Quarterfinals: (21) Samuel Pardee vs. Yusuke Sasabe

Posted in Event Coverage on July 30, 2017

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for DailyMTG.com, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

You'd be excused for looking at the Top 8 and seeing red. Whether that's red from no blue or white decks making it (#notbiased), or just simply from the six red-based decks in this Top 8, it's a lot of one specific fifth of the color wheel.

Except here.

This quarterfinal match is our safe haven from aggressive red decks, our little corner of hope that something other than Bomat Courier will be riding high at the end of the day. Let's call it our party corner.

Representing the non-sunburned contingent of the Top 8, and our heroes for the weekend, are (21) Samuel Pardee and Yusuke Sasabe, a rookie.

The Decks

Let's start with the first-timer. Sasabe, a Japanese local, earned his way on to the Pro Tour via a fourth place finish at Grand Prix Shizuoka. His resume might be slim, but you have to give him a ton of credit for being the only player able to pilot Zombies to a Top 8. His three main-deck Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet probably played a not insignificant part in that, and he claimed the card was his MVP over the weekend.

Pardee might just agree. While he picked a different MVP, his two main-deck Kalitas give him a strong game against both red decks and the Zombies Sasabe will be throwing at him. Pardee is also resume padding, and a win this weekend would vault him into the upper-upper echelon of Pros. He already has one Pro Tour Top 8 to his name and is set to qualify for the World Championship this year, so he passed upper echelon long ago. Dude's got game.

But only one of Kalitas' warriors gets to face down the rest of the red horde staring them down. Godspeed, you heroes. Godspeed.

Samuel Pardee and Yusuke Sasabe clash in a battle between the two non-red decks of the Top 8.

The Games

Both players had early, aggressive plays, with Sasabe starting on a pair of Dread Wanderers, while Pardee got his party started with a Grim Flayer that wasted no time dumping cards into the graveyard. Sasabe kept wandering into the red zone (the only red allowed at this table) to put the pressure on Pardee, but missed his third land drop.

Pardee made him pay for it.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar put up the shields, Verdurous Gearhulk kicked up the aggression, and Sasabe's mana problems kept him from catching up. Even when he hit his third land, it was another Ifnir Deadlands, increasing his pain any time he cast spells.

Pardee followed up with Riskar, Peema Renegade and Nissa's minus two ability, positively flooding the table with large white dice on large, green creatures. The comparatively small Zombies Sasabe was working with didn't stand much of a chance, and we were on to a second game.

The Pardee was just getting started.

This time, Sasabe slowed things down a bit, skipping any creatures until his third turn, using those first few turns to merely Fatal Push a Grim Flayer. Presumably down some very spooky stairs. They did not survive.

Pardee locked Platinum and a Worlds invite with his Top 8, but he's not done yet.

But Nissa did, and she and Tireless Tracker begun to insulate Pardee's board against the Zombie horde Sasabe was assembling. However, a pair of Dark Salvation blew up Pardee's position while adding to Sasabe's.

That left Pardee searching for answers by cycling and cracking a clue, and not finding much help. Blank after blank left the American staring down the wrong side of an undead horde. Before long, Pardee was facing three Zombie tokens, Lord of the Accursed, and a Relentless Dead—all with a single plant. A 0/1 plant, event. It wasn't very intimidating. It was also very dead very soon. Just like Sam two turns later.

With the prelude out of the way, both players reached for their sideboards looking for an advantage other than “draw way better than the other player." Though, I'm sure either player would be happy to find themselves on that plan anyway.

Instead, they went the opposite direction and both sent back quick mulligans. It's like they were watching what I was writing, and then doing the opposite. Thanks, guys.

Once each player kept their hand of six, the third game turned into so much back and forth. Sasabe would play a creature, Pardee would kill it. Sasabe would play another creature, Pardee would also kill it. It didn't paint a vivid picture, but it did move the game forward.

Also moving the game forward was Sasabe's Dread Wanderer, who managed to get in 8 damage before heading (temporarily) to the graveyard.

That was the issue with Pardee's “kill all of the things” plan—Zombies often didn't stay dead for long. His better plan was always to play larger creatures that Sasabe's removal couldn't touch and his creatures couldn't slog through. Larger creatures that weren't 4/4s or smaller, or at least didn't stay that size for long. Maybe they cost more than 4 mana so they were also Fatal Push proof. Maybe they were giant robots, because giant robots are awesome.

Sasabe's Zombies have some resiliency, but Pardee has a lot of removal.

Enter: Two Verdurous Gearhulks.

Now stopped in his tracks, Sasabe found himself on the backfoot, facing a 6/6 and an 8/8. They were out of Fatal Push range, and Grasp of Darkness would need some help. Sasabe tried to take down the 8/8 with a ton of undead throwing themselves at the mechanical monstrosity, but Walking Ballista and Fatal Push teamed up to clear out the rabble before Sasabe's Grasp of Darkness could inflict its damage. It only took one more turn for the Gearhulks to march Pardee to victory and a single game from a semifinals berth.

Was it already Pardee time? Or would I have to keep finding different ways to use that pun?

It sure seemed like it. The Pardee continued right into Game 4 as removal and a Liliana, the Last Hope gave Pardee an early lead and commanding control of the battlefield. Three times Sasabe tried to make headway with a new creature, three times it was shot down. A fourth was nullified by Lilana as Pardee's deck started to hum.

But then, out on the horizon, Sasabe found hope in the form of a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, firing upon Liliana and potentially providing an avenue to victory. Liliana's Mastery provided the crew, proving there's no one Liliana won't stab in the back—even herself.

At this point, the board was thus: Pardee had an 8/8 Gearhulk and no Liliana, or anything else for that matter. Sasabe, after having his board neatly controlled for the first part of the game, had swung things around with a Skysovereign and three 3/3 Zombies. It was an impressive board presences.

So Pardee decided to go bigger.

Utilizing a Traverse the Ulvenwald, Pardee searched up a second Verdurous Gearhulk and crashed down on Sasabe for a whopping 10 damage, hoping to end the game quickly with his pair of massive robots.

But Sasabe was having none of that. The Skysovereign combined with a Grasp of Darkness to remove the 6/6, then the front half of Never // Return took out the 10/10.

One draw step, one shake of his head, and Pardee was ready to move on to a fifth and decisive game.

It was not Pardee time. Not yet.

The final, decisive game of the five-game set got underway gradually. A removal spell here, a Traverse the Ulvenwald for land there, a Gonti, Lord of Luxury over here, and only a single spell from the Zombies pilot over the first five turns. He even spent his fifth turn using Ifnir Deadlands to kill a Tireless Tracker.

If I hadn't known any better, I would have mistaken Sasabe's deck for a control list that simply forgot to draw its second color. Either Sasabe's draw was excessively mediocre, or he had something big up his sleeve. Something that would turn the tide as Skysovereign, Consul Flagship had last game. Something so wild and audacious that we would forget all about the epic comeback by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa earlier in the quarterfinals.

It turned out it was closer to the excessive mediocrity side of things. Paulo's moment was secure.

Sasabe tried to make a go of it. Never // Return took care of a Verdurous Gearhulk, but Pardee simply replaced it, grew his team some more, and calmly attacked for heaps of damage.

Eventually, finally, and way-to-late-ly, Sasabe got on the board with Liliana's Mastery, but he was well behind at that point. One removal spell and a twist of his cards and it was—finally—Pardee time in the heroes bracket at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

Samuel Pardee defeats Yusuke Sasabe 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!

Pardee, Samuel - Black-Green Constrictor

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Sasabe, Yusuke - Mono Black Zombies

Download Arena Decklist

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