Round 8 Feature Match: Itaru Ishida vs. Yuusuke Sasaki

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Ishida was once called the best high school player in Japan and has been on the Pro Tour since he was a teenager. He is most well-known for captaining Panzer Hunters into the Top 4 of the Masters three times and winning it once. He made all of the drafting decisions for his teammates and made few if any mistakes along the way. He is one of the most serious competitors on the tour and will rarely crack so much as a smile at a high level event and has a stare that would make Dave Price proud. Ishida is so serious that he is one of the few top Japanese players to not have a nickname. (You could call him Moneybags--Jin Okamoto is the only Japanese player with more lifetime winnings, and he had to almost win Worlds to get that far.)

Yuusuke Sasaki was on the Japanese National team in 2002 and ha s a smattering of Grand Prix Top 8 performances on his resume. He was also fighting for life although his tiebreakers made him more of a darkhorse than Moneybags Ishida. In a rare occurrence for Japanese feature matches, Sasaki was also without a nickname.

Game One

Ishida kept his opening hand as did Sasaki. A turn two Talisman was trumped by a turn two Leonin Skyhunter. Ishida was unfazed and played a turn three Tel-Jilad Exile. His opponent played a Leaden Myr and swung for two. Ishida cracked back for two points and played an Iron Myr.

Sasaki's Ogre Leadfoot kept Ishida's forces at bay while he was free to rule the skies with his airbear. He played another Myr and a Nim Shrieker and passed the turn. Ishida could still not attack but he could use Viridian Shaman to destroy his opponent's only source of black. Sasaki played a Myr Prototype and swung in for four in the air. Ishida played a Mirror Golem and removed the Myr from Sasaki's bin. Sasaki got in for four more damage and played a Spikeshot Goblin. Ishida finally had a creature that could get through in the Mirror Golem but it was too little too late. He bought another turn with a Pearl Shard but there was not help to found during his next draw step.

Ishida - 1 Sasaki - 0

Ishida sided out his Shatter, Longbow and Iron Myr for a Soul Nova, a white producing Myr, and a Battlegrowth. Ishida kept his seven but Sasaki could not and he looked for better cards in his next six. He was happy with those and they were off.

Ishida led off with as Myr and a Battlegear while Sasaki sandwiched a Sun Droplet in the middle. Ishida Deconstructed the annoying card and equipped his Myr to 4/4 status and swung. Sasaki played a Skyhunter Cub and passed the turn. Ishida got in for another four and played a Pearl Shard. Sasaki had a Myr Prototype and sent it back to Ishida who played a Tel-Jilad Exile.

The Battlegear was Shattered in combat and the Myr got eaten by the Prototype. Suddenly the momentum swung toward Sasaki--Ishida had an overabundance of land. A Wormskin Forger made the Exile enormous but both of his creatures were tapped and locked down with Blinding Beam. Sasaki had more than enough mana to pay for his enormous Prototype to attack.

Ishida passed the turn without incident but had the Soul Nova for the Prototype's next swing. He played a Viridian Joiner and it drew a Terror from Ishida before the Soul Nova took out the Prototype. Sasaki began throwing creatures in the way of the 5/6 Exile and made a Nim Shrieker. Ishida played a Transifxer and was able to keep Sasaki's Vault of Whispers tapped to deny him black mana..

After a couple of huge tempo swings, Ishida fought his way to a critical game three.

Ishida - 1 Sasaki - 1

Game three

More sideboarding from Ishida--Battlegrowth became a Titanium Golem. While he was looking for cards to remove he flashed a Glissa and he would certainly like her to show up for the deciding game. He also flipped past Solar Tide. His deck was certainly impressive although for the second round in row during feature matches we found a white player with Soul Nova starting in the board. With such powerful cards it would surely be disappointing for Ishida to miss the cut.

Ishida had the first play with an Auriok Transfixer and Sasaki gave him something to tap with a Leaden Myr. That did not slow Sasaki down and he had a Skyhunter Cub for turn three. Ishida's turn three was Viridian Joiner. The airbear showed up for Sasaki on his turn four.

Ishida did not have a land for turn four and Deconstructed the Myr and used the free mana for Pearl Shard. Sasaki attacked and only got in for two. He played an off color Wizard Replica. Ishida was still out of land but had a Talisman. He made an Exile on the subsequent turn and Sasaki mistakenly attacked his Cub into it. He followed it with a Goblin Dirigible. Ishida was unfazed as he had the Transfixer to tie up the 4/4.

Ishida played a Battlegear. Sasaki had an Arrest for the Transifxer and the momentum swung his way with no way to stop the fliers in sight. Sight was the key word here because Sasaki obviously feared the Soul Nova--and rightfully so. He only sent in his 1/3 and 2/2 and only dealt one once the Shard was activated. Ishida drew and played another Transifxer prompting Sasaki to risk the Nova and Ishida indeed had it. Ishida took three and his opponent played an Ogre Leadfoot and Copper Myr.

Ishida took a turn to put the Battlegear on his elf and prepared to cast Wormskin Forger on the next turn. Meanwhile the 4/5 elf made a sturdy potential blocker. Sasaki had no attacks and sent the turn back to Ishida who whipped out the Wormskin courtesy of the four mana from the elf. He put two counters on the Forger itself and one on the Exile, which he sent toward the red zone. Sasaki took his three although he did not seem to like it very much.

Sasaki had no attacks and sent the turn back to an increasingly in control Ishida. He sent his two tokened-up creatures into combat and Sasaki looked for a way to take down the 4/4 with his three guys. Ishida was content to trade the Forger for the Leadfoot and Myr and sent the turn back after making a Yotian Soldier. Sasaki was running out of guys and could not muster any offense.

Ishida sent in all of his men save the Transfixer. Sasaki had Grab the Reins and threw the equipped Joiner at the Transifixer. Ishida played another Joiner and equipped it earning a chuckle from his foe. Sasaki made a Den-Guard and sent the turn back. Ishida made the same attack as least turn and his opponent took an inventory of his blocking options. He kept coming up short and had to send the Den-Guard in to take one for the team.

Sasaki passed the turn and was faced with the same attackers and one less blocker. he threw his Wizard Replica in the path and was down to just the airbear. He played a Swamp and passed the turn back. He Terrored the Exile and chump blocked the elf. Ishida put out a Titanium Golem. Sasaki reluctantly put down a Spikeshot Goblin for chump blocking duty. He had the Terror for the Elf but he needed a critter to stay alive and much more to have a shot at winning.

Ishida - 2 Sasaki - 1

Winning was only half the battle. Now Ishida was dependant on his tiebreakers to do the rest of the fighting for him. Unfortunately, he was edged out of the last spot by Shuu Komura for the last spot.

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