It was a clash of former Top 8'ers here in the early rounds of Day 2. Japan's Ken Yukuhiro put up a Top 4 finish at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, and is one of the newest wave of Japanese talent. He lives and breathes Magic, spending his time split between running his store and streaming Magic Online.
Opposite him sat Joel Larsson of Sweden. He rose to prominence under the Sunday lights at Pro Tour Gatecrash, making it all the way to the finals before being defeated by Champion Tom Martell. Both players were drawing on the power of white in their draft decks, the consensus most powerful color in Magic 2015. Larsson paired his with red and sacrificed his long game for more explosive power. Yukuhiro added black to his mix, as well as a splash of blue.
What's at Stake?
Both players were sitting at 7-2, an enviable position. Yukuhiro had passed a relatively quiet year on the circuit, and this start gave him a good shot at reaching the Top 25 finish he needs to secure Gold Pro Status for the coming season.
Larsson is looking at two big goals: The most important is hitting a Top 16 finish, which would promote him to Platinum Pro Club status. He's also the leader of the race for the captaincy of Sweden's World Magic Cup team, but Denniz Rachid (sitting ten points back) is still alive with a shot at overtaking him. Larsson stopped off at Grand Prix Boston en route to this event, trying to get a few extra Pro Points. Unfortunately for him he came up empty. "It's not so easy when there are almost 2,400 people."
Yukuhiro was fast off the blocks in Game 1, with Oreskos Swiftclaw, then Crippling Blight on Generator Servant and Kinsbaile Skirmisher. Larsson traded Goblin Roughrider for the Swiftclaw, and summoned Juggernaut to his side after Yukuhiro dropped Black Cat. Yukuhiro added Shadowcloak Vampire to his squad and held back.
Larsson untapped and paused briefly before casting Kinsbaile Skirmisher, boosting his Juggernaut, and then convoking out Stoke the Flames on the Vampire. The Juggernaut made it 14 all. Yukuhiro wasn't out of gas yet, though. He brought out Heliod's Pilgrim and tutored up the mighty Spectra Ward. Larsson went to push through more damage with Hammerhand on his Skirmisher, stunning Yukuhiro's, and swung with both creatures. Unfortunately for him, Yukuhiro was ready: Devouring Light took care of the Juggernaut, and the dead Cat left Larsson empty-handed.
Things continued to tilt away from Larsson. Yukuhiro had spells in reserve and Larsson was drawing only lands. Soon Larsson was picking up his cards. It had taken under five minutes.
In the second game Larsson had the early pressure. He opened with Sungrace Pegasus, Krenko's Enforcer, then Hammerhand on the Pegasus and Oreskos Swiftclaw. This last Larsson was happy to use as a blocker for Dauntless River Marshall, trading them off. That left Yukuhiro with just Black Cat and a freshly-summoned Paragon of New Dawns.
Larsson tapped five and dropped Thundering Giant into play, swinging with his team. Yukuhiro had a plan, but it meant he had to take all the damage, falling to eight. Next turn he played Triplicate Spirits, an outrageous beating provided that his Paragon could stick around. Larsson untapped and thought hard. He surveyed the board, and then with a frown just sent his intimidating Enforcer and passed the turn.
Yukuhiro was grateful for the reprieve. He played Covenant of Blood on his next turn, getting some extra breathing room and eliminating the troublesome Enforcer. Larsson summoned Preeminent Captain and held back. Yukuhiro summoned an Indulgent Tormentor, threatening to run away with things, but on his next turn Larsson burned it down with Heat Ray.
Still, it seemed the worst was over for Yukuhiro. His Paragon was safe, and Stab Wound on the Pegasus turned it into a liability. Larsson summoned Miner's Bane but could only trade it off for two spirit tokens while Yukuhiro started swinging with Accursed Spirit. Larsson couldn't find a way to punch through Yukuhiro's growing defenses and five life a turn is a very short clock. A couple of turns later the match had ended.
Larsson 0 – Yukuhiro 2
I asked Larsson what he had been considering on the turn he swung with only his Enforcer. It turns out he had the Heat Ray in hand the whole time. "I was trying to decide how he would block, if he would use two or three, and I just took too long. I think I gave away that I had a trick. If I had swung out instantly I might have been able to catch him. After that, you know, I have lots of other burn in my deck including Cone of Flame, so I thought I would wait on the Heat Ray."