ay 2 is underway and 228 players are locked in combat. Just six rounds today will determine the Top 8, so every match is crucial. The field is rife with hopeful amateurs who have honed their skills at the local level and are ready to step onto the big stage. Of course, they'll have to fight their way past some giants of the game, including two of Japan's current Big Three: Number 7 Ranked Yuuya Watanabe, and Number 11 Ranked Makihito Mihara.
A glance at the field reveals a lot of Mono-Blue Devotion, a lot of Esper Control, and many red-based aggro decks. Which players have correctly anticipated this metagame? What technology have they brought to defeat it? Will the pros put a stranglehold on the Top 8, or will an amateur break through and surprise everyone? Stay tuned, in just six short rounds we'll have our Top 8!
Grand Prix Shizuoka video coverage provided by NicoNico Live.
Round 10 Feature Match - Toshiaki Murata vs. Kazuto Mochiki
by Ben Swartz
Six players escaped day one unscathed here in Shizuoka. While many of the 9-0 players were relative unknowns, two relatively well known players sat at table one for the second day of play. Kazuto Mochiki is well known in Japan for winning the second Limits tournament in 2007 as well as being a force in the Saitama area. His opponent, Toshiaki Murata was last seen in the top eight of Grand Prix Taipei in 2012.
Toshiaki Murata came armed with a deck very similar to the one Marlon Gutierrez used to win Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth two weeks prior. Featuring the powerful cards from the Mono-black Devotion decks--Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, Desecration Demon--paired with white cards such as Last Breath and Blood Baron of Vizkopa, he aimed overpower and outmaneuver his opponent.
Kazuto Mochiki brought a deck that was gaining popularity as of late due to its matchup against the Mono-black Devotion decks: red Devotion. Using Burning-Tree Emissary, Frostburn Weird, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, he hoped to power out large creatures and planeswalkers quickly and destroy his opponent before he had the chance to fight back.
Play began with Mochiki's Boros Reckoner on turn three. This prompted Murata's to cast Thoughtseize. Domri Rade, a pair of Stormbreath Dragons, and some lands were revealed and the planeswalker hit the bin. Murata followed it up with a Devour Flesh to take out the Boros Reckoner.
Kazuto Mochiki vs. Toshiaki Murata
It was only a matter of time until the Stormbreath Dragons started to hit the board. Both were met by removal spells from Murata: for the first a Hero's Downfall and for the second a Devour Flesh.
It was Murata's turn to have a pair of threats: two Blood Baron of Viskopas. This time Mochiki had the answers: first a Domri Rade paired with a 4/1 Frostburn Weird and second a Mizzium Mortars.
Murata was able to get the last word, however, by casting a Pack Rat against Mochiki's empty hand. When a pair of lands came off the top of Mochiki's deck, the rat army sent the match to a second game.
Murata 1 - 0 Mochiki
Murata had the ideal draw for the second game: first turn Thoughtseize into second turn Pack Rat. After missing his third land drop, Mochiki was able to cast a fourth turn Xenagos, the Reveler.
Turns continued to pass without a third land from Murata. During this time, Mochiki was able to construct a small army of Frostburn Weird's and 2/2 Satyr tokens. After a few more landless turns, the match headed to a deciding game three.
Murata 1 - 1 Mochiki
A third turn Domri Rade started the game for Mochiki. Murata countered with a Desecration Demon on turn four.
Fearing the 6/6, Mochiki used a pair of Mizzium Mortars to remove it, but Murata had a second waiting in the wings. In the meantime, Domri Rade started generating card advantage for Mochiki, finding him a Stormbreath Dragon and a Fanatic of Mogis.
Domri fell to the Desecration Demon, and Stormbreath Dragon met a Hero's Downfall. With no answer to the flyer, Mochiki fell a few turns later.
Toshiaki Murata 2 - 1 Kazuto Mochiki
Quick Hits #2: What was the weirdest card you faced yesterday?
by Ben Swartz
Tzu-Ching Kuo: Nothing; I only played against normal decks with normal cards.
Round 11 Feature Match - Shota Takao vs. Toshiaki Murata
by Josh Bennett
Tokyo's Shota Takao first hit the spotlight with a Top 8 appearance at the last Japanese National Championships, and is looking to add another notch in his belt at the upcoming Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia, Spain. His opponent this round is Toshiaki Murata of Shiga. He's been playing at the GP level for some time with a few money finishes and a Top 8 at Grand Prix Taipei last year.
Murata is playing the Black-White Midrange deck that has become so popular lately. It can play the control role with Thoughtseize, removal and Underworld Connections, but it can also beat down quickly with Desecration Demon and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. It also features the hated Pack Rat.
Takao is playing a deck that takes the Black-White shell a step farther, adding blue into the mix, becoming a kind of Esper Humans deck. Blue mana lets the deck have versatile answers like Detention Sphere and Far & Away. Xathrid Necromancer provides a strong Plan B for an initial rush.
At first it looked like it would be a slow grind of a match. Murata led out with Thoughtseize and Underworld Connections. Takao resolved an Imposing Sovereign and took care of the Connections with Detention Sphere. The damage was adding up for Murata. He tried a Blood Baron of Vizkopa, but it fell to Away. Desecration Demon got to stay, but Takao went on another tack with Obzedat, Ghost Council.
Now the clock was really ticking for Murata. He hit with his demon, knocking Takao to fifteen, then played out Pack Rat, but had only one card left in hand. The Ghost Council came back into play and swung in alongside Mutavault. Murata activated his Rat and blocked both. A Lyev Skyknight from Takao detained the Desecration Demon and left Murata helpless.
Takao 1 - Murata 0
On the play, Murata had a turn-two Pack Rat. He got to activate it once, then Takao put a stop to it with Detention Sphere. Murata tried Desecration Demon, but Away took care of it. He replaced it with Obzedat, Ghost Council, hoping it would serve him as well as it had served Takao the previous game.
Takao had the trump, however: Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Murata had no way to remove it, and worse, nothing to add to the board. Meanwhile Takao was summoning a pair of Xathrid Necromancers for backup. In fact, he had so much action that he was happy to trade his Blood Baron for Murata's two Mutavaults, replacing it with an Imposing Sovereign and a Desecration Demon. Murata's last gasp was a Demon of his own, but it hardly made any difference as Takao's human army marched to victory.
Shota Takao defeats Toshiaki Murata 2-0
Round 12 - Top Tables
by Josh Bennett
While our tireless workers sort through the decklists to bring you a complete Day 2 Metagame Breakdown, I took a quick tour of the top tables to see what decks were rising above the crowd.
The two big winners seem to be Mono-Blue Devotion and Mono-Red Devotion, both creature decks that have almost combo deck draws that can end games quickly. Close behind with at least four players is White Weenie. Still there's a lot of diversity out there. Mihara-style Green-Red Devotion. Black-White, Esper Control, straight Blue-White Control, even classic Mono-Black Devotion has a few adherents.
Does the wealth of creature decks mean that the Control decks are in a position to finish strong? Will Thassa and her Master of Waves bring home another trophy? Or will a rogue deck like 12-0 Shota Takao's Esper Humans carry the day?
Sunday 12:00 p.m. – Japan's Big 3 Look Back at 2013
by Ben Swartz
WIth Grand Prix Shizuoka being the last event of 2013 I caught up with the top 3 rated Japanese players in the Top 25 Pro Rankings to ask them about their favorite memories from 2013 and their aspirations for the coming year.
(6) Shuhei Nakamura
Along with his top eight performances in the World Championships, Grand Prix Providence, and Grand Prix Houston, Shuhei mentioned that he was especially proud of two things this year. First, with his win at Grand Prix Hong Kong, he has successfully won a Grand Prix in each Magic region: GP St. Louis in North America, GP Hiroshima in Japan, GP Stuttgart in Europe, GP Costa Rica in South America, and finally GP Hong Kong from Asia. Second, he was really proud that this weekend he has the opportunity to commentate for the live broadcast of the tournament.
After joking around about his favorite card of the year (Pheres-Band Centaurs), he explained that Thundermaw Hellkite was the most memorable. I remember being with Shuhei when the card got revealed last year; he made a prediction that it was going to be one of the strongest cards in the upcoming year. Over a year later, his prediction has held true, and while it is not legal here this weekend in Shizuoka, Thundermaw Hellkite radically changed Standard in the previous year.
(7) Yuuya Watanabe
When I caught up with Yuuya Watanabe, he explained that he was a little disappointed with his performance this year. While at the end of last year he won the Players Championship before placing second at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, this year he was only able to claim a single Grand Prix top eight in Bangkok and finished outside of the top four at this year's World Championships.
He explained that while his results were simply average, he was especially proud to be a member of Team Mint. He explained that his sponsor has taken really good care of him and even made commemorative tokens for the previous two Japanese Grand Prix.
Yuuya also neglected to mention that, this year, he happened to be the player with the highest win percentage in Magic Online 8-4 booster draft events. When I congratulated him on this accomplishment earlier in the weekend he explained that it came as a complete surprise to him. Sure, Yuuya spends most of his waking hours on Magic Online, and, sure, he is one of the world's best players, but being the best Magic Online drafter of the year is an impressive and surprising feat.
Yuuya was especially proud of Makihito Mihara's performance this year. He was overjoyed to see his friend make two Pro Tour top eights this year and hoped that the following year would bring Mihara a Hall of Fame induction.
(11) Makihito Mihara
While Makihito Mihara is currently the third highest ranked Japanese player, his results this year outshine the other two. After making back to back Pro Tour top eights at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze and Pro Tour Theros, the 2006 World Champion has once again shown that he is one of the best Japanese players in the game.
While he was proud of his performance at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, Mihara was especially proud of his placing at Pro Tour Theros. He explained that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was his pick for card of the year. The legendary land allowed him to power out gigantic creatures and play what he explained to be a green red "combo" deck. His faith in his deck is still strong, with him playing it again here in Shizuoka.
Along with his Pro Tour performance, he mentioned that he was overjoyed with his performance at Grand Prix Kyoto. Being able to play alongside two of his friends, Jun'ichiro Bando and Kentaro Yamamoto, while earning second place was the cherry on top to an already exceptional year.
Heading into next year, Mihara made clear that he wanted to become a Platinum Level pro. He also hoped that his recent performance would give him the boost he needs to make it into the Hall of Fame in the coming year.
Round 13 Feature Match - Junya Iyanaga vs. So Hwan Kim
by Josh Bennett
On one side, the 2011 World Champion, Junya Iyanaga. He's had a quiet 2013 and needs a big finish to get back in the spotlight. On the other, Korea's So Hwan Kim, playing his second Grand Prix, and enjoying his second Day 2 appearance.
A classic Aggro vs Control battle. Kim's mono-red deck spills creatures onto the table and closes the game with burn and Stormbreath Dragon. Mutavaults help keep pressure up against the threat of Supreme Verdict. Iyanaga is playing Esper Control with access to powerful cards and a strong set of removal, but at the cost of playing many lands that come into play tapped. Kim's deck can capitalize on any mana stumbles.
Junya Iyanaga vs. So Hwan Kim
Iyanaga won the roll and was quickly under fire from Kim's Rakdos Cackler and Ash Zealot. Last Breath took care of the Zealot, and a replacement fell to Devour Flesh. Still, Iyanaga was taking damage steadily and a Thoughtseize put him to twelve. There was good news and bad news. The good news was that Kim had two useless Mizzium mortars in hand. The bad news was that even after he took away Kim's Boros Charm, Kim would still have Chandra's Phoenix and Chandra, Pyromaster.
Still, Iyanaga had a plan. Another Devour Flesh left Kim with just Chandra's Phoenix in play, and then Iyanaga resolved Jace, Architect of Thought to further reduce Kim's damage output. Kim hit his fourth land and brought out Chandra, and between her and her Phoenix, Iyanaga was down to just six life. Iyanaga minused Jace and scored Devour Flesh and Supreme Verdict over a land, then dispatched Chandra with Hero's Demise.
Here, Kim faced a dilemma. With the Phoenix and a Mutavault, he could bring Iyanaga down to two, but that would leave Jace in play and Iyanaga's hand was stocked with removal. He chose to swing at Jace to kill it. Iyanaga untapped and played a second Jace, upping its loyalty. He'd scored a foothold. Kim attacked him down to four and played Boros Reckoner. Supreme Verdict left him with just a Mutavault for offence. Mutavault hit Iyanaga down to three and summoned Rakdos Cackler.
Unfortunately now Iyanaga was rolling. He had a wealth of removal to stop Kim's creatures, and so was free to dig with Jace. That netted him a Sphinx's Revelation for four, and from there the game was quickly out of reach for Kim. After another Revelation resolved and Ætherling hit the table, Kim conceded.
Iyanaga 1 - So Hwan 0
Now on the play, Kim had the upper hand. A pair of Firedrinker Satyrs started chipping away at Iyanaga's life total. Iyanaga had to pay two life for Hallowed Fountain just to get out a Sin Collecter, but Kim had Lightning Strike to get it out of the way in response. It hardly mattered that he lost a Skullcrack.
He untapped, animated his mutavault and swung in, pumping one of his Satyrs once. Iyanaga was down to five life already! He untapped and just shook his head, then scooped up his cards.
Iyanaga 1 - So Hwan 1
Again, Iyanaga build his mana base while Kim summoned his army. He led with Rakdos Cackler and then Firedrinker Satyr, but did not have a second land. Iyanaga played a third land and passed, and when Kim summoned a second Cackler, he dropped the hammer with Supreme Verdict.
Kim was still stuck on one lone mountain and summoned Firedrinker Satyr. Iyanaga put out Jace and upped his loyalty. Kim had yet another Cackler but without more lands he was helpless. Iyanaga got farther and farther ahead while Kim's deck continued to mock him. He had to watch Iyanaga cast Sphinx's Revelation for five while his board consisted of one mountain and nothing else. With a laugh he extended the hand in defeat.
After the match, Iyanaga apologised for the match ending the way it had, saying that he was very lucky. Kim dismissed that good-naturedly.
Sunday, 2:20 p.m. – Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
by Ben Swartz
Here is the breakdown of the 218 decks that made it into day two of Grand Prix Shizuoka:
After winning Pro Tour Theros in the hands of Jeremy Dezani, it is no surprise that the mono-blue menace has shown up in force here this weekend. Though it struggles against Supreme Verdict, Master of Waves and friends continue to take match after match. While other decks have started diluting themselves in order to have a better matchup against Mono-black devotion, the blue decks have shined.
Mono-black Devotion & Orzhov Control:
With a near-even split between the two decks, it seems players here are divided between which of these two black decks is the best. While Mono-black devotion may be more consistent, Marlon Gutierrez proved in Fort Worth the power of Last Breath and Blood Baron of Viskopa. When you combine the numbers on these two decks, the number of people this weekend praying to go turn one Thoughtseize into turn two Pack Rat outnumber any other strategy.
Boros Devotion, Mono-red & Colossal Gruul:
Red decks in one form or another were the next most popular decks in day two. Though the strategies diverge, each use Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to power out huge creatures. Whether they be Stormbreath Dragons or Mistcutter Hydras and whether they are backed up by Mizzium Mortars or Chained to the Rocks, red has proven that it is able to wrestle with the big guns.
Esper & Azorius Control:
Finally, we are left with the control decks. Again there is a near even split into the two different camps. Nineteen players decided to follow in the footsteps of William "Huey" Jensen this weekend and play straight Azorius Control, while the other half battled with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's favorite, Esper Control. As Mono-black Devotion and Orzhov Control have gained popularity, control players have reached for Blood Baron of Viskopas of their own to battle the black menace.
With the top eight almost set here in Shizuoka, stay tuned to see which deck will reign supreme!