Yuuya Watanabe could only laugh as I asked which one of them would win. "He has a good deck, it's a bad match-up," was all he could manage, referring to Kelvin Chew's aggressive Infect deck. Chew smiled, and admitted, "It's more 50/50".
Watanabe most feared Inkmoth Nexus from Chew, while Chew was not looking forward to facing Liliana of the Veil. Watanabe agreed that she would be his best asset.
Kelvin Chew and Yuuya Watanabe get settled into what is not a favorable matchup for the Player of the Year... at least for the first game.
Chew won the die roll, and summoned Noble Hierarch into an Ichorclaw Myr and an Inkmoth Nexus. Watanabe summoned a turn one Deathrite Shaman with a Blackcleave Cliffs, and attacked with it on turn two, playing a Treetop Village.
Serum Visions sent a Glistener Elf to the bottom of Chew's deck, and left a Gitaxian Probe on top. Sleight of Hand gave him the Probe, and sent back a land. The Myr skittered over to see Watanabe, and with the help of the Hierarch, bit Watanabe for two poison. Watanabe dismissed the bite with a shrug, certain it would clear up in no time.
Watanabe drew for the turn, and folded his arms (probably trying to hide the bite mark, which was beginning to look like it might be infected). Leaning over the table to study Chew's board, he finally played a second Treetop Village, and passed back the turn with his Shaman untapped (but both graveyards empty), the Cliffs and a Village untapped.
Chew cracked the Catacombs, and then a Misty Rainforest to fetch a pair of Forests. He then cast Rancor on the Ichorclaw Myr. Watanabe exhaled noisily, and began running some numbers, tapping rhythmically on the table as he explored each branch of his decision tree. He responded by feeding a land in Chew's graveyard to his Shaman to cast Victim of Night on the Myr. Chew kicked a Vines of Vastwood in the Myr's direction, and Watanabe calmly scooped up his cards.
Chew's early attacks were poisonous and plentiful.
Kelvin Chew 1, Yuuya Watanabe 0
I asked Chew if he thought his chances were better or worse after sideboarding: "Worse, he has much more removal now," he admitted, looking across the table at the Player of the Year. I couldn't help but notice Watanabe frowning at the Myr's bite mark on the back of his hand. It looked pretty nasty. Perhaps it was worse than he thought?
Chew sided out 2 Rancor, 2 Ichorclaw Myr, 1 Serum Visions, and 1 Might of Old Krosa, bringing in 4 Spell Pierce, and 2 Dismember.
Watanabe sent all of his Bloodbraid Elves and Kitchen Finks to the bench in favor of 2 Olivia Voldaren, 2 Pyroclasm, 2 Ancient Grudge, and 1 Abrupt Decay.
Chew again started the game with a Noble Hierarch, while Watanabe summoned a Dark Confidant. Normally a powerful, if painful addition to the team, the Confidant would be all upside in this match, the cards he would feed Watanabe, mere empty calories.
Gitaxian Probe from Chew revealed Olivia, two Victim of Night, Lightning Bolt, and an Overgrown Tomb. He then cast Serum Visions, summoned a Glistener Elf, and played an Inkmoth Nexus.
The Confidant fed Watanabe a Thoughtseize, and he drew a Stomping Ground. He played the Tomb untapped, falling to 16, and attacked Chew down to 14. He then main-phased a Victim of Night on the Glistener Elf, and Lightning Bolted the Hierarch.
Watanabe remains composed as he lets his sideboard increase his chances of fighting off infection.
Chew, now with only a Breeding Pool and the Nexus in play, played and used a Misty Rainforest to fetch a Forest. He attacked with the Nexus, and Groundswell'd it to give Watanabe five poison. Watanabe resisted the temptation to scratch the wound on the back of his hand, as it began to itch.
Watanabe attacked Chew down to 11, and cracked a Marsh Flats to find a Swamp. After some thought, and a sigh, he tapped out to play Olivia. Chew animated his Nexus, cast Might of Old Krosa, and attacked. Watanabe nodded, and Olivia dutifully stepped in front to keep Watanabe alive.
Watanabe attacked Chew down to 9, and cast Thoughtseize, taking a Glistener Elf, and leaving a Groundswell, a Might of Old Krosa, and a Slight of Hand. He passed back the turn with Tomb, Cliffs, Crypt, and a Verdant Catacombs untapped.
Chew cast Sleight of Hand, turning away a Blighted Agent, and keeping a second Sleight of Hand. He then paid 4 life to Dismember the Confidant, before passing back the turn with a single Forest untapped.
Watanabe fetched a Swamp at the end of Chew's turn, and played another Cliffs.
Chew again cast Sleight of Hand, keeping a Forest (and not playing it) and sending a Groundswell to the bottom. Watanabe played a Stomping Ground, and passed. Chew cast a third Sleight of Hand, finding a Spell Pierce, which wouldn't do him much good in the face of Watanabe's seven lands, and again passed, not willing to risk his Nexus just yet.
Watanabe summoned a Deathrite Shaman, which forced Chew's hand. He had finally drawn a second Nexus, and now had two Spell Pierces, but would have to drop to 4 life if he wanted a second blue mana. He awoke the Nexus, and attacked, casting Groundswell. Watanabe responded with an Ancient Grudge, before untapping and playing another Shaman, which was enough to convince Chew he was dead, and they moved to game 3.
Kelvin Chew 1, Yuuya Watanabe 1
Chew adjusted his sideboard a little, bringing the Visions and Might back in, and taking out his last Rancor, and one of the Spell Pierces. Watanabe was content with his changes, but was still eyeing the wound on his hand. He'd at least stopped trying to scratch it, for now.
Chew played an untapped Breeding Pool, and for the third game in a row, summoned a Noble Hierarch. Watanabe went straight for the hand with an Inquisition of Kozilek, taking a Slight of Hand, and leaving Spell Pierce, Apostle's Blessing, Vines of Vastwood, and a Groundswell. Note that there was no second land, and no infect creatures.
Chew drew and Gitaxian Probed Watanabe, seeing Liliana of the Veil, 2 Tarmogoyf, Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, and a Misty Rainforest. He drew a Might of Old Krosa off the Probe, and attacked for 1 actual, honest to goodness damage with his Hierarch.
Unsurprisingly, Watanabe played his Confidant, having drawn an Overgrown Tomb. Chew cast Serum Vision, and passed back the turn with his Hierarch untapped.
The Confidant, looking furtively to the left and right, sided over to Watanabe and slipped him a Misty Rainforest, before attacking Chew for 2, dropping him to 14. Watanabe then cast Thoughtseize, seeing the Might for the first time, and a brand new Noble Hierarch. Watanabe gave this one some serious thought, perhaps distracted by the nagging thought that he should maybe get a doctor to look at that Myr bite. He finally threw out the Might of Old Krosa, and fell to 12 to fetch out a Stomping Ground, summoning a Tarmogoyf.
Battling through infect can be difficult. One wrong calculation, and you can end up on the wrong side of a lethal poison strike.
Chew drew an Inkmoth Nexus, and summoned his second Hierarch, leaving Nexus along with Breeding Pool open to play either his Groundswell or Spell Pierce.
Watanabe attacked for 5, knocking Chew to 9, before playing a Twilight Mire and casting Pyroclasm with two mana open. Chew considered his options, before saving one Hierarch with the Blessing, falling to 7, and the other with the Groundswell. Sadly, Watanabe's Confidant was not so lucky. He rounded out his turn with the second Tarmogoyf, now both 4/5.
Chew untapped with 2 Hierarchs, a Nexus, and a Breeding Pool. He was on 7 life to Watanabe's 12 and no Poison. He activated his Nexus, and cast Might of Old Krosa, attacking Watanabe for seven poison, leaving only a single Hierarch untapped.
Watanabe winced as he played a fifth land. His dance with the Nexus left him feeling light-headed, the infection was spreading. He summoned Liliana of the Veil, and directed Chew to sacrifice a creature. He then attacked with the 'Goyf's, as the remaining Hierarch lept in the way, Chew falling to 3 life. Watanabe had the Lightning Bolt to finish it.
Kelvin Chew 1, Yuuya Watanabe 2
Chew brought back in a Rancor for one of the Spell Pierces, while Watanabe noticed his arm was beginning to go numb. He reached into his backpack for a band-aid, and gently peeled it over the wound.
Both players had to mulligan as they got started on game four. Chew found himself an Inkmoth Nexus with some Sleight of Hand, while Watanabe summoned a Dark Confidant.
Chew animated his nexus on turn three, and played a Rancor on it, attacking Watanabe for three poison. The Japanese player stifled a sneeze. Watanabe attacked back for two, and played a second Treetop Village, leaving open a Blackcleave Cliffs and a Treetop Village. Chew played a fourth land, and animated his Nexus again. He attacked, and played Groundswell. Watanabe responded with an Ancient Grudge, but Chew protected it with an Apostle's Blessing. Watanabe went up to eight poison, shivering involuntarily.
"Judge!" he called, "Is it really cold in here all of a sudden?" The judge could only shake his head and motion them to play on.
Watanabe attacked again, and cast Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing Blighted Agent, Rancor, and another Blessing. He discarded the Blessing, and passed back the turn with his two Villages untapped, ready to flashback his Ancient Grudge.
Chew untapped and summoned his Agent, and gave it the Rancor. Watanabe attacked for 2, before casting Pyroclasm, cleaning out the Agent and his own Confidant. Watanabe passed back the turn with a Treetop Village and a Misty Rainforest untapped.
Chew deliberates on his best method of infecting his Jund opponent.
Chew's hand was another Agent and the Rancor. His draw step gave him a third Agent. He cast one and passed it back. Watanabe fetched himself an Overgrown Tomb, and bowed his head as he drew his card for the turn. He played a Verdant Catacombs, and made the Agent a Victim of Night, before summoning a 4/5 Tarmogoyf, leaving only his Catacombs untapped.
Chew drew a Misty Rainforest, and summoned his third Agent.
Watanabe had a bunch of cards in his hand that he was holding close to his chest in an effort to keep warm. Before attacking, he Thoughtseize'd the Rancor out of Chew's hand (leaving the Rainforest) and attacked Chew for 5, knocking him down to 6 life. He then summoned a second Tarmogoyf, and passed back the turn with a Cliffs and the catacombs untapped.
Chew dejectedly flipped over his next card, as if expecting a blank, and saw a Groundswell. He pointed it at his Agent, and looked to Watanabe for a response. Watanabe could only swipe up his cards, as a rattling cough wracked his body. He was starting to look pale.
Kelvin Chew 2, Yuuya Watanabe 2
The cameras rolled in for the deciding game, as the players waited patiently for the booth to finish analyzing David Ochoa's win over Willy Edel on one of the neighboring tables.
Chew began the deciding game with a turn one Glistener Elf, but Watanabe fell to 17 to fetch a Blood Crypt, and Lightning Bolt'd it at the end of his turn. Watanabe then fell to 15 to summon a Dark Confidant. Chew played a Verdant Catacombs on his second turn, and passed.
Watanabe attacked Chew to 18 after the Confidant was kind enough to give him a land. He played a Treetop Village, and passed back the turn with Crypt and Tomb open.
Chew fetched a Breeding Pool at the end of turn, and untapped and cast Sleight of Hand. He then played another Misty Rainforest and passed back.
Watanabe fell to 13 in his upkeep, and attacked Chew to 15. He summoned a second Dark Confidant, and played a tapped Blackcleave Cliffs, leaving only the Crypt untapped.
Chew fetched another Pool, putting himself to 14, and on his turn, finally played the Inkmoth nexus he'd been holding back. He then summoned a Blighted Agent, and passed it to Watanabe, who was clenching his teeth to try and stop them chattering.
The Confidants gave him a Thoughtseize and a land. Watanabe first cast an Inquisition of Kozilek, taking a Sleight of Hand from Chew, leaving him another, an Apostle's Blessing, a back-up Inkmoth Nexus, and a Spell Pierce. He then Thoughtseize'd the second Sleight of hand, putting himself to 9 life, before attacking Chew down to 10. Watanabe ended the turn with Cliffs, Crypt, and Treetop open.
Chew cast Gitaxian Probe, which revealed two Ancient Grudge, a Thoughtseize, a Forest, and a Treetop Village. Unable to depend on his Nexus's now, Chew was going to have to ride that Agent to victory, and as it stood, Watanabe had him on a much faster clock, if it didn't kill him first, of course.
The Agent attacked for one poison, and Chew played his second Nexus, and passed back the turn. With two untapped copies of Inkmoth Nexus, a Forest, and a Breeding Pool in play, with a Spell Pierce, an Apostle's blessing, and one mystery card in hand.
The Confidants delivered Watanabe a Liliana of the Veil, putting him down to 6, and another land. Watanabe cast Liliana with three untapped lands available. Chew cast Spell Pierce, and Watanabe chose not to pay, instead awakening his Treetop Village and attacking Chew for 7.
On 9 life, Chew considered his options. He threw one of the Nexus's in front of the Village to soak up one damage. The Village emitted a tiny cough after combat, and looked a little shorter. Watanabe wondered if he was beginning to hallucinate.
Chew untapped and cast Serum Visions. He played a Forest, and passed back the turn.
The first Confidant delivered a Deathrite Shaman dropping Watanabe to 5, and the second a Tarmogoyf, putting him to 3. Watanabe attacked with his two Confidants, leaving his now 2/2 Treetop Village at home. Chew animated his last Nexus, and offered it up as a trade for one of the Confidants. Watanabe was happy to let one of them go. Watanabe Thoughtseize'd a Blessing, leaving another, falling to 1 life. He looked about ready to collapse, summoning the Shaman and the Tarmogoyf.
Chew cast Serum Visions, but was drawing dead, as Watanabe could just eat one of the instants or sorceries in either players graveyard in response to the Confidant trigger during his upkeep, to finish off Chew.
Watanabe narrowly escapes a poisonous finale, as he battles his way to the Semifinals.
As Chew scooped up his cards, a couple of judges wrapped a blanket around Watanabe's shoulders and gently led him away from the feature match area.
It looks like they got to him just in time, folks, he's going to be okay. After a bit of lunch, he should be well enough to face David Ochoa in the semifinals.
Kelvin Chew 2, Yuuya Watanabe 3
Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8, Modern
Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Top 8, Modern