Quarterfinals: (2) Reid Duke vs. Ken Yukuhiro

Posted in Event Coverage on February 4, 2018

By Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a writer and gamer and has been part of the Magic text coverage team since 2011. He joined Wizards as organized play’s content specialist in June 2014.

One of the first matches to get underway on Sunday's Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8 matches featured a Modern showcase of "classic midrange archetype" versus "classic shenanigans".

Reid Duke, Ultimate Guard Pro Team member and No. 2 ranked player, a little under a month ago noted that many in the Modern Magic community felt that the days of Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil were long gone.

It was of little surprise that Duke sleeved up a variation of the popular black-green midrange deck. Archetypes like Jund and Abzan have been his go-to options in Modern for nearly the entire time Modern has even been a format people could play, and he wasn't about to let naysayers slow him down.

Challenge accepted, and conquered, as Duke showcases just how good he is with the specific archetype.

Ken Yukuhiro, in his fourth Pro Tour Top 8 and from the Musashi super-team, however, is known to be a little more varied in his deck choices. The Japanese pro—a regular streamer in Japan—chose to go with something a little fresher to the format. His Black-Red Hollow One deck was capable of some of the format's most frightening starts, as a first-turn Burning Inquiry can enable any Hollow Ones that remain in his hand to be free to cast. Multiple 4/4s on turn one can be close to unbeatable, especially when backed with any sort of disruption.

Both Reid Duke and Ken Yukuhiro have been in the same Top 8 before. Now, they have the opportunity to play against each other on Sunday to see which of these two seasoned competitors would keep Pro Tour champion dreams alive.

As the two shuffled, both players reminisced on one of their last times seeing each other in the prep area for Sunday's Pro Tour matches.

"We made Top 8 together in my last one too, at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon," Duke noted, as Yukuhiro nodded and smiled. It had been about a year and a half since the last time both were in the same Sunday playoff. "Yes, good combination," he replied.

The two were always professionals in the feature match area, courteous to opponents and everyone around them, but both had multiple early exists on Pro Tour Sundays, and both had a fire to make this the Pro Tour that they finally win.

The Games

Duke started the first game at six cards, his opener getting more interesting once Yukuhiro led off the match with Burning Inquiry following a Street Wraith cycle. After a bunch of random discards, Yukuhiro was left without Lightning Bolt, Goblin Lore, and Faithless Looting, while Duke was left without a Thoughtseize, Blooming Marsh, and Nihil Spellbomb.

Of course, that wasn't what drew cries of excitement. That was attributed to Yukuhiro's two follow-up Hollow Ones. It made Duke's Inquisition of Kozilek feel fairly innocuous, especially when it was only left taking away a Flamewake Phoenix. Once the phoenix was recurred, Duke's Tarmogoyf was formality of never conceding until lethal was dealt.

Yukuhiro is known for some off-the-wall deck choices, and Black-Red Hollow One fits nicely with his typical selections.

In the second game, Duke's Inquisition of Kozilek was far more effective on the play, robbing Yukuhiro of a Burning Inquiry and preventing a potentially disastrous first-turn recreation of Game 1, seeing two Hollow Ones at the ready. A sigh of relief came from Duke when Yukuhiro only had a land on the first turn, as he got the first creature of the game on the battlefield with Scavenging Ooze. Yukuhiro went a step larger than that with Tasigur, the Golden King.

The legendary Sultai creature did not last long, as Duke untapped and pointed a Maelstrom Pulse at it. Yukuhiro, upon drawing Goblin Lore in the third turn, quickly cast it, and lost a Hollow One, Street Wraith, and a land. Despite losing one of his two namesake artifact creatures, he still deployed the other 4/4, then pointed a Lightning Bolt at Duke's Scavenger Ooze.

The 4/4 quickly looked small in the face of Duke's follow-up Tarmogoyf. Another Goblin Lore from Yukuhiro showcased the power of his deck, with the possibility to chain multiple massive draw spells. The second one had him bin another land, a Lightning Bolt, and a Flamewake Phoenix, which he immediately brought back from the graveyard. Gurmag Angler also gave him some ability to fight the size of Duke's Tarmogoyf, exiling his already-binned Hollow One and some instants.

However, when Yukuhiro went for an attack, Duke had a Fatal Push to destroy Yukuhiro's Flamewake Phoenix (revolt on thanks to Marsh Flats), powering up his Tarmogoyf to a 4/5 to profitably block the attacking Hollow One. With the failed attack, Yukuhiro fell on the back foot. His third Goblin Lore let him dig further, but he was quickly running out of fuel. A desperation flashback Faithless Looting was enough for him to move to sideboarding.

Yukuhiro led the third game off the same as the first, with Burning Inquiry causing some nervous smiles all around. Duke was left without a Lightning Bolt and two lands, while Duke binned three basics. Unfortunately, none of the discards were as important as the two Hollow Ones, and the Gurmag Angler revealed by Duke's Inquisition of Kozilek did not make matters better. Duke, in searching for his second land, opted against his formality from Game 1, conceding when he saw there was no chain of plays that could get him out of the situation.

Duke's natural poise rarely—if ever—lets off any tell of what he may be thinking or what he may have.

Duke led off Game 4 with Duress, ridding Yukuhiro of Burning Inquiry and leaving him with nothing more than a bunch of cards that weren't going to enter play anytime soon. Duke bought enough time to deploy Liliana, the Last Hope, but by that time, Yukuhiro found a second Burning Inquiry, leaving Yukuhiro without a Flameblade Adept, Flamewake Phoenix, and Hollow One and Duke without a Grim Flayer, Lililana, the Last Hope, and Fatal Push. The resulting discards left Yukuhiro with few additional lands and no real follow-up.

Collective Brutality left Yukuhiro without a Lightning Bolt, and Nihil Spellbomb ensured Yukuhiro would have no food for his in-hand Gurmag Angler. Without any real action, Yukuhiro was left watching as Liliana, the Last Hope continued to tick up in loyalty. A Lingering Souls army came down to protect her, and while a third Burning Inquiry found a Hollow One and enabled Flamewake Phoenix, it was not nearly enough to come back from the looming Liliana, the Last Hope emblem that was going to come in the next turn.

Yukuhiro led off the final game not with a Burning Inquiry, but instead a Faithless Looting, discarding Flamewake Phoenix. Duke, meanwhile, opened not with an Inquisition of Kozilek, but instead a Grafdigger's Cage. Yukuhiro followed with a Gurmag Angler, exiling his graveyard, fodder all coming from Faithless Looting and two fetch lands. Duke had little in terms of action, and the Angler presented a problem. After two attacks from the Angler, it was clear what was up when Duke chose cycle through a Nihil Spellbomb with little to exile from Yukuhiro's graveyard.

He was drowning in lands, and needed any sort of action.

A Duress revealed Big Game Hunter lying in wait, as Duke was pressed to find removal for the 5/5 Zombie Fish.

Tarmogoyf, however, was all that he could find. Yukuhiro, weary of a Fatal Push being disastrous for him, used Goblin Lore to try and find a Hollow One that could be a backup target for his Big Game Hunter. He did, and a Faithless Looting to enabler the madness on his Hunter was enough to earn the concession from Duke.

Ken Yukuhiro defeats Reid Duke 3-2 and advances to the semifinals!

Ken Yukuhiro - B/R Hollow One

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Reid Duke - Abzan

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