Everyone knows Jin Okamoto, the Last Emperor of Asia. After coming so close to a Pro Tour Top 8 at both Worlds 2001 and Pro Tour – San Diego 2002, he's become the safe money to be the next Japanese player to crack into the Promised Land. Of course, at Grand Prix he's always in danger of just running away with the whole thing. This time around Okamoto is banking his hopes on Angry Hermit Part II, the Dutch reanimation monstrosity. He's in for a tough match against Grand Prix – Sapporo Champion Shinichi Kumagai, running blue-green madness, the same deck that served him so well at that Block Constructed Grand Prix.
Kumagai started with Basking Rootwalla, and went straight on to Wild Mongrel. Okamoto had led with Underground River, pretending to be Psychatog, but the jig was up the moment he Entombed. After careful consideration he went for Verdant Force. He untapped and Exhumed. Kumagai pitched Arrogant Wurm to get it into play early.
He had no bounce, though, so the pace of the game slowed while Okamoto accumulated tokens. Kumagai played Frantic Search, getting another Rootwalla into play and a Deep Analysis into the graveyard. He flashed back the Analysis. Okamoto could do little more than wait. Kumagai untapped and struck. Intuition offered Wonder, Roar of the Wurm and Deep Analysis. Okamoto handed him the Wonder. He pitched it to his Mongrel and swung in with all but his Rootwalla. Okamoto was ready with Krosan Reclamation. His Force ate the Arrogant Wurm, and a token took down the Rootwalla.
Now Okamoto could really upend Kumagai. Verdant Force bashed for seven, and Kumagai let it through. Then he hit himself with Cabal Therapy, sending Symbiotic Wurm to the graveyard. Exhume from hand brought it into play, along with Kumagai's Arrogant Wurm. He flashed back his Therapy to shred his Wurm, but did not hit. It mattered very little. Kumagai was at ten and facing a horde of 1/1's.
Okamoto 1 – Kumagai 0
Okamoto's opening grip was dicey, but he chose to keep. A second land off the top validated his decision, enabling a first-turn Hermit Druid
. Kumagai's island had nothing to say about it. He untapped and made Basking Rootwalla
, not the most threatening of openers.
Okamoto took it slow. He activated his Druid, finding the lone mountain after just four cards. He put it into play and handed it back. Kumagai hit for one and had nothing further. Okamoto Tutored up Cabal Therapy. He untapped and played it. Kumagai played Frantic Search in response, pitching more useless spells. Okamoto guessed Circular Logic and hit, seeing no more counters, just another Search.
He activated his Druid and pitched his library into the graveyard. He flashed back the Therapy, and Kumagai Searched again. However, he chose to tap out to madness an Arrogant Wurm instead of bluffing the Circular Logic. Okamoto was free to simply pick Daze, of which there was one, then Exhume for the win.
Final Result: Jin Okamoto defeats Shinichi Kumagai 2-0