Round 16 Feature Match: Yuta Takahashi (Abzan) vs. Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 18, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

The feature match area was silent as the players waited on the signal to begin Round 16, the final Swiss round of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. For some of these players, this would be the last round of the tournament. For a fortunate few, it would simply be the last round of the day before they returned on Sunday for the Top 8 and a chance at championship glory.

It was a familiar feeling for Yuta Takahashi. He made the Top 8 of Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, where he lost in the finals. Also the veteran of nine Grand Prix Top 8 appearances (with three wins), he was well accustomed to the pressure of the final round under the lights with a Sunday Pro Tour spot on the line.

Ryoichi Tamada was no stranger himself. Though he didn't have the extensive resume of Takahashi, he has two Grand Prix Top 8 appearances and was potentially just one win away from adding a Pro Tour Top 8 to that list.

Two countrymen faced an elimination match with the Top 8 hanging in the balance. Would it be the seasoned veteran Yuta Takahashi, or Ryoichi Tamada, one of Japan's 2015 World Magic Cup team members?

Both entered the tournament with known quantities, with Takahashi on Abzan and Tamada on Jeskai, but both also brought their own take on the deck. For Takahashi, that meant Hangarback Walker in Abzan to go along with the usual suspects of Siege Rhino and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

While many players in the room opted to splash black in their Jeskai decks, Tamada decided to keep things simple. He opted for just two off-color lands: a Cinder Glade and a Canopy Vista, and those only to spread out the targets for his fetch lands. 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.

The Games

Takahashi was fast out of the gates, landing Warden of the First Tree on the opening turn and following it up with Anafenza, the Foremost. It was a fearsome opener, and could have taken over quickly if not for a Valorous Stance from Tamada, who led with a Hangarback Walker and began growing the construct while taking some pressure from the Warden and tokens courtesy of Takahashi's Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Tamada found Jeskai Charm to rid himself of Gideon, but that left him short on answers when Wingmate Roc arrived with a friend on the next turn. The sudden air force gave Takahashi the advantage, and when a second pair of birds reinforced the first on the next turn, Tamada found himself in a desperate situation.

Men in desperate situations try desperate things, and for Tamada it was an all-out attack with his team, including the 5/5 Hangarback Walker. When Takahashi opted to take the damage from the Hangarback rather than trade with it and leave the tokens behind, Tamada picked up his cards with a small laugh and sent the match into the next game.

Takahashi was no stranger to high pressure situations.

A flurry of removal on both sides was the story of the second game. Silkwrap for both parties removed troublesome Hangarback Walkers, and when the dust settled, each player had a pair of cards in hand but no board. With a Duress off the top of his deck, Takahashi took a peek at Tamada's hand, seeing a pair of Fiery Impulses but no threat. That changed in a hurry when Gideon arrived in Tamada's draw step, and the Planeswalker ended the game with an army of allies a few turns later.

Things started off poorly for Takahashi in Game 3, as he was forced to mulligan and didn't have a source of green mana until the third turn, while Tamada led with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Still, the former Pro Tour Top 8 competitor wasn't going down easily, and he strung together Abzan Charm into Siege Rhino into Tasigur, the Golden Fang. It a steady stream of high-impact cards that pulled him right back into the game and forced Tamada to find an answer.

Tamada was looking for his big break on the global stage.

He did exactly that, dispatching the Rhino with Valorous Stance and then keeping the banana king off the field thanks to Jeskai Charm and then replaying the Jace-fueled Charm. When Gideon joined his Planeswalker comrade on the battlefield, Takahashi extended his hand, conceding the match to Tamada and giving him a shot at the Top 8.

Ryoichi Tamada's Jeskai - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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Yuta Takahashi—Red Abzan

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