Round 5: Yuuki Ichikawa (Four-Color Emerge) vs. (5) Luis Scott-Vargas (Bant Company)

Posted in Event Coverage on August 5, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

This match was set up to be one that might, might define the Pro Tour as a whole. No. 5-ranked Luis Scott-Vargas was up against Yuuki Ichikawa, and the decks couldn't have been more different. Ichikawa was on the newest of the new, with all the bells and whistles, while Scott-Vargas was on old faithful—Bant Company. Many players have shown up with decks that they swear can beat the big menace, but now they have to actually prove it.

Pro Tour Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas is finishing up a truly banner year. After his first Pro Tour Top 8 in five years, he grabbed another right after (making seven); he is leading the Hall of Fame race for the World Championship; and oh yeah, this is his first event since becoming a new father! This has been a great year for LSV, and he's looking to close out strong. His longtime team, Team ChannelFireball, tested with Team Ultra PRO this year, and they're ready to smash face.

Luis Scott-Vargas attempts to add another award to his tally this season.

Team Cygames' Yuuki Ichikawa is slightly less storied but is on the rise, and his two Pro Tour Top 8s don't look shabby. He's here hoping to lock up Platinum, and his Four-Color Emerge deck might be just the thing to get him there. For this match, he was sitting at 3-1.

"How many Pro Points do you need?" Scott-Vargas asked his opponent as they shuffled up.

"39. I need X-4-1." Ichikawa replied. They joked that this might mean a Top 8 for Ichikawa. But even if it didn't, the Japanese player would be quite happy to lock himself for Platinum.

Ichikawa was on the crazy, mono-new-strategy deck. Though it's called "Four-Color Emerge," that's slightly misleading, as it's Sultai Emerge with Kozilek's Return, and zero ways to cast it. But Ichikawa's not looking to cast a lot of the cards in his deck. Haunted Dead and Prized Amalgam are much better coming back from the graveyard than being cast from the hand. Though Ichikawa's initial build had a Mountain to cast the Return, the mana was so constricted already that he took it out. The Return would only be played from the graveyard.

This would be a strong test for the deck, as Bant Company is as consistent as they come. To beat the deck, Ichikawa told me, he must get Kozilek's Return in the graveyard quickly, then cast an Elder Deep-Fiend to wipe everything away (and tap anything that remained). It would be elementary from there.

Though the Japanese pro has tons of cards like Gather the Pack and Grapple with the Past to help him achieve his goal, it is still a package that must be assembled. Any disruption would spell instant doom via tiny, little, Bant-colored creatures.

The Games

In the first game, Ichikawa kept a hand of Kozilek's Return, Gather the Pack, two Elder Deep-Fiends, and land. Though it looked a bit weird, the early turns were full of action. The Japanese player cast Gather the Pack then Grapple with the Past, getting two Prized Amalgams in the graveyard (exactly where he wanted them). He cast the Grapple on Scott-Vargas's upkeep, after watching the second-turn Duskwatch Recruiter transform into Krallenhorde Howler.

It was a strong start, and Ichikawa was hoping for just as strong a follow-up into the midgame—when Bant Company just vomits value onto the battlefield.

After casting Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Noose Constrictor, Ichikawa gave his opponent finger guns and made a "bang" sound indicating that Scott-Vargas's end-of-turn Collected Company would resolve. Two Reflector Mages kept the CoCo beats coming, and left Ichikawa dreadfully light on blockers.

Soon Ichikawa got a Haunted Dead. He was almost there. But Scott-Vargas's swing for 8 damage knocked him down to 7 life. Ichikawa had the pieces in line to take over the game, but needed to survive one more attack step to make it happen.

Scott-Vargas attacked in with Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter, Selfless Spirit, and two Reflector Mages, while Ichikawa had only a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to block.

Ichikawa returned Haunted Dead and made a Spirit—discarding Kozilek's Return—to make two blocks and survive. But LSV had Dromoka's Command at instant speed to take out the second blocker and get through all the damage he needed. Ichikawa had been a half-turn away from flipping the game around.

Between games both players kept their decks relatively the same. Scott-Vargas made a last-minute swap of 2 Dromoka's Commands for 2 Ojutai's Commands, but other than that, both players just shuffled sideboard cards to make their swaps look bigger than they were.

In the second game, Scott-Vargas stuck to his consistent plan. If he could keep the Bant Company clock on, he could replicate the first game note for note. But Ichikawa started first, and net an Elder Deep-Fiend off Grapple with the Past and a Prized Amalgam. Again, things looked good for the Cygames pro early.

But Duskwatch Recruiter into Reflector Mage returned the hard-cast Amalgam, then a second Recruiter and a Spell Queller exiled the Amalgam when it came back down. Scott-Vargas began the Bant Company value train even quicker than usual.

Scott-Vargas kept turning his little guys sideways, while Ichikawa stared at the uncastable Kozilek's Returns and Elder Deep-Fiends in his hand. These next draws would decide his fate. He desperately needed a way to utilize the Returns—and fast.

Ichikawa cupped his hands over his mouth while he thought.

Yuuki Ichikawa considers his outs.

He grabbed a Noose Constrictor, which could discard the Returns, but he was still too far away from emerging into the Elder Deep-Fiend to make it all work.

Scott-Vargas calmly attacked again and again, easily rolling over the minimal defenses and took the match 2-0. He made it all look easy.

To indicate his concession, Ichikawa laid his hand on the table—three Kozilek's Returns, two Elder Deep-Fiends, and the Constrictor. Perhaps that Mountain would have gone a long way in that game. He shrugged and shook Scott-Vargas's hand.

The Hall of Famer improves to 5-0, threatening to put a huge final bullet on this banner-year resume.

Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Yuuki Ichikawa 2–0.


Yuuki Ichikawa's Four-Color Emerge

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Luis Scott-Vargas's Bant Company

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