Event_Coverage

Shuhei Rocks Japan!

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What a weekend! In a star studded Top 8, it was some of Japan’s biggest names advancing from the quarters to the semis to the finals! Naoki Sakaguchi, an unknown who came blazing out of nowhere to dominate the first two days of competition saw his streak ended by Shuhei Nakamura in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile Kenji Tsumura, resurgent after taking some time away from the game, managed to sneak through to the semis.

It was there that even Tsumura fell, to Yuuya Watanabe. The former Rookie of the Year found himself in back-to-back Nationals Top 8s and, with his semis win, joined the Nationals team for the second year in a row! But even he couldn’t overcome the reigning Player of the Year, Shuhei Nakamura. Shuhei put up a dominating performance in the Top 8, nearly sweeping to victory by going 3-1 in the finals. He will captain a powerful team featuring himself, Yuuya, Yuma Shiota in 3rd, and Kenji Tsumura as the alternate. Japan has spoken loudly, and their champion is Shuhei Nakamura!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Shuuhei Nakamura   Shuuhei Nakamura 3-2        
8 Naoki Sakaguchi   Shuhei Nakamura 3-2
       
4 Yuuma Shiota   Yuuma Shiota 3-1   Shuhei Nakamura 3-1
5 Taichi Fujimoto    
       
2 Yuuya Watanabe   Yuuya Watanabe 3-0
7 Ren Ishikawa   Yuuya Watanabe 3-1
       
3 Kenji Tsumura   Kenji Tsumura 3-2
6 Tomomi Shiraishi    

3rd Place Playoff  
Yuma Shiota Yuma Shiota 3-2
Kenji Tsumura


EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION
 1.  Shuhei Nakamura $3,000
 2.  Yuuya Watanabe $2,000
 3.  Yuma Shiota $1,500
 4.  Kenji Tsumura $1,500
 5.  Naoki Sakaguchi $500
 6.  Tomomi Shiraishi $500
 7.  Ren Ishikawa $500
 8.  Taichi Fujimoto $500
Pairings Results Standings
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  • Top 8 Player Profiles
    by Bill Stark

  • Name: Yuuya Watanabe
    Age:
    Profession: Former Mister PWC [Planeswalker Cup]

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Kanagawa Prefecture.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 6-1-1
    Draft 1: 3-0
    Draft 2: 1-2

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: UB Faeries
    Deck name: Mode de Faerie
    Designer: Myself
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Drowned Catacomb and Gargoyle Castle.

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Faeries. It’s still the strongest deck.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Drowned Catacomb.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Great Sable Stag.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    2008 Japan National Tea, 2007 Pro Tour Rookie of the Year, Grand Prix-Kyoto Champion, Grand Prix-Kobe Finalist.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    I like watching Evangelion. I can’t wait to see the third movie.





    Name: Yuma Shiota
    Age: 26
    Profession: Company employee

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Okayama Prefecture.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 7-0-1
    Draft 1: 1-2
    Draft 2: 2-1

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: Affinity Elves
    Deck name: Big Druid Deck
    Designer: Naoki Ueda
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Elvish Archdruid, Great Sable Stag, Sunpetal Grove.

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    This deck—it’s a lot of fun to play.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    None





    Name: Shuhei Nakamura
    Age: 28
    Profession: Drafter

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Either Osaka or Tokyo.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 6-2
    Draft 1: 3-0
    Draft 2: 1-2

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: 5-color Cruel Control
    Deck name:
    Designer: Myself, although I got the basic design from the Decks of the Week. The sideboard was decided with help from [Kazuya] Mitamura.
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Great Sable Stag.

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Elf combo. It’s probably the strongest deck in the current format.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Essence Scatter.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    The new lands.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    Someone told me I’m the Player of the Year...

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Practicing English, traveling for fun and not Magic, touring on my bicycle.





    Name: Kenji Tsumura
    Age: 22
    Profession: Prep school student

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Somewhere in Hiroshima, preferably in Hiroshima City.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 7-1
    Draft 1: 2-1
    Draft 2: 1-2

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: Affinity Elves
    Deck name: Alright!!
    Designer: Myself and Oiso
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Elvish Archdruid, Sunpetal Grove, Great Sable Stag.

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Affinity Elves—it’s the strongest.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Honor the Pure.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    2005 Pro Tour Player of the Year.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Study!





    Name: Taichi Fujimoto
    Age: 24
    Profession: Student

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Tokyo.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 6-1-1
    Draft 1: 2-1
    Draft 2: 2-1

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: BR Blightning
    Deck name: Iyanaga Special
    Designer: Jun’ya Iyanaga
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Lightning Bolt, Dragonskull Summit.

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    I think the UB infinite turn deck is really good.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Lightning Bolt.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Baneslayer Angel.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    Grand Prix Top 8.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Eat.





    Name: Ren Ishikawa
    Age: 23
    Profession:MagicOnline player

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Kanagawa Prefecture.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 5-2-1
    Draft 1: 3-0
    Draft 2: 2-1

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: Faeries
    Deck name:
    Designer: Main deck—me, Sideboard—Shota Yasooka
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Drowned Catacomb

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Faeries. It can just win even unfavorable match-ups.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Swamp

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Great Sable Stag.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    Grand Prix-Yokohama Top 8, Grand Prix-Kyoto Top 8, Japan Nationals Finalist.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Work on my standing in the Magic Online Player of the Year race.





    Name: Tomomi Shiraishi
    Age: 24
    Profession: MD

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Gunma Prefecture.

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 5-1-2
    Draft 1: 2-1
    Draft 2: 3-0

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: Affinity Elves
    Deck name: Elf type G @ Nagashima
    Designer: Myself and my friend Kawashima
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Elvish Archdruid, Sunpetal Grove

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Toast. Faeries is a deck that’s designed around creature decks, but it’s not good at handling other archetypes.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid.

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    I have won some local tournaments.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Judo.





    Name: Naoki Sakaguchi
    Age: 22
    Profession: Company employee

    If you win, where will next year’s Japan Nationals be held?
    Nagoya!

    What was your tournament record during the Swiss rounds?
    Standard: 5-1-2 (both intentional draws)
    Draft 1: 3-0
    Draft 2: 3-0

    Please tell us about your Standard deck.
    Deck type: Quick ‘N Toast
    Deck name: Griman
    Designer: SKGL
    What Magic 2010 cards did you use? Baneslayer Angel

    If you were going to play in next week’s US Nationals, what deck would you bring for the Standard portion?
    Quick ‘N Toast. I think it can handily beat any non-Faeries deck.

    What Magic 2010 card was your VIP this weekend?
    Baneslayer Angel.

    What Magic 2010 card had the biggest impact on your deck this weekend?
    Elvish Archdruid and Great Sable Stag

    Please tell us about your other Magic achievements.
    I’ve played on the Pro Tour twice.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing Magic?
    Pachinko.

     

  • Top 8 Decklists
    by Bill Stark
  • Kenji Tsumura
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Naoki Sakaguchi
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Ren Ishikawa
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Yuuya Watanabe
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Shuuhei Nakamura
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Yuuma Shiota
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Tomomi Shiraishi
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8


    Taichi Fujimoto
    2009 Japan National Championship Standard Top 8

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    Dragonskull Summit
    Graven Cairns
    11  Mountain
    Savage Lands
    Swamp

    24 lands

    Anathemancer
    Demigod of Revenge
    Figure of Destiny
    Hellspark Elemental

    16 creatures

    Blightning
    Flame Javelin
    Lightning Bolt
    Magma Spray
    Volcanic Fallout

    20 other spells

    Sideboard
    Bitterblossom
    Deathmark
    Firespout
    Manabarbs
    Shriekmaw

    15 sideboard cards


     

  • Quarterfinals: Tomomi Shiraishi VS Kenji Tsumura
    by Bill Stark
  • One of the biggest stories throughout Japanese Nationals this weekend has been the presence of Kenji Tsumura at the top tables. His White-Green Elves deck took a number of friends to top finishes, and powered Kenji to the Top 8. His fairy tale performance so far on the weekend didn’t matter anymore, however, and it wasn’t going to be a piece of cake for the plucky pro as he defended his home prefecture (Hiroshima) from Tomomi Shiraishi and the rest of the Top 8. Shiraishi, Tsumura’s judo-enthusiast Quarterfinals opponent, was quite possibly the first maternity doctor in the history of the game to reach the Top 8 of a major event. Hailing from Guma prefecture, near Tokyo, Tomomi was looking to keep a dominating performance during the Swiss portion of play going strong through the Quarters.

    The maternity doctor Tomomi Shiraishi.
    It was a White-Green Elves mirror match, with Tomomi Shiraishi on the play. Tsumura started with a mulligan, but was able to keep his six, and they were off. Llanowar Elves hit the battlefield for both on the first turn, but Kenji missed his second land drop despite casting Elvish Visionary, and could only watch as Tomomi exploded with Heritage Druid and Scattershot Archers that allowed him to cast Ranger of Eos searching up twin Nettle Sentinels. By barely the third turn, it looked like Shiraishi was going to dominate the first game!

    Tsumura looked like he was going to miss a land drop for the second turn in a row, sitting on just one Forest, but thanks to his Elf manabase, he had access to plenty of mana after casting Heritage Druid. A second Elvish Visionary netted him one more additional card, a Wooded Bastion that entered the battlefield and allowed him to cast two more Heritage Druids. He passed the turn with two lands and six Elves, but with Tomomi sitting on the main portions of the Elf mana engine as well as a Mosswort Bridge hiding a Regal Force; the real question was whether Kenji could survive his opponent’s next turn.

    Casting a second Nettle Sentinel gave Tomomi enough power on the board to activate his Mosswort Bridge. That drew him six cards, amongst which were a host of juicy spells. He cast a third Nettle Sentinel, then played Elf after Elf for free, generating extra mana each time he did so thanks to the combination of triple Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid. If he had a second Regal Force or a Primal Command to find one, it was all but over for Kenji Tsumura. Instead, Shiraishi stopped after casting Elvish Archdruid and Mirror Entity. Using his floating mana he pumped his team, then attacked with a Nettle Sentinel and Ranger of Eos. They were the only creatures he had started the turn with that weren’t tapped, but thanks to Mirror Entity they were more than enough. Kenji chumped the Ranger with an Elvish Visionary, surviving the turn, and untapped. What could the tiny pro have to dig himself out of the grave situation he was in?

    Tsumura surveyed the board, then did some mental calculations. Counting up mana, he checked his opponent’s position again. Still not satisfied with what he found and apparently unable to do anything about it, he conceded the first game.

    Tomomi Shiraishi 1, Kenji Tsumura 0

    On the play for the second game, Kenji Tsumura agonized over whether to keep his opening hand or not. Ultimately he opted to send it back, the second time in the match he had mulliganed, but unlike the first game, he was joined in doing so by Tomomi Shiraishi. Neither liked their second hands either, and sent them back in favor of five cards each. The new mulligan rule was in fine effect as both players quickly declared mulligan decisions one after the other, rather than laboriously waiting for first one to finish, then the other as in days gone by.

    Mosswort Bridge was the first play for both players, but it was Kenji on the battlefield first with an Elvish Visionary. He followed that up with Elvish Archdruid, sending his now 2/2 Elvish Visionary into the red zone against Tomomi’s Devoted Druid. Shiraishi also had an Archdruid to cast on his turn, but thanks to the interaction between Devoted Druid and the +1/+1 from Elvish Archdruid, Shiraishi was also able to cast a second copy of the Lord.

    Tsumura untapped, cast Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, then tapped all of his mana save Mosswort Bridge to summon a Regal Force. Tomomi sighed in frustration as the 5/5 was the engine piece that wcould put his opponent over the top, and possibly end the game. Tsumura drew a handful of fresh cards, played a Forest, and passed the turn with enough power to activate his Mosswort Bridge should he choose to do so.

    Tomomi Shiraishi fights valiantly with no lands against Tsumura’s superior numbers.
    Looking to catch up, Tomomi Shiraishi checked his draw closely, then cast Nettle Sentinel and Mirror Entity. With two Archdruids that could each generate five mana, Tomomi had enough to activate his own Mosswort Bridge if he wanted. He tapped the first Archdruid, then used his mana to activate Mosswort Bridge revealing...a third Elvish Archdruid. Certainly a powerful card, but he needed Primal Command and/or Regal Force to really make a go of things. Instead, he played Windbrisk Heights and passed the turn, hoping to survive whatever his opponent could muster, and win the following turn.

    Tsumura, to his credit, wasn’t going to lie down on the job. He cast a second Nettle Sentinel, allowing him to start floating mana as he cast small Elves, and finally revealed what was under his Bridge: a second Regal Force. The new 5/5 netted nine cards and it was going to take a miracle for Tomomi to stay in the game through a turn that was shaping up to be a monstrous one. Tsumura cast Primal Command, putting Windbrisk Heights back on top of his opponent’s library and searching up a third Regal Force. Ranger of Eos found a fourth Nettle Sentinel and a Heritage Druid, and Tsumura actually checked his library to make sure he wouldn’t accidentally deck himself via Regal Forces.

    Primal Command after Primal Command hit the battlefield returning Tomomi’s lands to the top of his library, but the Guma resident gave no ground. He wasn’t going to make it easy by conceding, instead forcing his opponent to play it out. Eventually Tsumura cycled through his entire deck, recycling it with Primal Commands, played all the Elves in his deck, and passed the turn with a few cards left in his library. Shiraishi drew his card, a land that he had had on the battlefield just moments beforehand, and finally conceded to Kenji’s vastly superior board presence.

    Tomomi Shiraishi 1, Kenji Tsumura 1

    For the third game in a row, a player opted to mulligan his opening hand, but for the first time in the match it was solely Tomomi Shiraishi who opted to do so; his opponent was content with his opener. When six wasn’t good enough, Shiraishi was down to five. The lucky break was exactly the type of thing Kenji needed to get ahead in the match after having lost the die roll. With the Elf mirror being somewhat dependent on who was on the play, Tsumura needed something to break serve, winning one while on the draw. If he could do that, and get everything else to follow the natural order of things, he’d be on to the semis. When Shiraishi mulliganed to just four cards, his fate in the third game seemed sealed.

    Still, stranger things have happened than a player winning on a triple mulligan in Standard, and Tomomi had a pretty solid start for having gone so low: Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid with access to both green and white mana. Kenji, meanwhile, had a standard explosive Elves draw with Nettle Sentinel followed up by Heritage Druid and a second Sentinel that allowed him to generate enough mana for Llanowar Elves and Noble Hierarch too. If Tsumura had Primal Command or Regal Force on his next turn, the game was done and it wasn’t looking too tough for him even if he didn’t.

    Super pro Kenji Tsumura.
    Tomomi wasn’t going down that easy, however, using Last Breath to exile Kenji’s Heritage Druid on his own turn. That stranded Tsumura without his mana engine, and he could only attack with Nettle Sentinel, adding Devoted Druids to the battlefield. Beyond the Last Breath, Shirashi had drawn just lands while Kenji was able to find an Elvish Archdruid that allowed him to attack his opponent to 7. A second Last Breath from Tomomi dealt with the Lord.

    Shiraishi managed to generate exactly seven mana for Regal Force thanks to the glut of lands he had drawn and his few Elves and drew three cards. All of a sudden the tables had resoundingly turned! Tsumura was ripping lands, none of which had hideaway, while Tomomi had undone the effects of his mulligan. He cast Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid and started doing calculations. Could he pull off the improbable, winning after starting the game at just four cards in hand? The crowd whispered excitedly amongst itself about the possibility.

    Ranger of Eos for Tomomi searched up two more Nettle Sentinels meaning he had the full combo on the table, but when he played Mosswort Bridge as the last card in his hand he found only a Heritage Druid to hide under it. Kenji, suddenly taking damage from his opponent’s attacking Regal Force, didn’t seem happy with yet another whiff of a draw step, finding only a Nettle Sentinel waiting for him. Tomomi drew his card, then did some calculations before sending his entire team into the red zone. Chumping Regal Force with Noble Hierarch and a Nettle Sentinel with Llanowar Elves, Tsumura fell to 8, dead on his opponent’s next attack. Post-combat Shiraishi had a second Elvish Archdruid to hide under a second Mosswort Bridge, then passed the turn.

    Tsumura went to the top of his library and found...another land. Tomomi Shiraishi had done it! He had defeated Kenji Tsumura on a mulligan to just four cards to regain the lead in the match!!!

    Tomomi Shiraishi 2, Kenji Tsumura 1

    Keeping in theme with the match so far, Tomomi Shiraishi opted to take yet another mulligan to kick off the fourth game. He kept his six, and both players came out of the gates with one-drops, Kenji leading with Llanowar Elves while Tomomi led with Heritage Druid. Tsumura also had a Nettle Sentinel and Mosswort Bridge on his second turn, a series of plays that drew a hiss of concern from Shiraishi. He fired back with a Nettle Sentinel of his own, followed by two Heritage Druids.

    Tsumura untapped and considered his options. His opponent was threatening to go off the following turn, meaning he needed to get something going to stay alive. He tapped all three of his Elves to generate the mana to cast Elvish Archdruid, then cast a second Heritage Druid. Thanks to the +1/+1 effect of his Lord he had enough power on the board to activate his Mosswort Bridge revealing a Regal Force to draw six cards. With two mana floating, he cast Elvish Visionary, played Sunpetal Grove, and a Noble Hierarch. Out of gas, he had to pass the turn to Tomomi.

    Shiraishi untapped and slowly slid the top card of his library to his hand. He tapped three Elves to generate three green mana, then cast Devoted Druid and Mirror Entity. He shipped the turn with zero cards in hand against Tsumura’s much stronger battlefield presence and nearly full grip; it wasn’t looking good for Tomomi Shiraishi. Ranger of Eos entered the battlefield for Kenji Tsumura, fetching up two Nettle Sentinels and ensuring the former Player of the Year would have all the mana he needed on his turn. He cast one, floating two mana, and cast the third, then went through the motions of his big turn.

    The battlefield on Kenji’s side of the table became increasingly cluttered with Elves. A second, then third Regal Force ensured he had more than enough cards to go off, and triple Nettle Sentinel plus Heritage Druid alongside an untapped Elvish Archdruid ensured he had plenty of mana. He used a Path to Exile to ace his opponent’s Mirror Entity, then started casting Primal Commands. The sorceries allowed him to tutor up the creatures he needed to keep going, stack his opponent’s library with useless draws of lands that he had had on the battlefield, and recycled Kenji’s graveyard. This time, Tomomi wasn’t waiting for the inevitable, conceding after the second Command resolved.

    Tomomi Shiraishi 2, Kenji Tsumura 2

    Yet again the match saw mulligans, this time as both players sent their hands back together. Happy on six they got underway, each leading on Nettle Sentinel. Tomomi, on the play for the final game, followed up his with Devoted Druid only to watch as Kenji did the same. Unfortunately for Tsumura, his opponent had Heritage Druid to accelerate into a Primal Command, putting one of Tsumura’s Forests back on top of his library while searching up a Regal Force. Kenji Tsumura’s chances of advancing into the semifinals were looking increasingly slim.

    Still, he made a go of it, casting a Heritage Druid of his own, then tapping all of his Elves to cast Elvish Archdruid. Spending a -1/-1 counter to untap his Devoted Druid, he was able to generate just enough mana to cast Primal Command, returning one of Tomomi’s lands to his library and fetching up a Regal Force. Shiraishi would still be the first player to cast Regal Force, and from there it was going to be an uphill climb for his opponent to stay in it.

    Tomomi untapped, then turned all of his permanents sideways to cast Regal Force for a gain of four cards. He was poised to go crazy if given another turn, but first he’d have to survive while Kenji worked his own Force. With an extra creature on the battlefield, it was possible Tsumura could utilize that tiny edge to eek out a game-winning advantage and climb back into things. He tapped all of his Elves to make just enough mana to cast Regal Force, leaving him with two Forests untapped. He played a third land, just enough mana for Elvish Archdruid, then was able to utilize his Devoted Druid‘s untap ability (thanks to the +1/+1 effects it kept getting from Archdruid) to play a third Archdruid and a second Nettle Sentinel. It was a valiant effort and a bigger turn than Tomomi’s, but he still had to pass back to Shiraishi without having cast a Primal Command.

    After drawing a card, Shiraishi began doing quiet calculations. He had neither a Primal Command nor a Regal Force in his hand, but he was able to play Mirror Entity and Ranger of Eos to search up two more copies of Nettle Sentinel. After that, he was done for the turn and suddenly Tomomi’s tournament fate rested entirely on whether or not Kenji Tsumura could manage a bigger turn with more Elves on the battlefield.

    It was Tsumura’s turn to do calculations, and he had quite a few to figure out. With three untapped Elvish Archdruids alongside double Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid, Kenji could generate a whoppingly large amount of mana on his turn. The question was whether or not he could find something productive to do with it, productive meaning Primal Command or Regal Force. Tsumura counted up five mana, then cast Primal Command targeting his opponent’s land to go back on the top of his library and searching up a Regal Force to keep going.

    In short order Kenji was drawing his deck, casting Elf after Elf after Elf, and cycling through his Primal Commands. Out-resourced by Tsumura, the maternity doctor Tomomi Shiraishi’s tournament came to an end at the hands of many of the very same Elves that had served him so well on the weekend. Kenji Tsumura advances to the semifinals!

    Kenji Tsumura advances to the semifinals!

    Kenji Tsumura 3, Tomomi Shiraishi 2.

     

  • Quarterfinals Roundup
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Shuuhei Nakamura (Mitamura-style Quik ‘N Toast) 3-2 VS Naoki Sakaguchi (Quik ‘N Toast)
    (According to Japanese Reporter Masashi Oiso)

    “A control versus control match that may be favorable for Sakaguchi”, is exactly what Shuhei Nakamura said right before the match. In Game 5, Sakaguchi cast Identity Crisis which destroyed nearly all of Shuhei’s resources, but twin copies of Magic 2010‘s Great Sable Stag survived on the battlefield. The two Stags were the last hope for the 2008 Player of the Year and... Sakaguchi couldn’t find any solutions to deal with the super blue killers! The 6 point clock finished the game.

    Yuuma Shiota (Elves Combo) 3-1 VS Taichi Fujimoto (Red-Black Blightning)
    (According to Japanese Reporter Tomohiro Kaji)

    Yuuma’s Elves Combo contained Gilt-Leaf Archdruids which gave him tremendous advantages all weekend long. All of Taichi’s removal spells were burn spells in a dec designed by Jun’ya Iyanaga. Huge green monsters like Cloudthreshers were the problems for him, not tiny Elves like the Archdruid. The Elves simply sped the fatties into play and, once they hit the battlefield it was all over.


    Yuuya Watanabe(Faeries) 3-0 VS Ren Ishikawa (Faeries)
    (According to Japanese Reporter Akira Asahara)

    The Faeries mirror match was a 3-0 straight win to Watanabe. The match was decided largely on the fact that Yuuya had been able to access Jace Beleren while Ren never did. The card advantage was more than enough to send former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe on to the Semifinals.

     

  • Semifinals: Kenji Tsumura VS Yuuya Watanabe
    by Bill Stark
  • With Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura, former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe, and former Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura all advancing to the Semifinals of the 2009 Japanese National Championships, the nation of the Rising Sun was putting up a solid challenge for the 2009 World Teams title. It was the former RoY and PoY who would be squaring off against one another for the right to battle for the title in the Finals. Yuuya Watanabe was playing Faeries, one of the more popular decks on the weekend and an archetype he was very familiar with. Tsumura, meanwhile, had stormed the weekend with his take on Green-White Elves, dispatching opponent after opponent with the sixty card concoction.

    Yuuya Watanabe and Kenji Tsumura (L-R) battle for a spot in the finals.

    Sunpetal Grove entered the battlefield tapped for Kenji Tsumura, a Magic 2010 change in pace; Brushland, from Tenth Edition, would have started untapped but cost Tsumura life to use. Instead, he spent his second turn casting two Llanowar Elves, though Yuuya quickly dispatched one with a Peppersmoke, failing to draw a card from doing so due to a lack of Faeries in play. Watanabe followed up the removal spell with a second-turn Bitterblossom.

    An early Primal Command against a Broken Ambitionsless Yuuya Watanabe meant Kenji Tsumura was able to force one of Yuuya’s lands back to the top of his library and search up a Ranger of Eos. The Antoine Ruel-inspired Invitational Card was a solid choice, though Tsumura did have a Cloudthresher lurking in his deck somewhere. Watanabe had Scion of Oona to pump his team, and went on the offensive with the 1/1 Lord and a Faerie Rogue token from Bitterblossom. He was firmly the beatdown and if he was to have any hope of remaining in that position, he’d need to keep up with Tsumura’s impending horde of green creatures.

    Ranger of Eos sought up some Nettle Sentinels to help Kenji get his beat on, but a second Scion of Oona from Yuuya meant Bitterblossom was suddenly producing 3 points of flying damage each turn for Kenji Tsumura. An attack from Yuuya sent Kenji to 7 life, and on Tsumura’s upkeep, Yuuya pulled the trigger on a Mistbind Clique. To continue playing, Kenji would have to cast all of his spells through Heritage Druid, Devoted Druid, and a Llanowar Elves. Of course, with some help from Nettle Sentinels, that wasn’t all that tall an order and Kenji generated three mana to play a second copy of the 2/2. With a sly smile, he revealed that was all he had for the turn, passing to his friend Yuuya, then scooping up his cards with a laugh. The first game had gone to Watanabe.

    Yuuya Watanabe 1, Kenji Tsumura 0

    Prior to the match, Kenji had stated he believed his deck’s chances against Watanabe were about even, though the crowd of Japanese players watching had informed him they felt Watanabe was slightly favored. With powerful cards against Elves like Cryptic Command, Peppersmoke, and Spellstutter Sprite, Yuuya’s deck was certainly capable of pulling off the victory. After the first game, the question seemed to be was Kenji’s?

    Watanabe had to start the second game with a mulligan, though both players had first-turn action. Kenji dropped Llanowar Elves while Yuuya had Thoughtseize, seeing double Devoted Druid, double Elvish Archdruid, and a Heritage Druid. One of the Archdruids was forced to the bin, and Tsumura took his turn to cast a Devoted Druid, noticeably absent a third land. Yuuya had nothing for his second, and shipped it back with some reticence.

    It seemed likely Kenji was going to wind up with an Elvish Archdruid on the table during his turn as he cast a Heritage Druid, waiting expectantly for a response from Yuuya. When the former Rookie of the Year didn’t have one, Kenji cast Nettle Sentinel, then the Archdruid. Agony Warp from the Faeries side of the battlefield dealt with the 2/2 Lord.

    Great Sable Stag wasn’t enough to scare Yuuya Watanabe away from playing Faeries.

    Yuuya was having trouble mounting an offense, so Kenji took the initiative instead, attacking with Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and Llanowar Elves. Post-combat he cast a second Heritage Druid, untapping his Sentinel. Watanabe played a fourth land, then passed the turn again with no action. When his opponent reached his upkeep however, he cast Cryptic Command to tap all of Kenji’s creatures and draw a card. Tsumura calmly played Wooded Bastion, then a second Devoted Druid which untapped his Nettle Sentinel. He attacked Yuuya to 12 with the 2/2.

    A second Cryptic Command from Watanabe fogged a second attack from Kenji, but the Faeries deck still hadn’t produced any creatures. Yuuya only had so many Cryptic Commands before Kenji’s ever-growing Elf horde would overwhelm him. One more copy of the 1UUU spell bought him yet another combat step, but the cantrip from the instant found him a land, and his draw step the turn after yielded the same. All of a sudden it became clear why Yuuya Watanabe hadn’t played any threats: he hadn’t drawn any!

    Another land came for Yuuya, but at the very least it was a Mutavault. Kenji attacked Watanabe to 4, and Yuuya’s deck yielded a very cruel spell: Bitterblossom. The powerful enchantment required too much life investment to do Yuuya any good at such a late stage in the game, and he needed to find a better solution, quickly. Kenji cast Great Sable Stag, unlocking his Nettle Sentinel, and sent the 2/2 Sentinel into the red zone. It became 3/3 from the exalted on a Noble Hierarch, and when Yuuya didn’t find any help on the top of his deck yet again, the players were on to the third game.

    Kenji Tsumura
    Yuuya Watanabe 1, Kenji Tsumura 1

    Both players took a turn at the mulligan wheel for the third game of their match, though it took much longer for Kenji Tsumura to decide to send his hand back than it did his opponent. Watanabe wasted no time in keeping his hand of six, but Tsumura had to go back for five. With re-drawing out of the way, they got down to business.

    Yuuya was able to kick things off in just the fashion his Faerie deck wanted, with a Bitterblossom on the second turn. His opponent built up a manabase by playing Mosswort Bridge, then Nettle Sentinel on the second turn. Looking to race, Yuuya moved all-in by casting a second Bitterblossom to increase his clock. Across the battlefield, Kenji Tsumura simply attacked with his Nettle Sentinel, then missed playing both a land and a spell.

    A Llanowar Elves finally showed up to help Kenji out, but Yuuya was sitting on five Faerie tokens and didn’t seem the least bit concerned. He attacked his opponent to put him at 7 and when Tsumura didn’t find a miracle sitting on the top of his deck, the game was over in a snap. Yuuya Watanabe’s double Bitterblossom draw was more than enough to race Kenji Tsumura’s mana shy single Nettle Sentinel.

    Yuuya Watanabe 2, Kenji Tsumura 1

    Yuuya Watanabe was on to the Finals!

    Kenji kicked off the fourth game of the match with a Noble Hierarch, but not until after his opponent had mulliganed to six cards. When Tsumura cast Elvish Archdruid on his second turn, Yuuya Watanabe gave an animated mock gasp of frustration. He cast Thoughtseize to see Mosswort Bridge, Nettle Sentinel, Elvish Visionary, and Devoted Druid in his opponent’s hand. Elvish Visionary was the card sent to Tsumura’s graveyard.

    The Elves came to play with Nettle Sentinel and Devoted Druid joining Kenji’s side of the battlefield, while Elvish Archdruid rumbled through the red zone for 3 damage. In an effort to keep up, Yuuya cast Sower of Temptation to steal his opponent’s Elvish Archdruid. Thanks to the removal of mana burn from Magic 2010, Kenji was able to tap his 2/2 for mana in response, suffering no ill effects from doing so. Unfortunately for Tsumura, he didn’t have much action after that, and could only watch as Yuuya started to take control of the game with a Bitterblossom.

    Scion of Oona hit the battlefield for Watanabe, and his team had suddenly become very large. If Kenji didn’t find a Cloudthresher or something else to get going, he was going to be out of the first place running. Tsumura found the 7/7, but his opponent had a Spellstutter Sprite to counter. Surveying the battlefield, Kenji recognized Yuuya’s horde of Bittberblossom tokens were going to be enough to get there, and Yuuya Watanabe was on to the Finals!

    Yuuya Watanabe 3, Kenji Tsumura 1

     

  • Semifinals Roundup Shuhei Nakamura (Quik ‘N Toast) VS Yuma Shiota (Combo Elves)
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • The first game of the match was a veritable how-to for prospective Toast players in dealing with the Elf combo deck. Master Shuhei Nakamura cast his mass destruction on every third turn of the game to slow down his opponent. Turn three Volcanic Fallout, turn five Hallowed Burial, turn seven Cruel Ultimatum. Yuma tried to revive his chances with a Ranger of Eos topdeck, but Shuhei answered back with another Volcanic Fallout and a sly grin. That sent Shiota packing, scooping up his cards for the second game.

    The second and third games were all about how green decks can sideboard against control decks. Yuma was able to stick a Great Sable Stag in the early game, and that’s what the focus of the entire match became!

    Of course, mastermind Shuhei Nakamura had sideboard tech in the form of Runed Halo and stopped the Stag’s beatdown in Game 4. When Shuhei started casting mass removal over and over again, the game count was evened to two games apiece.

    In the final game of the match, Shuhei gave a workshop on how to control everything. Turn two Agony Warp, then a Plumeveil forcing Shiota to Path to Exile, and a Volcanic Fallout to put things over the top! Nakamura cleaned the Elvish side of the battlefield and summoned Broodmate Dragon to seal the deal. By the end, Shiota’s last 5 life points were undone by the powerful Cruel Ultimatum, sending Shuhei Nakamura on to the Finals.

     

  • Semifinals -- 3rd/4th Place Playoff: Kenji Tsumura VS Yuma Shiota
    by Bill Stark
  • Yuma Shiota, the company man from Okayama prefecture, was playing the exact same archetype as his opponent, Kenji Tsumura. He had had a whirlwind weekend finding himself as a member of the new generation of Japanese players to enter into this Top 8. Kenji Tsumura, on the other hand, benefited from a number of competitive accolades after a long and successful career on the Pro Tour. The winner of the match would become the third member of the 2009 Japanese National team, joining Shuhei Nakamura and Yuuya Watanabe.

    After winning the die roll, Yuma Shiota led off with Nettle Sentinel followed by Elvish Visionary. His opponent copied the Sentinel play, but had Devoted Druid instead of Visionary for his second turn. A Heritage Druid for Shiota allowed him to cast an Elvish Archdruid, threatening to “go off” the following turn with a Regal Force in his hand.

    Gilt-Leaf Archdruid
    A unique addition to Shiota’s Elf deck
    Tsumura cast his own Archdruid, albeit without the help of a Heritage Druid. He also had to use his Devoted Druid instead of playing a third land, a theme that had flustered the pro throughout the Top 8. He had been the victim of some unfortunate mana draws in addition to a lot of mulligans. His mana troubles threatened to get even worse as Shiota was holding a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid, a unique addition to the Elves deck that had served Yuma well on the weekend.

    Tapping most of his Elves, Yuma cast Regal Force drawing a grip of cards. That yielded him a second Nettle Sentinel and a Devoted Druid, and he continued to go off with his Elves. The Gilt-Leaf Archdruid entered the battlefield, then a Primal Command to fetch a second Regal Force and stack Kenji’s draw step with a Forest from the board. Tsumura leaned over to point at his opponent’s Nettle Sentinels, politely reminding Shiota to untap them. Shiota was out of steam after that, but had plenty accomplished to feel good about. It would be an amazing feat for Kenji to dig himself out of the hole he was in.

    Of course, you don’t get to be a pro of Tsumura’s stature without doing exactly that from time to time. Kenji cast Elvish Visionary, drawing a card. He put a -1/-1 counter on his Devoted Druid to untap it, then started doing some calculations. A second Visionary hit, but when he didn’t find a Heritage Druid to keep going, the players were on to Game 2. Despite his best efforts, there would be no miracle for Kenji Tsumura this time.

    Yuma Shiota 1, Kenji Tsumura 0

    Both players kicked off the second game with hideaway lands, Kenji Tsumura in the form of Windbrisk Heights while Yuma Shiota played Mosswort Bridge. Each also had an accelerant with Kenji casting Noble Hiearch while Yuma cast Devoted Druid. Things finally got interesting as Kenji used his third turn to cast Elvish Archdruid. Shiota liked the play well enough to copy it with an Archdruid of his own, but added a Llanowar Elves for some extra flare.

    Kenji Tsumura needed a win to make the cut to the national team...
    Kenji untapped for a big turn, casting Ranger of Eos after dropping a Nettle Sentinel onto the battlefield. His 3/2 fetched a second Sentinel and a Heritage Druid, but that he was out of steam for the turn and passed to Shiota. Yuma untapped, but was stopped during his upkeep by a Path to Exile from Tsumura who used the removal spell to ace his opponent’s Elvish Archdruid. The Okayaman still had enough mana to cast Elvish Visionary and a Ranger of Eos of his own, also fetching Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel. After that he had to pass, promising a big turn if given the opportunity thanks to the Regal Force in his hand.

    Nettle Sentinel hit the battlefield for Kenji, who had his mana engine online as well as a Windbrisk Heights and Mosswort Bridge. It was no doubt going to be a huge turn for him, but could he make it big enough to end the game then and there? To meet the requirement on his Windbrisk Heights, Kenji attacked Shiota with Nettle Sentinel, Elvish Archdruid, and Ranger of Eos. Yuma blocked the Sentinel with his Ranger, and Kenji activated Mosswort Bridge. The land had been hiding a second Ranger of Eos, which searched for two replacement Nettle Sentinels. Post-combat Kenji cast one of the Sentinels, but opted not to activate his Windbrisk Heights after all, instead playing a second copy of the card.

    Shiota seemed all too happy to untap, playing Nettle Sentinel followed by Heritage Druid. That gave him enough mana to cast Regal Force, but he didn’t have anything to do after that and simply discarded for the turn. It was turning in to an odd game to the say the least, both players sputtering to go off, but neither able to do so. With the turn back, Kenji attacked with three creatures to again meet the requirements on his Windbrisk Heights, activating one post-combat for an Elvish Visionary. He finally managed to find a Heritage Druid to supplement the three copies of Nettle Sentinel he had on the table, and things started to get real interesting.

    Kenji tapped his Sentinels to generate GGG. He attempted to cast Llanowar Elves, but Yuma responded with Path to Exile. Kenji responded to that with Regal Force, hidden under his second Windbrisk Heights. That drew him a healthy slew of cards before he was forced to search out a land from the Path. He had three green mana floating; had the Regal Force found him a second copy of Heritage Druid? It had not, but Kenji had enough steam to cast two more Llanowar Elves and a Devoted Druid before passing the turn.

    Activating Mosswort Bridge was the first thing Yuma Shiota did on his turn, netting a free Ranger of Eos and then casting his third and fourth Nettle Sentinels. This ensured he had plenty of mana for the turn, but his big play was a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid without enough untapped Druids to steal his opponent’s lands. He continued generating mana, casting a Ranger of Eos to find two Heritage Druids. Thanks to the Gilt-Leaf, the 1/1s were cantrips as well as untappers for the Sentinels, and Yuma was able to continue trying to go off. Unfortunately for Yuma, the draws did not yield more Regal Forces, and he passed the turn after casting Mirror Entity.

    Kenji untapped, but Yuma stopped him on his upkeep. Repeating a play Tsumura himself had made earlier in the game, Shiota sent a Path to Exile at Kenji’s Elvish Archdruid. The removal spell apparently was enough to convince Kenji to head to the third game, staring down a battlefield that starred a Mirror Entity on the wrong side: his opponent’s.

    Yuma Shiota 2, Kenji Tsumura 0

    Elvish Archdruid and Llanowar Elves were early starters for Yuma Shiota in the third game while Kenji Tsumura managed a lowly Devoted Druid, and on his third turn after missing a land drop at that. It didn’t take long for Shiota to take advantage with Elvish Visionary and Nettle Sentinel providing enough mana for a Primal Command. That sent a Windbrisk Heights back to the top of Kenji’s library, with a Regal Force leaping from Shiota’s deck to his hand.

    Still trying to make a game of things, Tsumura re-played his Heights, then cast Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, working his creatures hard enough to then cast double Elvish Archdruid and Elvish Visionary. Not too bad on just one land to start the turn! Unfortunately it was entirely probable it would not be enough as his opponent got to untap with an active Elvish Archdruid and a Regal Force in hand.

    ...but so did his opponent, Yuma Shiota!
    Shiota was able to cast the Regal Force, but couldn’t find the final land he needed to activate his Wooded Bastion. Instead, he discarded a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and passed the turn. Tsumura was going to get a brief stay of execution! He wasted no time casting Heritage Druid to get his mana engine online, then dropping Regal Force to draw nine cards. Ranger of Eos found Tsumura the Nettle Sentinels he needed to make it official, and he started through the motions. Primal Commands hit the battlefield to stack his opponent’s library with his own lands, searching up Regal Forces to keep Tsumura’s hand stocked with more Elves. It didn’t take long for Yuma Shiota to concede, sending the match to the fourth game. Kenji Tsumura had dodged a mana-screw sized bullet in the third game of the match!

    Yuma Shiota 2, Kenji Tsumura 1

    Not happy with a hand of seven, Yuma Shiota was forced to ship his opener back for a new set of six. When those were no good either, Shiota was down to five, a bad place to be against Kenji Tsumura. Yuma might have felt better about his situation if he had known Kenji had already lost a game to an opponent who had been forced to mulligan to four on the day.

    Happy with five, or as happy as one can be starting with five cards, Yuma Shiota cast Nettle Sentinel followed by Devoted Druid. His opponent was able to establish himself much faster on the back of a Llanowar Elves, double Heritage Druid, and a Devoted Druid. Yuma had Elvish Archdruid, but Kenji started doing mental math the instant he had the turn back.

    He tapped his Elves to generate the mana he needed to cast Regal Force, drawing five cards in the process. Out of steam following the 5/5’s entrance onto the battlefield, Tsumura passed the turn to Shiota. Yuma plucked a Primal Command from the top of his deck, then cast it to return a Mosswort Bridge to Kenji’s library while fetching up a Regal Force of his own. He had enough mana left over to also cast Gilt-Leaf Archdruid before giving the turn back to his opponent.

    Kenji cast Ranger of Eos to fetch up some more Nettle Sentinels, but after attacking with Regal Force was compelled to hand the turn back over to Shiota. Yuma had both Primal Command and Regal Force in his hand, and opted to cast the sorcery in order to dig up a second Elvish Archdruid. Casting the 2/2 netted him a free card thanks to his Gilt-Leaf Archdruid, but he could go no further with his engine and had to allow Kenji a turn to catch up.

    Tsumura had far more creatures on the board than his opponent, but it was all for not if he couldn’t find Primal Command or Regal Force. Find one he did, casting a second Force and drawing well over a dozen cards. The 5/5 was more than enough to fuel the cycle of Primal Commands, stacking his opponent’s deck with his own lands, searching up the creatures Kenji needed to keep going through the combo, and recycling his graveyard as it was called for. Reading the writing on the wall, Yuma Shiota conceded the game sending the players to the rubber duel.

    Yuma Shiota 2, Kenji Tsumura 2
    Both players started the final match of the game aggressively. Yuma had Llanowar Elves and Nettle Sentinel while his opponent had Llanowar Elves to accelerate into Elvish Archdruid. Shiota was the first player to get the mana engine online, casting Heritage Druid and not one but two Nettle Sentinels. That allowed him to cast a Devoted Druid, then a Ranger of Eos to fetch up a third Nettle Sentinel and a backup copy of Heritage Druid. Yuma was able to play all the remaining cards in his hand, including a Mosswort Bridge, passing the turn with nothing in the grip.
    Kenji’s half of the battlefield looked a bit sanguine with only a Llanowar Elves, Elvish Archdruid, and two lands. He drew his card for the turn, then called a judge to ask a question away from the table. It was unclear what the two were discussing, and Kenji said nothing as he sat back down to the match. He cast Devoted Druid and a second Elvish Archdruid, then played a Mosswort Bridge of his own before passing back the turn.

    It was all down to Yuma Shiota’s draw step and whatever was hidden under his Mosswort Bridge. He plucked the top card of his library to find...Primal Command! The absolute best thing he could have drawn! The sorcery quickly hit the battlefield to force Kenji’s Mosswort Bridge back to the top of his library and finding Shiota a Regal Force. Thanks to the three Nettle Sentinels he had on the battlefield, the 5/5 was going to have an easy time helping Yuma cycle through the Elf combo motions. Ranger of Eos was cast to find more cheap Elves, and when Gilt-Leaf Archdruid hit the battlefield Shiota turned all of his Druids into cantrips.

    A second Regal Force kept the flow of spells coming, and soon the cycle of Primal Commands started anew, this time with Tsumura on the receiving end. It didn’t take many iterations for Kenji to recognize his time at the 2009 National Championships was at an end. Yuma Shiota took the match to become the third member of the 2009 Japanese National Team! He will join Yuuya Watanabe and Shuhei Nakamura, with Kenji Tsumura as the alternate.

    2009 National Team Member Yuma Shiota!

    Yuma Shiota 3, Kenji Tsumura 2.

     

  • Finals: Yuuya Watanabe VS Shuhei Nakamura
    by Bill Stark
  • It all came down to this. With the third spot on the team locked up after Yuma Shiota had bested Kenji Tsumura in a five-game playoff, the title of National Champion came down to whether former Rookie of the Year Yuuya Watanabe could best reigning Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura. Also on the line was where the 2010 National Championships would be held; in Japan, the winner of the Finals earns the right to have his or her home prefecture (similar to a state or territory) host the next year’s tournament.

    Watanabe’s Faeries deck was a slight favorite in the matchup, with Shuhei’s Five-Color Control build historically in a slight hole to start against the blue-black hordes. Of course, thanks to Magic 2010 and the existence of Great Sable Stag, Nakamura could potentially make up some of the difference in the sideboard. Yuuya pitched in with evening things by kicking off the first game with a mulligan. A second-turn Bitterblossom from Watanabe was met with a Broken Ambitions from Nakamura who would otherwise risk devastation from the tribal enchantment. Yuuya had no third-turn play until Shuhei tried for an Esper Charm at the end of his opponent’s turn. That merited a Broken Ambitions from Yuuya, who even managed to win the clash.

    Reigning Player of the Year Shuhei Nakamura.
    The two spent turns going back and forth making land drops, a game of spell-casting chicken to see who would flinch first. Watanabe had the benefit of running creatures with flash, and he cast one to get on the board with an attacker in the form of Spellstutter Sprite. That left Nakamura feeling the need to pull the trigger, hard-casting a Mulldrifter that hovered over his graveyard instead of on the battlefield. Clearly the super-pro expected it to meet its demise at the hands of a counter of some type from Watanabe, but after much consideration Yuuya allowed the 2/2 to enter the battlefield. Instead of countering, it turned out, he wanted to land a Mistbind Clique at the end of Shuhei’s turn now that Nakamura was tapped out.

    Making matters worse for Shuhei was a Sower of Temptation Yuuya was able to cast, stealing the Mulldrifter. That left the pro tapped out, enabling Shuhei to resolve a Hallowed Burial. Both players had entered a stage in the game where they were tapping out turn after turn, and Yuuya took the opportunity to land a Bitterblossom while Nakamura was tapped out from the Burial. Shuhei fired back with Cryptic Command targeting the Bitterblossom, but Watanabe was ready with a Scion of Oona to pump his team and give the enchantment shroud.

    Volcanic Fallout from Shuhei made short work of Watanabe’s efforts, wiping his team from the board. He cast a Peppersmoke in response, targeting his own Scion of Oona, in order to cantrip. It was a very smart play considering the removal spell would be unlikely to play much of a role killing something from Shuhei, and drawing a card was simply better for Yuuya. He also had a Gargoyle Castle that would serve as an additional potential attacker, but when Shuhei tapped out for a Cruel Ultimatum, Yuuya had to let the sorcery resolve; he had no counterspells in his two-card hand.

    It was a mammoth turn of events for Nakamura, generally the case when a player successfully resolves the powerful sorcery. He had made it to the mid-game with a lead in life and an overwhelming resource advantage. If he could keep Yuuya’s Bitterblossom contained, he’d be able to take the first game home. Seeking to do just that, Shuhei cast a Broodmate Dragon, while Yuuya sacrificed his Castle to make a Gargoyle. The Dragons rumbled into the red zone and Yuuya blocked both, putting a Faerie Rogue in front of each and adding his Gargoyle on the actual Broodmate. Not willing to see his 4/4 die, Shuhei tried an Agony Warp, but Watanabe used Spellstutter Sprite to counter. Nakamura nodded, then post-combat resolved a secondCruel Ultimatum! That was enough for Yuuya Watanabe; he scooped his cards up for the second game.

    Shuhei Nakamura 1, Yuuya Watanabe 0

    Yuuya Watanabe joins the National Team for the second year in a row, but could he win?
    A first-turn Thoughtseize for Yuuya proved very fortuitous as he saw a Shuhei Nakamura hand that featured Great Sable Stag, double Broken Ambitions, Mulldrifter, Plumeveil, and two lands. Nakamura practically put the 3/3 Stag in his graveyard for Watanabe, the correct choice very clear. Yuuya’s second spell was a Bitterblossom, and the nod it received from Shuhei Nakamura seemed to indicate it was expected.

    Nakamura tried to land an Esper Charm at the end of Watanabe’s turn, choosing to draw two cards, but Yuuya was ready with Broken Ambitions. The former RoY even managed to win the clash, milling a Great Sable Stag from his opponent’s library. Looking to maneuver some type of help, Shuhei managed to land a Plumeveil for blocking duty, and snuck it through both potential removal as well as counters from Watanabe.

    The Bitterblossom kept churning out tokens, growing Yuuya’s army to four Faerie Rogues. Unbeknownst to Yuuya, Shuhei had managed to draw back-to-back lands, avoiding the ignominy of being stuck on four. He took the opportunity to evoke a Mulldrifter with three mana up, and it resolved successfully. With four token creatures available to attack, Yuuya made the decision to get in the red zone, losing one to Shuhei’s Plumeveil. Nakamura simply untapped and evoked a second Mulldrifter, again resolving the 2/2. It found him a seventh land he would have otherwise missed as well as a Great Sable Stag.

    The 3/3 entered the battlefield, and Watanabe knew he’d need to find a solution to it if he couldn’t do the deed in the air with his Faerie Rogues. He started counting in his head, poking at the air with his pointer finger to compute the results of the next X attack steps. He tried to cast a Scion of Oona, and forced it through Broken Ambitions from Shuhei. A second copy of the Lord made his team loom very large, and he attacked all-in with four Faerie Rogues, both Scions, and a Mutavault.

    The play forced Shuhei to block the Mutavault with his Stag, losing the 3/3, but he was able to kill one of the Scions with Plumeveil. He fell to near-dead from the combat step. On his upkeep, Yuuya cast Mistbind Clique and Nakamura went into the tank. He had a Broken Ambitions to counter, then used Cryptic Command on his opponent’s upkeep to force him to tap all of his creatures for the turn and draw a card. Yuuya ripped a Jace, and cast it to draw an additional card. That netted him a Mutavault, and when Shuhei couldn’t find a miracle on his turn, the players were on to the third game.

    Shuhei Nakamura 1, Yuuya Watanabe 1

    Shuhei Nakamura was back on the play, and looked plenty excited when his opponent didn’t cast a Thoughtseize. That meant Nakamura got to land a third-turn Great Sable Stag unimpeded! Yuuya tried to race by casting an end-of-turn Spellstutter Sprite, then untapped and plopped Jace Beleren onto the battlefield. The planeswalker was kind enough to net both players a card, but between that and his draw step Shuhei found a second Great Sable Stag, dropping another copy of the 3/3 onto the battlefield. Yuuya Watanabe didn’t look too happy about the play.

    Great Sable Stag
    Faeries are good, but could Yuuya’s contain Shuhei’s sideboarded Stags?
    Nakamura decided to race, casting Cryptic Command to bounce a Mistbind Clique Watanabe had landed on his own mainphase, then crashing in to blow up Jace and deal 3 to Watanabe with the Sable Stags. Yuuya calculated furiously, again going to the air with his finger counting out combat phases that had yet to happen in a repeat from the previous game. He considered carefully, then decided to cast a Thoughtseize. Shuhei revealed a hand of double Cruel Ultimatum, Volcanic Fallout, Essence Scatter, Cryptic Command, and Broken Ambitions. The Fallout hit the bin, and Yuuya cast a second Jace, drawing himself a card.

    The planeswalker was not long for the world, dying to Nakamura’s next attack but Yuuya had planned for that the whole time. Behind on the board, he needed the extra card and the 3 life Jace had saved him to eek out an advantage. When Shuhei attacked again, Watanabe was ready with double Mutavault to block, taking out one of the 3/3s at the cost of one of his creature-lands. The other Stag continued on the warpath while Watanabe was still getting through for 1 each turn with a lowly Spellstutter Sprite.

    Yuuya cast Warren Weirding, finally coming up with a solution to his Stag problem. The tech sorcery was the perfect answer to the 3/3 green creature, and the pro even managed to win a counter war over it by trumping his opponent’s Cryptic Command with Broken Ambitions. Shuhei worked to find a new threat by casting Esper Charm targeting himself. He didn’t have any plays after that, but had at least found a land. That crept him one more land-drop closer to seven for either of the two Cruel Ultimatums he was holding.

    Mistbind Clique entered the battlefield for Watanabe, but Shuhei targeted it with an Essence Scatter. He had to tap his mana in a specific manner in order to potentially be able to Esper Charm himself during the upkeep as well. Forced to fight a counter battle, Nakamura used Broken Ambitions to stop the Clique but the clash simply revealed another waiting for Yuuya during his draw step. It also cost Shuhei the mana he had meant to spend on the Charm, though he did find his seventh land to get Ultimatum online.

    Puppeteer Clique from Watanabe was met with a second Essence Scatter from Nakamura, but that meant he didn’t have the counter for Mistbind Clique when Yuuya cast the second copy of the 4/4 on Shuhei’s upkeep. What Shuhei did have was the Esper Charm. He cast it to draw two cards, finding Volcanic Fallout to blow up Yuuya’s lone Faerie, a Spellstutter Sprite, and prevent the Clique from entering the battlefield.

    The next two turns saw Yuuya Watanabe rip dueling answers to Shuhei’s Cruel Ultimatums. The first was Cryptic Command to counter, and the second was a Thoughtseize he was able to cast preemptively. It did leave Shuhei with a Great Sable Stag, but he was getting low on life and needed to make sure he could also deal with a Gargoyle Castle threatening to make a 3/4 token. Nakamura cast the Stag, then used Cryptic Command to bounce his opponent’s Gargoyle and draw a card when Watanabe activated his creature-creating land.

    Mulldrifter for Nakamura entered the battlefield uncontested, and he went back on the offensive with Great Sable Stag. With one turn to find a solution, Yuuya went to the top of his deck, whiffed, and the duo were on to the third game.

    Shuhei Nakamura 2, Yuuya Watanabe 1

    Back on the play, Yuuya had his most powerful opening: second-turn Bitterblossom. The only thing that would have made it sweeter was a Thoughtseize, and almost as soon as the crowd could think it, Yuuya plopped it onto the table on the third turn. Nakamura attempted an Esper Charm to draw two cards in response, but watched the spell get countered by Broken Ambitions for one. Shuhei revealed his hand to contain Volcanic Fallout, Essence Scatter, Cryptic Command, Doom Blade, and two lands. The Command found itself headed to the graveyard.

    Evoking Mulldrifter allowed Shuhei to undo the damage the handkill had done, going up two cards. When his opponent pulled the trigger on a Mistbind Clique, Nakamura used Doom Blade to nullify the 4/4’s effect. Though Yuuya was doing well with his Bitterblossom, Shuhei’s card draw had ensured he was able to hit a land drop each turn, something that would prove critical when he started trying to resolve big-mana spells.

    A Great Sable Stag found its way to the top of Shuhei’s library, and he quickly sent it forth onto the battlefield. The move merited a hiss of dismay from Watanabe, who had a Scion of Oona to try to race. Shuhei was still sandbagging a Volcanic Fallout, but he’d take at least one attack from his opponent’s forces, eating a massive 7 damage and falling to just 5.

    Five became 3 on the next attack as Nakamura was forced to use his Volcanic Fallout to stay alive. He continued on the warpath with his Sable Stag, however, keeping the pressure on his opponent who fell to 5 from the 3/3’s attack. Post-combat Shuhei simply passed the turn, holding Mulldrifter, Essence Scatter, and Cryptic Command. Yuuya tried for an end-of-turn Spellstutter Sprite, but Shuhei countered with Essence Scatter, then when Watanabe tried to counter with Cryptic Command used his own copy of the 1UUU instant to counter back and bounce his opponent’s Mutavault.

    Yuuya continued inching closer and closer to death thanks to his Bitterblossom, while Shuhei was able to resolve a Mulldrifter. Watanabe lost his re-played Mutavault to chumping Sable Stag and though the game was very tight, it looked like Shuhei was going to seal the deal. Sensing his demise was near. Watanabe snorted derisively, trying to come up with a solution. When he couldn’t, he extended his hand in defeat. Shuhei Nakamura is the 2009 Japanese National Champion!

    The two players congratulate each other after a hard fought battle.

    Shuhei Nakamura 3, Yuuya Watanabe 1

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