Round 15: Oliver Tiu (Grixis Control) vs. Shota Yasooka (Esper Dragons)

Posted in Event Coverage on April 23, 2016

By Marc Calderaro

It's hard competing on the Pro Tour. It's harder when you're in high school at the time. It's even harder when you're up against Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Shota Yasooka. It's harder still when you know he's playing a deck that's, at best, a very unfavorable match-up for you.

That's the situation Oliver Tiu has found himself in, deep into the second day of the Pro Tour. For other people in the same position, they might just be happy to still be live for Top 8 in the penultimate round. But this is nothing for Tiu. In fact, he's already been in a similar position when he finished Top 16 at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch.

Tiu made what he called a "strong metagame call" playing Grixis Control—basically Black-Red Control with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy in the main and Dragonlord Silumgar in the side. And until this point, he's been rewarded.

But now it's time to pay the metagame piper. The nightmare match was Esper Dragons. And he sure didn't want it piloted by Shota Yasooka. The Hall of Famer and Pro Tour Charleston 2006 winner is a master of consistency, play, work ethics, and doing what needs to be done. Even if it requires engineering an Eternal Witness, Cryptic Command, Æther Vial recursion deck to own much of the Players Championship.


Young upcoming Magic Online Championship competitor Oliver Tiu faces off against one of the game's greats—Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka—in a match-up that would prove to be rough.

This match-up is a dream for Yasooka. Tiu's deck is basically Yasooka's, but without any counterspells. "It's a bye Game 1 for him. I just have to hope to draw a lot of discard spells in the next two," Tiu said pessimistically about his chances.

The Games

Both these combatants were lightning quick. Lands and spells were flying across the table accompanied with the telltale flicking sound, that was sounding more like a hum.

Perhaps it's because both were playing slow control decks, and had no interest in going to time. Perhaps it was because Tiu was just trying find some way to get there, despite the odds, so he deployed threats one after another. Perhaps Tiu just wanted this hell over.

About two minutes into the round, three Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet sat in Tiu's graveyard, as did multiple Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and a Dragonlord Ojutai or two from Yasooka. Yasooka was finally able to stick one Ojutai before it was discarded or killed.

Spells went will-nilly in the game until—while resolving a Dragonlord Ojutai trigger—Yasooka stopped. He thought for at least a minute. He eventually took Dragonlord Silumgar, cast it, and stole Tiu's Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

When Tiu got the turn back, he was at a crux. He had Ruinous Path in his hand, facing off against the two Dragonlords and his own Jace. This was Tiu's biggest choice in the game.


Tiu navigates murky waters in an attempt to find a crack in the window before it shuts.

He could kill the Silumgar, getting his Jace back, but that would leave him open to another Ojutai hit, and another card for Yasooka. If he killed the Ojutai, he had no action left and he was still behind on the board. And Yasooka would still see an extra card. He was already down to 10 life. He might have been damned either way.

Tiu killed the Ojutai and pressed forward. Yasooka went back up to the pace set in the beginning of the match. Then, he proceeded to attack Tiu with Shambling Vent and Dragonlord Silumgar until Tiu was dead.

Part of Tiu's sideboarding strategy revolved around Dragonlord Silumgar. If he could stick that flyer and take either a card-drawing creature or an almost-ultimate Planeswalker, he could get out from until the pull of the blue beast.

In the second game, the two played mostly "draw-cast-discard-spell-go," but Tiu seemed to be getting the worse end of the deals. Yasooka had more card draw and always had the threat of counters. The first time he tapped out was to cast an unimpeded Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Talk about getting the better end of a deal.

Tiu saw little way out. Meanwhile, Yasooka was sitting on a handful of removal and counters. He was relaxed. Why shouldn't he be? Sorin, Grim Nemesis could win the game all by himself. The only threat he'd seen was a Wandering Fumarole, and Yasooka was confident he could deal with that. He rested his elbow on the table, his head on his hand, and slowly drew more and more cards.


Yasooka brings down the weight of his control prowess.

But Tiu had a plan. If he could strip the counterspells from Yasooka's hand, and resolve that Dragonlord Silumgar, he could ultimate Sorin, killing it, and making many, many vampires in the process.

He started digging with Read the Bones. The first one found a second one, and the second one found two Goblin Dark-Dwellers. This made Tiu stop in his tracks.

He looked in his graveyard and tried to figure out if that method could work. Ultimately, he decided against it and went for the gusto: find the Silumgar. He scryed the Dark-Dwellers to the bottom, and drew his two cards.

They were land.

In fact, a lot of what Tiu was drawing were land. Against a deck with so many answers, you need to continually present threats. Tiu couldn't do that, and he soon had a bunch of vampires overrunning his face.

Shota Yasooka is one match away from his third Pro Tour Top 8.

Tiu 0 – Yasooka 2

Oliver Tiu: Grixis Control

Shota Yasooka: Esper Dragons

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