Quarterfinals: Ricky Chin (Green-White Megamorph) vs. Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai)

Posted in PRO TOUR BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR on October 18, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

The Top 8 of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar ran the full gamut of experience on the game's highest level. On one extreme sat legends Jon Finkel and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, two Pro Tour Hall of Fame members with more than 100 match wins at the Pro Tour between them. The two squared off on Saturday as both made their way toward the Top 8, and they would do battle again on Sunday.

On the other end of spectrum sat Ryoichi Tamada and Ricky Chin, both making their first appearance in a Pro Tour Top 8, both riding an incredible run through the first sixteen rounds of the tournament to advance to their first Pro Tour Sunday. Both were visibly nervous as they prepared for the first clash of the Top 8, as they prepared to play a match that would send one of them a critical step closer to the Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar title.

The two Pro Tour Top 8 first-timers quickly got underway in the first match of the day.

The Decks

Both players showed up with decks that saw plenty of play leading up to the Pro Tour. For Chin, that was Green-White Megamorph, one of the decks loaded with the most recursion in the format. Thanks to Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, the deck is able to apply pressure to the board while also bringing back much of that pressure—and the feared Dromoka's Command—later in the game to close things out.

For Tamada, it was a traditional take on Jeskai, eschewing the black splash that many other players opted to bring. Keeping his mana simple and free of a splash meant that there was more room for Hangarback Walker and Jeskai Charm, with four of each finding their way into the deck. With so many Hangarback Walker and Warden of the First Tree in the field, running the full four Jeskai Charm was a calculated call that had served Tamada well up to this point.

The Games

Tamada started the match with a mulligan to six, and he found himself under early pressure when Chin led with Warden of the First Tree and then turned it into a 3/3 on the next turn. Along with damage from his own fetch lands, Tamada was quickly down to 15 life with no board presence.

He fought back with Seeker of the Way, and when Chin failed to find his third land to morph a Den Protector—he chose to cast it face-up instead—Tamada found his opening. He used Jeskai Charm to put the Warden back on top of Chin's deck, both whittling the Canadian's board presence and, crucially, denying him a land on his next draw step.

Ryoichi Tamada may have been a stranger on the global stage, but he has made a name for himself in Japan through his Grand Prix finishes and his national-level tournament finishes.

While Chin was forced to simply recast the Warden, Tamada began to pull ahead on board with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. A third land allowed Chin Deathmist Raptor, but Tamada got aggressive with Gideon and began to attack with his team. While Chin had a maybe-Planeswalker of his own in Nissa, Vastwood Seer to find a fourth land, the next attack step from Tamada left Chin with few options to survive. Faced with the inevitable when Hangarback Walker joined the team, Chin picked up his cards to move to the next game.

A mulligan hadn't slowed down Tamada any in Game 1, and there was little reason to think Game 2 would be any different when he had Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on the second turn.

But Chin curved out perfectly on the play, chaining together Warden of the First Tree into Hangarback Walker into Deathmist Raptor. It was a devastatingly quick start, and when Nissa, Vastwood Seer joined on the next turn, the pressure looked to be mounting quicker than Tamada could handle.

But Tamada wouldn't go down easily. He used Silkwrap to remove the Raptor, and then tapped his chest lightly, accepting the hit as he fell to 6 life from Chin's attacks. Needing something big to stay in the game, the Japanese pro did exactly the opposite: attacking with a zero-power Jace into Chin's larger blockers. Puzzled at the play, Chin declined to block the Jace.

Ricky Chin has demonstrated incredible discipline and skill for his first Pro Tour.

Tamada's motives were soon made clear, as Wingmate Roc joined the bird with a raid buddy thanks to the Jace attack. And as the birds gummed up the sky, Chin began to pay for his decision to let Jace squeak by. Using a second Silkwrap to remove a Warden of the First Tree, Tamada then transformed Jace. A timely Dispel on Chin's Dromoka's Command cemented Tamada's status as back in the game, and both players dug in for a chaotic final few turns.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar joined Tamada's side, and the tokens he brought with him began to grow the board. Trying to regain his lost lead, Chin flipped up a Den Protector to return Dromoka's Command, and by using it to take out the Ally token, he was able to knock Gideon off the board as well. Tamada responded by evening the life totals at 9 apiece on his next attack step, and casting a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to potentially block for the Jace, Telepath Unbound on the battlefield.

Jace's Planeswalker version fell on the attack step, and the Dromoka's Command in hand meant that Tamada couldn't activate Jace, Vryn's Prodigy without risking it falling before transforming. That meant he needed the top of his deck to provide an answer. With Chin at 9 life and no blockers for Tamada's two 3/4 fliers, he was drawing live to a Jeskai Charm to close out the game.

Chin was not about to let his tournament life end in two games.

Tamada untapped, drew his card, and found… nothing. He picked up his cards and sent the pair into the decider.

Game 3 opened with Chin on the green-white deck's perfect curve, with Warden of the First Tree, then Hangarback Walker, and finally Nissa, Vastwood Seer into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. It was a ferocious start, and made Tamada's Jace look slow by comparison, especially with no lands in the graveyard to help fuel the transformation.

Still, he tried to climb back in the game. His first Mantis Rider of the match notched Gideon down to one loyalty, even as he fell to 8 life from Chin's attackers. With 11 power on the field as he ended his turn, Chin was just one turn away from ending the match if Tamada couldn't pull off something special.

Untapping for what he needed to be his big turn, Tamada started things off by dispatching Gideon with Mantis Rider. He followed up with Hangarback Walker and passed the turn with three creatures to block Chin's huge army.

It was an army that grew even larger when the Canadian cashed in a freshly-cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for the emblem. Tamada responded by using Fiery Impulse to remove Warden of the First Tree. Thanks to the prowess of his Seeker of the Way, it traded with the Ally token in combat, and Tamada ended the turn with more life than when it began.

Corner turned.

But turning the corner is far from the same as closing out the game, and when Tamada tapped out to cast Wingmate Roc—choosing not to transform his Jace—Chin had a window to make a big play.

Tamada's navigation of the final game has made this quarterfinals a Pro Tour classic.

Instead, his draw step yielded only a land, though that was enough to allow him to get in on the Planeswalker game, transforming Nissa, Sage Animist and activating it to draw a card. That card was arguably the best in his deck: Dromoka's Command.

"That's a good one," Tamada said with a small laugh.

"Yes, it is," Chin agreed.

Drawing for his turn, Tamada decided it was time to get aggressive, adding a Gideon emblem of his own to the board, prompting Chin to fire off the Command and pick off Wingmate Roc. Tamada accepted the loss and sent his fliers in different directions, with one downing Nissa while the other dropped Chin to 11 life. Another Hangarback Walker followed as he tried to hold the ground long enough for the fliers to finish the job.

That prompted an all-out attack from Chin, and when the dust settled each player had Thopter tokens and plenty of creatures. Fortunately for Tamada, he had more in the air, and the third Gideon emblem of the game was enough to make his team large enough to crash in for lethal damage.

"Good luck in the semis," Chin said warmly, extending his hand to congratulate Tamada on the victory in an instant classic of a Top 8 match.

Ryoichi Tamada defeats Ricky Chin 2-1 and advances to the semifinals!

Ricky Chin's Green-White Megamorph - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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Ryoichi Tamada's Jeskai - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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