Quarterfinals: (20) Mike Sigrist vs. Kentaro Yamamoto

Posted in Event Coverage on August 2, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

Neither player in the final quarterfinal of the day is a stranger to the bright lights of the Top 8 of a Pro Tour. While Yamamoto was competing in his third Top 8, Sigrist was in his second of the season after also making it to Sunday of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir back in October of last year.

But there was more on the line in this match than a shot at the Pro Tour Magic Origins trophy. Sigrist entered the Top 8 still in another competition, one that, if it's possible, could be even more important: the Player of the Year race.

Top-ranked Eric Froehlich entered the event in the lead for the title, and after a poor start he had rallied to a high finish and padded that lead, meaning Sigrist would need a finals appearance in Vancouver to usurp the title. The first step to that was defeating Yamamoto in the first round of the day.

While Yamamoto was aiming for World Magic Cup captaincy, Mike Sigrist was shooting to leap Eric Froehlich for the Player of the Year title.

Sigrist was piloting the breakout deck of the tournament, Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact. While the namesake card of the deck is one of its most powerful tools, it's far from the only one. Ghostfire Blade turns any creature into a threat, while even innocuous artifacts like Ornithopter or Springleaf Drum double as mana ramp or fodder for the "combo finish" of Shrapnel Blast. Its raw power has existed since Ensoul Artifact was printed, but it's the resiliency of Thopter Spy Network and Whirler Rogue that really pushed it over the edge in Vancouver. A number of the top teams showed up to the tournament with the deck, and more than 80 percent of them translated that into a Day Two appearance.

Yamamoto's deck of choice—Abzan Megamorph—wasn't new, but it was certainly powerful. With the full suite of the deck's morphs in Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, the deck featured more recursion than almost any other in the field. Between a host of removal spells and a top end of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, the deck's late game was among the best in the format.

The Games

Sigrist started the first game on six cards in hand, and that number diminished quickly when Yamamoto cast Thoughtseize on the second turn to reveal a hand of Island, Whirler Rogue, Ghostfire Blade, Shrapnel Blast, and Phyrexian Revoker. After some deliberation, the Japanese players took away the Blade in order to keep Sigrist's first-turn Ornithopter from picking it up and attacking.

Slowed but not stopped, Sigrist cast Revoker on the next turn and got in an attack with it before it traded with a Den Protector. In the same turn, Stubborn Denial countered the Thoughtseize the Protector had returned.

Sigrist still continues to improve on an already impressive season.

At that point, both players spent a turn stuck on three lands, though Sigrist was in a much better spot to play in that position than Yamamoto was. Needing to find a way out, Yamamoto used Abzan Charm to draw two cards, even as it dropped him down to 12 life. Still, the tradeoff was worth it as a fourth land entered the battlefield and allowed Yamamoto to cast Ultimate Price on the Whirler Rogue Sigrist had played when he too found his fourth land.

Still, the damage from the Magic Origins Thopter machine had been done. The 1/1s poked Yamamoto down to 10, exactly within in range of the two Shrapnel Blasts in Sigrist's hand. And though Courser of Kruphix revealed a land on top to push Yamamoto back to 11 life, one more attack set up the Blasts to finish off the game.

Yamamoto may not be favored, but his reputation for being one of the scariest players to face against is not to be taken lightly.

Both players got off to a much slower start in the second game, with Sigrist casting nothing more than a Springleaf Drum and Roast to match Yamamoto's Nyx-Fleece Ram and Siege Rhino, and the life totals stood at 24-17 in the latter's favor.

The reason for Sigrist's slow start was revealed when Yamamoto cast Duress. Stranded in his hand was Whirler Rogue, Thopter Spy Network and a second Roast. Removing the Spy Network, Yamamoto hoped to stall the game, but the Roast burned down the Ram and the door was opened for a follow-up Chief of the Foundry and Phyrexian Revoker (naming Elspeth, Sun's Champion) to begin attacking, though the damage was limited when the Chief met a Hero's Downfall.

The Rogue followed and was joined by a Ghostfire Blade to suit up a Thopter, and all Yamamoto could muster was Anafenza, the Foremost and a follow-up Satyr Wayfinder. Neither was enough to slow the assault after Ensoul Artifact joined the part, and the life cushion Yamamoto had built was quickly torn down as he dropped to 9 life. Another draw step for Yamamoto yielded Abzan Charm to remove the now-five-power Thopter, but it did nothing to stop Shrapnel Blast from dropping him to 4 life and then ending his run on Sigrist's next attack.

Just like that, the drama of the Player of the Year race was taken as far as it could go. Sigrist would face Paul Jackson and his Green-red Devotion deck in the semis, with the Player of the Year title hanging in the balance.

Mike Sigrist defeats Kentaro Yamamoto 2-0 and advances to the semifinals!

Mike Sigrist's Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

Kentaro Yamamoto's Abzan Megamorph - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

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