Sunday, 12:00 p.m. – Sealed Undefeated Decklists
by Nate Price
Terada, Shuhei / Grand Prix Yokohama 2013 - Gatecrash sealed
Motomura, Tomoya / Grand Prix Yokohama 2013 - Gatecrash sealed
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – Grinder Winners: Sealed Deck
by Nate Price
Grinder Winners' Decklist - Gatecrash Sealed Tournament A-C
by Event Coverage Staff
Taki,Yoshikazu / Grinder Winner - Gatecrash Sealed A
Kitazono, Kensuke / Grinder Winner - Gatecrash Sealed B
Grinder Winners' Decklist / Gatecrash Sealed Tournament D-H
Kuribayashi. Tatsunori / Grinder Winner - Gatecrash Sealed C
by Event Coverage Staff
Hiyoshi Tatsuhiko / Winner D
Grinder Winners' Decklist / Gatecrash Sealed Tournament I-P
Shimizu Yusuke / Winner G
by Event Coverage Staff
*notice* Some basic lands has been missing.
Kunegawa, Toshiya / Winner I
Yamaguchi, Satoshi / Winner J
Kitauchi, Kazuya / Winner K
Maeda, Yasuyuki / Winner L
Aranami, Naoto / Winner M
Hirose, Daisuke / Winner P
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – Grinder Winners: Standard
by Nate Price
Grinder Winners' Decklist (Standard)
by Event Coverage Staff
Takahashi Hidekazu / Winner A
Iwayama Masatomo / Winner B
Ohtani Yousuke / Winner C
Takahashi Daiki / Winner D
Morikawa,Youhei / Winner F
Kiyonaga, Shou / Winner G
Saturday, 12:44 p.m. – Forty Card Sideboards
by Nate Price
On the surface, Sealed Deck seems to be far more fortune than skill. After all, you are completely beholden to the cards you open, and you don't even get to specially craft the card pool from which you build your deck. My friends and I used to call it "Sealed Luck."
Many years of playing Sealed Deck and watching and speaking with the best in the world has done a lot to change that opinion. Unlike Draft formats, where the application of skill is far more apparent, Sealed Deck is far less obvious in its application of skill. There are many levels of skill that must be balanced against each other during the deck build, some obvious, others less so. Card evaluation on its own is rather easy to see and practice. Evaluating how your cards interact with one another to make a deck is a bit more difficult. Properly assessing mana requirements and capabilities seems easy on the surface, but is far more difficult that it lets on. All of these skills are required to have consistent success in Sealed Deck, and to compensate for the inevitable disparities in the strengths of the card pools.
The fact that you have access to an entire pool of cards is one of the most easily overlooked factors in Sealed Deck. You organize your cards and build a deck, but you are only ultimately using 22-25 cards of your 84 cards. That leaves roughly two-thirds of your card pool sitting in reserve. Most players keep their eyes on four or so cards that they feel might have some value given the correct situation. These are cards like Naturalize, which you might bring in if you see a need for their particular effect, but don't feel you will encounter frequently enough to put in the maindeck. For most, the sideboard is a reminder of the cards you couldn't play. This weekend, I've learned that it isn't simply a bunch of dead cards; it's a place to find a second life.
Gatecrash presents an opportunity that doesn't come up very frequently in Limited Magic. Because of the guild-based nature of the set, the most successful decks tend to fall along guild lines. As such, players tend to stick to two-color strategies, aiming for consistency. This in and of itself is nothing particularly exciting or new. Thanks to the depth of Gatecrash, however, people are often faced with a difficult conundrum when building decks: choosing the right guild. There are frequently enough cards of value in a given pool that there are two or three builds that warrant real consideration. As time runs down, there will be one deck that you decide on over the other for one reason or another. These reasons are ultimately far more important than many players give them credit for being.
Take Sam Black, for example. Halfway through Day 1, he came up to me and handed me a stack of cards.
"Check out this deck," he said.
I thumbed through, looking at a very good Gruul deck, one that I would have been happy to open myself. Once I was done and told him that I was sufficiently impressed, he pulled another one out from behind his back.
"Now look at the deck that I'm actually playing," he grinned.
It was bananas. There was so much removal that it looked like an eraser and white out had just vomited into some sleeves. It had good creatures, some bombs, and was unbelievably better than the deck he had just shown me. The insane thing was that he had built them both with the same pool. Now, I will be the second to tell you how absurd Black's open was (he will be the first). But it wasn't his insane pool that I found interesting. It was the fact that he actually found a reason to sideboard into his Gruul build, and it was a great plan.
You may be thinking that the only reason that Black was able to build two decks like that was because his pool was so good. It appears that you may be wrong. Speaking to Shouta Yasooka and Kenji Tsumura, both of whom have put a good deal of work into Gaterash Sealed Deck, the odds of being able to build a second, reasonable deck from a random Sealed Pool isn't negligible. Yasooka put it at around 50%, while Tsumura had it at a bit more conservative 30%. Still, just being able to build a second deck is of a much lesser importance than understanding which one to play first, and when to switch to the other.
For Black, the decision was fairly straightforward.
"I just want to play all the removal I open in my pool every time," he stated bluntly. "The deck I played has an insane amount of removal, so I decided to go with it first. If you want to beat the other very good decks in the field, you have to be able to deal with their inevitable bombs, and overloading on removal is the best way to do that."
Things were not as straightforward for Yasooka and Tsumura. Yasooka's maindeck was a four-color deck that sacrificed speed to go for more power. His sideboard contained two Borzhov variants: one fast, one slower. He felt they were roughly equal in power level. Tsumura had a similar predicament, staring at two decks with roughly similar power levels. His Boros deck was very heavy on the two-drops, exactly as he likes, but it dropped off again until the five-drop slot. His Simic deck had a great curve, but was lacking the impact spells that his Boros deck contained. Ultimately, he went with the consistent draws offered by the Simic deck's curve. Still, many other players he showed his decks to, including Shahar Shenhar, Sam Black, and Yuuya Watanabe, said that they would have started the Boros deck.
Both of these Japanese players voiced a similar sentiment about the primary reason behind their choice.
"The die roll is random, so I will be playing on the draw for half of my matches," Yasooka explained. "I played the deck that is better on the draw and decided against the deck that is worse on the draw."
Tsumura echoed the sentiment.
"My Boros deck has a large number of two-drops and is much better when I'm playing first as opposed to going second," he told me. "The Simic deck has better draws and is able to catch back up better if an opponent gets a fast start."
The speed of their decks is another very important thing that was under consideration as they made their sideboarding decisions all day. The goal was to alter their decks in response to the speed and power level of their opponents' decks.
"My main deck is not very good against decks that are too fast," Yasooka explained. "Against them, I sideboard my faster deck so that I can keep up with them. Against slower decks, I either keep things the same or sideboard into my other slow deck. It depends on how much removal they have. If their deck is very, very slow, I bring in my fast deck to race them since they will have more late-game power."
Tsumura had a similar strategy.
"My Simic deck was a better deck than my Boros deck, but I had a bad matchup against the slower Naya deck I faced yesterday," he told me. "Since my deck was worse against that slower deck, I brought in my Boros deck and used it to win the match."
Tsumura's strategy bridged that of Yasooka and Black. Yasooka was concerned primarily with how his deck would play against the speed of an opponent's deck, while Black was concerned with something far more associated with Constructed: archetypical matchups.
"There are really only a little more than five or so deck types in Gatecrash Sealed Deck," Black explained. "You've got the Aggro Madcap Skills Boros, Big "Good Cards" Boros, Orzhov Midrange, the much better Orzhov Control, and the Borzhov and Dimirzhov decks. You've also got Gruul, but it's really a bunch of mediocre decks and one good one. Clan Defiance: The Deck. You find a bunch of matchup-based decisions in this format, but it's not incredibly cut and dry.
Shouta Yasooka and Kenji Tsumura
For example, in Standard, you'll find people arguing about which deck beats which deck, when it all depends on the cards people are playing. I take a lot of notes during my matches about the cards I see in my opponents' decks. This helps me consider what to do. I've only sideboarded into by Gruul deck once on the weekend, but I am convinced that it was the right play. I was playing against Boros, but it wasn't the deck with Madcap Skills or other enchantments that would allow me to two-for-one with my removal spells. My Gruul deck is filled with creatures like Crocanura, which match up incredibly well with his smaller creatures. I got to side into a deck with a bit more consistency, less top-heavy cards, and creatures that are good in that matchup."
In any case, while it is very important to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both your deck and the other strategies possible with your pool, Tsumura warned against getting too clever.
"My decks were fairly close in power level," he admitted. "If you exchange a few of my Boros creatures for worse ones, I wouldn't sideboard into the deck, even if it was a better matchup than my maindeck. I'd stick with my Simic deck because the creatures are stronger."
Sunday, 1:11 p.m. – Day 2 Draft 1: Drafting with Ryouta Endou
by Ben Swartz
Grand Prix Shanghai Finalist, Ryouta Endou, is no stranger to high level limited play. He escaped day one with a perfect 9-0 record and came into the draft rounds with only a single loss. Sitting at a strong pod, which included hall of famer, Masashi Oiso, former Japanese National Champion, Masaya Kitayama, and two-time Grand Prix top eight competitor Cynic Kim, he had his work cut out for him.
With the hall of famer sitting to his left, Endou picked up a pack that included mainly Gruul cards: Skarrg Guildmage, Slaughterhorn, and Pit Fight. He opted for the Guildmage before receiving a pack with nearly no playable Gruul cards. Instead he had his pick between Angelic Edict, Sunhome Guildmage, and Drakewing Krasis. He considered his options carefully, but, in the end, a second guildmage was added to his pile.
Endou started scrambling for the next few picks; while he tried his best to stay on color and on guild, it was tough as he began waffling between where the powerful cards in the packs were. He picked up an Assault Griffin, choosing it over Zameck Guildmage, a Devour Flesh over a Scorchwalker, and Crowned Ceratok over a Martial Glory. Endou finally finished out pack one by taking some late Orzhov cards--Smite and Syndicate Enforcer--before reviewing his picks after pack one.
During review, he held both halves of his picks--the Green cards in one hand and the white cards in the other. After looking at some of the late Black cards he was able to pick up, he pulled his Orzhov cards to the front--Devour Flesh, Smite, Assault Griffin, and Syndicate Enforcer-- and looked for more to come his way in pack two.
When Endou opened pack two he was presented with a tough decision: Domri Rade or Syndic of Tithes. While he wanted to add the planeswalker to his previous first pick, Skarrg Guildmage, he decided on the two-drop, cementing himself into Orzhov. The next few picks saw Endou's steadfastness rewarded. He was able to pick up a Deathcult Rogue, a Crypt Ghast, a second Smite, a second Assault Griffin, and, finally, a Beckon Apparition.
Looking over his picks after the first two packs, while Endou was happy that he had a coherent two color Orzhov deck, he looked longingly at his first few picks--the two guildmages--hoping that pack three would net him some more powerful Orzhov cards.
Pack three continued rewarding Endou for choosing Orzhov at his table; he was able to get a pair of Executioner's Swings, a pair of Killing Glares and an Angelic Edict. While his creature quality suffered--he was only able to pick up a pair of Basilica Guards and a pair of Gutter Skulks--he finished out the draft with a removal heavy Orzhov deck.
Here is the deck Ryouta Endou ended up with:
Grand Prix Yokohama 2013
Round 12 Feature Match – Ryouta Endou vs. Yuki Matsumoto
by Ben Swartz
After watching his draft and talking to Ryouta Endou, the Grand Prix Shanghai finalist was a little disappointed. While his first pack had started out with many powerful cards, they were all in different colors and guilds, and he felt he was shoehorned into a less than ideal Orzhov deck.
His opponent, Yuki Matsumoto, is a local player from Yokohama. Having barely missed top eight with a 9th place finish at the last Japanese Grand Prix in Nagoya, he was looking for another shot here in his hometown.
Play started with a Gyre Sage for Matsumoto, which quickly got removed by Killing Glare from Endou. Matsumoto refilled his board, casting Cloudfin Raptor, Incursion Specialist and Leyline Phantom.
On the other side of the table, all that Endou could muster up was a Basilica Guards. Matsumoto had a Hands of Binding to tap down the 1/4 and Miming Slime to create a second 5/5, attacking for 10 with all of his creatures. Endou wasn't completely defenseless, using an Executioner's Swing and Angelic Edict to take out Matsumoto's 5/5s, but, with no flyers for Endou, Matsumoto took a quick game one off the back of his Cloudfin Raptor pumped by a Simic Charm.
Ryouta Endou 0 – 1 Yuki Matsumoto
Play started with creatures on both sides; a Syndic of Tithes for Endou and a Frilled Oculus for Matsumoto. The Oculus bit the dust thanks to a Killing Glare from Endou. Matsumoto replaced the Oculus with another three toughness creature, a Sage's Row Denizen.
Endou cast an Assault Griffin and started attacking in the air. A Scatter Arc from Matsumoto countered Endou's Beckon Apparition, but Endou continued laying creatures: another Assault Griffin and a Syndicate Enforcer.
Matsumoto used Simic Charm on a newly minted Cloudfin Raptor to take out one of Endou's Assault Griffins, but, at two life, Endou's creatures were too much for Matsumoto.
Ryouta Endou 1 – 1 Yuki Matsumoto
Almost a replay of Game One, Matsumoto's Gyre Sage was destroyed by Endou's Killing Glare. Endou followed that up with a Basilica Guards and an Assault Griffin, while all Matsumoto could muster up was a Metropolis Sprite and a Keymaster Rogue.
Both players began attacking with their evasion creatures—Assault Griffin for Endou and Keymaster Rogue for Matsumoto.
A second Killing Glare took out Matsumoto's only flier, a Metropolis Sprite. With no fliers, Endou finished Matsumoto by attacking with his Assault Griffin and extorting Matsumoto.
Ryouta Endou 2 - 1 Yuki Matsumoto
Sunday, 10:52 a.m. – Quick Question: What common or uncommon is the most reliable signal that a guild is open?
by Nate Price
Sunday, 6:45 p.m. – Drafting Gatecrash with Sam Black
by Nate Price
Every so often, there comes a format and a deck that is simply personified by a particular player. Something between the two resonates, and it almost becomes fully how much of a person you can see in the deck. I know that for me, it was the Spider Spawning deck of Innistrad. I am a purebred indie kid, a lover of the unorthodox. Everything about the Spider Spawning deck was something I could get behind. It used a milling mechanic, but you targeted yourself rather than opponents. It was an unorthodox combination of colors for Innistrad. In a set that rewarded players for being aggressive, it worried about doing inane, unnecessarily complicated things that gained no real ground for much of the game. And it won with Spiders, a whole lot of Spiders. Screw your main-story fantasy tropes. Screw your actual storyline of the set, with its Humans and Zombies and Werewolves and Vampires. Give me Spiders.
In Gatecrash, there is a little guild by the name of Orzhov. Orzhov does three things very well: kill creatures, play defense, and gnaw away at life totals at an agonizingly slow pace. Orzhov is the ultimate grind, valuing interactions and outright control of the board to leisurely cruise its way to victory. Orzhov is Sam Black.
Black is best-known for his fantastic Constructed decks, which often use under-utilized interactions to achieve a strong cumulative effect. Think the Burning Shoal Infect deck, or most recently The Aristocrats. The Aristocrats is another perfect example of the slow, grinding power of defense and incremental advantages that is a hallmark of Orzhov, and another trademark of Black's Gatecrash Limited leanings.
Coming into this final Draft, Black sat atop the standings of this incredibly large Grand Prix. By virtue of a Sealed Deck containing every removal spell every printed, Black was able to simply grind people out, often killing them with nothing more than a basic, two-powered creature. Once he reached the Draft rounds, Orzhov once again came to him. He aggressively pursued cheap removal and extort creatures, giving himself a lesser version of his Sealed Deck, yet still powerful in its own right. After a 3-0 performance, Black was one win away from a Top 8 berth.
His first pack contained a trio of Orzhov stalwarts: Syndic of Tithes, Basilica Guards, and Vizkopa Guildmage. He stayed true to the philosophy of openness, taking the Syndic. This would potentially allow him to switch into Boros should the way be available. His next pick brought a decision of Smite over Balustrade Spy, again refusing to commit to a guild before he had adequate information. It was one of the points we talked about afterwards, one that Black thought I might have gone the other way on. He is a massive fan of the Spy, but his desire to stay open won out, flexibility trumping raw power.
By the third pick, Black had made his decision. An Executioner's Swing won out over an Assault Griffin, which would have allowed Black to stay open. This time, the inexpensive removal spell won out, and gave Black his path. Unfortunately, just as he found his way, he lost it. Stolen Identity is an incredibly powerful card, and warranted a pick over a Basilica Screecher, which normally would have been a very welcome addition to his growing card pool.
"That Stolen Identity pick kind of screwed me all up," Black admitted afterwards. The double blue commitment required for the rare meant that it would be impossible to splash, so he was going to need to prioritize mana fixing higher than normal. As of pick four, he had seriously considered that he might be going Dimir splashing for his white.
The next pack gave him an Orzhov Guildgate to help fix his mana, but more importantly, it gave him a clearer picture of what was going on around him. There were about four good Simic cards still in the pack, telling him that the guild was open, and by association, so was blue. This, combined with the steadily drying trickle of white led him to pick up five playable cards in the remaining eight, grabbing a Dimir Keyrune, Orzhov Keyrune, Sage's Row Denizen, Death's Approach, and Sapphire Drake within those picks. Each of those cards was very good or his prospective deck, and he ended pack one with a surprisingly high number of playable cards.
Then, like a hammer, he took a blow from his next pack. Freshly into Dimir, he opened the following cards:
[Soul Ransom, Wight of Precinct Six, Basilica Screecher, Dimir Charm, Balustrade Spy, Sage's Row Denizen]
Remember those, because they will become important later. After mulling around for the full amount of time, Black slid the rare into his pile.
"I wouldn't have been upset with another Wight of Precinct Six in my deck, and my third choice was Dimir Charm."
After that, he picked up a Grisly Spectacle, Wight of Precinct Six, Agoraphobia, and a late Simic Fluxmage. Combined with the Sapphire Drake, the Fluxmage could do some work, especially if Wight of Precinct Six was involved. Then his open came back. Of the five very good black and blue cards he passed, only the Sage's Row Denizen returned.
"When I saw that only one of those cards came back, I thought I might be in trouble," Black admitted. The second pack had not been nearly as kind to him as the first, and he was going to need to have a good run in the third to ensure that he didn't have any borderline cards. With so many good cards in his colors disappearing in a single round, it seemed likely that he was going to be fighting a number of people for those last eight cards.
His third pack brought one of the more difficult decisions to this point. Treasury Thrull and Killing Glare were the two best cards in the pack, and Black thought for the full amount of time before taking the rare.
"That was a very tough pick. I love to take removal, but the Thrull is a very good card, too. In the end, I decided that I had a reasonable chance of picking up at least one more removal spell in the pack, which I was fine with, so I took the Thrull."
Sure enough, his next pack gave him a Grisly Spectacle over a Basilica Screecher, and he got a second Executioner's Swing two picks later. He had a chance at a third Swing, which would have strained his mana, but he opted to instead fix his mana, grabbing a Prophetic Prism. As the pack wound down, he found himself in the unexpected position of seeing some incredibly late, top-rate Dimir cards. In three consecutive packs, five through seven, he grabbed a Basilica Screecher, Balustrade Spy, and a Simic Manipulator. After those three picks, he had to figure his run was out, so imagine his surprise at seeing an eighth pick Wight of Precinct Six. He actually laughed out loud at the turn of events.
Once all was said and done, Black had assembled a very good Dimir deck, touching white for a Treasury Thrull and a pair of Executioner's Swings. He had a plethora of removal, as he likes, and wasn't shy about his preference for committing to it early.
"There's no world in which Shahar Shenhar takes that Executioner's Swing third pick. Actually no world," he laughed, looking at his removal. Shenhar had earlier given Black a little ribbing about his love for the card. "I've had a four Grisly Spectacle deck and a four Executioner's Swing deck, and I honestly believe that the Swing deck was better. It kills all of the same cards, and the cost allows you to still cast spells and develop your board. That said, I think the two-and-two approach that I have here might just be the best."
One other thing that Black waxed intellectual on was the importance of his defensive creatures.
"Sage's Row Denizen is everything that you want in this deck. It's not as good as it could be in a deck that was actually trying to mill opponents out as a major victory condition, but it still has a great deal of merit. The fact that it's a 2/3 for three is very relevant against the faster decks in the format, and it works well with my two evolve creatures. Speaking of which, check out the combo," he smiled, indicating the Agoraphobia and his Simic Manipulator. "Just give something Agoraphobia and steal it for a single counter."
Black ended up sleeving up a deck that he was very happy with. It had a boatload of varied removal, some very powerful cards, and an inevitability that seemed right up his alley. While the plan may have strayed from Orzhov, the same general philosophy applied: kill anything that moves, then kill the things that don't.
Here's how he planned to do that:
Grand Prix Yokohama 2013
Round 15 Feature Match – Min-Soo Kim vs. Sam Black
by Nate Price
"I felt fairly good about my chances of making Top 8 before this last draft," Black told me as he surveyed his cards. "Now that it's over, I actually feel a little better."
This had been a very good weekend thus far for the American pro player. Most well-known for his deckbuilding chops, Black had been both fortunate enough to have an insanely good Sealed Deck and skilled enough to 3-0 his first Draft pod. A proponent of all things Orzhov in Gatecrash Limited, Black unsurprisingly brought a Dimir deck touching a hint of Orzhov to the final three rounds of the day, looking for at least one win to give him a spot in the Top 8. His opponent this round, Min-Soo Kim, is a professional player from South Korea whose Limited chops are so respected that Shuhei Nakamura cited Kim as one of the people who helped him on his way to winning Grand Prix Costa Rica last year.
Kim was forced to mulligan to five cards, yet he managed to find a draw that gave him an early source of damage. His Spire Tracer hit the ground running, quickly setting to work on Black's life total. It was joined soon after by a Metropolis Sprite, another small, but evasive, attacker.
Black spent his early turns working on his mana. Orzhov Guildgate, a Plains, and an Island combined with a Prophetic Prism to enable a third-turn Simic Manipulator. Since all of Kim's creatures were diminutive, the Manipulator could really do some damage. Kim suddenly switched gears, adding Scorchwalker and Warmind Infantry to his side. It was going to be more difficult for Black to steal those creatures, but he was still going to face a tough set of obstacles to actually get in to Black's life.
An Incursion Specialist gave the Manipulator a counter, allowing Black to steal Kim's Metropolis Sprite. Next, a Simic Fluxmage not only allowed Black to steal the Spire Tracer, but it threatened to give Black even more counters to throw at Kim's team.
His team down to solely the Warmind and Scorchwalker, Kim attacked with both. Black fired up an Orzhov Keyrune and declared his blocks. The stolen Spire Tracer traded with the Scorchwalker, killing two of Kim's creatures. His Keyrune stepped in front of the other, keeping his life total safe and his other creatures alive. When he used a Syndicate Enforcer to enable his Manipulator to steal Kim's freshly-cast Crocanura, Black had finally given Kim enough of a reason to concede. Kim's pair of mulligans had put him in quite a hole, and Black's Manipulator was the perfect way to deal with the exact set of cards that Kim had been dealt.
Min-Soo Kim 0 – Sam Black 1
Kim started with a Crocanura on the third turn of the game. Normally a reasonable start against a slower deck like Black's, the Crocanura looked like it could become a liability as Black made a Simic Manipulator on his turn. Kim needed to immediately evolve his Crocanura, and his Ghor-Clan Rampager was the perfect way to do so. It gave him two creatures that would be difficult for Black to steal. Black put himself a little behind the evolution race by merely casting an Orzhov Keyrune, but he was able to follow that with a Syndicate Enforcer on the following turn to evolve the Manipulator for the first time.
Kim attacked with his creatures. Black didn't even flinch when taking the six damage, dropping to 12. After combat, Black dropped an Executioner's Swing on the Rampager, getting rid of Kim's best threat. Over the next couple of turns, Kim replaced his creatures with new ones, evolving his Croconura once more. Frilled Occulus and Adaptive Snapjaw hit the table in that order, giving Kim two more good threats. Still, Black was able to hold the ground with his Keyrune. He was even able to get one step ahead when he used a Soul's Ransom to take Kim's Crocanura, forcing him to discard his hand to get it back.
Kim swung with all of his team except the Snapjaw. Black put his Enforcer in front of the Occulus, daring him to pump it and give him a window to steal it with his Manipulator. He blocked the 3/5 Crocanura with his Keyrune. Kim thought before frowning and putting his Occulus into the graveyard. It appeared that he had overlooked the interaction with Manipulator before attacking, that or expected Black to respect bloodrush.
With the board now mostly under control, Black began to really take over. A Simic Fluxmage gave him a second source of counters and a Sage's Row Denizen triggered both of his evolve creatures. He was able to get rid of all of his counters to steal the Crocanura, giving himself two more free counters. Then came the attacks. Kim was depleted, left only with an Adaptive Snapjaw. Black's Enforcer began swinging for three a turn, adding to the extort clock that Kim was under. Down to 11, Kim was facing a seemingly impossible situation. Two more turns went by as Black slowly extorted the final points of life away.
Min-Soo Kim 0 – Sam Black 2
Round 17 – Roundup
by Ben Swartz
Nerves always run high going into the last round of swiss at Grand Prix; every match at the top tables is win-and-in. I caught up with two matches, Shintarou Ishimura vs. Akiyoshi Suzuki and Makahito Mihara vs. Takashi Akiyama, to see who would be Grand Prix Yokohama top eight competitors.
Shintarou Ishimura vs Akiyoshi Suzuki
Pro Tour Paris Competitor, Shintarou Ishimura, came to the table with a Borzhov concoction, while up-and-comer Akiyoshi Suzuki came to battle with a Simic deck.
Game one started with aggressive starts from both sides. Suzuki offered the trade of two of his three creatures and Ishimura accepted. On Ishimura's following turn, he drew and cast a Firemane Avenger. Without the necessary three creatures, however, Ishimura was unable to activate the angel's Battalion ability. After a few turns of attacking for three with the Firemane Avenger, Suzuki used Rapid Hybridization to turn it into a frog lizard.
Without his bomb, Ishimura was on the backfoot. A few turns later Suzuki used Zhur-Taa Swine's bloodrush ability to finish off Ishimura.
Akiyoshi Suzuki 1 - 0 Shintarou Ishimura
Game two was lightning fast. Ishimura had Basilica Screecher into Court Street Denizen into Firemane Avenger. While Akiyoshi did his best to mount a defense, the powerful angel evened it up for Ishimura.
Akiyoshi Suzuki 1 - 1 Shintarou Ishimura
Game three saw another quick start for Ishimura. He began with a turn two Basilica Screecher and a turn three of Syndic of Tithes. Suzuki traded his Slaughterhorn for for Ishimura's Syndic of Tithes before casting a Zameck Guildmage.
The guildmage was only on the battlefield for a short while before Ishimura used a Devour Flesh to get rid of it. Ishimura added to his army with a Kingpin's Pet and continued Extorting his opponent. All that Suzuki could muster up was a lone Ember Beast, which, alone, was essentially a blank card. After a few attacks from Ishimura, he used Mugging and Extort to finish Suzuki off.
Shintarou Ishimura defeats Akiyoshi Suzuki 2-1!
Makahito Mihara vs Takashi Akiyama
Two-thousand and six World Champion, Makahito Mihara, is no stranger to fighting for his life late in Japanese Grand Prix. His opponent, Takashi Akiyama, is not without high level tournament success himself, making the top eight of Grand Prix Yokohama in 2005 while also being a professional video game player.
Play started on turn two with a Daring Skyjek from Makahito Mihara. It met its fate quickly with a Mugging from Akiyama, but Mihara had backup in the form of Skyknight Legionnaire.
Play continued with the board stalled for a little while until Mihara cast a Luminate Primordial. The Luminate Primordial went to work on Akiyama's life total until he finally decided to use Burst of Strength to double block and take down the avatar. Out of action, Mihara sat there helplessly as Akiyama attacked Mihara to death
Takashi Akiyama 1 - 0 Makahito Mihara
Game two started and ended differently for Mihara. While Akiyama stalled on lands without the ability to cast anything, Mihara had Assemble the Legion on turn four. As Akiyama discarded turn after turn, Mihara's army grew beyond what Akiyama could deal with.
Takashi Akiyama 1 - 1 Makahito Mihara
It all came down to the final game. The winner would move on to top eight while the loser would have to end his tournament early. Akiyama started the action quickly with a turn two Disciple of the Old Ways, a turn three Crocanura and a turn four Ember Beast. Mihara, sitting at 16 could only come up with a single token from his turn four Assemble the Legion.
But, before Mihara could start generating tons of tokens, Akiyama continued the beats dropping Mihara down to seven.
With Assemble the Legion creating two tokens on Mihara's turn and a freshly minted Zairichi Tiger, it looked like he could survive an attack from Akiyama's three attackers, but, Akiyama had another plan. Akiyama used a Pit Fight to take out one token and a pair of Muggings to deal with the other token and the Zairichi Tiger.
With no blockers Akiyama triumphantly attacked for exactly seven points of damage, seemingly for the win. But, Mihara's last card in hand was Beckon Apparition. He used it to block the Ember Beast and barely survive the attack. For the following six turns, Assemble the Legion amassed an army for Mihara that, paired with a pair of Massive Raids,won the match sent him to top eight.
Makahito Mihara defeats Takashi Akiyama 2-0!