Round 7 Feature Match: Royce Chai vs. Kouichirou Maki

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Once upon a time Kouichirou Maki won the Hong Kong Open in 1997. He won a car for his efforts. Not many players from that era can recall exactly what it was but they seemed to think it was a Model T Ford. He was also a Magic Invitationlist and has made the Top 8 of Japanese Nationals. Lately he has been occupied with his duties as the Editor-in-Chief of Japanese Sideboard. He must be paying attention to his Wise Words since he found himself at 6-0.

His opponent Royce Chai was from Singapore and was also 6-0 although without the benefit of three byes like his opponent--he opnly had two. Royce has two GP Top 8's under his belt and has finished in the Top 16 at Worlds. He also had Awe Strioke and Soul Nova in his sideboard despite white being one of his base colors.

Kouichirou explained that they would be using Pro Tour rules for the Feature Match area. The winner of the die roll would decide whether to play or draw and the loser would determine the direction of the playmat. Royce won the roll and when he decided to play Maki seemed very happy--both to be drawing and to turn around the playmat.

Game One

"A mulligan is an opportunity."

Gary Wise claims that is one of the three smartest things he has ever heard someone say in regard to Magic. Dirk Baberowski uttered those fateful words and game one of this match exemplified that statement perfectly. Royce had a lone land and a pair of Myr on the play--isn't that always the hand? He also had a Spikeshot Goblin and a Bladewarden in grip. He slumped for a moment and then resolved to run it with a confident, "Okay." His opponent was not as confident in his opening seven and sent them back with a sigh. A peek at the top of his deck showed him he was correct. His next six cards were met with a nod of approval.

Royce opened with a Plains and casually tapped his deck for more land but it was not forthcoming. Maki had the second land and a Myr. Royce played an AEther Spellbomb and clucked his tongue at his decision not to mulligan. Maki made a Skyhunter Patrol on the next turn while Royce's next turn was cycling his Spellbomb and still not finding land number two. He discarded a Grunt and shook his head in frustration.

Maki did let the pressure up and played a Tel-Jilad Exile. Royce never found a second land and scooped it up.

Royce - 0 Kouichirou - 1

Game Two

Kouichirou sided in his blue and took out his green for this game. Out went Deconstruct, One Dozen Eyes, Tel-Jilad Exile and Fangren Hunter and in came a pair of Somber Hoverguards, Thoughtcast and Thirst for Knowledge. His opponent's willingness to keep a one-land hand indicated a fast deck and Kouichirou's own deck was proving to be slow with the green. He felt there was more beatdown and more card drawing with his blue.

Royce's entire body was clenched as he drew his opening hand. When he found lands within the first cards drawn he exhaled and announced he would be keeping. Maki kept as well. Royce played a Copper Myr on turn two and it was met by a Leonin Den-Guard from Maki. Royce had no third land and was visibly frustrated by his deck's lack of cooperation. He played a Soldier Replica and passed the turn.

Kouichirou played a Skyhunter Cub and passed the turn awaiting equipment for his mounting army. Royce found land number three on his next turn but passed without a play. Maki had no play of his own and Royce attempted a Needlbug EOT. Maki responded with a Thirst for Knowledge but let it resolve discarding a Frogmite.

Royce had yet another land on top of his library and had five mana available on his next turn. Needlebug was sent into the red zone and Maki put his 1/3 in the way. They bounced and Royce fortified with a Myr Enforcer. Kouichirou Shattered the Enforcer and played a Bonesplitter which his Den-Guard scooped up and scrambled to the red zone with. Royce put his Soldier Replica in the way and sacrificed it with damage on the stack to kill the 4/4. Needlebug attacked for some damage and an Ogre Leadfoot joined Royce's team. Kouichirou played a Somber Hoverguard--paying almost full price. The one mana he saved with the Bonesplitter allowed him to equip his Skycub and attack for five.

Royce sent five damage into the red zone and Detonated the Bonesplitter during his second main phase. On Kouichirou's turn he played another Needlebug and ambushed the naked cub in the red zone. Kouichirou still got in for three and followed it with a full price Hoverguard.

Another five from Royce dropped Kouichirou to seven but the Singaporean was out of gas. He fell to six on Kouichirou's next attack and was faced with getting through a freshly cast MegAtog. Failing that he had to have something for the pair of 3/2 fliers that would finish him off next turn. He sent his two creatures into the red zone and his Leadfoot was eaten by the Tog.

On Kouichirou's turn the Japanese player cast Golem Skin Gauntlets and attacked with everyone. The Myr blocked the Tog and Kouichirou sacrificed his equipment. Royce had topdecked an Awe Strike and used it on the Tog essentially fogging the combatants. He sent his Needlebug and Myr into combat and Kouichirou Shattered the 2/2--it didn't matter all Royce had was a Talisman.

Royce - 0 Kouichirou - 2

After the match, Royce stood by his decision in game one. A single land anywhere in the first couple of turns would have jumpstarted his hand.

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