ine rounds of battle have done their work, and 1183 hopefuls have been whittled down to just 161 Sunday competitors. Heading the pack are the five undefeateds: Taiji Urasawa, Tzu-Ching Kuo, Jun Young Park, Kouichi Kudou and Hiroaki Taniguchi. It's a wide-open field, as many big names failed to make the grade, and others like Yuuya Watanabe, Naoki Shimizu, Ken Yukuhiro and Shouta Yasooka will be fighting with their backs against he wall at 7-2.
Brian Kibler and his Gruul deck cast a long shadow over the Standard metagame. Domri Rade was a regular at the top tables. Still, his presence wasn't overwhelming. It looked like you could be competitive with whatever style of deck you prefered. That is, unless you liked to cast Sphinx's Revelation. Blue-based control decks seem to be on the outs. Or perhaps they're just laying low, waiting out their bad matchups and ready to conquer a more suitable Day 2 field. Six rounds tomorrow will give us our Top 8.
Will a relative unknown rise up and seize the trophy? Will Kibler claim another vicarious Grand Prix victory? Tune in for all the action!
Round 11 Feature Match — Jun Young Park vs. Tzu-Ching Kuo
by Ben Swartz
When Magic 2014 was previewed, the card that stood out to many people as being format defining was Lifebane Zombie. Though it did not find an immediate home, both Eric Froelich and David Ochoa used four copies in their World Magic Cup Decks. There has been one deck, a Black-Green Midrange deck, that has had quite a bit of recent success on Magic Online, crushing Daily events left and right.
It was that Black-Green deck that Jun Young Park, Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2007 top eight competitor, brought today. It has treated him well thus far, giving him a quick 10-0 record. His excitement for the deck came from Lifebane Zombie. In Park's mind, it is the best card in Standard due to the prevalence of Green decks.
His opponent, Tzu-Ching Kuo, is not one to go without a fight. The inaugural World Magic Cup champion, has also rattled off 10 wins with his Bant Hexproof deck.
Unfortunately for Tzu-Ching Kuo, the threat of Lifebane Zombie loomed large. It is the perfect weapon against a Bant Hexproof deck, able to Ostracize nearly all of its namesake creatures while providing an unblockable 3/1.
The first play of the game was a Lifebane Zombie from Park. This revealed a hand of
Voice of Resurgence, Geist of Saint Traft, Fiendslayer PaladinInvisible Stalker, Rancor, Ethereal Armor, and Increasing Savagery from Kuo.
Park decided to exile the Fiendslayer Paladin and tightly gripped two more Lifebane Zombies. His plan was clear: tear apart Kuo's hand and attack him with unblockable zombies.
Kuo simply cast his Voice of Resurgence and passed the turn back to Park.
Park cast another Lifebane Zombie and snatched a Geist of Saint Traft.
Facing down two unblockable 3/1's, Kuo decided to try to mount a quick offense: he enchanted his Voice of Resurgence with Rancor, and played Invisible Stalker.
Park brought in the two 3/1s, dropping Kuo to nine and cast yet another Lifebane Zombie. With no answers to the incoming nine unblockable damage, Kuo scooped up his cards and prepared for game two.
Jun Young Park
While Kuo was able to cast a first turn Gladecover Scout for the second game, Park got a quick look at Kuo's hand with a first turn Duress.
Duress revealed Increasing Savagery, Ethereal Armor, Rancor, Glacial Fortress, and Hinterland Harbor. Park flicked the Rancor into the graveyard.
Kuo suited up his Elf with Ethereal Armor and played an Avacyn's Pilgrim attempting to protect himself from a Liliana of the Veil.
While Park did have Abrupt Decay for Kuo's Pilgrim, he was unable to immediately capitalize on Kuo's nigh-empty board. Instead he just allowed Kuo to untap.
Kuo drew another enchantment, Spectral Flight, and made his Gladecover Scout into a formidable creature.
It was not meant to be; a Liliana of the Veil took out Kuo's only creature and gave Park an opening to cast a Vampire Nighthawk and a pair of Lifebane Zombies.
Again the Zombies did short work of Kuo leading Jun Young Park to become the last undefeated player standing at Grand Prix Kitakyushu.
Jun Young Park 2 – Tzu-Ching Kuo 0
Sunday, 1:25 p.m. — Two Innovative Decks
by Ben Swartz
oming into this event Brian Kibler's Gruul deck was the big bad wolf of the format. Netting Kibler with an undefeated Standard record at the World Championships, the Red-Green menace instantly became the deck to beat. For those players opting not to play Gruul, options were numerous. From recent Magic Online results to decks played at the World Championships and Grand Prix Warsaw, players had many choices.
Many players came up with completely new decks to attack this format. I caught up with two, Shouta Yasooka and Yuuta Takahashi, who brought inventive decks this weekend.
Shouta Yasooka decided to bring a Blue-Black control deck to Kitakyushu. Knowing that he wanted to play control, but being tired of the control decks in Standard, he began building this deck a few weeks ago. His deck features the regular suite of Blue and Black control cards—Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Jace, Architect of Thought, Devour Flesh—and a few new ones: Xathrid Necromancer and Domestication.
Domestication is powerful against Green based aggressive decks and can act as a removal spell for creatures like Falkenrath Aristocrat. Xathrid Necromancer works incredibly well against aggressive decks and goes along with his maindeck Mutavaults. Against other Control Decks, Shouta was very excited to show me that he had Wits End in his sideboard. With it, he has the ultimate haymaker. Though Shouta is out of contention for top eight, if he had to play this deck again, he definitely would.
Yuuta Takahashi, known as the Faeries Master in Japan after winning back-to-back Grand Prix in 2008, was excited that he had a chance to play Standard this weekend. When I asked him about his deck yesterday, he looked around, drew me to the corner of the room, and slowly removed a deck box from his bag. He flicked through Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage, Geist of Saint Traft, and Runechanter's Pike. Was this a deck that he had left in his bag since last summer?
No. Yuuta decided that this was the perfect time in Standard to try an Aggro-Control strategy with a Blue-White Delver of Secrets deck. While he has trouble with Voice of Resurgence and Aristocrat decks, he feels he has an okay matchup against Gruul and an excellent control matchup. When compared to last year's Delver deck, Yuuta had to make a few swaps. He is using Think Twice and two copies of Quicken as his cantrips, Essence Scatter over Mana Leak, and Unsummon in the place of Vapor Snag.
One of the cards Yuuta was most excited about out of his board was Tidebinder Mage. Not only is it good at locking down early mana creatures, but, it, in combination with Restoration Angel, can set up for a killer offensive turn. With only one loss so far in the tournament and two rounds to go, Yuuta is excited about his chances.
As the current Standard format draws to a close and we prepare for Theros' release, there is still time to innovate. Perhaps one of these two decks will become the deck to beat for the next month.
Sunday, 2:40 p.m. — Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Josh Bennett
Here's a quick snapshot of the decks that made the cut to Day 2, though the numbers may be slightly inaccurate. It's worth noting that just SIX Sphinx's Revelation control decks survived. Decks with access to Selesnya Charm seem to be playing the full amount and doing well with them, answering both Thundermaw Hellkite and out-of-control Scavenging Oozes.
Kibler Gruul - 27
First Grand Prix Warsaw, then the world! Yes, Hall of Famer Brian Kibler's take on Red-Green Aggro continues to put up strong numbers. And like a proud parent, he's keeping a close eye on how his baby fares in the world.
It has forced players in to a balancing act where they must have a good matchup against it, but still manage to have game against a field where, as Kevin Garnett so aptly put it, anything is possible. The threat of sideboarded Burning Earths has made playing greedy-mana control decks a dangerous proposition.
Jund - 21
Dethroned but not destroyed, Jund remains a force to be reckoned with. In response to the more aggressive environment, Jund has taken on more maindeck spot removal, and some have moved their Lifebane Zombies into the main. With so many green creatures out there this weekend it seems like the right call.
Red Aggro - 14
A bit of a cheat here, aggregating three decks. There are just two pure Monored decks, the others are evenly split between red with green for Flinthoof Boar and Ghor-Clan Rampager, and those with black for removal and Falkenrath Aristocrat.
Big Black-Green - 13
This deck has stepped into the void left by the shortage of Blue-White-based Control decks. It even has its own version of Sphinx's Revelation - Disciple of Bolas. There are few things as sweet as watching your opponent's face fall when you cash in the Desecration Demon they'd just tapped for a full seven.
Bant Hexproof - 10
Tzu-Ching Kuo paced the field Day 1 with this latest iteration, sporting maindeck Fiendslayer Paladins.
Naya Aggro - 7
Not quite Naya Blitz, but still sporting the power of Burning-Tree Shaman and going up to Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter and Hellrider.
Black-White-Red Aristocrats - 5
Sacrificing creatures for fun and match wins. Blasphemous Act out of the sideboard for the combo kill with Boros Reckoner.
Green-White Little Kid - 5
Because what's more fun that soulbonding Silverblade Paladin and surprising your opponent with lethal damage?
Junk Rites - 5
Five players who either didn't hear about Scavenging Ooze or know something we don't.
Zobmies - 5
Five MORE players. Both Monoblack and Red-Black versions.
The remainder are a mix of Naya Midrange, Elves, White-Blue Humans, Monoblack Control, White-Black Humans, Junk Zombies, Jund Zombies, and the abovementioned Sphinx's Revelation decks.
Round 15 Feature Match — Yuuya Watanabe vs. Tzu-Ching Kuo
by Ben Swartz
uuya Watanabe and Tzu-Ching Kuo sat down for what seemed to be a regular occurrence. The pair are used to playing around the world together. This time, it was for high stakes. The winner would add another top eight to their mantle, making it either 20 for Yuuya or 10 for Tzu-Ching.
As Tzu-Ching started shuffling he turned to me and said, "This is a very bad matchup for me." I glanced at Yuuya as he gave a chuckle and nodded. Tzu-Ching was playing Bant Hexproof. A deck he liked against everything in Standard but what Yuuya was playing.
Big Black-Green was the deck that Yuuya Watanabe and Shuhei Nakamura decided on for this tournament. While Shuhei chose it out of desperation, Yuuya was more confident in his choice.
The cards that the Hexproof deck least likes to see were in Yuuya's deck. Mutilate, Liliana, and Tragic Slip were all cards in his main deck. Tzu-Ching Kuo had an uphill battle if he wanted his tenth Grand Prix top eight.
Play began slowly with a second turn Avacyn's Pilgrim for Tzu-Ching, which immediately drew an Abrupt Decay from Yuuya. Tzu-Ching followed it up with a Voice of Resurgence.
Yuuya had a Lifebane Zombie on his third turn and got a look at Tzu-Ching's hand, which included a Gladecover Scout, Increasing Savagery and a Spectral Flight. The Scout got exiled and Tzu-Ching untapped, drew, and cast a Fiendslayer Paladin.
Underworld Connections came down for Yuuya, which gave Tzu-Ching an opening to resolve some Auras; he made his Fiendslayer Paladin a 6/6 with Spectral Flight and Ethereal Armor and finally a 10/10 when he found a second Ethereal Armor a few turns later.
With no answer to the enormous Lifelink creature from Yuuya, he conceded and headed to a second game.
The first play of the second game was a Liliana of the Veil from Yuuya.
"One of Negate?" Yuuya asked with a sheepish grin on his face.
Tzu-Ching slouched in his chair. The play he planned to make on his turn was Geist of Saint Traft—the only creature in his hand. With Liliana threatening her -2 ability, Tzu-Ching was trapped in a corner.
The lack of play from Tzu-Ching gave Yuuya an enormous amount of time. Yuuya was able to craft an army of his own with a Desecration Demon and a Lifebane Zombie. When Yuuya saw that Tzu-Ching was out of creatures, his eyes lit up.
Yuuya's army did short work of Tzu-Ching and sent the match to a final game.
The final game began with an Avacyn's Pilgram for Tzu-Ching and a Duress from Yuuya. The Duress got rid of a Rancor leaving Tzu-Ching with Negate, Spectral Flight, Gladecover Scout, and a Hallowed Fountain.
Tzu-Ching peeled a Geist of Saint Traft off the top putting Yuuya in a tight spot.
The following turn, Tzu-Ching had the option to supersize his Geist with both Ethereal Armor and Spectral Flight. After much thought, he decided to hedge his bets, only enchanting his Geist with Spectral Flight and casting a Gladecover Scout. Yuuya dropped down to 12.
Tzu-Ching cast the Ethereal Armor on the following turn. Holding the Negate from his opening hand made Yuuya helpless and allowed Tzu-Ching Kuo to advance to his tenth Grand Prix top eight.
Tzu-Ching Kuo 2 – Yuuya Watanabe 0
After conceding the match Yuuya immediately recalled a mistake he made in the first game. Had he not immediately used the Abrupt Decay on Tzu-Ching's first turn Avacyn's Pilgrim, then he would have been able to use to remove Spectral Flight and block the enormous Paladin.
Tzu-Ching Kuo, explained that he had gotten very lucky in both matches he won against Big Black-Green. Without an Increasing Savagery off the top of the deck in a match yesterday and the Geist of Saint Traft off the top in the third game here he would not have been able to top eight.