gphir11

Juza, the Hero in Hiro

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Who said Martin Juza couldn't play Constructed? It took him eighteen rounds, but the Czech superstar finally managed to drop his last opponent and claim the title of Grand Prix Hiroshima 2011 champion!

All weekend long, things seemed perfectly poised for Juza to win the event. He played GW tokens, which was positioned very well against the field. During his bye rounds, he spent his time testing the mirror match with Shuhei Nakamura. In his testing, he learned how the matchup went, knowledge that would serve him well as he played almost exclusively GW and the similar UW decks all weekend. In fact, the only time he played a matchup he didn't feel confident in was his quarterfinals match against WUG Pod. After winning his second game on a mulligan to five, his confidence (and a poor draw from his opponent) carried him through to the finals, eventually beating two more UW decks to bring his weekend total to 6-0 in the matchup.

With the ten points he gets from this win, he is now only two points behind Owen Turtenwald in the Player of the Year race. With just Grand Prix San Diego and Worlds to go, he has poised himself well to push for his first Player of the Year title, edging out the tough Japanese competition surrounding him. He managed to distance himself even more from the Japanese by winning a Japanese individual Constructed Grand Prix. It took eight years for Brian Kibler to do what Alex Shvartsman had done, and it only took Juza one year to repeat that feat. Winning in Japan as a foreigner is an incredibly difficult task, yet Juza managed to do it with dominance.

It was easy to see from the fourth round on that people had been paying attention to the results from Brisbane and around the world, as the metagame had shifted, prepared for a field of UB and green Kessig Wolf Run decks. The inclusion of Mirran Crusader and a speedier, more resilient curve pushed the white-based decks over the top. That, combined with more Ghost Quarters running around, effectively removed Wolf Run decks from the equation, despite a large contingent of players putting their hopes on them.

In the end, it was a well-prepared Martin Juza playing a deck perfectly positioned for the field who took home the title, an essential ten Pro points, and the big check. Congratulations to Martin Juza, the 2011 Grand Prix Hiroshima champion!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Juza, Martin   Juza, Martin, 2-1        
8 Tanaka, Kouichi   Juza, Martin, 2-0
       
4 Satou, Rin   Satou, Rin, 2-0   Juza, Martin, 2-1
5 Tashiro, Kouichi    
       
2 Asahara, Akira   Asahara, Akira, 2-0
7 Obayashi, Naoki   Shiraki, Takahiro, 2-0
       
3 Shiraki, Takahiro   Shiraki, Takahiro, 2-0
6 Onizuka, Hiroshi    

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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

INFORMATION
 1.  Juza, Martin $3,500
 2.  Shiraki, Takahiro $2,300
 3.  Asahara, Akira $1,500
 4.  Satou, Rin $1,500
 5.  Tashiro, Kouichi $1,000
 6.  Onizuka, Hiroshi $1,000
 7.  Obayashi, Naoki $1,000
 8.  Tanaka, Kouichi $1,000
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  • Quarter Final - Naoki Obayashi vs. Akira Asahara

    by Rich Hagon
  • For all the excitement surrounding Wolf Run Green, Green-White Tokens, and the Blue-White Humans decks here at Grand Prix Hiroshima, the two decks featured in this quarter final have a slightly older vintage.

    For Akira Asahara, it's Solar Flare, using Black, Blue, and White spells to control the board, before using the likes of Consecrated Sphinx to take down the long game. For Naoki Obayashi, the plan will be to have no long game, since he's playing Tempered Steel, the artifact-heavy and super-explosive aggro deck, that can leave an opponent begging for mercy as early as turn one. The game might not be over, but it might as well be.

    Memnite. Glint Hawk. Return the Memnite. Memnite.

    That's how the match started for Obayashi after Asahara fell to six cards. Contested War Zone and Mox Opal were next, then Vault Skirge, then the first punishing attack, Asahara at 15. Land number two from Asahara, and back to Obayashi. A second Contested War Zone. Another huge attack, with Vault Skirge, Glint Hawk, and Memnite. Contested War Zone took Asahara down to 8, and Signal Pest ended the turn.

    So here's the thing: Day of Judgment costs four. Asahara had Day of Judgment. He also had three land, because it was turn three. How to survive to reach his board-sweeper? He cast Snapcaster Mage, and then used Oblivion Ring with his three mana to take out Signal Pest. With that gone, he could attack with Snapcaster Mage, which in turn allowed him to steal both Contested War Zones. They are contested, after all.

    In came the team, dropping Asahara from 8 to 4, and returning the Contested War Zones to Obayashi. Now on turn four, Asahara was able to drop land number four. He attacked with his Snapcaster Mage, surely a sign to Obayashi that bad things were on the way. Obayashi nonetheless aimed Dispatch at the Snapcaster, which Asahara duly sent packing. Day of Judgment wiped the board, and phase two began. Could Obayashi mount a second wave, or had Asahara survived the onslaught?

    Naoki Obayashi

    Asahara responded to Memnite with Think Twice, before using an already-held Dissipate to counter the Memnite. With two Contested War Zones, even the smallest threat would be almost the end for Asahara, who remained at 4 life as he tried to maintain his fragile grip on the game.

    Consecrated Sphinx. Yep, that'll maintain a fragile grip on the game.

    Maybe not so fragile.

    Asahara drew two cards when it wasn't his turn (because Consecrated Sphinx is just that good), attacked with it, stole both Contested War Zones, and laid a second Consecrated Sphinx. If you're thinking that Obayashi won this one from here, you probably should test Standard a bit more. Or read this:

    Obayashi 0 - 1 Asahara

    Memnite opened game two, but that was it from Obayashi. Glint Hawk Idol was turn two, as Asahara was being given room to breathe.

    Obayashi cast Spellskite, activating his Glint Hawk Idol, then attacked for three. Vault Skirge completed the turn - three cheers for Phyrexian mana! Asahara laid land number three, and as most aggro players know, three is one less than four, and four is into Day of Judgment territory.

    Obayashi went for Spined Thopter, activating the Glint Hawk Idol once again, and Asahara fell to 12. At end of turn he cast Forbidden Alchemy. Obayashi was presumably hoping for a missing search for Day of Judgment, but it was already safely in Asahara's hand. What wasn't safely in hand, however, was a second white mana source, to go with his Island, Swamp, and Seachrome Coast already in play. Asahara found a second Seachrome Coast, but the drawback was in effect, forcing him to play it tapped.

    Akira Asahara

    Obayashi activate a pair of Inkmoth Nexus, and sent the kitchen sink into the red zone. Asahara fell to 6, and took a couple of poison points for his troubles. Another Forbidden Alchemy saw him dig yet further into his deck. Now he was once again at the end of his allotted time, and needed to pull the trigger on Day of Judgment. What do great players do when they need to do it? They do it, and the board was clear, save for Glint Hawk Idol and the two poisonous lands. These attacked, Asahara now at 4 life and 4 poison.

    Asahara used Ghost Quarter to take out Inkmoth Nexus, then cast Sun Titan. Obayashi attacked once more, and now it was 2 life, and 5 poison. Sun Titan attacked, Asahara fetching back Ghost Quarter, ready to take out the second Inkmoth Nexus. He cast Ratchet Bomb, then Timely Reinforcements (surely one of the best names in Magic flavor ever), and passed back to Obayashi.

    As Obayashi continued to attack, Asahara found himself at 6 life and 6 poison. Glint Hawk joined the board for Obayashi, and he certainly wasn't giving up without a struggle. When Obayashi looked to replay his Mox Opal, he found it countered by Mana Leak. Asahara spent his upkeep putting a first counter onto Ratchet Bomb, and his main phase casting Liliana of the Veil. She fell to one loyalty, forcing Obayashi to sacrifice his Glint Hawk. Sun Titan attacked once more, triggering the return of a second Ratchet Bomb. Surely now there was no way back for the Tempered Steel deck?

    Glint Hawk Idol killed Liliana of the Veil, followed by a Spined Thopter from Obayashi. A glimpse at Asahara's hand revealed Day of Judgment, Day of Judgment, and Day of Judgment. Now that's a seriously angry God. When Sun Titan attacked once more, it was Liliana of the Veil that returned. Obayashi sneaked a longing look at the top of his deck, but there wouldn't be - couldn't be - anything there to halt the tide.

    Naoki Obayashi 0 - 2 Akira Asahara



     
  • Top 8 Deck Lists

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Shiraki, Takahiro
    2011 GP Hiroshima Top 8

    Tashiro, Kouichi
    2011 GP Hiroshima Top 8

    Obayashi, Naoki
    2011 GP Hiroshima Top 8



     
  • Top 8 Player Profiles

    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Name: Akira Asahara
    Age: 29

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    Lately, I like Kyoto the most.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    Top 4 of Worlds, back-to-back The Finals wins, Grand Prix Champion



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 2
    Day 1 Results: 8-0-1
    Day 2 Results: 4-1-1

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    I used Solar Flare, a version designed by Takashi Akiyama. I wanted to used it out of respect for The Chief.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    UB Control

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    I don't plan to.

    Name:Naoki Obayashi
    Age: 25

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    Okayama, at Game Shop WIZZ and Book Island Mizushima

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    None



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 3
    Day 1 Results: 7-2
    Day 2 Results: 5-0-1

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    I used a Tempered Steel deck I built myself. Since it's not as popular as it used to be most people wouldn't expect it, and it's good against Wolf Run, UB, and WG decks, which I expected to see a lot of.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    Mono red

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    I don't think so.

    Name: Takahiro Shiraki
    Age: 39

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    I'm from Iwakuni City in Yamaguchi, although I usually play at Yellow Submarine Hiroshima.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    The Finals 97, Nationals 2001



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 0
    Day 1 Results: 8-1
    Day 2 Results: 4-0-2

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    I played a WU beatdown deck influenced by the deck Batutinla has used on Magic Online. I chose it because I fell in love with Geist of Saint Traft as soon as I saw it in the Innistrad previews, and was thinking about a deck to use in a deck from before the set came out

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    I don't really know, but probably WG beatdown. It's a similar deck, but it's faster and bigger. My only loss this weekend so far was to one of those.

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    I plan to. I've won a Regional and gone to Tokyo once before, and I have a lot of good memories from that trip, so I'd like to do it again if I can.

    Name: Martin Juza
    Age: 24

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    Plzen in the Czech Republic. I mostly play on Magic Online, but not as much as people think.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    I won a coin flip against Owen Turtenwald.



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 3
    Day 1 Results: 9-0
    Day 2 Results: 3-1- and ID x 2

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    The shell of the deck is from the Australian guys (Dan Unwin, tuned for this tournament by Shuhei Nakamura.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    No idea.

    Comment:
    I just want to say I'm very happy for Shuhei getting into the Hall of Fame this year.

    Name: Koichi Tanaka
    Age: 26

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    I'm from Hyogo. I play a lot at Tournament Center Maho Neko, and talk a lot about Magic with my friends over Skype.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    Making Day 2 at Grand Prix Kobe.



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 3
    Day 1 Results: 8-1
    Day 2 Results: 3-2-1

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    I'm using a Birthing Pod deck, that I tuned a lot and seemed to have the golden ratio against other decks.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    Esper.

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    I want to try to win The Limits!

    Name: Hiroshi Onitsuka
    Age: 24

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    I'm from Fukuoka, and usually play at the Fukuoka Tenjin Yellow Submarine.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    None.



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 0
    Day 1 Results: 8-1
    Day 2 Results: 4-1-1

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    WU Humans, because I thought Moorland Haunt was strong along with Mirran Crusader.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    WG tokens. I feel nauseous every time I see a Gavony Township.

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    Yes. Mr. Hayashi, thank you for running a Special Regional Tournament!

    Name: Koichi Tashiro
    Age: 32

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    OUSF, Maho Neko, Big Magic Nipponbashi.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    None



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 3
    Day 1 Results: 8-1
    Day 2 Results: 4-1-1

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    Mono-red that I worked on myself. I like the straightforwardness of it.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    The Wolf Run decks with their Wurmcoil Engines and Trees of Redemption.

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    I want to play in The Finals.

    Name: Rin Satou
    Age: 21

    Hometown, Where you play Magic frequently:
    Fukuoka. I play with Team NEO SKY and at the Tenjin Yellow Submarine.

    Your previous Magic achievements:
    11th place at The Finals 2008, 34th and Pro Tour San Deigo.



    Tell us your results over the tournament:
    Awarded Byes: 3
    Day 1 Results: 9-0
    Day 2 Results: 3-2-ID

    Tell us about your deck, who designed it, and why did you pick it for this event.
    WU Humans that I tuned with my teammates that we tested a lot against other beatdown decks and mono-red. We really liked how it played versus control decks like Wolf Run and Solar Flare.

    What is the worst match-up against your deck and why?
    Juza's WG.

    Will you be playing Regional Tournaments for The Finals/The Limits?
    All of us on Team NEO SKY will be practicing!



     
  • Semi Final - Takahiro Shiraki vs. Akira Asahara

    by Rich Hagon
  • Three land, two Consecrated Sphinx, Oblivion Ring, Think Twice. No white mana. Do you keep? If you're Akira Asahara, twice in the top 8 of Worlds, you do. Standing in his path to the final is Takahiro Shiraki, playing an aggressive U/W Humans deck. Shiraki couldn't keep his opening seven, and six wasn't sufficient either. Five? Reluctant, but a keeper.

    Shiraki had a turn one play in Champion of the Parish, and Elite Vanguard to join it on turn two. Asahara used the end step to Think Twice, and white mana was no longer an issue. The Champion and Vanguard attacked, leaving Asahara to cast Forbidden Alchemy, digging four cards deep, sending two copies of Think Twice and a single land to his graveyard. Up to four mana, he still had a single white to his name, meaning his Day of Judgment was currently blank. He used Oblivion Ring to take out the Champion of the Parish, and passed.

    Now down to 12, Asahara faced a new and potentially deadly threat in Hero of Bladehold, and although he didn't find white mana for Day of Judgment, he did find another Oblivion Ring. Down came Champion of the Parish for Shiraki, and an Oblivion Ring of his own brought Hero of Bladehold back into the action. Asahara really needed a second white source of mana, and he didn't draw one. The two Consecrated Sphinxes that he'd kept in his opening hand were still stuck there, worthless.

    It wasn't all doom and gloom, however. Think Twice out of the graveyard drew him a Swamp, and he had Snapcaster Mage ready to cast, which might - just - halt the damage before he died.

    Takahiro Shiraki

    In came Hero of Bladehold, Champion of the Parish, Elite Vanguard, two Soldiers...Asahara did the math. That Snapcaster Mage wasn't going to save him after all...

    Shiraki 1 - 0 Asahara

    When your opponent mulligans, you can't help but feel that your chances have improved. You'd be right, but when you've just seen your opponent win off a mulligan to five, that confidence has to be shaken a little. So, when Shiraki started shuffling for six, Asahara was most certainly counting no chickens.

    Grand Abolisher met Mana Leak, but Asahara had no third land. When Shiraki offered up Shrine of Loyal Legions, Asahara had a second Mana Leak ready. He still had no third land, however. Hero of Bladehold resolved - no Mana Leak this time. There was a third land for Asahara, and since it was Isolated Chapel, he would have at least a chance of using all three colours of mana.

    Mirran Crusader and Doomed Traveler joined the growing throng across the table. Asahara badly needed land number four, and he badly needed to cast Day of Judgment. The Day of Judgment he had. The fourth land he didn't. He passed the turn, and braced for impact. Doom Blade took out the Hero of Bladehold, but he still took seven damage, and fell to 6. Grand Abolisher joined the party.

    Shiraki and his band of little white men.jpg

    Now Asahara really, really, REALLY needed to cast Day of Judgment. He drew Ratchet Bomb, and the board-sweeper remained tantalizingly out of his grasp. He could cast the Ratchet Bomb and take out the opposing tokens, but that wouldn't be enough. He cat Snapcaster Mage, and put it in front of Mirran Crusader, as he dropped to just 1 life.

    STILL no fourth land for Asahara, but there WERE Timely Reinforcements. Block. Block. Asahara left one Soldier back, giving him the chance to block Mirran Crusader one more time. He drew, and found Isolated Chapel staring back at him. Onto the battlefield it came, tapped. TAPPED. Ratchet Bomb could take out the tokens, and his Soldier could block Mirran Crusader. That still left three damage, and Asahara was at three life...

    Takahiro Shiraki 2 - 0 Akira Asahara



     
  • Semi Final - Rin Satou vs. Martin Juza

    by Nate Price
  • Wait...what?

    Um...

    Didn't I see this once before?

    Hmm...I've still got all my documents open from earlier...I'll check.

    Yep, there it is: Round 11.

    About six hours ago, these two squared off against each other in the Swiss, an encounter that Juza won after sifting his way through some incredibly complex board positions. After the match, he explained to me that he felt very comfortable with this matchup after testing for so long with Shuhei Nakamura. He also admitted that Satou was playing the version of UW that was a little more difficult for his deck: the one that featured larger threats like Geist of Saint Traft and Angelic Destiny. When Juza got an opportunity to take a look through Satou's decklist before their semifinal match, he seemed to be a little more unsure about how he escaped with such a decisive win earlier.

    "He has seven Swords! Three Feast and Famine in the maindeck and four War and Peace in the board!"

    After sideboarding, Juza only has two Naturalizes and a full set of Oblivion Rings to stop the Swords, which means he has to be careful about those large creatures as well. This could very well be an interesting rematch.

    Super Rin Satou vs. Martin Juza II Turbo Championship Edition

    Juza started with an ideal first-turn Avacyn's Pilgrim. After mulliganning, Satou made a Lawkeeper to match Juza's creature. Juza used his mana advantage to turbo out a Blade Splicer. Satou passed his next turn, using his Lawkeeper on Juza's upkeep to tap the Pilgrim, keeping him off of Garruk Relentless mana. Instead, Juza attacked him down to sixteen and cast a second Pilgrim.

    After untapping, Satou began to think. He didn't have a third land to play, leaving him short on options. Rather than keep mana up for a Mana Leak, he chose to play a Champion of the Parish, leaving up mana to use his Lawkeeper. Since Juza had increased his mana on the previous turn, Satou chose not to tap down a Pilgrim on this turn, content to use his Lawkeeper to save some damage. It tapped down the Golem in the attack, letting Juza attack for two with the Splicer and a Pilgrim. Satou used his Champion to trade with Juza's mana critter, which was fine by him. After combat, Garruk Relentess came down and immediately transformed, taking care of the Lawkeeper in the process.

    The reason Juza looks so tired here is that he's not used to
    playing so long on Day 2 of Constructed Grand Prix...

    Satou found his third land, but he was well behind by this point. He made a Geist of Saint Traft, but Juza had simply too many creatures at this point for the Geist, who is built to attack, not defend. When Juza dropped an Oblivion Ring to push Señor Traft out of the way, Satou was content to move to game two. He had gotten a sub-par draw after already being hindered by a mulligan. Hopefully, his fortune would reverse for the second game.

    Rin Satou 0 – Martin Juza 1

    Satou had to mulligan again for the second game of the match, and he still managed to smile while shuffling his cards. Juza consoled him by telling him about his previous match.

    Even after mulliganning twice in two games, Satou still manages a smile.

    "In the semifinals, I mulliganned to five and then mulliganned to five and still won. It's not that bad, don't worry," the Czech player comforted his opponent.

    Again, both players started with one-drop creatures, the same Lawkeeper and Pilgrim from the first game. This time, when Juza tried to make his team bigger with a pair of Knights of Bladehold, Satou had a pair of Mana Leaks to stop them. Unfortunately, that left him without a response to Juza's Geist-Honored Monk other than tapping it with his Lawkeeper. Fortunately, that would be good enough in the meantime for his Mirran Crusader to start going to work. Satou tapped the Monk on his own turn and attacked, following that immediately with a Sword of War and Peace.

    Juza had four cards in hand after drawing, and one of them was going to need to deal with that Sword if he wanted to keep this game in reach.

    "No Oblivion Ring? No Naturalize?"

    Satou seemed incredulous.

    After a little posturing involving playing a pair of mana critters, Juza attacked for seven. Then, after combat, he revealed the next to last card in his hand: an Oblivion Ring. The enchantment took care of the Crusader long before it could pick up the Sword, keeping the game firmly within his grasp.

    Satou seemed resigned to his fate. He played out a second Sword and hid a Pilgrim under a Fiend Hunter, but his shoulders were slumped as he sat back from the table. Despite the smile on his face, he looked a man who thought he couldn't win. When Juza made a Fiend Hunter of his own, it seemed all but over. Satou used his Lawkeeper to save a big hit from the Monk, but there was nothing he could do. He simply drew his card and extended his hand.

    Rin Satou 0 – Martin Juza 2



     
  • Top 5 Cards of Grand Prix Hiroshima

    by Nate Price
  • Spirit Tokens Solder Tokens

    I always like to include an off-kilter card in the Top 5 cards list, usually something deserving of making the list that might either be under the radar, or simply not something someone thinks of when they think of impactful cards (I think I did Plains once). But this isn't a gimmick pick. These innocuous little tokens seriously have been the all-stars of the weekend. In addition to being the powerhouses that carried Martin Juza to his win, the lowly 1/1 tokens helped to redefine the shape of UW in Standard. With UB Control starting to assert dominance in Brisbane, the UW players rallied and shifted the deck in favor of a faster, more streamlined version of the deck. In the end, two of the three UW decks that ended up making Top 8 here at Hiroshima played cards like Doomed Traveler, Midnight Hauting, Hero of Bladehold, and Timely Reinforcements in an attempt to flood opponents. Combined with Champion of the Parish and Honor the Pure, the power gained for the mana spent was obscene. This power is why UW dominated most of the Swiss rounds of the tournament and filled the Top 8. Combined with Gavony Township (which I'll discuss later), these little guys also proved capable of winning a Grand Prix.

    Considering the strength of the white decks this weekend, this little guy has to get a nod. After all, some of the most popular and most-played decks in the format are variants on Kessig Wolf Run decks. Those decks simply roll over and die to this card. Protection from green goes a long way against a primarily green deck, ending those matches for the UW and GW players long before the Wolf Run decks can get things into gear. In addition, the protection from black is very relevant against the UB control decks, which only run a couple of copies of mass removal spells, usually relying on black spot removal to survive long enough to wipe the board. That doesn't work against this little guy. In addition, since most of the decks running him are chock full of other creatures, even cards like Tribute to Hunger and Geth's Verdict don't do much to stop him. It is safe to say that the presence of this card is the reason why Wolf Run decks, despite composing a significant portion of the field through the Swiss, failed to make Top 8.

    Personally, I'd like to bring attention to the whole cycle of lands from Innistrad. Nephalia Drownyard saw some play in the Solar Flare and UB Control decks, often finishing off opponents in mirror matches after having spent most of the game feeding their controllers. Moorland Haunt has seen use by the UW decks to deny Unburial Rites and Phantasmal Image, as well as providing an easily enhanced attacker. Kessig Wolf Run is Kessig Wolf Run. And this little guy, it is what pushes the GW tokens deck over the top in creature matchups. Having your army go from 1/1s to 3/3s over the course of end-step and main-phase activations is pretty absurd. More than once over the course of the weekend, I saw Martin Juza go from being close to dead to stabilizing by making a ton of guys to dealing over twenty damage in one fell swoop, all thanks to this card. While the other two lands saw a limited amount of play, this card was not only as played as Wolf run, it was also as integral to its deck's success.

    Yeah, Dissipate is in the format, and yeah, with Snapcaster Mage and Unburial Rites running around you'd think maybe Dissipate would be better, but I'm telling you you're wrong. First, Dissipate has to be run by a blue-heavy deck. If you were playing, say, UW Aggro, you need something a little easier on the mana base, something that will simply provide a little support for your team. Mana Leak fits that bill perfectly. Easily splashable and incredibly cheap, Mana Leak is amazing in the aggressive UW decks that had a real coming-out party this weekend. Speaking of cheap, when you're casting Snapcaster Mage, you generally want a cheap counterspell to stop your opponent, and Mana Leak is cheaper than Dissipate. Why would you care about being cheaper? Well, you really would like to cast another spell, right? Or maybe you want to avoid getting your own spell countered...by Mana Leak. You getting the hint?

    Here's your final curveball. If the format is shifting to the point where 1/1s are the preferred creature size, doesn't that sound like the ideal world for a Hero of Oxid Ridge? Kouichi Tashiro certainly thought so. While his pair of Heroes were in his sideboard, they came in for nearly all of the matches he played, doing double duty against the 1/1s of the white-based decks and against the mana critters in the Wolf Run decks. In this environment, where UB is a little weakened, red can shine, and it can do so thanks to this guy. Expect to see him moving back into the starting rotation of red decks in the weeks leading up to Worlds.



     
  • Final - Martin Juza vs. Takahiro Shiraki

    by Rich Hagon
  • Earlier this weekend, we featured Martin Juza's feats over the last three years, since he broke onto the global stage in 2008 with four terrific Pro Tours back to back. In 27 Limited Grand Prix in that three year period, he has eight GP top 8s. In 23 Constructed events, just one GP top 8.

    Let's call that two, shall we?

    What a weekend he's had. He began with a win over Shuuhei Nakamura, and never looked back, with just a single defeat to date. His record against U/W this weekend, the deck he faces in the final? 5-0, with an ID.

    Four words:

    Good luck Takahiro Shiraki.

    Avacyn's Pilgrim began for Juza, opposite Doomed Traveler. Juza had Mirran Crusader on turn two, while Shiraki had to make do with a second Doomed Traveler. The Japanese player was struggling off a mulligan to five, although he had beaten Akira Asahara in the semi final in a similar situation. Down came Blade Splicer for Juza, as Shiraki elected to trade in a Doomed Traveler for a Spirit.

    That Spirit attacked for the first damage of the match, before Shiraki evened the Mirran Crusader count at 1-1. That quickly became 0-0 after Juza's next combat, with the Czech player delivering Hero of Bladehold to the board. He also had Gavony Township, one shy of the mana needed to activate. Shiraki sent in his two Spirits, sending Juza to 17, and then used Oblivion Ring to get rid of the Hero of Bladehold. He cast Garruk Relentless, destroyed a Spirit, and turned it straight into Garruk, the Veil-Cursed.

    Geist of Saint Traft hit the board, but Shiraki was still in trouble.

    In one of modern Magic's "counterspell wars", Juza used his own Oblivion Ring on Shiraki's, returning his Hero of Bladehold to the cusp of battle. That battle never happened, because it was clear to Shiraki that games two (and three perhaps) would offer him a better chance than this one-way traffic.

    Preparing for game two

    Martin Juza 1 - 0 Takahiro Shiraki

    Champion of the Parish still left Shiraki with five cards in hand, a rarity in this top 8. Juza had acceleration from Avacyn's Pilgrim.

    Turn two saw Grand Abolisher, meaning the Champion of the Parish could attack for two. Before it could get out of hand, Juza used Oblivion Ring on it. Grand Abolisher put him to 16, then Fiend Hunter took away his Avacyn's Pilgrim, stunting his development. A second Oblivion Ring returned the Pilgrim to Juza's side of the board.

    Shiraki tried again, with another Fiend Hunter for the Pilgrim. Juza laid a Razorverge Thicket tapped, and passed. Shiraki had Honor of the Pure to seriously put the pressure on, and when his team was joined by another Champion of the Parish, things were looking bad for Juza. He wasn't phased, though, running out Geist-Honored Monk to create a team-in-a-card.

    Hero of Bladehold - that can be a team-in-a-card too, and that's what Shiraki had up next. In he came, with Fiend Hunter, Grand Abolisher, and Champion of the Parish. Honor of the Pure meant that Juza's men were no match for Shiraki's. After many possible options were considered, Juza put Geist-Honored Monk in front of Fiend Hunter, and fell all the way to three life. His Geist-Honored Monk attacked for three, but it was a hopeless gesture. With no way to stop Hero of Bladehold from attacking, Juza would be swarmed under by the angry white men.

    Martin Juza 1 - 1 Takahiro Shiraki

    Juza looked at his opening hand, and kept. Shiraki seemed to be in an agony of indecision, before eventually keeping too. The final game of the final was under way, with Avacyn's Pilgrim from Juza. Shiraki's reticence was perhaps explained by having no turn one play, instead laying Glacial Fortress. Juza had a turn two Sword of War and Peace, while Shiraki made up for no turn one play with two creatures on turn two, both Champion of the Parish and Doomed Traveler.

    Going the Distance

    Juza equipped his Pilgim, dealing a total of eight damage, and giving him a sizeable 25-12 lead. Shiraki's men attacked, joined by Geist of Saint Traft. Avacyn's Pilgrim attacked again, Shiraki taking seven, and Juza gaining five. This was not a good sign for the U/W player.

    27-5 was Juza's lead, and he held his hands out in prayer as Shiraki drew.

    Incredible, just incredible - a third Grand Prix title.

    Martin Juza 2 - 1 Takahiro Shiraki

    Congratulations to Martin Juza, Champion of GP Hiroshima 2011!

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