Day 1 Undefeated Decks
by Event Coverage Staff
Sunday, 10:50 a.m. – Drafting with Martin Juza
by Nate Price
Martin Juza is a man who needs no introduction.
Except that sentence.
Sharing a pod with, in fact sitting two seats downstream from, his POY race rival Yuuya Watanabe, Martin Juza was at the Japanese player’s whim. Juza opened his first pack and was immediately faced with a decision: Hideous End or Felidar Sovereign?
"If this had been GP-Melbourne, before people knew that black/red was the thing, I might have taken the End. But now, the Sovereign is definitely the right pick. It might have even been the best pick back then."
Martin Juza knows what the thing is.
He took a Plated Geopede over a Murasa Pyromancer in the second pack.
"Geopede might just be the best common in the format."
He followed that up with some solid cards for his budding red/white deck, adding Journey to Nowhere, Torch Slinger, and a Goblin Shortcutter to his stack. It appeared, through the lack of black cards, that he had definitely made the correct decision about avoiding the clearly overdrafted black. His solid bodies continued to come, including Steppe Lynx, Kor Sanctifiers, and a Kor Aeronauts. He even managed to snag a very late Windborn charge. As he took it, he looked up at me with a look in his eyes that effectively said, "Unreal."
After the first pack, Juza had ten cards that were going to make his deck, which is truly unreal. It appeared he was in the right seat for a red/white drafter and had made the correct decision to avoid the absent black cards.
His second pack started out a little less impressive than his previous. The only real playable card in his open was a Zektar Shrine Expedition, and he wasn’t happy about having to first pick it. There was a Stonework Puma in the pack as well, but, without and Blademasters and having passed on the Pyromancer earlier in the draft, it seemed he was avoiding the ally route. His next pack was fairly dry as well, providing him nothing more than a Spire Barrage that would be pretty weak in his heavily white deck.
Then the gold hit. Bladetusk Boar, Kor Skyfisher, Goblin Shortcutter, and another Spire Barrage. He was going to get one of these cards back, more than likely, and they were all right at home in his very aggressive deck. Ultimately, he took the nigh unblockable Boar. He picked up another Torch Slinger soon after, as well as a second Steppe Lynx. By the end of the second pack, he effectively had a functional deck. The third pack would be about filling in holes and upgrading.
Unfortunately, the packs seemed to dry up quickly.
"Did the guy to my right move into red/white or something," Juza would comment after the draft?
The first three picks provided him with a Kor Aeronaut, Adventuring Gear, and an Inferno Trap that he took over a second Geopede for his removal-light deck. After those picks, he passed two consecutive packs without a red or white card. He managed to snag a third Kor Sanctifiers after the two dry packs, but they went right back to providing him with a whole lot of nothing. It was good for him he had a good deck after the first two packs, because the third certainly didn’t really help matters.
After the draft, I watched him build and we discussed a few of the cards he had chosen or passed up. The first thing he mentioned was his... love... for Adventuring Gear.
"This card is really terrible. I’ve never understood why people love it so much."
Well that was to the point.
Can you spot the Adventuring Gear?
"You want to be spending your early turns playing lots of creatures, not playing cards like this. People even play it in Sealed when they aren’t really playing creatures until turn three or so. What are you going to do? Play a creature on turn three and then equip it instead of playing a 4-drop on the following turn? That’s a good way to lose. I’ve never played it in a Grand Prix or Pro Tour. Until now, I guess."
With his massive amount of one- and two-drops, the Gear might actually be quite good at filling in the little one-mana holes his cheap creatures might leave for him in the mid game.
"This looks like the deck I had in Austin," he said pointing to his Steppe Lynxes. "This deck actually looks pretty good. I think I might be able to 3-0 with it."
Feature Match Round 10 – Martin Juza vs. Yuuya Watanabe
by Nate Price
Well, this is it, the match we’ve been waiting for all weekend. Martin Juza and Yuuya Watanabe are separated by four points in the Player of the Year standings with only three weeks to go until Worlds. This was a big game. More correctly, this was a big match.
Both players understood the gravity as they came straight to the feature match area without even waiting for the match to be announced. Once they saw they were playing, they knew they were under the microscope. They had spectators before the first card of the match was drawn.
“Oh boy,” Juza said as he looked around.
“Good deck,” he asked Watanabe?
“So so,” Watanabe replied with a pursed smile.
Juza just laughed. “You say so so every time!”
Juza won the roll and chose to go first. He didn’t hesitate to mulligan his first hand away before keeping the second. I heard him say earlier that “the only way people ever really lose in this format is by keeping bad hands.” Always one to take his own advice, he went digging for a better one. He found it in his second six.
Juza got on the board first with a second-turn Plated Geopede, which he described as “maybe the best common in the set.” Watanabe had a Cliff Threaders to match before allowing Juza to attack for three. He added a Steppe Lynx to his side, prompting him to name his deck.
“POY Zoo,” Juza joked, and Watanabe echoed the sentiment.
With Juza and Watanabe playing each other, the Feature Match area was the real PoY Zoo!
Watanabe added a Welkin Tern to his side and attacked Juza to 18. Juza simply played a land on the following turn and attacked Watanabe to thirteen. Watanabe found an answer to the Plated Geopede with a Journey to Nowhere before addind a second Welkin Tern to his side. He attacked with his team, and Juza fell to fourteen.
Now it was Juza’s turn to start killing things. A Torch Slinger ate the unblockable Cliff Threaders and Juza attacked Watanabe down to eleven. The Japanese RoY played a Kabira Evangel and attacked with his two Terns, knocking Juza down to ten. Juza was forced into a decision on his next turn. After playing a land, he simply attacked with his Lynx, leaving the Slinger home. When Watanabe blocked with his Evangel, Juza had the opportunity to kill it with a second Slinger. Instead, he chose to take out one of the Terns that was sucking his life away. When Watanabe added a Kor Sanctifiers to his side, which would have effectively nullified Juza’s whole team, the decision appeared to be the right one.
Now sitting at eight life and staring down a Welkin Hawk, Juza had some thinking to do. He drew his card, surveyed the board, and passed to Watanabe. A Kor Skyfisher added a second flying threat to the board, though it didn’t change his clock any. He attacked Juza down to six and passed the turn. Juza found an answer to the Welkin Tern in a Kor Aeronaut, but it was a touch to small to deal with the Skyfisher, and the worry showed on Juza’s face.
Watanabe found a fifth land, but didn’t use it to make anything. He just sent his Skyfisher in and passed the turn with Juza at four. Juza played a Goblin Shortcutter, forcing the Evangel out of combat, and then attacked with his whole team. Watanabe was at eleven, and was able to trade his Tern for the Aeronaut and kill the Slinger with a Sanctifier. This left him at seven, but it appeared Juza was out of gas. He scooped up his cards and moved to his sideboard.
Had he drawn his Windborn Charge, he could have Shortcuttered the Welkin Tern and attacked in the air for the victory.
Martin Juza 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 1
Juza was much happier with his starting hand in the second game, and he announced a keep almost before all sven cards were in his hand. A Kor Aeronaut ran past a Welkin Tern on the third turn thanks to a Goblin Shortcutter, and Juza started with an early lead. Watanabe evened things up with his Tern on the following turn before locking up the ground with a Kor Sanctifiers. Juza had just the answer to the Sanctifiers. His Bladetusk Boar would provide him the perfect alley.
And he would need it. Watanabe proceeded to add a Kor Skyfisher and Welkin Tern to his team on the following turn, locking up the air as well. All of a sudden, Juza, who was on the offensive just a moment ago, had fallen into the back seat. The much-maligned Adventuring Gear made an appearance, promptly being picked up by his Aeronaut. A Journey to Nowhere took the Skyfisher out of the equation, and Juza attacked in for nine, knocking Watanabe to seven. Just as the tides had quickly shifted on the previous turn, not Juza was right back in control.
Must... watch... step...
With lethal damage on the board, Watanabe had to step carefully. The Adventuring Gear prevented him from sending either his Sanctifiers or both of his Terns, as the board sat at the beginning of his turn. Then, out of nowhere, Watanabe sent his whole team. He left four mana available and passed the turn. He had attacked for six, dropping Juza to eight. When Juza swung back for the kill on the following turn, Watanabe had a Shieldmate’s Blessing to stay at three. Juza played a Sanctifiers on his turn, but Watanabe had a Cancel to stop it.
Juza was at eight. Watanabe had six power worth of creatures. Watanabe was at three. Juza had three creatures effectively capable of killing him. Watanabe attacked Juza to two and passed the turn with five mana opne.
“Ugh, you have the bounce thing,” Juza sighed as he untapped and drew his card. In fact, when he attacked, Watanabe used a Whiplash Trap to send Juza’s Boar and his flier home. Juza replayed the flier and shot one of Watanabe’s Terns down with a Slinger. With Juza tapped out, Watanabe flashed him the Soaring Seacliffs that he drew on an empty hand, and Juza just sighed, leaning back in his chair.
“Wooow. You had to have everything. Everything. But you did.”
Despite losing in an incredibly heartbreaking end to the match, Juza still smiled as he shook Watanabe’s hand.
“See you in Top 8,” Watanabe said as they stood up from the table.
Martin Juza 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 2
Feature Match Round 11 – Masashi Oiso vs. Jun’ya Iyanaga
by Nate Price
Jun’ya Iyanaga is a man on a mission. As the reigning Grand Prix-Kitakyushu champion, he’d love to repeat as champion. He’s positioned himself well thus far, failing to drop a match yesterday. His opponent this round, Masashi Oiso, provides quite the roadblock. He also went undefeated in Sealed Deck play and is generally considered “ok” at Magic.
Iyanaga won the die roll and chose to go first.
A Surrakar Marauder from Iyanaga was matched by a Kazandu Blademaster from Oiso. Iyanaga wasted no time in slapping a desiccated hand across the ally’s face, Disfiguring it before it could get out of hand. Play slowed a bit from there. Oiso was only able to contribute a hasty Goblin Bushwhacker to his side, and, having taken the turn off to remove the Blademaster, Iyanaga had to wait until turn four to play another creature. His Shatterskull Giant fell into a Pitfall Trap, and his Marauder got hit by a Magma Rift before it could pick up his Grappling Hook.
So I only get five cards? This is going to be difficult.
Oiso tried to pick up his pace a little, adding a Plated Geopede to his side, but it never got to attack. A Heartstabber Mosquito shot it down before the end of Iyanaga’s next turn. This left Oiso’s board in the same underdeveloped position. When Iyanaga added a Bog Tatters to his side on the following turn, the Grappling Hook loomed in Oiso’s future. He didn’t draw anything noteworthy and packed in a Game 1 that went by in about three and a half minutes.
Masashi Oiso 0 – Jun’ya Iyanaga 1
Oiso started with another great turn-two play, but his Plated Geopede met another Disfigure form Iyanaga. Not wanting to stumble on lands, Oiso played a Goblin Bushwhacker only to return it to his hand with a Kor Skyfisher. It picked up an Adventuring Gear on the following turn and attacked Iyanaga for four.
Iyanaga had been building the beginnings of an army, contributing a Blazing Torck, Explorer’s Scope, Shatterskull Giant, and Highland Berserker to his team. Oiso played another land on his fifth turn and attacked for four, but didn’t add anything else. Iyanaga Thought for a minute before attacking into a Pitfall Trap he was pretty sure Oiso had. The Giant crashed into the pit, and a Hagra Crocodile replaced it. Oiso stuck to his plan, playing a land and attacking Iyanaga down to eight. His post combat Kor Sanctifiers kicked right into the Torch on Iyanaga’s side.
Iyanaga equipped his Croc with the Scope, played a land, and attacked, hoping for a double landfall proc. It was not to be, and Oiso simply dropped to eleven. It appeared that Oiso had finally run out of lands, with the finish line so close. He added a Bloodletter’s Blade to his Skyfisher before aiming a Magma Rift at Iyanaga’s Croc. The Blade then switched hands, and both of Oiso’s creatures pounded across. Iyanaga didn’t bother wasting either of their time and conceded.
Masashi Oiso 1 – Jun’ya Iyanaga 1
Oiso agonized over his opening draw for the final game. It had two lands and a bunch of landfall creatures. If the lands were there, his hand was ridiculous. Knowing Martin Juza’s Law of Not Losing™, Oiso wisely chose to throw it away. Even afterwards he was looking off to the distance and mumbling to himself something that I can only assume was “thank you Martin Juza for making my decisions easier.” After seeing him mulligan again, it’s possible he was simply asking for playable cards. His third hand provided him a very nice spread of five cards, and he happily (as happily as a man can on five cards) accepted.
So I only get five cards? This is going to be difficult.
Iyanaga vomited cards onto the table over the first couple of turns. Soul Stair Expedition, Adventuring gear and Explorer’s Scope all hit the table before turn three. Then he had to wait a turn before adding anything to give those beautiful pieces of equipment to. Bladetusk Boar is a little worse when your opponent is playing red, as Oiso is, but it’s still better than nothing, which is what Oiso had. Oiso’s five card hand apparently hadn’t given him anything to really do in the first few turns of the game. He did have a Burst Lightning in response to the Gear’s ability and a Shepherd of the Lost for the follow up, however. What it lacked in early pressure, it made up for in important spells.
The first-striking Angel proved to be a thorn in Iyanaga’s side. His lone creature was a Highland Berserker. Even with the Gear, he couldn’t get past it. Consequently, he chose to use his Expedition to return the Boar to his hand, getting a creature that could waltz (charge?) right past the big flier.
Iyanaga was worried. Oiso definitely had a Pitfall Trap in his deck, so he thought for a while before giving his Boar a Scope and some Gear and sending it on an adventure. Like so often happens on Zendikar, it ran afoul of an Arrow Volley Trap, returning to the graveyard from whence it came. This put Iyanaga back in the same predicament he was in a moment before. He did find a Surrakar Marauder to potentially get around the Angel, but the Explorer’s Scope was a sketchy way to trigger its landfall ability. Rather than see if Iyanaga would get the lands, Oiso just aimed a Magma Rift at it before adding a Kor Outfitter to his team.
Iyanaga made a Shatterskull Giant on his following turn, giving his side some much needed beef. Oiso kept to the sky, attacking Iyanaga down to eleven. He added some beef of his own: a Geyser Glider.
Iyanaga was in trouble. He had a handful of cards, but it appeared by his expression that none of them were really good answers to his situation. First, his Giant got some Gear. Then a scope. Then it went on an adventure. This time, it found a Mountain to get big. Oiso’s Outfitter got hit with a Punishing Fire before it could block, and the big Giant crashed Oiso down to twelve.
On his turn, Oiso went nuts. He returned a Mountain to his hand with a Kor Skyfisher. Then, he equipped his Glider with the Gear, replayed his land, and dropped Iyanaga to two. While he wasn’t technically at zero, Iyanaga was dead. He knew this and conceded.
This just proves the maxim that it isn’t always how many cards you have, but which ones.
Mulligans are your friends.
Masashi Oiso 2 – Jun’ya Iyanaga 1
Drafting with Akira Asahara – Building a Monster House
by Nate Price
Seeing the same decks drafted time in and out gets kind of boring after a while. Luckily for me, Akira Asahara didn’t exactly draft a typical deck. In fact, it was unique right from the first pick. As he opened his first pack, he shuffled around some decent cards. Murasa Pyromancer (which I thought was a good card but, as happens to me frequently at these events, I was apparently proven to be an idiot), Sky Ruin Drake, and Harrow all came to the front of the pack and then faded back to the depths. When time to draft was called, what card ended up in Asahara’s pile?
When his second pack contained little of note except an Inferno Trap, I didn’t really think he could surprise me with his pick.
Apparently, Asahara really wanted to go blue/black. Honestly, I can’t blame him. The combination of Surrakar Marauders , Welkin Terns, and the tempotastic removal spells the colors offer make it a terribly powerful combination. Not one to shy away from keeping his options open, Asahara snagged an Oran-Rief Survivalist to leave the green/black ally avenue open should he need to escape down it. A few picks later, he reinforced this potential with a Joraga Bard and Tajuru Archers.
At this point, the blue had more or less dried up. The black was close behind. This left him staring at a three-headed monster after the first pack. He had no removal, and could easily be either a black/blue, blue/green, or black/green deck still. It would be up to his second pack to make the decision for him.
His first two packs contained a couple of River Boas, which are among the best creatures green hs to offer. His third pick presented him an interesting choice. Already showing his desire to go with an ally build, he could have taken an Umara Raptor out of the pack and decided on blue/green. The Raptor wasn’t a strong enough reason for him to make a commitment, though, and he ended up taking a Mold Shambler out of the pack. His decision to make blue his second color came a few picks later when he started seeing droves of Reckless Scholars swining around the table. The Looter is a bit weaker than he is in other sets, mostly because players landfall is contrary to the best use for the Looter: turning unwanted lands into spells. With Zendikar, there’s no such thing as an unwanted land, so his hands are a little tied. All that said, he’s still a two-power creature for three, making a fine addition to a curve with a potential bonus of an ability.
Akira Asahara, architect of the MONSTER HOUSE!
By the end of the second pack, he was fairly set on green/blue. Despite more or less knowing his colors, his deck was missing a few spells. He was going to need a strong showing from the final pack to mold his collection of cards into something more.
Despite being heavy green, Asahara chose a Territorial Baloth over a Timbermaw Larva with his first pick. He explained afterwards that the Baloth had more potential to be better because of the split colors of his deck. If he had been more green, he would have chosen the Larva, but not in this case. He managed to pick up the Raptor he missed in the last pack, as well as another Oran-Rief Survivalist to accompany it. His flying troops got a massive boost when he was passed a Living Tsunami. He didn’t really have anything great to combo with it, but it’s still a 4/4 flier. The pack rounded out nicely with a couple plugs for his curve, including a second shot at a Larva and a Nissa’s Chosen.
Ultimately, he needs his deck to be able to go 2-0, allowing him to draw into Top 8. His deck is a bit unorthodox. It’s roughly twenty creatures and almost no spells. He referred to it as “monster house,” which I thought was awesome. With the lack of spells in his deck, he was going to have to rely on his good creatures, like the River Boas, Survivalists, his Tsunami, and LORTHOS to get the job done. He thinks he can get the requisite record.
Sunday, 5:13 p.m. – Drawing a Crowd: An Interview with Jaime Jones
by Nate Price
Jaime Jones and his lovely wife, Laura.
Chances are that even if you don’t recognize Jaime Jones’s name (I will admit that when I first met him, I thought he was the second coverage writer assigned to this event), you definitely recognize some of his work. Have you ever breathed a gout of flame, washing your opponent’s forces to cinders with your Flameblast Dragon
? You have Jaime to thank. Have you ever grown an elven army to battle for you with Nissa Revane
? Again, all thanks to Jaime.
Have you ever gotten hit in the face by a 10/10 monster that your opponent searched out of his deck with a Natural Order that you could have countered but didn’t because you didn’t think there was anything he could get that you couldn’t kill? You again have Jaime to thank.
Thanks for that last one, Jaime...
All unwarranted grudges aside, I had a chance to sit down with Jaime and discuss some of the finer things about his life as an artist and his work on Magic. Getting to that point wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. His artist’s booth was surrounded at all times by a mob of players looking to get their artwork signed or purchase original, full-sized prints of his work. From about fifteen minutes before his booth opened until about fifteen minutes after, he was swamped.
Welcome to Japan, Mr. Jones.
I did manage to catch him during his break on Sunday, when he was enjoying a brief respite from his unexpected rock-star welcome. Let me share with you what I learned.
So, Jaime, I know this is kind of an obvious question, but what exactly do you do for a living?
And somewhere in this mob is a very, happy Jaime Jones.
In addition to creating art for games like Magic, I work full time for Bungie (a video game company based out of Seattle) as a concept artist. I help design the worlds and characters seen in their games.
Kind of like the guys who make the style guides in Magic, right?
Yeah, just like that.
How long have you been drawing?
Pretty much since I could pick up a pencil, I’d say.
What’s your preferred medium?
Hmm... I’ll work from time to time in more traditional media, like this sketch I’m working on, but I’m definitely more into digital media. It’s so versatile and easy to change and fix things, which is really useful for commercial art. I have to say, though, that people often think that it takes less skill or at least different skills to be a digital artist. I have to say that if you can’t do it with pen and paper, you won’t be able to do it with digital media either.
I mean, you still have to use a stylus and pad to get the digital art anyways, right?
As a commercial artist, do you ever find yourself less attached to your commercial pieces than to your personal ones?
I have to! There have been a few times that I’ve been really attached to a piece only to get it back from the Artistic Director saying things like, “change these arm spikes, more blue here, I need this smaller.” It just rips me to shreds sometimes. I have to keep working on my own personal stuff from time to time that way I can AD myself to prevent me from getting to down on myself after a particularly brutal response. One of the reasons I’m so happy to work on Magic is that [Artistic Director Jeremy] Jarvis is gives artists so much freedom to show their own style. The only real direction we get is for continuity’s sake.
What’s your favorite Magic piece that you’ve done?
I’d have to say Hellkite Charger. I dunno, I guess it turned out kind of quiet and evocative in a way that I like. The dragon may be a hulking, ferocious monstrosity, but that doesn’t have to be the main focus of the piece. The Charger shows the ferocious dragon maybe just before a fight, or maybe just after. It’s just doing what dragons do.
I know that a lot of artists out there have to commercialize in order to provide them the ability to create what they really want to. Do you still have somewhere you’d like to grow to?
There’s always somewhere I want to grow to. I’d love to get to the point where I can simply spend my time working on whatever I want. I’ve been reading a lot of Brothers Grimm stuff recently and would love to work on a series of drawings themed around them, for example.
But I don’t want anyone to think that I’m not happy where I am. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make it drawing for a living. It’s a blessing. Honestly, I absolutely love what I’m doing right now. I’m in Japan, signing cards for excited strangers who are fans of my work. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Jaime was also commissioned to do an original piece of art to be given away as a grand prize for a Standard tournament here this weekend. Jaime is primarily a digital artist, but he has spent this whole weekend with pencil and paper, working diligently even during his break time to bring you this:
Nissa Revane standing in front of Kitakyushu’s own Kokura Castle. Now how sweet is that!
Feature Match Round 14 – Masashiro Kuroda vs. Takayuki Takagi
by Nate Price
This elimination round featured Masashiro Kuroda, who had already had quite the Pro career before becoming the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour at PT-Kobe in ‘02. His opponent, while he doesn’t have as strong a resume as Kuroda, is still a very strong player nonetheless, finishing second at Grand Prix-Kobe a year ago.
Kuroda got on the board first with a Vampire Hexmage. Takagi had a Kor Outfitter for his second turn and added a Kor Hookmaster to keep the Hexmage tapped down. It took Kuroda until turn four to get another creature, but the Guul Draz Specter he played was a beast. Kuroda had only played Swamps until this point, and right as I was thinking how cool it would be if he had a Mind Sludge, he played a fifth Swamp and aimed one right at Takagi, clearing his hand. This turned his Specter on and put him immensely ahead. Takagi found an Umara Raptor to provide a temporary respite from the Specter, but a Marsh Casualties a turn later wiped all of his creatures off the board, prompting a scoop.
Masashiro Kuroda 1 – Takayuki Takagi 0
Kuroda is totally living the dream.
Kuroda really got to live the dream that last game. Takagi was doing really well until the Sludge relegated him to the top of his deck.
Kuroda’s early Guul Draz Vampire was stopped cold by Takagi’s Kraken Hatchling. When Kuroda made a Crypt Ripper with his four Swamps, Takagi considered himself lucky to have just played a Merfolk Seastalkers. His feelings of luck quickly dissipated, as Kuroda aimed another Sludge to empty out his hand.
Takagi had a sixth land waiting on top of his deck, and he was able to keep Kuroda’s creatures locked down. Kuroda had nothing for a few turns. Then, from the trees, a Heartstabber Mosquito killed the Seastalkers, clearing the way for the hasty shade. Takagi found a temporary answer in a Kor Hookmaster, but he was going to have to do something soon or Kuroda’s eight Swamps would literally eat him alive.
The team attacked. When Takagi left the shade unblocked, Kuroda pumped it for the full eight, knocking Takagi down to eight. Takagi planned on blocking with the Kraken on the following turn, but Kuroda had a Hideous End to kill it before giving Takagi a hideous end of his own.
Masashiro Kuroda 2 – Takayuki Takagi 0