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Grand Prix Shizuoka Day 1 Coverage

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The letter T!he cruel blade has fallen, and where once there were 1784, now there are only 228. Japan's pro community has performed to expectations, putting many big names across into Sunday's competition, but tonight belongs to the undefeateds. Six players managed to put up perfect records: Kazuki Mutou, Ryo Nakada, Masayasu Tanahashi, Shota Takao, Toshiaki Murata, and Kazuto Mochiki.

Of these, Tanahashi is probably the best known, with his Top 8 appearance at Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009. They've given themselves Pole Position, but who among them will be able to close out the race to the Top 8. Hot on their heels will be such names as 7th Ranked Yuuya Watanabe, former Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka, and captain of the last year's World Champion Chinese Taipei team, Tzu-Ching Kuo. There won't be any room for error.

The field today was wide-open, with decks from every stage of the Standard metagame's evolution since the Pro Tour. There seemed to be a lot of islands in play, both from Mono-Blue Devotion and Esper Control. Tomorrow we'll have a clearer picture of what's been winning as the players fight through six rounds to the Top 8. Will Watanabe finish strong to gain ground in the Player Rankings? Will an amateur shock the world? Tune in tomorrow for all the action!


Grand Prix Shizuoka video coverage provided by NicoNico Live.










 

  • GP Shizuoka Grinder Decklists

    by Josh Bennett

  • Kodama, Yu
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist



    Hashimoto, Tatsuki
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist


    Inoue, Shinta
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist



    Liu, Yuchen
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist



    Ishiwada, Hiroyuki
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist


    Ito, Kenshiro
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist


    Park, Jun Young
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist





    Umeki, Ryou
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist


    Naitou, Keisuke
    GP Shizuoka 2013 Grinder Decklist




     

  • Saturday, 12:50 p.m. – Shifting Standard in Shizuoka

    by Ben Swartz

  • Week after week, tournament after tournament, Standard continues to evolve. What started as a battle between Mono-blue, Mono-black, and Mono-red Devotion decks at Pro Tour Theros and Grand Prix Albuquerque, has formed into a diverse metagame in the past few weeks. As mono-color strategies become stale, players have gotten more greedy and have started reaching out to other colors. Due to these changes, aggressive decks and control decks have adapted to take a solid footing in the format.

    Marlon Gutierrez added white to his Mono-black devotion deck and became champion at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth. One of the toughest cards for the Mono-black Devotion decks to deal with is Blood Baron of Viskopa. While Marlon had to drop Gray Merchant of Asphodel from his deck to make room for the vampire, it paid off. Being able to have a nigh-unkillable 4/4 against the Mono-black menace allowed him to take games he otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

    While for the most part Mono-blue Devotion decks have remained Mono-blue, Charles Lancaster put up a top 16 performance at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth with an blue-white devotion deck. Being able to add Detention Sphere and Sphinx's Revelation ostensibly gave him a better matchup versus Mono-black Devotion as well as aggressive strategies that have gained popularity at recent tournaments.


    Speaking of aggressive decks, red decks of one form or another continue to put up good results. Due to their good matchup against Mono-black and black-white, these decks put two players in the top eights of both Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth and the Star City Games Invitational. Whether they're burn heavy, like Darin Minard's deck, or devotion based, red continues to be able to do what it does best: close out games as quickly as possible.

    Two other aggressive decks have seen success in the past couple weeks as well: Orzhov Aggro and green-white aggro. Both of these decks use Banisher Priest to remove key opposing creatures while getting in damage with undercosted white creatures. Ben Stark, Orrin Beasley, and Josh Utter-Leyton had success with the Orzhov deck at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth. The stand-out in their deck was Xathrid Necromancer. Once out, the Human Wizard made it tough for the opponent to efficiently deal with any of Orzhov's creatures.

    At the Star City Invitational, Andrew Shrout had success with his green-white aggro deck. With maindeck Skylasher and Mistcutter Hydra, Shrout made it clear that he had no intention of losing to blue decks. Additionally, he found a place for Boon Satyr and Voice of Resurgence--cards that previously did not have a home in standard. Armed with a quick clock and resourceful creatures, Shrout took fourth place.

    Finally, the composition of control decks have changed over the past tournaments. The once dominant Esper Control deck that Guillaume Wafo-Tapa rode to a fifth place finish at Pro Tour Theros has been replaced by a solid two color blue-white control deck. Huey Jensen piloted the creatureless control deck to a second place finish in Fort Worth. With its only win condition being one of its planeswalkers, the blue-white control deck aims to control the game with Sphinx's Revelation, Supreme Verdict, and counterspells, before reloading with a singleton Elixir of Immortality.

    As standard continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see what deck or archetype will come out on top here at Grand Prix Shizuoka. Will there be another victory for a Devotion deck? Will a white or red based aggro deck be crowned champion? Or will it be a control deck holding the trophy at the end of the weekend? Stay tuned all weekend long as we crown a Grand Prix champion here in Shizuoka!




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match: Tomoharu Saito vs. Kenji Matsuda

    by Josh Bennett

  • Tomoharu Saito, renowned deckbuilder and one of Japan's all-time greats, trying to re-establish himself after coming off suspension, up against amateur Kenji Matsuda, who fought his way to 3-0 with the help of just one bye.

    Saito is playing Blue-White Control, relying on a suite of countermagic and planeswalkers backed by Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation. Matsuda is playing the new Black-White deck that pairs the Thoughtseize/Pack Rat "combo" with a number of powerful cards, most notably Blood Baron of Vizkopa.


    Tomoharu Saito

    The Games

    After Matsuda mulliganed, he opened the match with Thoughtseize. Saito showed him a hand of two Supreme Verdicts, Dissolve, and three lands. Matsuda took Dissolve, but didn't have the Pack Rat follow-up. The parade of threats started on turn four with Desecration Demon. Saito wrathed it away. Matsuda tried a second, but it was locked under Detention Sphere. A third Demon forced out the second Supreme Verdict. Now that the way was clear, Matsuda dropped Blood Baron of Vizkopa. It resolved.

    Saito had no immediate answer and took four. Matsuda added Xathrid Necromancer to his team and watched as Saito tapped his seven mana to draw four with Sphinx's Revelation. Saito untapped and thought hard for half a minute. Had he missed on a way to get rid of the Blood Baron? No. He calmly tapped four for a third Supreme Verdict, then paid two life to Hallowed Fountain so that he could get Jace, Architect of Thought online immediately. Elspeth, Sun's Champion took care of yet another Demon before falling to Mutavaults, but Saito had a second copy of the mighty planeswalker and started to grow an army of tokens. Dissolve on Obzedat, Ghost Council followed by a Sphinx's Revelation for eight was enough to convince Matsudo to move to game two.

    Saito 1 - Matsuda 0

    The second game was a slow burn, in stark contrast to the first. After Syncopating Matsuda's Xathrid Necromancer, Saito had to watch him resolve a pair of Pithing Needles, locking out both Jace, Architect of Thought and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Duress forced Saito to cast Sphinx's Revelation for three, and he turned over a hand full of duds: 2 Jace, an Elspeth, Supreme Verdict, Last Breath, and lands. Matsuda stripped away the Verdict, and soon added Blood Baron to the board, beginning the assault.

    Saito bought himself a turn by playing out the useless Elspeth, which Matsuda was happy to attack and knock off the board. When Saito played one of his Jaces, Matsuda decided to leave it on the board and start working on Saito's life total. Saito had two Mutavaults, and activated both, preparing to block. Matsuda immediately played Hero's Downfall, and then realised his error as Saito was now free to let the Blood Baron through. Thoughtseize from Matsuda left Saito with a blank hand.

    Fortune was kind to Saito, and served up a Sphinx's Revelation. Saito drew six. Among them was a Detention Sphere to knock out both Pithing Needles. Jace hit play to slow the bleeding and was soon joined by Elspeth. Matsuda tried Renounce the Guilds. Saito Dissolved. He played a second, and it resolved, but Saito had another Detention Sphere in reserve. Soon Matsuda was down to no cards in hand and Saito was resolving a Revelation for ten. Matsuda extended the hand.

    Tomoharu Saito defeats Kenji Matsuda 2-0


    The Aftermath

    I spoke briefly with Saito and he said that this was not that difficult a matchup, despite the presence of Blood Baron. Between Elspeth and Supreme Verdicts he has more than enough answers. Against regular mono-black he is forced to play control-on-control and fight through Underworld Connections, but Black-White is a much more straightforward battle.




     

  • Saturday, 2:35 p.m. – Grand Prix Shizuoka Photo Journal

    by Asako Seo and Ben Swartz

  • With the fever of Grand Prix Kyoto still lingering, 1784 players have gathered for Grand Prix Kitakyushu. This time the tournament has split into two sides; at blue tables and black tables the tournament advances simultaneously.


    The tournament venue in Shizuoka: Twin Messe.



    The calm before the storm here inside at Shizuoka.



    Pamphlets including information about the Grand Prix, side events, and news have been distributed.



    For this event, John Avon has been commissioned to draw Mount Fuji. The artwork is on display.



    The Mount Fuji artwork was used for a playmat. At the start of the day there was a long line to purchase them. They sold out early this morning, but tomorrow there should be more for sale.



    This event's sponsor Big Magic's Mascot, Bigweb Man is distributing candy throughout the day.



    Here is the dealer space. Shops line the outside while in the middle there is a food court.



    Due to popularity at past events, there is a beef bowl booth here with a wide menu.



    Two artists have made their way to Japan to sign cards. Here, Lucas Graciano prepares for the day.



    A customer shakes Willian Murai's hand.



    Inside the event hall, many shadow-art cards are on display.



    Here, a large poster has been made in three dimensions.



    Here live streaming of the event goes on from the morning until the night. Inside the event hall, monitors allow visitors to watch.



    In the middle there is a wrestling ring where various exhibition matches will occur throughout the weekend. Here, famous players are gunslinging; the energy is palpable.



    While this pictures is a little bright, the time remaining in the round is displayed on a big screen, making it easy to see from a distance.



    This morning, a 20th year anniversary ceremony was held. Keita Mori delivers a speech to the Magic fans.



    Because it is Christmas time a present has been prepared: an uncut foil sheet of Theros rares! Out of everyone in attendance, one lucky winner will walk away with it.



    Further, a 20 year anniversary cake has been prepared. It will be cut up and distributed to hungry players.



    Hailing from France, head judge, Kevin Desprez, begins the tournament.



    Here is the feature match area. Who will be crowned champion here at Grand Prix Shizuoka?



     

  • Round 6 - Impressions from the Top Tables

    by Josh Bennett

  • There's a lot of Magic being played out there. With a Grand Prix of this size it's hard to distill the essence of the Day 1 metagame. I took a quick tour around the top forty or so tables to get a very unscientific breakdown of what the undefeateds are playing.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is that Mono-Blue Devotion decks are out in force. They were far and away the most numerous with around ten players pinning their hopes on Master of Waves. Next there were three archetypes with about seven or eight players apiece: The Black-White goodstuff deck that evolved out of Mono-Black Control, Esper Control decks (surprisingly outshining straight Blue-White), and base-red Aggro decks, both the all-in on Bolts version and the more straightforward creature-based strategies.

    I saw a few people playing Green-Red Devotion decks reminiscent of Makihito Mihara's Pro Tour deck. There were also a few bold souls sporting Bant colors for their Control shell. Lastly there were a smattering of White Weenie, Mono-Black Devotion, and Blue-White Control. For such a diverse field there were few real rogue decks. Although, and I don't want to say too much here, I did see a Spellheart Chimera in play.




     

  • Feature Match Round 7 - Shota Yasooka vs. Tomoharu Saito

    by Ben Swartz

  • It was nearly a month ago that these two players, Tomoharu Saito and Shota Yasooka, played next to each other at Grand Prix Kyoto. The two, alongside Katsuhiro Mori, finished in fourth place at the team tournament. Today, however, they were opponents. Having both rattled off 6 wins, only one of them could leave the feature match area with flawless 7-0 record.


    Tomoharu Saito vs. Shota Yasooka

    Tomoharu Saito brought a blue-white control deck to the table. Very similar to the deck that William "Huey" Jensen got second with at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth, Saito had made one significant change to the deck. With Master of Waves and Frostburn Weirds sitting in his sideboard, Saito had the ability to transform his deck into a faux blue devotion deck for games two and three. Presumably, this improved his matchup against other control decks while allowing him to finish matches within the time limit.

    On the other side of the table, Shota Yasooka stuck with a deck he was familiar with: blue-black control. Having played the deck to a 46th place finish at Pro Tour Theros, Yasooka felt confident about his choice here in Shizuoka. Without white, Yasooka had to find a replacement for Sphinx's Revelation. Opportunity was exactly what he needed, and with access to black cards such as Hero's Downfall and Thoughtseize, Yasooka had a control deck that had all the tools he needed to defeat every deck in the format.

    The games:

    The game progressed as draw go for the first few turns, until Saito attempted to resolve a Jace, Architect of Thought. Yasooka attempted to counter the planeswalker with Syncopate, but Saito had a Syncopate of his own.

    Jace netted Saito a Sphinx's Revelation, but Mutavault on Yasooka's side spelled a quick end for the planeswalker.

    The back and forth continued. When Saito found an opening to resolve an Elspeth, Yasooka spent no time dispatching it with Hero's Downfall. When Yasooka landed a Prognostic Sphinx, Saito used Supreme Verdict to clear away the flyer. When Yasooka played Ashiok, Saito had Detention Sphere to bring the board was back to even.

    Finally, it was an Elspeth backed up by a Syncopate from Saito that prompted the concession from Yasooka.


    Tomoharu Saito

    Saito 1 - 0 Yasooka

    Play began with Yasooka casting planeswalkers: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Jace, Architect of Thought. Saito had counters for both of them, giving him an opening to land a Jace, Memory Adept.

    Yasooka didn't bat an eye; he cast and resolved Jace, Architect of Thought against the tapped out Saito. He followed up the planeswalker with Thoughtseize, removing Saito's Sphinx's Revelation, and Pithing Needle, turning off Saito's Jace.

    A couple turns later, Saito resolved a Jace, Architect of Thought, allowing him to remove his lame-duck Jace Memory Adept. When Saito used Jace's -2 ability he revealed his transformative sideboard: Master of Waves and Frostburn Weird.

    Saito took and cast Master of Waves, which prompted Yasooka to crack his Ratchet Bomb, clearing the board. With Saito out of cards and with an empty board, Yasooka was able to resolve Prognostic Sphinx, riding it to victory a few turns later.


    Shouta Yasooka

    Saito 1 - 1 Yasooka

    Based on the previous game, it was obvious to Yasooka that Saito had moved to a transformative sideboard for the final two games. Saito was able to cast Frostburn Weird on the second turn and used it to quickly drop Yasooka down to 13.

    Finally, Yasooka grew tired of the Weird; he used Doom Blade to get rid of it during Saito's turn. With five lands, Yasooka landed a Pack Rat.

    By this point, it was clear to Yasooka that Saito had sideboarded out his Supreme Verdicts; Yasooka decided to go all in on Pack Rat. Though Saito was able to resolve a Master of Waves, it was only a matter of time before Yasooka's rat army overran Saito.

    Shota Yasooka 2 - 1 Tomoharu Saito




     

  • Quick Hits: What is the most oppressive card in Standard?

    by Ben Swartz

  • Ken Yukuhiro: Mutavault
    Naoki Shimizu: Supreme Verdict. It makes the U/W decks strong and forces the other decks to be built around it
    Jun’ya Iyanaga: Mutavault
    Tzu-Ching Kuo: Sphinx’s Revelation
    Yuuya Watanabe: Mutavault
    Makahito Mihara: Thassa, God of the Sea



     

  • Round 8 Feature Match - Yuichi Uzawa vs. (11) Makihito Mihara

    by Josh Bennett

  • One of Japan's "Big Three" of the moment, 11th Ranked Makihito Mihara, a five-time Pro Tour Top 8'er and Hall of Fame hopeful up against amateur Yuichi Uzawa.

    Mihara is playing his signature Green-Red Devotion deck that made a splash at Pro Tour Theros. It aims to accelerate into a host of giant-sized threats and take full advantage of Garruk, Caller of Beasts. Uzawa is also with Devotion, but for red alone. His plan is beatdown with efficient creatures in the early game, and then dropping the elbow with Fanatic of Mogis, often for double-digit damage.


    (11) Makihito Mihara

    The Games

    Mihara led out with Elvish Mystic, then hit for one and added Voyaging Satyr. Uzawa summoned Ash Zealot and hit for two while mentally crossing his fingers that all that acceleration would lead nowhere. Mihara squashed those hopes with a turn-three Arbor Colossus.

    Uzawa summoned a second Zealot and held back. He was given a glimmer of hope when Mihara made his unblocked Colossus monstrous. Was he really out of gas? Uzawa hit back for four and played Fanatic of Mogis. Mihara was down to nine. He hit back all-out, losing his Satyr to the Fanatic but leaving Uzawa at just one life. After combat he spilled out the rest of his hand: Burning-Tree Emissary, Voyaging Satyr, and Sylvan Caryatid. Surprisingly good news for Uzawa.

    He took further control with Chained to the Rocks, getting rid of the Colossus. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx gave him a huge mana boost, and he used it to power out Hammer of Purphoros and start making golems. All Mihara could add to the equation was a Stomping Ground. Uzawa played it cautiously, only attacking with a pair of Golems the following turn, but he was too far ahead. Not even Garruk, Caller of Beasts could save Mihara. A Boros Reckoner and another Hammer activation later Uzawa was crashing with all his creatures for far more than lethal.

    Uzawa 1 - Mihara 0


    Yuichi Uzawa

    Uzawa mulliganed and frowned at his six, but ultimately chose to keep. Mihara summoned Voyaging Satyr and took two from an Ash Zealot that hit the ground running. Next turn, Mihara revealed that he was stuck on two forests. He played a second Satyr and hit for one. Uzawa hit for another two, then added a pair of Burning-Tree Emissaries to the board. Mihara was in trouble.

    Still no third land, but he did have an Emissary of his own to get the red mana for Domri Rade. He upped Domri's loyalty and flipped over a second Emissary, but he didn't have the mana to cast it this turn. He passed. Uzawa only had two lands as well, but he was not suffering. He sent all his creatures at Domri Rade, and after clearing him off the board, added Frostburn Weird.

    Mihara was starting to find a foothold despite his mana problems. He added Burning-Tree Emissary and Scavenging Ooze to his board, then let out a cry of despair as Uzawa flipped over his next draw: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Going from two to eight mana counts as "a big deal," especially when you spend that mana on Purphoros, God of the Forge and a Fanatic of Mogis. Mihara peeked at his top card, and then scooped.


    Yuichi Uzawa defeats Makihito Mihara 2-0


    The Aftermath

    Mihara's faith in his deck is still unshaken. He said he's made very few modifications since the Pro Tour, the only notable one being the inclusion of more Mistcutter Hydras out of respect for Mono-Blue.




     

  • Round 9 Feature Match - Masayasu Tanahashi vs. Ken'ichiro Arai

    by Ben Swartz

  • In the final round of day one, two undefeated players, Masayasu Tanahashi and Ken'ichiro Arai faced off. Both were no stranger to high level competition. Masayasu Tanahashi made the top eight at Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009, while Arai is a consistent figure in the Japanese competitive scene.

    Masayasu Tanahashi had gotten this far with the help of his green devotion deck. Similar to the one used by Makahito Mihara at Pro Tour Theros, the explosive deck is capable of powering out early Arbor Colossuses or creating gigantic Polukranoses.

    On the other side of the table, Ken'ichiro Arai fought with the boogeyman of the format: Mono-black devotion. Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, and friends had fared well for him so far. Would they be good for one more match?

    The Games

    Tanahashi mulliganed to five, and Arai kicked him while he was down by unleashing a first turn Thoughtseize. Tanahashi revealed Burning-Tree Emissary, Kalonian Tusker and Reverent Hunter along with two lands. Arai took the Hunter.

    Unphased by the early removal spell, Tanahashi curved out of it. He cast both his Burning-Tree Emissary and Sylvan Caryatid on turn two, and used Nykthos to power out a Polukranos on turn three.

    Arai used Hero's Downfall to take out the mythic rare and started attacking with his Nightveil Specter. Gray Merchant of Asphodel came down and dropped Tanahashi to 11 life.

    An Arbor Colossus off the top came down for Tanahashi. It started taking chunks out of Arai's life total, but, after a few turns, Arai found a Hero's Downfall for the giant.

    The players were at a standstill: Tanahashi kept drawing small creatures, while Arai kept drawing lands. Consecutively, both players drew haymakers: Arai with Pack Rat and Tanahashi with Polukranos, World Eater.

    While Tanahashi made the World Eater a 10/10, Arai started to create an army of rats. Finally, Tanahashi drew a Mizzium Mortars off the top, but it was too late; Arai had already created five rats making them immune. With the writing on the wall, Tanahashi conceded and headed to a second game.


    Ken'ichiro Arai

    Arai 1 - 0 Tanahashi

    Another first turn Thoughtseize from Arai revealed a lackluster hand from Tanahashi: Polukranos, World Eater, Sylvan Caryatid, Mizzium Mortars and three lands. Polukranos hit the graveyard and Tanahashi accelerated with Caraytid.


    Masayasu Tanahashi vs. Ken'ichiro Arai

    Expecting Tanahashi to burn through his Mortars, Arai cast Pack Rat. The top of Tanahashi's deck had a different answer, however, in the form of Chandra, Pyromancer.

    Chandra bit the dust to a Hero's Downfall and Tanahashi drew a pair Arbor Colossuses, which each met quick demise at the hand of Hero's Downfall. The top of Tanahashi's deck, however, continued to give him what he needed: a second Chandra and a Domri Rade.

    Though Arai tried his hardest to remove the planeswalkers, the card advantage proved too much forcing the match to a third game.

    Arai 1 - 1 Tanahashi

    The final game was over in a flash. Tanahashi had a quick start with a pair of Kalonian Tuskers, followed by a Reverent Hunter. A Hero's Downfall took out the Hunter, but the Tuskers continued taking chunks out of Arai's life total. With no answer, to them, Arai conceded allowing Tanahashi to escape day one with a perfect 9-0 record.


    Masayasu Tanahashi

    Masayasu Tanahashi 2 - 1 Ken'ichiro Arai




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