elcome to Day 2 of Grand Prix Kyoto! It has been just shy of a decade since Team Limited crashed the shores of Japan, and it has been welcomed back with open arms. 578 trios arrived to revel in a fun weekend of team competition, and there were constellations of stars all around the room. From the trio of Mori/Saito/Yasooka to Asahara/Komuro/Kitayama and even Mihara/Bandou/Yamamoto, the biggest names in Japanese Magic are banding together to vie for the title. The two biggest Japanese names in the game today, Shuhei Nakamura and Yuuya Watanabe, have picked up another world traveler, Martin Juza, to make their own run at the title. Standing atop everyone, however, are the foreign invasion force of Mike Hron, Rich Hoaen, and Alexander Hayne, the only trio to end the day yesterday with a perfect 9-0 record.
Today continues the exploration of the new variation on the Team Limited format, with a second Sealed Deck build leading into five more rounds of Sealed Deck to finish out the Swiss rounds. Once those are finished, the Top 4 teams will engage in Team Booster Draft, looking to dispatch the final two opponents standing between them and the trophy. The talent in this tournament has concentrated at the top of the standings, reinforcing the high skill cap of this intricate Team Limited format, so it will be seven rounds of hard-fought battles for the eventual champions. Check back as the day continues for ongoing coverage of the first Team Limited Grand Prix from Japan since 2005!
Sunday, 9:30 a.m. – Quick Questions #1
by Event Coverage Staff
If you could add a fourth person here today to your team, who would it be?
Yuuya Watanabe, Shuhei Nakamura, Martin Juza
Yuuya Watanabe: Makahito Mihara. He's an absurdly good player.
Shuhei Nakamura: Shouta Yasooka. He was supposed to be our third player but couldn't make up his mind in time.
Martin Juza: Kenji Tsumura. He's fun to be around and a great player. It would be a win-win situation.
Mike Hron, Alexander Hayne, Rich Hoaen
Mike Hron: I really don't know. It's been so long since I've played that I'm not sure who is good anymore.
Alexander Hayne: Yuuya Watanabe. He's really good. *Rich mentions that communication is important and Yuuya's English is not very good* Hmm, I guess that would be problematic... Guess there's no going back on my answer though.
Rich Hoaen: Kenji. Not close
Round 10 Feature Match -
Yasooka/Mori/Saito vs. Hron/Hayne/Hoaen
by Nate Price
At the open of the second day of play here at Grand Prix Kyoto, it became quite apparent that it was only a matter of time before we were faced with a match between two of the powerhouse teams in the field. The Day 2 field was just loaded with talent, and we were treated to a showcase for it right off the bat. One of the teams with the biggest spotlight on them coming into this event was the Japanese all-star team of Tomoharu Saito, Katsuhiro Mori, and Shouta Yasooka. Two-thirds of the winning team from Pro Tour Charleston in 2006, Yasooka and Saito picked up former World Champion Katsuhiro Mori to helm their third deck, making them one of the most decorated teams in the entire field.
Yasooka/Mori/Saito vs. Hron/Hayne/Hoaen
Facing them down this round, though, were some additional titans of Magic past and present. After running off an impressive 9-0 record on Day 1, Pro Tour Champion Mike Hron and his fellow Limited master Rich Hoaen and Pro Tour Champion Alexander Hayne carried a large target on their backs, and one that the Japanese teams in the field were sure to be gunning for. Their decks today weren't quite as, shall we say broken, as yesterday, though still quite solid. As we saw from the all-star squad of Juza/Nakamura/Watanabe yesterday, team Triple H brought an unorthodox combination of colors to the table for this match. Taking advantage of their powerful green and black rares to create an absolutely monstrous deck, they were forced to pair blue and red in Hayne's deck, one of the least used combinations of colors in the tournament thus far. On the other side of the table, the Japanese squad went with the more traditional blue/black, red/green, and blue/white builds seen throughout the first day of play.
Shouta Yasooka (Blue/Black) vs. Mike Hron (Black/Green)
This first match featured Hron's incredibly powerful black/green deck against Yasooka's blue/black. Both decks were geared for the long game, giving the edge to Hron's bomb-laden monstrosity. Still, anything can happen in Magic, as evidenced by Hron's first-game mulligan. Though he started out behind, he still set the power bar high fairly early. An Erebos's Emissary and Nessian Asp provided a great attacking tandem, but Yasooka's control deck was incredibly prepared. The powerful combination of Returned Phalanx and Shipwreck Singer slowed Hron down some, forcing him to make some trades he would likely have wished to avoid. Combined with other good defensive creatures, Yasooka began to piece apart Hron's attackers.
With Hron's offense faltering, Yasooka took to the skies with a Vaporkin, bestowing it with his own Erebos's Emissary. A Thassa's Emissary soon followed, and the Vaporkin became a lethal threat. The timing of the enchantments was crucial, as Hron had a window to use Sip of Hemlock to kill the Vaporkin, opting instead kill the Shipwreck Singer, leaving his Erebos's Emissary free to attack unhindered. This window came just before the Thassa's Emissary hit play, making it absolutely devastating to the now defenseless Hron.
The second game didn't fare much better for Hron. Neither player had a tremendous amount of early action, with each player firing off removal spells to kill the meager early threats from the other side of the table. The key moment of this exchange came when Hron used a Fade into Antiquity to exile a Thassa's Emissary. This final removal set the stage for the big guns to come out. Yasooka struck first, adding a Prognostic Sphinx to his side of the table, but Hron was prepared with Hythonia the Cruel, a perfect answer to the potentially hexproof flier. This was in turn trumped by both Thassa, God of the Sea, and Thassa's Bident. It was at this point that Hron wished he had his Fade into Antiquity back, as the devoted followers of Thassa followed their God into battle, slipping past Hron's defenses before he was able to clear them away with Hythonia. Just like that, Hron's massive deck had been beaten, putting his team in a difficult position.
Katsuhiro Mori (Red/Green) vs. Alexander Hayne (Blue/Red)
In this match, featuring Hayne's unconventional blue/red deck, team Triple H had a chance to bounce back. The first game was about as elementary an affair as one could hope for. Hayne's powerful Stormbreath Dragon made short work of Mori, especially after a Griptide prevented a Leafcrown Dryad from turning any of Mori's creatures into a suitable blocker.
Alexander Hayne and Rich Hoaen
The second game was quite a bit more involved, with Hayne falling behind early, but managing to keep afloat thanks to a reasonable amount of removal. He eventually found himself his copy of Stormbreath Dragon, but Mori was prepared with a sideboarded Shredding Winds to kill it after a single hit. Still, Hayne was able to turn the corner thanks to a Nimbus Naiad and a series of enchantments. Mori kept his life total padded with a series of Nylea's Disciples, but that lead was soon erased by Hayne's fliers. When his Nimbus Naiad picked up a Purphoros's Emissary, it created a lethal clock when combined with Boulderfall. A timely Time to Feed from Mori swung the pendulum back the other way, pushing him out of lethal range by one life and allowing him to drop Hayne to 4. This forced Hayne to use Boulderfall to clear away Saito's board. It looked like Hayne might have a chance to steal this game back, but a Mistcutter Hydra for four was lethal, stealing the game right back in exciting fashion.
The same Mistcutter Hydra made an appearance in the final game, coming down for four early in the game. This time, Steam Augury gave Hayne a bevy of options to deal with the threat, from a Fanatic of Mogis to the fifth land needed for the Rage of Purphoros in his hand. Opting to burn the Hydra away, Hayne proceeded to wipe Mori's board with Anger of the Gods and keep it clear with Lightning Strike. His hand was chock full of action, and he began to dump his larger threats onto the empty board, taking the match soon thereafter.
Tomoharu Saito (Blue/White) vs. Rich Hoaen (Blue/White)
This blue/white mirror match provided the perfect suspenseful end to an otherwise exciting series of matches. Saito opened with an important pair of cards in this matchup, using a Hopeful Eidolon to turn his Wingsteed Rider into a Baneslayer Angel. In this very swingy matchup, lifegain is certainly key, and this early edge heavily favored Saito. Still, Hoaen fought back in his own way. His Wingsteed Rider picked up an Ordeal of Heliod, allowing him to gain life in his own way.
The key turn in the first part of this match came just after Hoaen had triggered his Ordeal for the final time, padding his life total. He was able to use Triton Tactics to ambush Saito's lifelinking Rider, turning the tables. He further pressed his advantage with a Hopeful Eidolon of his own. A Wavecrash Triton managed to stall things for one brief turn, but Saito didn't have any other way to trigger the Triton, soon succumbing to the massive lifelinking flier.
In the second game, Daxos of Meletis came down for Saito, though it seemed it would be held at bay thanks to an Observant Alseid. Saito simply continued to build his board, adding one of his three Wingsteed Riders to his team. When he attacked on the following turn, his own copy of Triton Tactics blew Hoaen out, allowing him to snowball with Daxos, easily taking the second game.
Game 3 began with a great start from both players. Hoaen was the aggressor, using a Leonin Snarecaster and Ordeal of Heliod to gain the early attacking advantage. Saito built his board much more slowly, but his threats were much larger. Two Wingsteed Riders and a Hundred-Handed One represented much larger threats than Hoaen's. Still, the tempo advantage was firmly to Hoaen, allowing his Sea God's Revenge, resetting Saito's side, to be more or less lethal. It dropped him to 3 and caused a long meeting between Saito and Yasooka as they discussed the best line of play.
"That was a nice card," Saito smiled.
Ultimately, the Japanese side came out with a Wingsteed Rider and Daxos of Meletis, providing a chump blocker and a potential way to get through for some life. It managed to not only keep him alive, but allow him to steal yet another cheap chump blocker from Hoaen's deck. From here, Saito was able to replay his board, careful to leave an Island untapped. Hoaen knew that there was likely a Triton Tactics on the other side of the board, but he couldn't ease up on the aggression. Saito continued to destroy this match with Daxos, stealing a Triton Fortune Hunter from Hoaen's deck, which soon became enchanted by a number of cards, keeping Saito flush with options. Hoaen had an Ephara's Warden to keep Daxos at bay, but the damage was already done. A couple of swings later, and Saito had come back from what seemed like an impossible situation to win the match.
Round 11 Feature Match -
Kadooka/Endou/Nitta vs. Hagiwara/Arita/Furuya
by Ben Swartz
Toshiyuki Kadooka has been having success at Japanese Magic tournaments for the past couple years. He burst on the seen with a second place finish at Pro Tour Nagoya and followed that up with a top 8 at last year's Grand Prix Yokohama. For this event he decided to team up with his Pro Tour testing partners, Ryouta Endou and Yuuki Nitta. All three players hail from Saitama, and though they barely made it into day 2 with a 7-2 record, they had locked in their first win in day 2.
Their opponents, Noriyuki Hagiwara, Kento Arita, and Youhei Furuya, three players from Chiba who are known for their performance at the local LMC tournament series. They too rattled off a win after ending yesterday with a 7-2 record.
Kadooka/Endou/Nitta vs. Hagiwara/Arita/Furuya
Unsurprisingly, the two teams had very similar decks. The general consensus for Theros Team Sealed Deck has been to have one black deck, one white deck and one green deck. Kadooka sported the black deck—an Esper deck—for his team, while Endou piloted the red-white deck and Nitta went with a blue-green deck.
Hagiwara, Arita, and Furuya had very similar decks; Hagiwara had a pretty absurd red-green deck, Arita had a near-carbon copy of Endou's red-white deck, and Furuya rounded things out with a black-blue deck.
Game one between Kadooka and Hagiwara began with a quick Mistcutter Hydra from Hagiwara. Though it was only a 3/3, Kadooka used his Divine Verdict on it and cast a Shipwreck Singer.
The 5th turn had barely ended in Kadooka and Hagiwara's match when Nitta took an extraordinarily quick game one off of Furuya.
Nitta 1 – 0 Furuya
On the middle match—the red-white heroic mirror match between Endou and Arita—Endou had constructed his own Baneslayer Angel: Phalanx Leader and Wingsteed Rider became enchanted with Hopeful Eidolon and Dragon's Breath.
His opponent, Arita, flooded the board with similar creatures: Akroan Hoplite, Wingsteed Rider, and Arena Athlete. Though, for multiple turns, he did not have anything to target his creatures, it was only a matter of time before Arita overpowered the spell light Endou.
Endou 0 – 1 Arita
Still in game one on Kadooka and Hagiwara's match, it had seemed like Kadooka had started to take control. He had a Hythonia the Cruel, and though he was one mana short from making it monstrous, he used it to trade with his opponent's supercharged Voyaging Satyr.
Kadooka was perfectly content with this trade, however, as he used March of the Returned to recast his Hythonia and take the first game.
Kadooka 1 – 0 Hagiwara
On the other side of the table, game 2 began between Nitta and Furuya. Nitta started things off with some solid creatures—Horizon Chimera, Nessian Courser, and Sedge Scorpion–while Furuya played Insatiable Harpy and a Blood-Toll Harpy, while setting up his hand with a Read the Bones.
Furuya was unable to find answers for Nitta's creatures. Though he had an Annul for an end of turn Boon Satyr, Nitta enchanted his Horizon Chimera with Nylea's Emissary and road it to victory
Nitta 2 – 0 Furuya
At this point both of the remaining matches headed to a third game. In the Endou versus Arita match, the players went back and forth with creatures, but it was a final turn Lightning Strike that allowed Endou to tie things up.
In the Kadooka versus Hagiwara match, Hagiwara once again had a fourth turn 3/3 Mistcutter Hydra. While a 3/3 was not the end of the world for the Pro Tour Finalist, Hagiwara followed it up with a fifth turn Stormbreath Dragon. After a couple turns their match went to a deciding game three.
Kadooka 1-1 Hagiwara
Endou 1-1 Arita
Kadooka and Hagiwara got done shuffling first and Hagiwara again cast a quick Stormbreath Dragon. Kadooka had a Sip of Hemlock to take out the Dragon and cast a Keepsake Gorgon to threaten anything else Hagiwara had.
It turned out that Kadooka needed a little more than a singleton Keepsake Gorgon; Hagiwara cast a Nylea's Emissary and a Leafcrown Dryad before casting Mistcutter Hydra for 6. Kadooka had the perfect hand to deal with an army of creatures. He had Mnemonic Wall to recast his Sip of Hemlock, March of the Returned to recast his Mnemonic Wall, and, once again, Mnemonic Wall to recast his Sip of Hemlock. With the path clear, Kadooka finished Hagiwara off with a monstrous Keepsake Gorgon before Endou could finish his match.
Toshiyuki Kadooka, Ryouta Endou, and Yuuki Nitta defeat Noriyuki Hagiwara, Kento Arita, and Youhei Furuya to advance to 9-2
Sunday, 2:00 p.m. – Quick Questions #2
by Ben Swartz
What was the greatest Japanese team of all time?
Katsuhiro Mori, Shouta Yasooka, Tomoharu Saito
Shouta Yasooka: I didn't really play when there was Team Limited, so I guess I'll go with Kajiharu 80 (PT Charleston Champions Tomoharu Saito, Tomohiro Kaji, and Shouta Yasooka)
Katsuhiro Mori: Easy, PS2 (Katsuhiro Mori, Masahiko Morita, and Masahiro Kuroda). We never lost.
Tomoharu Saito: Kajiharu 80. We really worked well together; our skills complemented one another's. That being said, it's tough to say, because I'm just so good at team tournaments.
Akira Asahara, Shu Komuro, Masaya Kitayama
Shu Komuro: Shop-Fireball (Tsuyoshi Ikeda, Jin Okamoto, and Itaru Ishida). Ishida was a genius.
Akira Asahara: Executioners (Satoshi Nakumura, Koichiro Maki, Kenichi Fujita). They were just a legendary team.
Masaya Kitayama: Kajiharu 80.
Sunday, 2:15 p.m. – Quick Questions #3
by Nate Price
What has been the most impressive card for you so far this weekend?
"Triton Fortune Thief. I played it in my deck yesterday, and there were many situations where I was losing before it hit play. Once I had it, I would enchant it and keep drawing into more cards to put on it, eventually winning the games. It was very good."
"Fleetfeather Sandals. My deck from yesterday had a bunch of very large creatures (two Reverent Hunters, Mistcutter Hydra, Nessian Asp...), but often ran into trouble attacking for the win. I ended up siding out my Triton Tactics for the Sandals almost every game, and they always got the job done."
"Stymied Hopes. Every time I cast that this weekend, I hit something amazing. I stopped Hythonia the Cruel twice, Elspeth once, all kinds of other creatures. It was never a bad card. And it has scry!"
Sunday, 2:30 p.m. – Drafting with Rich Hoaen
by Ben Swartz
The last time Rich Hoaen was in the top 8 of a Grand Prix was back in Montreal in 2011. There, he crushed the top 8 draft, defeating current teammate, Alexander Hayne, in the finals. Here in Kyoto, they crushed their first draft against Shouta Yasooka, Tomoharu Saito, and Katsuhiro Mori. Looking for a repeat performance in the finals, Rich sat down to draft.
He started off his first pack with a quick decision between colors. He opted for Underworld Cerberus over Nemesis of Mortals. He attempted to find his footing in his next couple picks. Out of a pack with Vaporkin and Triton Fortune Hunter, he chose a Phalanx Leader. Then, he found Sip of Hemlock in the next pack. Pick six brought Rich a second Sip of Hemlock, which forced him to pass a Baleful Eidolon and Fleshmad Steed. Rich rounded out pack one with a Battewise Valor, a Spearpoint Oread, and Disciple of Phenax.
After the first pack he was in 3 colors. He found some powerful white cards like Phalanx Leader, removal, in the form of a pair of Sip of Hemlocks, and was still juggling what to do with some late red cards and the Underworld Cerberus. He hoped to get paid off in pack two.
Pack two began with Rich picking Purphoros's Emissary over Erebos, God of the Dead and Battlewise Valor. He then picked Wingsteed Rider over Two-Headed Cerberus for the second pick. The white cards began to dry up in the second pack while Rich picked up a Tormented Soul, Flamespeaker Adept, Firedrinker Satyr, and Deathbellow Raider.
While surveying his picks after pack two, Rich pulled the red and black cards to the front. After getting a number of aggressive red cards, his curve was shaping up. He put his white cards to the back and focused on solidifying his deck in pack three.
Unfortunately for Rich, there wasn't much for him in pack three. His first pick was a Lightning Strike over a bunch of green cards. After that he found a Rage of Purphoros and an Ill-Tempered Cyclops in two more dry packs. He rounded things out with a Felhide Minotaur, a Heliod's Emissary, a Baleful Eidolon and a Cavalry Pegasus.
During deckbuilding, Rich had to make a decision whether he wanted to add white or black to his red base. He decided to start with red black, citing the two Sip of Hemlocks as the reason. In the case that his opponent was on white, however, he was prepared to switch his deck to a red white deck in order to take advantage of a Glare of Heresy. Additionally, if his opponent were void of powerful creatures, he would bench his Sip of Hemlocks and go with the white cards.
Sleeving up both decks in order to quickly switch if need be, Rich headed into the finals of GP Kyoto.