Top 8 appearances. Two leaders on teams atop the standings of the Team Series.

One match to send one player to the finals of Pro Tour Amonkhet. Hall of Famer Yuuya Watanabe and former World Magic Cup Champion Martin Müller squared off in the semifinals after both won decisively in their respective Top 8 openers.

The Decks

It was a mirror in name, but these two decks didn't share much more than base colors and some key cards. Both players were on Temur Aetherworks Marvel, and both ran the deck's namesake card alongside pieces like Whirler Virtuoso and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, but each had some unique choices that allowed it to play out quite differently in practice.

For Müller, that meant Chandra, Flamecaller, which played multiple roles for the deck. It was probably the most important card in the matchup against Zombies—which Müller knocked off in the quarterfinals—for its ability to clear the board, but against slower decks or the mirror could do work by either making tokens to close out the game or by pitching a weak hand and drawing into bombs like Aetherworks Marvel.

Meanwhile, Watanabe was a little softer to Zombies in the main deck—even though he swept it in the quarters—but had access to Glimmer of Genius and Torrential Gearhulk, providing a solid "backup" plan to just cheating out early an early Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. It was a mirror match in terms of Marvel-Ulamog, but both decks could attack on a different axis very easily.

Only one of these two players could move on to compete for the title of Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion.]

The Games

With some small but key differences between the two decks, games had the likelihood of developing one of two ways: either one player would race out to an unchallenged Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, or games would turn into a grind as both players used their non-Marvel options.

Game 1 was the former, as Müller was able to attempt a fourth-turn Marvel without fear of Censor since Watanabe struggled to find blue mana. While the first spin of the Marvel wheel yielded only Whirler Virtuoso, it nonetheless allowed him to pull ahead on board.

Watanabe fought back with a Marvel of his own, but Ulamog was hiding from him as well, and Marvel turned up just a Glimmer of Genius—good, but not the bomb Watanabe was looking for with Müller's own Marvel tapped.

And so Müller Marveled right back, with Chandra, Flamecaller resolving and allowing the Danish pro to discard his hand to draw a new one. The reason for the Marvel misses became clear when he discarded a pair of Ulamogs, to a small laugh from Watanabe. He passed the turn, and the dance continued. Call it a two-step, because in tandem with Müller, Watanabe found his best non-Ulamog card: Torrential Gearhulk. It recast Glimmer of Genius, and Watanabe did his best to set up for his next turn should Müller fail to find an Ulamog.

Yuuya Watanabe chuckles as two Ulamogs make their way from Müller's hand to the graveyard.

That's exactly what happened, as Müller made tokens with Chandra and then passed the turn back with just five energy available. Watanabe didn't have the same problem, as another Glimmer of Genius put him to six energy and enabled him to spin the wheel. This time it came up all Ulamog, and to exile went Müller's Chandra and Aetherworks Marvel.

A second Chandra resolved for the Dane, but despite knocking Watanabe down to 12 life, it wasn't enough to finish things out before Ulamog finished off Müller.

Unlike the first game, Game 2 would be slow to develop. But develop it did, and the back-and-forth was one of the most exciting matchups of the Top 8.

It began with both players creating excess energy, with Rogue Refiner for Müller allowing him to take a 13-10 lead in stat not often tracked: energy in storage. Of course, energy is only good if you can use it, and it was Watanabe who found Torrential Gearhulk to get him closer to Aetherworks Marvel, which he then cast and activated.

Ulamog was the reward, and one attack later it had exiled half of Müller's remaining library. With the game seemingly over, Müller drew for his turn with his back up against the wall. But this time it was his deck that cooperated, and his own Aetherworks Marvel arrived. Watanabe activated Marvel in response, though all it yielded was Rogue Refiner. That gave Müller the window to activate his, and the roar from his teammates in the crowd gave away the result—his own Ulamog off the top to exile Watanabe's Eldrazi and Marvel.

Martin Müller sees the game swing back in his favor after his titan dispatches Watanabe's.

Just like that, the game had swung. And it would swing right back. Taking the hit in stride, Watanabe calmly tapped ten mana and hard-cast a second Ulamog, returning the favor to Müller and ending the game a turn later.

A wild finish to Game 2 set the stage for the third bout, and the pair settled into the game like two boxers who had just finished trading haymakers. With no perfect starts in this one, Watanabe's Censor caught Müller's Rogue Refiner before seeing his own Tireless Tracker ride the Harnessed Lightning.

That gave Müller a chance to resolve whatever he wanted without fear, but he was without Aetherworks Marvel and had to settle for Woodweaver's Puzzleknot and give Watanabe the chance to resolve his own Marvel. Müller too was without, and just passed the turn back. Müller didn't have Marvel, but with 13 energy in his pool he did find Whirler Virtuoso, threatening to win the old-fashioned way with an army of Thopters.

A 3-damage Radiant Flames from Watanabe was enough to take care of that, removing the Virtuoso and preventing the Thopter swarm from forming. Watanabe had also found a Marvel, but without the energy to activate it chose to play it safe and instead put out a Rogue Refiner to tick up his energy. Müller continued to blank on his draw steps, and two turns later Watanabe was finally ready to play his Marvel.

That gave Müller a chance to play one of his key sideboarded cards: Manglehorn. It meant that Watanabe would get only one activation out of the Marvel, and he spun the wheel.

No Ulamog. But Torrential Gearhulk to recast Glimmer of Genius was powerful in its own right, and the Glimmer drew Watanabe a Negate for the Aetherworks Marvel that appeared for Müller on the next turn. Watanabe continued attacking with Torrential Gearhulk, Rogue Refiner, and Lumbering Falls.

Müller needed another bomb off the top of his deck, but it failed to form. Two attacks later, and the touted "Ulamog combo deck" had advanced to the finals despite never casting the Eldrazi in the deciding game.

Yuuya Watanabe defeated Martin Müller 3-1 to advance to the finals of Pro Tour Amonkhet!


Martin Müller - Temur Aetherworks Marvel

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Yuuya Watanabe - Temur Aetherworks Marvel

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