Semifinals: Paul Dean (Abzan) vs. Takimura Kazuyuki (Abzan)

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

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

In the last round of swiss yesterday, Paul Dean found himself paired against Owen Turtenwald. Before the round, Dean had presumed that he would be able to draw into the Top 8 of the tournament, but Turtenwald was assured a slot in the Top 8 regardless of whether or not he won the round and, given that he had close friends still in contention, the World Championship finalist wanted to battle.

Dean lost. Dejected and defeated, he went and sat alone, head in hands. Then came the Top 8 announcement and, despite the ugly turn of events, he had snuck into the Top 8 in 8th place.

This morning, Dean had his chance for revenge. Turtenwald struggled with mana issues and Dean played beautifully. When the dust settled, the Canadian was able to secure a spot in the semifinals.

His opponent, Takimura Kazuyuki, has long dreamed of making it to the Sunday stage. Takimura made it to Silver last year, but this weekend catapults him into an entirely new realm of Magic success. Takimura is now determined to bring a trophy and $40,000 wedding present home to his fiancé.

The two Pro Tour first-timers were excited to have made it thus far, but with just two more wins, a trophy would be their reward. Who would advance?

The Games

In the first game, Takimura was on the play, but Dean got the action started with an early Hangarback Walker and was immediately reminded that he needed to play his lands behind his other permanents.

The Canadian laughed. "One day I'll remember," he said.

Takimura had Anafenza, the Foremost, but it was quickly taken care of with Murderous Cut.

Takimura played Den Protector face-down to stay on the board, but he still hadn't found a fourth land and Dean's Hangarback Walker had picked up a second counter.

Dean used Dromoka's Command to make his opponent sacrifice an enchantment and let the Hangarback Walker fight the morph. This mode seemed safer than simply using the +1/+1 counter and fight mode because it meant that Dean wasn't opening himself up to Abzan Charm, and he would instead get to start pressuring his opponent with Thopter tokens.

Takimura was still stuck on three lands and Dean seemed to be quickly pulling ahead, especially with a freshly cast Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Takimura's Warden of the First Tree tried to pressure Gideon, but Dean could easily chump block indefinitely with tokens.

Paul Dean was happy to be here after a near miss, as the Canadian played methodically through each of his games.

Dean's board state continued to advance with Anafenza, the Foremost, but Takimura had just found a fourth land and played Siege Rhino. Despite having Siege Rhino, Takimura was still lacking double white to cast powerful cards that were stranded in his hand like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Takimura tried to attack Dean, but there was an Abzan Charm at the ready.

Warden of the First Tree joined Dean's side of the table and it looked like Takimura was in a rough spot. Takimura had missed a lot of land drops. Oddly enough, Takimura was still at a higher life total and things started to turn around when a Murderous Cut from Takimura dealt with Dean's Anafenza, the Foremost, allowing the Japanese player kept getting in with his Warden of the First Tree and Siege Rhino.

When Dean tried to pump his Warden, he was immediately met with another removal spell, and this time it was Dromoka's Command. Takimura had overcome some early mana issues and looked to be in dominant position despite the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the other side of the table that continued churning out 2/2 bodies turn after turn.

Takimura continued attacking and growing his pair of Warden of the First Tree as Dean found himself at 1 life. It seemed that Takimura had locked up the game when he followed up with Hangarback Walker.

The pressure mounted and Dean had drawn too many lands to stay in the game. Without enough life to survive another attack, they were on to the second game.

The players quietly shuffled each other's decks before presenting and drawing seven cards. Both players smiled and caught the others eye as they nodded in unison, "Mulligan."

Dean was happier with his six, but Takimura deemed it necessary to go down to five, then four cards. Four were good enough to keep, but it seemed very unlikely that they would be good enough to win.

Kazuyuki Takimura was all smiles in between the games, but laser-focused once play began.

Neither player had any action for the first few turns of the game, but Dean finally did something by drawing two cards with Abzan Charm. He was unable to find a fourth land, but he did have a Hangarback Walker.

The fourth land continued to elude Dean, and Takimura started to land threats on the table. Murderous Cut dealt with the first Rhino, but the subsequent Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino stuck around.

Dean tried to hang on, but the top of Takimura's deck seemed to produce greatness turn after turn, this time in the form of Wingmate Roc. The Japanese spectators erupted in applause.

Takimura may have gone to four, but with tight play and a little fortune, he was able to navigate his way to victory and get one step closer to bringing home the Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar trophy!

Kazuyuki Takimura defeats Paul Dean 2-0 and advances to the finals!

Paul Dean's Abzan - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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Kazuyuki Takimura's Abzan - Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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