Owen, I'm going to let you finish your remarkable year, but Ken Yukuhiro had the most exciting elimination round to make the Top 8.
No player in the Top 8 is more excited to have tight-roped his way into the Top 8 than Ken Yukuhiro, who collectively defied Reid Duke on the final turn of the final round to barely notch his 37th point. The recap of the match that catapulted the Japanese pro to the Sunday stage is worth re-reading, if for no other reason than the absurd sequence at the end.
Oh, and that was after winning Round 15 on his last turn in extra turns as well.
Blohon's final rounds were a bit more relaxed, as he was able to draw in the final round to secure his Top 8 berth at 37 points. But he's certainly sweating his trip through the Top 8. Though he can't complain about his performance this weekend, he's expressed some concern over his deck's matchups in the Top 8.
All of the copies of Emrakul, the Promised End and other large, over-the-top strategies have him convinced his matchups aren't good. White-Black Control, Blohon's deck, is built and positioned to defeat a lot of the aggressive and midrange decks—specifically, it's geared to have game against Bant Company, Spirits, and Black-Green Delirium.
But it has problems with Emrakul, the Eldrazi that has been looming over this entire Pro Tour—and Yukuhiro has three copies. Three copies of Blohon's unlucky charm. Three copies of a 13/13 that gives Blohon a serious case of Triskaidekaphobia. Three copies of a Promised End to Blohon's run.
Sure, Blohon has newly minted Gatewatch member Liliana, the Last Hope on his side, plus the protection of Archangel Avacyn and her sire, Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Even Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is on Blohon's side, despite the player's pact with black spells.
But just remember—they're all Emrakul's pieces. They always were.
Both players, fully aware of the other's decklist, knew the game would go long and kept appropriately slow hands to kick things off. They knew, from testing, from experience, and from their guts, that the game wouldn't be decided in the first half a dozen turns. It would be decided over Emrakul.
The players used the first few turns to sculpt their hands—Yukuhiro with Tormenting Voice, Blohon with Read the Bones—before unleashing the middle-parts of their game plans: a Hangarback Walker for Yukuhiro and a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet for Blohon.
It was mostly positioning, as both decks were more comfortable as the game approached the later stages. Soon the board was clear of all creatures and only an Ob Nixilis Reignited stood watch.
Well, not stood watch. I don't think the Gatewatch would have him.
In fact, Yukuhiro's Chandra showed the Gatewatch's distaste for the Demon the following turn, throwing two Elementals in its direction to send Ob Nixilis packing. Anguished Unmaking, in turn, removed Chandra, Flamecaller from the game and kept her from contributing to the oh-so-important Emrakul card-types count.
But all of it was so much theater. The real battle was being waged over Emrakul, the Promised End in the background, almost in secret. Yukuhiro was filling his graveyard preparing for'mrakul. Blohon was Transgressing the Mind to stop'mrakul. And Blighted Fen was standing watch to kill'mrakul while Archangel Avacyn patrolled the skies.
Emrakul did perish to the Blighted Fen, but her mind-controlling powers stripped Blohon of much of the advantage he had earned. He kept some gas in the tank and was ready to begin the fight anew.
Lukas Blohon, seen here doing his best Emrakul impression.
Until Emrakul once again came out of the skies for Yukuhiro'mrakul.
And the havoc she wreaked was massive. Blohon once again saw his carefully crafted advantages erode, his last member of the Gatewatch—a Liliana, the Last Hope—fade to Emrakul herself. And when Avacyn tried to step in to halt some damage, even she couldn't hold the Eldrazi back.
Game'mrakul 1 to Yukuhiro.
Blohon needed his personal Gatewatch to get its stuff together if he had any hope of defeating Emrakul. Instead, we saw planeswalker after planeswalker turn on each other in the second game.
There was little action in the early turns beyond a Liliana, the Last Hope entering play on the third turn and working her way up to 6 loyalty—before being stabbed in the back by Chandra, Flamecaller. Who was, in turn, struck down by Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Who was, then, burned to a crisp by a second copy of Chandra, who, finally, was sent on a Ruinous Path, finally ending the torturous cycle of Planeswalkericide.
And all the while Emrakul hung over the proceedings. It looked like Yukuhiro might be about to end the game with the giant tentacle monster. But then Emrakul—er, Yukuhiro—made a misstep in service of his Eldrazi lord. He attempted to cast a Hangarback Walker for zero to give him enough card types in his graveyard to cast Emrakul. Unfortunately, Blohon had a Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in play to remove it from the game, which Yukuhiro didn't factor in. This mistake bought Blohon enough time to Transgress the Mind and remove Emrakul from the equation.
From there, Blohon started attacking with Shambling Vents, but did little else to advance his board position. So even while Yukuhiro drew little to nothing, Blohon couldn't punish him for it. He could remove just about anything Yukuhiro played, but he couldn't stop the inevitable. He couldn't stop the Promised End.
Emrakul warps both Blohon and Yukuhiro to suit her purposes.
Once again, given enough time, Emrakul swooped in to take away any and all advantages Blohon might have scraped together. It was only a matter of time'mrakul.
Game'mrakul 2 to Yukuhiro.
But maybe that misstep with the Hangarback Walker was enough to put a touch of doubt with Emrakul. Maybe she wasn't all-powerful. Maybe, just maybe, she was not All'mrakul.
Blohon's draw was much better for the third game, stripping Nissa's Pilgrimage with a Duress, killing a Tireless tracker, and trying to gain some traction with a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar before following up with an Archangel Avacyn.
Yukuhiro expended a ton of resources to manage Gideon, but refilled with Tireless Tracker and Hedron Archive to maintain some sense of parity. But Blohon's draw was, in a new twist, fast enough to pressure Yukuhiro before he could truly set up shop. Yukuhiro had one draw step where a land would have allowed him to cast Emrakul, but it wasn't to be. He missed and had to settle for trying to manage a board state that included Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Archangel Avacyn, and a pair of 2/2 tokens.
Cleverly, Yukuhiro bought some time by killing Kalitas with Collective Defiance, allowing Avacyn's transformation trigger to do the rest of the slaughtering. It was a small reprieve, a tiny window, but it was enough to fit an Emrakul through the following turn.
Unfortunately for Yukuhiro, the damage was done, and Blohon's hand was such that nothing he could do would stop the last few points of damage slipping past even a 13/13.
The tide was turning. There was hope.
Ken Yukuhiro stares into the abyss, hoping for a sign of the Promised End.
Emrakul's influence seemed to be waning post-sideboard, as Blohon, on the back of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, was able to pressure Yukuhiro fast enough to stop Emrakul from mattering. The fourth game went much like the third, with a touch of disruption right from the start followed by a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, followed by Yukuhiro losing too much time and too many resources dealing with it. This time, Emrakul never even factored in while Archangel Avacyn swooped in for the kill.
Blohon had more than hope. He had momentum, he had a game plan, and he had a third post-sideboard game to win.
Once more, disruption paved the way early for Blohon, but this time, Yukuhiro fought back early as well, playing a pair of Hangarback Walkers to pressure Blohon. Even Ishkanah, Grafwidow stepped in to hold the fort early on.
But Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet teamed up with Ob Nixilis Reignited to begin commanding control of the board. Soon Gideon, Ally of Zendikar joined the fray. Blohon's motley crew was starting to run the show.
And Emrakul? Nowhere to be seen. Maybe it wasn't time. Maybe the ground had not yet been sown.
Soon, Kalitas was too big to handle, and Yukuhiro was too far behind to do anything beyond chump blocking. He was miles from casting Emrakul, and his team was doing a poor job holding back the Zombies and their Vampire lord knocking at his door. Emrakul all but abandoned Yukuhiro.
And like that, Blohon dispatched Yukuhiro and Emrakul.
Lukus Blohon defeats Ken Yukuhiro'mrakul 3-2.
But maybe that was the plan all along? Maybe Emrakul saw this wasn't her match, wasn't her time, and fled. Maybe she defeated herself.
They were, after all, all her pieces in the first place.