In almost every major tournament, making the Top 8 only to come up short isn’t a huge deal. Sure, it’s disappointing to come so close to winning, but you’ll still come home with a sizeable check and the assurance of a job well done. For Hisaya Tanaka and Tooru Maegawa, however, there is much more on the line. Aside from the fact that this match is essentially for a $2000 ante (the winner gets $5000 while the loser receives $3000), a spot on the Japanese National Team also hangs in the balance. Both players have qualified for Worlds by making it this far, but only the winner actually gets to represent Japan in the team competition.
What may even be more appropriate is the fact that this match features the two decks in the Top 8 that have grabbed the most attention. Hisaya Tanaka is playing a Goblin deck that has land destruction to slow down the environment’s more mana intensive decks, while Tooru Maegawa’s Beast deck is sure to get plenty of questions and bewilderment from the Magic community following this tournament. Leery Fogbeast? Aether Charge? Wirewood Savage? The deck’s built in combo capability may seem odd, but it’s already paid dividends for Maegawa. In the Quarterfinals, he was in situations that other Beast decks would not have been able to escape against Nao Atsuta’s green/red deck. Every time it seemed that Maegawa was about to be put away, Verdant Succession would gain him a ton of life, cards or damage, and the game would be over in the blink of an eye.
Without a doubt, this is not a good matchup for Tanaka. Ravenous Baloths are always bad news for mono-red, and if Contested Cliffs gets going, things become brutal. Luckily for Tanaka, he has land destruction to kill the creature killing land, but he’ll need to deal with the problem in time before his Goblin army is decimated. Also, Tanaka has no answer to Worship other than killing all of Maegawa’s creatures, which is extremely difficult to pull off.
Maegawa opened with Birds of Paradise, and Tanaka had Goblin Sledder. Anurid Brushhopper gave Maegawa a great defensive creature on turn two, and Tanaka played Sparksmith. Contested Cliffs let the Brushhopper fight and kill it, and Tanaka destroyed the potentially devastating land with Stone Rain. Firebolt killed the Birds to stunt Maegawa’s mana development a little more, and Tanaka played a second Sledder along with Goblin Taskmaster. Maegawa untapped, played another Contested Cliffs, and used it to kill the Taskmaster. Once again, Tanaka dealt with it, this time using Pillage. This was obviously good for Tanaka since his deck would have a hard time winning while the Cliffs was up and running, but he was still getting 2-for-1’ed on card advantage with each exchange. Living Wish gave Maegawa his third Contested Cliffs of the game, and Tanaka’s faced-down Blistering Firecat headed right for the graveyard. Firebolt and Barbarian Ring killed the Brushhopper, but Maegawa summoned Gurzigost. That was enough to get Tanaka to concede.
Tanaka- 0 Maegawa- 1
Tanaka led with a paid of Taskmasters, and Maegawa used Living Wish to find Ravenous Baloth. Pillage took out Maegawa’s forest, and he used another Wish, this time getting Contested Cliffs. The Taskmasters continued to attack and were joined by Goblin Sharpshooter. Maegawa summoned a Brushhopper to slow down the beats a little, and Tanaka attacked with both Taskmasters yet again. The Brushhopper blocked one, and it headed to the graveyard, allowing Tanaka to get a Sharpshooter activation out of it. He played another Taskmaster, and Maegawa got up to four land, and finally played the Baloth. Tanaka brought out Grim Lavamancer, and Maegawa opted to stay back on Contested Cliffs rather than develop his board position, so that he could take out Tanaka’s creatures. On end step, the Cliffs was activated, getting the Sharpshooter and Brushhopper to fight- in response, Tanaka shot it for three damage, which caused Maegawa to respond by sending the Brushhopper away, fizzling the Cliffs’ effect. He untapped and used it right away to deal with the Sharpshooter, and summoned a second Brushhopper.
This may have been a mistake, since it left the door wide open for Tanaka to push through with his Firecat. Maegawa double blocked it with his Brushhoppers and gained plenty of life, but it would have been much more efficient to kill it right away with the Cliffs and not lose that much ground- keeping the Sharpshooter alive for one more turn wouldn’t have been such a big deal. It didn’t really matter, as Maegawa played Leery Fogbeast and a second Ravenous Baloth, which was plenty to take the second game.
Tanaka- 0 Maegawa- 2
Maegawa mulliganed down to five. Tanaka sensed he could at least win this game, and confidently played Grim Lavamancer. Maegawa had a Birds, which was quickly Firebolted. Stone Rain killed a forest, and Tanaka played a face-down Firecat. Maegawa’s Leery Fogbeast was Firebolted to clear the way for an attack, and Maegawa played Verdant Succession. Tanaka played yet another face-down Firecat, and Maegawa conceded, facing down a huge attack on the following turn that he couldn’t survive.
Tanaka- 1 Maegawa- 2
Maegawa started with Wild Growth, and Tanaka had a Taskmaster. Unfortunately for Tanaka, both his lands were Barbarian Rings. The fast draw continued as a Lavamancer and Sledder joined the team, but a Brushhopper slowed everything down. Stone Rain destroyed a Cliffs to at least keep the game alive, and Pillage destroyed another land. Still, the lone Brushhopper was holding back Tanaka’s side. With all this time available, Maegawa had the opportunity to set up his combo, getting Verdant Succession into play. Tanaka realized things were about to get very bad, so he attacked with his whole team, losing a Goblin in the process. He added some more pressure with a face down Firecat, but Maegawa untapped and summoned Ravenous Baloth to get all the life he could ever want. The Brushhopper attacked to deal three damage, was sacrificed to the Baloth to gain four life, and a new one arrived untapped and ready for defense. Gurzigost showed up soon after, and Tanaka conceded.
Tanaka- 1 Maegawa- 3
2003 Japan Nationals Standard deck (8th in Swiss)
2003 Japan Nationals Standard deck (7th in Swiss)