Round 13: [6] Reid Duke (Red-White Vehicles) vs. Kenji Tsumura (Black-Green Delirium)

Posted in Event Coverage on October 15, 2016

By Corbin Hosler

Eight Pro Tour Top 8 appearances sat down for the Round 13 feature match. Thirty-one Grand Prix Top 8s and six Grand Prix titles. One Player of the Year title. One Hall of Fame member, and the other well on his way.

Kenji Tsumura. Reid Duke. Pro Tour Kaladesh, and the chance to make a stretch run to the Top 8 was on the line.

Both Reid Duke and Kenji Tsumura had phenomenal resumes, and both were fighting to maintain their Top 8 hopes alive.

The Decks

Everyone knew coming into Honolulu that Red-White Vehicles was the deck to beat out of the gates. Making full use of Smuggler's Copter, Depala, Pilot Exemplar, and Veteran Motorist, the deck won the first large Standard tournament upon the set's release, and didn't show many signs of slowing down since. An aggressive deck that also featured evasion and built-in resiliency thanks to vehicles, Red-White Vehicles was the aggro deck of choice for many players in Hawaii.

Tsumura knew he would face the deck many times this weekend, and chose Black-Green Delirium as a result. The deck featured a solid early curve in Gnarlwood Dryad and Grim Flayer to match up with the aggressive decks, while leaning on instant-removal and Liliana, the Last Hope to cover the midgame while also employing its own Smuggler's Copter.

A classic match-up between two decks aiming to win an intense game full of interaction, with two renowned players at the helm, it was a set-up for a classic.

The Games

The first game got off to a hot start, as Duke led with Smuggler's Copter but found himself staring down Gnarlwood Dryad and Grim Flayer from Tsumura. In danger of falling onto the back foot quickly, Duke needed a strong turn to swing things around before they snowballed, and a Thraben Inspector to crew the Copter along with a follow-up Harnessed Lightning to take down the Flayer represented exactly that.

A second Smuggler's Copter arrived for Duke, putting enough power into the air that the Tireless Tracker response from Tsumura was guaranteed to be too slow. Grasp of Darkness arrived to take down the first Copter as the Hall of Famer fell to 2 life, but when a second answer didn't materialize, the pair were off to Game 2.

It would be a game of wild swings. Tsumura rocketed into the lead early, using Liliana, the Last Hope to take down Veteran Motorist and connect with his Grim Flayer while also stranding the Toolcraft Exemplar on Duke's field without an artifact and in danger of dying to Liliana on the next turn. But Duke had the perfect response in Pia Nalaar, allowing the Exemplar to knock Liliana down to one loyalty before trading with the Grim Flayer. Liliana was still sticking around, but she was vulnerable, at least until Tsumura reloaded with Sylvan Advocate and Smuggler's Copter, putting the defenses firmly up.

Rather than go through them, Duke went around them. Chandra, Torch of Defiance arrived on his side and promptly removed Liliana from the other. Just like that, it was now Duke that had the planeswalker in the match, and the focus shifted as Tsumura tried to find ways to bring down the pyromancer.

Duke remains poised no matter how hairy the situation.

His attack on Chandra meant several creatures hit the graveyard, but Chandra survived at one loyalty squaring off against a Dryad crewing a Copter. Duke added Thraben Inspector to his board to try and mount another defense, and he passed the turn with five mana open, something of a tell given the uncracked clue token on his side.

The reason became apparent when Duke flashed in Archangel Avacyn to ambush Smuggler's Copter in combat. The play would leave him firmly in control of the game, but Tsumura had the answer at the ready in Grasp of Darkness. That meant instead that the turn ended with Chandra in the bin and both players sitting at near-parity.

Duke finally found a Smuggler's Copter of his own, and when a Depala followed to crew it, the American looked like he would pull ahead in the aerial warfare despite being low on life.

Unable to progress through the air, Tsumura went to the ground. The Gnarlwood Dryads that previous were crewing Copters were now 3/3s thank to Delirium, and Tsumura sent both rumbling in to knock Duke down to 3 life.

Options running low, Duke looked to take control of the ground to match his air force. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar joined the fray and brought a 2/2 Knight Ally with him. The planeswalker meant that Duke was favored to turn the corner very soon, putting the pressure on Tsumura to find a way to break through for the final points of damage.

Fortunately for the Hall of Famer, he found exactly that. Murder took out Duke's Copter and allowed him to fly in for the final three points of damage to even the match.

The third and final game got off to a bit of a slower start, and once again it was planeswalkers that took center stage. Tsumura got on board first with Liliana, but Duke responded with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to begin filling the board.

As a Pro Tour Hall of Famer, Tsumura has long become familiar with playing under the lights while his tournament life was at stake.

With Gnarlwood Dryad, Grim Flayer and Liliana in play, Tsumura was in a position to potentially handle Gideon, but when the ally of Zendikar didn't fall in the following combat he went on the offensive himself by swinging at Liliana. Gnarlwood Dryad hit the bin in defense of the planeswalker, leaving Grim Flayer alone for Tsumura.

But the planeswalkers kept coming for Duke. Chandra, Torch of Defiance joined Gatewatch pal Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and took down Grim Flayer, with Liliana following on the next turn when all Tsumura could muster in defense was a pair of creatures that couldn't cut through Duke's defenses.

Liliana was down, but Grim Flayer arrived to keep Tsumura in the game. He attempted an attack at Gideon, and when Grasp of Darkness removed one of the blockers, it looked like Grim Flayer may have a chance to trample through and take out the planeswalker. However, Skywhaler's Shot from Duke ended the threat, and with his planeswalkers now safe, the game shortly ended afterward, giving Duke the hard-fought win and a fighting chance at playing for the Top 8.

Duke 2 – Tsumura 1

Reid Duke - Red-White Vehicles

Download Arena Decklist

Kenji Tsumura - Black-Green Delirium

Download Arena Decklist

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