2008 Grand Prix–Kobe Day 1 Blog

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  • Blog: 10:30p.m. - Still Alive
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Round 9: Knight Fever Knight Fever
    Yuuta Takahashi vs Kazuya Hirabayashi
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Round 9: Drawing Anything But Blank
    Ryuuichi Arita verses Genki Taru
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Round 7: Elemental Elimination!
    Kazuya Mitamura vs Shingo Kurihara
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Round 6: Goats and Gougers
    Genki Taru verses Ryouma Shiozu
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Blog: 4:21p.m. – The Carnival Continues
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Round 5: On to Game Five
    Tsuyoshi Fujita vs Ryuuchi Arita
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Round 4: Elemental Mastery
    Akira Asahara vs Osamu Fujita
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Blog: 10:34a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Results
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Blog: All the fun of the fair!
    by Tim Willoughby
  • Round 3: Kuroda Red Redux
    Hiroki Hayashi vs Masashiro Kuroda
    by Tim Willoughby


  • Round 3: Kuroda Red Redux - Hiroki Hayashi vs Masashiro Kuroda
    By Tim Willoughby
  • Masashiro Kuroda loves his red decks
    Masashiro Kuroda has a history with red decks in Kobe. He was the first Japanese Pro Tour Winner with Kuroda Red in this very city in 2004, and 4 years later he finds himself here again, playing a red Shaman deck that is being run this weekend by a number of top players, including Hall of Famer Tsuyoshi Fujita.

    His opponent, Hiroki Hayashi, was the very first High School championships winner here in Japan. Nowadays, work commitments mean that neither Hayashi nor Kuroda can play as much as they would like, but each is here and ready for a good time in Kobe.

    Kuroda saw just a Swamp from his opponent before he played his turn one Elemental Harbinger. This Hayashi him without a great deal of information as to what to fetch, so he went for a second one. When his 1/1 fell to Peppersmoke, it looked likely that he was up against Faeries. This was not anything to shake his resolve though. That second Harbinger found a third, while Hayashi continued to play lands and pass. There was another Peppersmoke to deal with that Harbinger, but Kuroda was able to follow up with that third (fetching Rage Forger), and a Smokebraider.

    The Smokebraider powered out a Thunderbluff from Kuroda, which got hit by Cryptic Command from Hayashi, who seemed content to take things slowly to start. He followed up with a Thoughtseize, and saw a concerning pair of copies of Rage Forger, along with a Flame Javelin, which was not yet active, as Mutavault was one of Kuroda’s lands. One Rage Forger hit the bin, but there was nothing to stop the other, which came down and pumped Kuroda’s team nicely, allowing for some scary attacks, which soon had Hayashi on just 6. That Thoughtseize may have saved some damage, but against red, every point counts.

    Hayashi flashed a hand of lands and scooped up for Game 2.

    Hiroki Hayashi 0 – 1 Masashiro Kuroda

    Hiroki Hayashi is ready to win.
    For the second game, Kuroda went to his sideboard and quickly pulled out three copies each of Flame Jab and Spiteful Visions. He had a clear plan of what to do in what must be considered to be a key matchup in bthis block format, and was able to spend much of his time between games briskly shuffling.

    For Game 2, there was a mulligan from the red deck, which saw nothing but Mutavault as lands in an otherwise exciting opener. Greedy, Kuroda had a quick look at the top of his deck as he took his mulligan. Of course, three Mountains lay waiting. Sometimes Pro Tour champions look, but that doesn’t mean it is ever a good idea.

    Kuroda was ultimately to go down to five for the game, and had a turn two Vexing Shusher, which would be a powerful threat against the Fae. An Eyblight’s Ending did for the 2/2 though, and as Kuroda stumbled on land, he was unable to commit threats to the board. Hayashi wasn’t applying a great deal of pressure himself, with just a single Spellstutter Sprite, but he had, unlike the previous game, time.

    A Flame Jab from Kuroda got hit by a second Sprite, and Tarfire on a Sprite met Consign to Dream, to allow it to get to work again. With Hayashi tapped low though, Kuroda could get down Ashemoor Gorger. Here was a threat that could end games quickly. Hayashi dug for answers with a Peppersmoke on the Gorger, and found one in the form of Nameless Inversion. Kuroda was far from out of the woods yet. His Smokebraider resolved, but a second Flame Jab was denied him, by that Sprite again. Kuroda finished with an Elemental Harbinger, fetching Rage Forger. It was Kuroda that was on the clock. Knocked down to 14 by small attacks in the air, he lost his Smokebraider to Shriekmaw, making that Rage Forger on his turn marginally less exciting. Kuroda had a Tarfire to kill Shriekmaw, but was disappointed to see another the following turn, alongside a Bitterblossom. Scion of Oona only compounded this problem.

    Kuroda drew and, after thinking for a while, passed. He had a Flame Javelin during Hayashi’s upkeep to kill Scion of Oona, but was quick to scoop things up when he saw a Mind Shatter for the rest of his hand from Hayashi.

    It would come down to a deciding game.

    Hiroki Hayashi 1 – 1 Masashiro Kuroda

    For the tie-breaker!
    For the third time in the match, Kuroda was forced to take a mulligan – this time on the play. While he had 2 Mountains to work with, his hand contained no action off those lands whatsoever – not the sort of start he would need against Faeries. Fortunately for him, this time he found himself up against a hand of 6 on the other side of the board.

    A turn two Vexing Shusher from Kuroda was the first play of game 3, and while the goblin quickly died to Nameless Inversion, there was soon another copy in play. This too died to Nameless Inversion, and Kuroda followed up with Smokebraider. The Smokebraider powered out a Rage Forger, which made Kuroda’s team, including a Mutavault, just a little more scary. One attack from the Mutavault was enough to drop Hayashi to 16.

    Hayashi passed, but had a Vendilion Clique in Kuroda’s draw step, which gave the Pro Tour champion pause for thought. He showed a hand of two copies of Tarfire and a mountain. One of the Tarfires got traded in and turned into a Flame Jab! This was bad news for Hayashi, who lost his Vendilion Clique and Mutavault to the two burn spells that Kuroda now held. The attacks that came were enough to finish Hayashi off.

    Masashiro Kuroda defeats Hiroki Hayashi 2-1

  • All the fun of the fair!
    By Tim Willoughby
  • Cowboy Beebop?
    For those lucky competitors here at Grand Prix Kobe, there is more on offer than simply the attractions of Block Constructed. Any player who is playing in the main event, or who has played in any of the other public events this weekend gets a ticket. This ticket (much like everything here in Kobe, they are hot tickets) buys entry to the Magic Carnival, hosted by Ron Foster, who in addition to his role as Organised Play Manager for Japan, has set up business as something of a carnie.

    The games? Players can either try to knock down oversized Magic cards with a Nerf gun shipped over specially from Seattle, or for the more baseball inclined there is the option of pitching balls at a stack of Magic cans. If they succeed in either, there is some pretty juicy swag on offer. Just for taking part each player gets a random promo foil, and for some level of success, they get another. For anyone who knocks down all the cards/cans, there is an Eventide fat pack as the grand prize.

    There are those that suggest that Ron isn’t the greatest carnie, as he’s giving away just too much stuff. So far though, nobody has walked away with a fat pack though, so maybe that canny Foster-san is actually one step ahead of the game.

    Roll up!

  • Blog: 10:34a.m. – Grand Prix Trial Results
    By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • The allure of a trio of byes always brings out the competitors in the final 24 hours leading up to a Grand Prix, and not just those in search of three free wins either. The fact that to earn said wins, players need to play the same format as they’re slated to play today means that people are also scouting for tech, some kind of edge to help them climb to the top of the pile in the Main Event. Some people decided to take the safe route, saddling up the tried and true leaders of the format, Faeries and Kithkin. Thankfully, others chose the road less traveled, riding high with Merfolk, Elementals and Shamen, even some Mono Red aggro decks and some Quick and the Toast variants.

    I’ll be blunt, our fear this weekend is that the Faerie and Kithkin Juggernauts will eclipse creativity and individuality, giving the appearance of a two horse race. From the GP Trials yesterday, the outlook is looking good. To start with, we have the Other Deck to survive the crossover from Standard, The Quick and the Toast, as played here by Shun Kurakami.

    Shun Kurakami
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial M Winner

    Kurakami’s take on this deck is simply good spells backed by greedy mana, much the same as the original Manuel Bucher version. Thankfully, the Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool team is a formidable one, and these decks seldom find themselves stunted by their plethora of Comes Into Play Tapped lands. Also utilizing a similar mana base was Shun Yamasaki’s Elementals deck. Replacing the solid Kitchen Finks and Mind Spring with more Elementals, making Reveillark the central card advantage engine of the deck.

    While Yamasaki still has the Firespouts of The Quick and the Toast for cleaning out either the ground pounders of the Kithkin Army, or the Fae-flavored air force, he’s also accelerating with Smokebraider, who allows for turn three, well, anything. Mulldrifter, Reveillark, even Horde of Notions. His Fulminator Mages could also make short work of any opposing Toast mana bases, especially when they woo the crowd with an encore performance, thanks to the Reveillarks. Also using the Smokebraider, but leaving the Firespouts in the sideboard, was Ken’ichiro Omori, and with good reason. Omori was instead powering out quick Rage Forgers and Thunderblusts, and backing them up with a blistering boatload of burn.

    Ken'ichiro Omori
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial N Winner

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    21  Mountain

    24 lands

    Figure of Destiny
    Flamekin Harbinger
    Intimidator Initiate
    Rage Forger
    Vexing Shusher

    24 creatures

    Flame Javelin
    Lash Out

    12 other spells

    Ashenmoor Gouger
    Chaotic Backlash
    Ember Gale
    Vexing Shusher

    15 sideboard cards

    In stark contrast to the previous winners, Omori’s deck packs a whopping 21 basic lands. More even than the mono White Kithkin decks, although that’s admittedly because they have several viable options to stand in for their Plains. Joining Omori standing high on those (basic) Mountains was Yuichi Takasaki, who took down the first Trial with a different brand of burn. Less of the Shaman and Elemental synergy and more Mountains make men make a mess of your opponents synergy, which has been a tried and true approach for Red mages for many years now.

    Yuichi Takasaki
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial A Winner

    Main Deck

    60 cards

    24  Mountain

    24 lands

    Ashenmoor Gouger
    Boggart Ram-Gang
    Demigod of Revenge
    Figure of Destiny
    Intimidator Initiate

    20 creatures

    Flame Javelin
    Lash Out
    Puncture Blast

    16 other spells

    Chaotic Backlash
    Vexing Shusher
    Wild Ricochet

    15 sideboard cards

    Takasaki’s mana base is pure and unadulterated by Mutavaults, which no doubt helped his wallet while simultaneously allowed him to routinely hit triple Red early for his Boggart Ram-Gangs, Ashenmoor Gougers and Figure of Destiny. Speaking of the Figure, the Eventide Star Player was the first card to be sold out over at the dealers tables, despite there technically being more of them in existence than other Eventide rares, thanks to it being the Sneak Peak promotional card. This was no doubt because of its availability for both Red mages and Kithkin wizards.

    In the last Trial of the Day, Jang Tae-jin piloted his Doran, the Siege Tower deck to victory, showcasing another new contestant on the field, the Stillmoon Cavalier. This Tenacious Knight not only swings through both Bitterblossom Faerie tokens, but is bothered even less by any Kithkin who may also stand in its way. If the Doran deck happens to be on the back foot, the cavalier can also defend easily enough, being able to both spring into the air and gain first strike at very a reasonable cost. This up and comer is also making appearances in Kithkin sideboards, so we expect to see even more from him this weekend.

    Making the transition from Standard to Block Constructed was almost as easy for Merfolk as it was for Faeries. Although they don’t have Lord of Atlantis on the team, or even warming the bench, they still have the Usual Suspects needed to put up a fight. Also of note is the Hallowed Burial out of the sideboard. Players are now considerably used to the idea that a Wrath in todays terms means Firespout, three damage to all ground dwellers or three in the air. Or of course both, if Red and Green were spent. This means that four toughness is a premium. The Red decks all love their Ashenmoor Gougers and so on, and Faeries put stock in their Mistbind Cliques. Hallowed Burial spells out loud and clear that not only is this not good enough, that even Persist is pushing the proverbial up hill if it thinks it’s getting around this Eventide gem.

    Keisuke Suzuki
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial D Winner

    Finally, my favorite pick of the bunch, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than the rest, just that it caught my eye, is Takayuki Nitobe’s Rock deck. The Rock is traditionally a Black and Green midrange approach to Magic, and with the mana available to mages these days, Nitobe has not surprisingly, chosen to splash Firespout into the mix. What really piques my interest, and no doubt many others, is the two card infinite *cough* my bad, unbounded combo between Devote Druid and Quillspike. But of course, that’s not the only thing going large in this deck. Chameleon Colossus and Cloudthresher both tower over the battlefield, and a surprise Rite Consumption could well leave someone clinging to their remaining life points, or even worse, wallowing in the negatives hoping that state-based effects will never be checked.

    So there we have seven decks that are neither Faeries nor Kithkin, so that’s gotta leave the field open a little more than some internet pundits may have you think. But for the sake of completeness, here are the remaining decklists.

    Hayato Ishii
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial C Winner

    Yasuhiko Miyazaki
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial F Winner

    Katsuya Ueda
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial G Winner

    Atsushi Kinoshita
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial H Winner

    Atsushi Ito
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial I Winner

    Kenta Shoji
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial L Winner

    Kenji Machida
    GP Kobe Last Chance Trial P Winner

  • Round 4: Elemental Mastery - Akira Asahara vs Osamu Fujita
    by Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • With the last of the byes out of the way this round, the rest of the name players entered the fray. Both Akira Asahara and Osamu Fujita are names you should recognize by now, for their frequent appearances in Grand Prix and Pro Tour top 8’s over the years. Fujita showed his colors immediately with a Plains on turn one, while Asahara’s Vivid Creek didn’t give much more than a hint. A few turns later, and Fujita’s Wizened Cenn and Spectral Procession had been swept aside by a Firespout, and his Knight of Meadowgrain and Cloudgoat Ranger stolen by back to back Sower of Temptations. While Unmake allowed Fujita to retrieve his Ranger and rally somewhat, Asahara continued to pull ahead with a Mulldrifter that not only drew him some cards, but then crushed the Cloudgoat Ranger with a timely Snakeform.

    Fujita trying to figure out a way through.
    When Asahara attacked in return with his Sower and the stolen Knight of Meadowgrain, Fujita moved his Mutavault to block the Knight, his new Wizened Cenn letting it survive the First Strike damage and take it down. However, a Shriekmaw post-combat knocked out the Cenn, and Fujita was forced to throw away a Rustic Clachan to Reinforce his land. Fujita swung back, and Asahara pushed his team in to block. Fujita could only chuckle as he picked up his cards, having been thwarted at every turn by Asahara’s Elementals deck.

    Both players lead Game 2 with a mulligan, but Asahara’s turn three Mulldrifter on the back of a Smokebraider looked a great deal more threatening than Fujita’s Burrenton Forge-Tender and a Mutavault. Another Mulldrifter and a Sower of Temptation that forced the Forge-Tender to sacrifice itself, and both players could only laugh at the apparent hopelessness of Fujita’s situation. Fujita played another Mutavault and a couple of 2/2’s of his own, although admittedly Goldmeadow Stalwarts neither fly nor draw their controllers additional cards.

    Asahara in complete control.
    A Reveillark joined the Mulldrifters attacking in the Air, putting Asahara squarely in the driver’s seat for this game. Once Fujita had played out enough men to look like he could potentially attack back, Asahara demonstrated his complete control over the game and cleared the board with a Firespout, killing his Reveillark and both Mulldrifters. Of course, the Reveillark simply returned them to play and Asahara drew even more cards. Fujita could only chuckle at his opponent having drawn eight additional cards this game, and packed up his cards.

    Akira Asahara defeats Osamu Fujita 2-0

  • Round 5: On to Game Five - Tsuyoshi Fujita vs Ryuuchi Arita
    by Tim Willoughby
  • The feature match area for round 5 was packed with options for any feature match writer out there looking for an interesting game or two to cover. It was with little hesitation that I gravitated towards the Tsuyoshi Fujita/Ryuuchi Arita match, but I couldn’t help but feel it a shame that while this one would be covered, more would only be seen by the crowds of spectators.

    Foreshadowing is a tricky business.

    Tsuyoshi lost the roll and had a mulligan, but led out fast with a Flamekin Harbinger for Smokebraider. His turn two accellerant was countered by Broken Ambitions, and he cast a second Harbinger, this time searching up a Rage Forger. Meanwhile, through Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool, Arita was gradually building up a nifty little mana base, and kept Fujita on the back foot with a Firespout, making his Rage Forger rather less impressive.

    Kitchen Finks from Arita gave Fujita more damage to deal, and while a Flamekin Harbinger fetched a second Rage Forger, a second Firespout meant that it would be very tough to get there. Another Kitchen Finks came. Arita seemed in complete control of both players life totals. Yet another Kitchen Finks joined Arita’s team. Fujita was forced to make less than happy trades with the persist Ouphes just to keep himself alive, but with a Shriekmaw to remove a blocker, it was not looking good for Fujita. He flashed a hand of three copies of Thunderbluff, declared it a bad card, and conceded.

    Tsuyoshi Fujita 0 – 1 Ryuuchi Arita

    Just one match over, things were looking tough for the red deck in the hands of Yoshitaka Nakano against Shingo Kurihara, where various elementals including a pair of Ashenmoor Gougers were going to work on his life total in a tough race.

    If the single mulligan in the first game looking bad for Fujita, the double mulligan for game 2, on the play, looked at least doubly tough.

    Fujita had an Intimidator Initiate on turn one, followed by an Elemental Harbinger for Rage Forger on turn two. He boldly tried a for the big Rage Forger on turn three, only to have Broken Ambitions make his life tough, and Firespout make it much tougher. A Primal Command from Arita put one of Fujita’s mountains on top of his deck while fetching a creature for Arita. This was enough for Fujita, whose deck was really not firing. He quickly scooped up his cards with a smile and a wink. Not winning that one.

    Ryuuchi Arita defeats Tsuyoshi Fujita 2-0!

    Shingo Kurihara
    We now bring you the rest of that other Elemental / Red feature match from just one over. Kurihara had won the first, and While Nakano started out strong with an Elemental Harbinger and Smokebraider, he was put a little on the back foot by an evoked Shriekmaw on the Smokebraider, which would mean his Ashling the Pilgrim would take some time to get active.

    Time was not something that Nakano had all so much of. Bloom Tender and then Chameleon Colossus from Kurihara made things look tough. Horde of Notions made it untenable. Nakano quickly scooped them up

    Shingo Kurihara defeats Yoshitaka Nakano 2-0!

    On to match number 3! Yuuta Takahashi vs Masami Kaneko

    Takahashi was one game up, with the faeries that had served him so well in Shizuoka earlier in the year, as I joined with Game 2 just beginning.

    Kaneko got down a quick Figure of Destiny, but lost Stillmoon Cavalier to a turn one Thoughtseize. A Knight of Meadowgrain came down, and Kaneko looked to get back in the match with some quick beats.

    Yuuta Takahashi
    Those quick beats would be hampered somewhat by Bitterblossom from Takahashi, who also had a Stillmoon Cavalier – which would prove quite the blocker against all those white creatures. Kaneko needed some overwhelming force, and tried a Spectral Possession, which might allow him to swarm around.

    A Rise of the Hobgoblins all of a sudden made the board look interesting. Now those tokens could feasibly swarm through Takahashi’s defenses, as the first strike granted by the enchantment gave Kaneko the edge in combat. Takahashi tried to fight back with another Thoughtseize. He was doing a good job of helping Kaneko between his discard spells and Bitterblossom. He took an Unmake over Ajani Goldmane, and soon saw that planeswalker come down and make his life very difficult. Just one draw step later, he scooped it up and went to his sideboard

    Yuuta Takahashi 1 – 1 Masami Kaneko

    Both players kept in the deciding game, and Kaneko was quick to play a Figure of Destiny. His powerful card was matched by a powerful Bitterblossom from Takahashi. Kaneko smiled. This was going to be quite the game. He pumped his Kithkin, attacked, then played a second Figure of Destiny.

    These two Figures each got their attacks in, as 2/2s, but Takahashi wasn’t out of it, as he played an end of turn Scion of Oona, then a Sower of Temptation, with which to take one of Kaneko’s Kithkin, and create quite a lopsided board position. An Unmake on Scion of Oona helped Kaneko a little, but a cast Shriekmaw to remove Kaneko’s final creature could not have been a welcome sight.

    Kaneko rebuilt with Spectral Possession, and had an Unmake ready in his upkeep for a Mistbind Clique attempted by Takahashi. He did not have any follow-up though, and the final swing from Takahashi did not even need the Scion of Oona resting in his hand to make things lethal.

    Yuuta Takahashi defeats Masami Kaneko 2 – 1!

  • Blog 4:21p.m.: The carnival continues
    By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • Ready... Aim...
    Players are still lining up to take on Foster’s Carnival of Fun. Apparently the prospect of winning promotional foils or possibly an Eventide Fatpack are enough to keep people more than interested. At the last count now, three Fatpacks have been won by contestants with a keen eye and a steady hand, and countless foils have been plucked from the box o’ prizes. Ron has just informed me that the tickets are now practically a currency, with players trading extra tickets from their peers so they can line up again and again.

    Some people are trying their luck with the cans. Hurling a plastic ball seems easy enough, but knocking over all six cans isn’t as simple as it sounds. The trick we’ve found is to go Australian style, and underhand the ball gently towards your target.

    Then there’s the Nerf Gun, where contestants are aiming to knock down oversized Magic cards. This is my pick as your best bet to score free foils, but again there’s a trick to it. For some reason, you need to aim low. Our extensive testing yesterday while the trials were playing out (all work and no play, and so on...) revealed that aiming as much as 12 inches lower than the target yielded the best results.

  • Round 6: Goats and Gougers - Genki Taru verses Ryouma Shiozu
    By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • I had the match all picked out, there was no way I was gonna miss Katsuhiro Mori verses Tsuyoshi Fujita, no way at all. Until I made it to the table and they were shaking hands and smiling for the camera. Fujita explained that I would have to wait until the finals tomorrow to cover their match, as they were taking an intentional draw. I mean seriously, as if do that to me? Coverage reporters have feelings too. I asked Japanese Reporter extraordinaire Keita Mori to fill me in on the other match. Ryouma Shiozu is apparently one of the best players in Nagoya, which he has backed up now that he’s 5-0 with only a single bye. Across the table from him is Ganki Taru, who made the final four with Masami Kaneko at the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour in San Diego last year.

    Shiozu sends his Gourgers in for blood.
    Shiozu had the Tarfire to neutralize Taru’s turn one Figure of Destiny, before getting his beat on with an Ashenmoor Gouger. Taru fought back, filling the skies with turn three and four Spectral Processions, only to have Shiozu level an Incendiary Command at his face, wiping the skies clean and dropping him to 8 with the Gouger. Taru was stuck on four land, and played a Rise of the Hobgoblins for two, which wasn’t buying him much time as Shiozu had doubled up on his Gougers. Ajani Goldmane delayed Taru’s demise a little longer, as did another Spectral Procession. Ajani made them 2/2’s, but a Flame Javelin prevented them from taking down one of the Gougers. It seemed like nothing could save Taru from Shiozu’s marauding Gougers...

    ...until he drew a land.

    Suddenly Taru wasn’t playing a aggressive White Kithkin deck we had all assumed, as Hallowed Burial wiped the board clean, and Ajani started to claw back the life Taru had lost from the Gougers. Shiozu began rebuilding with a Figure of Destiny, but Taru now had a Cloudgoat Ranger. With Ajani making the team bigger and bigger, there was little Shiozu could do to stop them. He revealed a hand full of land with a grin and scooped up his cards for Game 2.

    Taru takes ten!
    Game 2 started a whole lot better for Taru, who deployed a pair of Burrenton Forge-Tenders to each hold off a Figure of Destiny. Shiozu pushed one of them through by flattening a Forge-Tender with a Moonglove Extract, but was stuck on three land so unable to level up his Figures effectively. An Unmake dispatched one of them, and it became apparent that Taru was also stuck on three land. Last Breath removed the remaining figure while Shiozu’s mana was otherwise occupied, and a Spectral Procession took to the skies. Shiozu found a fourth land, and burnt two of the fliers with a Puncture Blast and a Lash Out. Shiozu revealed a Chaotic Blast, and Taru was relieved to see a fourth land, which he used to finally make the Ajani that he’d been holding. A Boggart Ram-Gang took Ajani down to two loyalty counters, and a Flame Javelin finished it off before it could cause too much trouble. Meanwhile, Taru drew and played a fifth land, allowing him to fill out his board with a Cloudgoat Ranger.

    A fifth land for Shiozu allowed him to level Chaotic Blacklash at Taru, who promptly took ten to the face. Taru played another Cloudgoat Ranger, cringing at the possibility of another Backlash. But all he could draw was a lowly Demigod of Revenge, which joined the Ram-Gang in defense against Taru’s Cloudgoat Army. Unmake brushed the Demigod aside and yet another Cloudgoat Ranger joined the battle, the Kithkin Soldiers propelling the Rangers onward and upward to take the match.

    Genki Taru defeats Ryouma Shiozu 2-0

  • Round 7: Elemental Elimination! - Kazuya Mitamura vs Shingo Kurihara
    By Tim Willoughby
  • I remember when there were just the basics. Fire Elemental, Earth Elemental, Air Elemental and Water Elemental. Somewhere along the line, things got a little more complicated. For round 7 we saw two different flavours of Elemental deck face off in a fight to be undefeated after 7 rounds.

    Both Kazuya Mitamura and Shingo Kurihara have both got experience of a Pro Tour Sunday (in fact Mitamura made top 8 in both Charleston and Yokohama – both block constucted), and Kurihara felt that for this match, his opponent might have a substantial advantage.

    “I’ve been so busy with work that three days ago I’d never even heard of Mirrorweave! You are so lucky! That is almost a win!”

    As it turns out though, Mitamura was less lucky when it came to his opening hand. He had to ship it back and settle with six. The game began relatively slowly, with vivid lands on both sides. A Smokebraider was the first play from Kurihara, but it quickly hit a Nameless Inversion.

    This mana producer was soon replaced with another, in the form of Bloom Tender. After a little thought, Mitamura played a Fulminator Mage, and used it to destroy a Vivid land on Kurihara’s side of the board. Kurihara evoked a Mulldrifter and attacked for one.

    Mitamura struck back with Makeshift Mannequin on Fulminator Mage, using it to take out another Vivid land, leaving a Primal Beyond, Fetid Heath and Fire-Lit Thicket for Shingo. Kurihara’s mana was abundant, but a little awkward, and he played another Primal Beyond, before playing Chameleon Colossus.

    Mitamura had Firespout to kill off Bloom Tender, but no way of dealing with the Colossus. Shingo was now in a strange position of barely being able to produce any mana for non-elemental spells, and after beating in with his Chameleon Colossus, he had to stare on as Horde of Notions came down for his opponent, and take the beats.

    Kurihara knocked Mitamura down to just 2. Mitamura played a Smokebraider as a blocker, attacked and passed. There was a Nameless Inversion for that blocker though, at which point Mitamura was quick to scoop up his cards.

    Kazuya Mitamura 0 – 1 Shingo Kurihara

    Both players started Game 2 with Primal Beyond, and while Mitamura followed with Forest and Smoke Braider, Shingo had another Primal Beyond for Nameless Inversion, and followed up with Thoughtseize, seeing the following;

    Nameless Inversion, Horde of Notions, Fulminator Mage, Mulldrifter, Makeshift Mannequin, Crib Swap

    He took the Mulldrifter. Mitamura seemed a little short on lands, which Kurihara capitalised on with a Puppeteer Clique to ensure that the Mulldrifter wouldn’t be coming back thanks to a Makeshift Mannequin at an inopportune moment. With a pair of Reflecting Pools alongside his Primal Beyonds, Kurihara’s mana was excellent, and helped still further by a Bloom Tender.

    Mitamura used that Crib Swap on Puppeteer Clique, and evoked Shriekmaw to kill Bloom Tender. before passing. Fortunately for him though, it seemed that Kurihara’s tank was running low too, as he had just a Smokebraider before he passed the turn. A Horde of Notions from Mitamura looked strong at this point, but Kurihara had a Crib Swap before the legend could get out of hand.

    Kurihara closed his eyes and drew from his deck. It was a Mulldrifter, elliciting a groan from Mitamura. The Mulldrifter drew an Ashenmoor Gouger that was easily cast by Kurihara before he passed.

    Mitamura wasn’t out of tricks, having a Reveillark, which initially appeared scary, but for the fact that there was only a Smokebraider in Mitamura’s graveyard, and there was a Nameless Inversion in Kurihara’s hand. The switch was pulled, and Kurihara attacked Mitamura to 14.

    Mitamura was now looking to win back some time. He made a Fulminator Mage as a chump blocker for Ashenmoor Gouger, and upon blocking, sacrificed Fulminator Mage to blow up Reflecting Pool. A Makeshift Mannequin got back that Reveillark, but Mitamura was still on the back foot.

    Kurihara, meanwhile, was all about the aggression. The deck he’s playing, dubbed ‘Elemental Beatdown’ by its designer, Tomoharu Saitou had brought him another Ashenmoor Gouger and that was enough to beat down for the win

    Ashenmoor Gouger – best secret ever!”

    Shingo Kurihara beats Kazuya Mitamura 2 - 0!

  • Round 8: Drawing Anything But Blank - Ryuuichi Arita verses Genki Taru
    By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • After someone was accidentally dropped from the tournament, then somehow not added again correctly, or something, we were left waiting a great deal of time for the eighth round to start. I would have taken a stroll outside, but that would have involved stocking up on water, slinging a towel over my shoulder and preferably changing into some form of scuba gear, the humidity is just that bad. I mean, it’s winter right now where I come from. I feel like a Penguin in a Sauna.

    Arita took Game 1 on the back of a Mind Spring for five
    Anyway, Genki Taru got the ball rolling in this match by making a small army with Spectral Procession, and then inflating it the following turn with Ajani Goldmane. When he went to boost them even further during his next turn, Ryuuichi Arita wiped his board clean by responding with an Evoked Cloudthresher. Taru replaced them with a Cloudgoat Ranger, which Arita deemed worthy of a Firespout. Taru had another Procession, but Arita kept him from being able to activate his Windbrisk Heights with a Crib Swap here and a Shriekmaw there. A Mind Spring for five then pulled Arita out in front by a considerable margin. Taru had yet another Spectral Procession and an Ajani, but was weary that he would lose both investments not long after Arita’s next untap step now that he’d filled his hand up with what could only be described as “goodies”. Sure enough, Makeshift Mannequin reanimated the earlier Evoked Cloudthresher, and a Kitchen Finks snuck in to finish off the Planeswalker. Taru again tried to rebuild, but was now wearing a Cloudthresher about the face every turn, and just when he thought he may have stabilized, a Cryptic Command tapped his blockers and the ‘Thresher finished it.

    Taru again began the game with a Spectral Procession, and followed it up by stripping 15 Plains out of his deck with Endless Horizons. In a control on control matchup, I can see drawing an additional land a turn is probably even better than an extra random card a turn. Clearly, Arita agreed, as he promptly played a fourth land and Cryptic Commanded the enchantment back to Taru’s hand. Taru shrugged and pressed on, dropping a pair of Kitchen Finks and getting in for some damage. He seemed able to continue playing land up to his seventh, so it’s possible he either left some in his deck, or had been holding a bunch when he had culled those 15. Arita assaulted Taru’s attack force with an Evoked Shriekmaw and a Makeshift Mannequin, taking out two of the flying Spirit Tokens and trading with the front half of one of the Finks.

    Taru perhaps wondering if Endless Horizons was the right call after all
    Arita tried to get a board position of his own in place with a Mulldrifter, but Taru had an Unmake for that, and an Ajani to bolster his army as well. An interesting note, the +1/+1 counter from Ajani rejuvenated the Kitchen Finks that had persisted earlier after it’s run-in with the Shriekmaw. Arita recovered some life with a Primal Command and fetched forth and Evoked another Shriekmaw to kill the final Spirit Token. The Kitchen Finks just kept coming however, so Taru pressed the point with a Rise of the Hobgoblins for five before again giving everyone a dose of Ajani-loving. Arita drew two cards with a Mind Spring and sent the turn back with four mana open.

    In a move that surprised nobody, Arita Tapped down Taru’s board with a Cryptic Command and drew a card. Taru played a Figure of Destiny and passed it back, only to see his army swept under his deck by a huge Hallowed Burial. Taru then tried for a Cloudgoat Ranger, which fell to another Cryptic Command. Another Ranger met a Broken Ambitions, which revealed a Figure of Destiny for Taru. The Figure met a third Cryptic Command, at which point Arita then Flashed a Cloudthresher into play, which even managed to finish off Taru’s Ajani that a Kitchen Finks had been gnawing away at. The ‘Thresher began to eat away at the healthy margin Ajani had given Taru. Another Rise of the Hobgoblins was cleared out with a Firespout and it was all but over for Taru. He drew and played a Knight of Meadowgrain with a giggle, and sure enough Arita Evoked a Shriekmaw to win the match.

    Ryuuichi Arita defeats Genki Taru

  • Round 9: Knight Fever Knight Fever - Yuuta Takahashi vs Kazuya Hirabayashi
    By Tim Willoughby
  • So far in the tournament, we have, on the coverage team, perhaps been a little hard on Faeries. The dominant deck from Standard, and a powerful choice for block, we have rather shied away from covering a lot of Faeries decks, when there are a variety of Japanese innovations being played at the top tables. Make no mistake, of the undefeated decks on day 1, you will see at least one Faeries deck.

    This round we address that. Yuuta Takahashi has been playing Faeries with great success this year. He won GP Shizuoka in a tense final against Olivier Ruel with them, and has continued to show all season that his finals finish at the two-headed giant Pro Tour in San Diego was no fluke.

    Sat opposite him is Kazuya Hirabayashi, a constructed master credited with such innovations as the original design of the Angry Hermit deck. Clearly no slouch now, he sits near the top of the standings on day 1 of GP Kobe.

    The match between took a slow start, as after winning the roll Hirabayashi took a pair of mulligans, before Takahashi took one of his own. A turn two Bitterblossom from Takahashi was enough to ensure that one way or another he could get the beatdown started.

    The first play of the game for Hirabayashi was a Nameless Inversion, whose target was a Scion of Oona. It was fortunate that he went for this sooner rather than later, as Takahashi had a second one the very next turn, which would have virtually locked things up had it been available earlier.

    The third Scion of Oona came from Hirabayashi, and enabled him to draw a card when he played Peppersmoke on Takahashi’s. When Sower of Temptation stole that Scion, allowing for more big swings, Hirabayashi winced. He was now on just 9 life, and in trouble. A Sower of Temptation of his own stole back the only creature on the board that could be targeted, but Hirabayashi was very much on the back foot. A pair of Shriekmaws killed off his team, and when the following turn he tried to Cryptic Command Bitterblossom, tapping down Takahashi’s team, a Cryptic Command right back was enough to make Hirabayashi scoop up his cards.

    Yuuta Takahashi 1 – 0 Kazuya Hirabayashi

    Takahashi led with a turn one Thoughtseize seeing

    Cryptic Command, Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Stillmoon Cavalier, Sunken Ruins, Mutavault.

    Takahashi quickly took the Bitterblossom, which would have been played the very next turn, and made careful note of the other cards in his opponent’s hand. Stillmoon Cavalier, a metagame call if ever there was one, came down quickly, in order to give Hirabayashi some sort of a clock.

    The Cavalier, which at first did not appear to have an obvious home, has in fact fitted into a number of decks. Resilient to a lot of Faries’ removal, and a beating against Kithkin, it can happily fight a large amount of decks, and it proceeded to do so against Takahashi.

    The GP Shizuoka champion played Jace Beleren and drew a card with him, but never got to draw a second as the planeswalker was swiftly attacked by Hirabayashi, who was wary of the number of cards he meant for if he stayed around.

    Hirabayashi played Spellstutter Sprite, but saw a Scion of Oona and Peppersmoke to deal with the 1/1, and draw a card at the same time. Hirabashi had Bitterblossom and a Peppersmoke to aim at Scion of Oona, but saw a Peppersmoke from Takahashi himself stop the removal spell, meaning that the card drawing would work the other way.

    Takahashi bounced Bitterblossom with Cryptic Command, but was still taking damage from Stillmoon Cavalier, who continued to beat. Takahashi tried a Spellstutter Sprite, only to have it fall to an activated Mutavault and a Spellstutter Sprite from Hirabayashi. This did tap out Hirabayashi though, and Takahashi used his window to play Cryptic Command on Stillmoon Cavalier, drawing a card and passing the turn with three mana open.

    The knight soon came down again, and was joined by a Bitterblossom. An end of turn Scion of Oona didn’t seem to be enough, with the life totals 19 to 8 in his opponent’s favour. Takahashi attacked with his lord, then played Mistbind Clique as a massive blocker.

    He had successfully stopped any attacks for a turn, but when he saw a second Bitterblossom from Hirabayashi, Takahashi didn’t look completely comfortable, for the first time in the match. He had a Nameless Inversion for his opponent’s Sower of Temptation, but did little about the growing army on the other side of the board. Attacks from Hirabayashi took Takahashi to five, and a Nameless Inversion post combat left him with just a Scion of Oona, back from having been championed by Mistbind Clique.

    When he drew a land for his turn, Takahashi scooped up his cards. This was one match that would go on to Game 3.

    Yuuta Takahashi 1 – 1 Kazuya Hirabayashi

    The decider would not be a game that either player would enter with a full hand of seven cards. A mulligan from Takahashi was quickly followed by the same from Hirabayashi. There was a turn one Thoughtseize from Takahashi, which revealed 3 lands, Spellstutter Sprite, Scion of Oona and Sower of Temptation. The Sower was deemed to be worth getting rid of and hit the graveyard without ever getting close to play.

    After a turn or two a draw-go, a Thoughtseize came from Hirabayashi, taking Cryptic Command over Peppersmoke and Nameless Inversion. Takahashi topdecked a Bitterblossom immediately after, but angrily threw it away when he found that Hirabayashi had been holding onto a Cryptic Command since the early Thoughtseize.

    Cryptic Command from Takahashi stopped Scion of Oona, but a few turns later when Stillmoon Cavalier came along there was nothing to stop it hitting play. The reason for this was a Sower of Temptation, which stole the knight. Unfortunately for Takahashi, another Sower of Temptation was there on the other side of the board to tempt the knight right back.

    Takahashi cracked in with his lone creature, daring a block from his opponent. Wary of a Peppersmoke, he chose to hold back. A Nameless Inversion came after combat, to keep that Stillmoon Cavalier dancing from one side of the board to the other. Obviously another Sower of Temptation was the next play from Hirabayashi.

    Keeping up? That Stillmoon Cavalier had been around for five turns without getting over summoning sickness!

    Stillmoon Cavalier finally got to attack for Hirabayashi, and got pumped twice to make for a total of six damage. There was an end of turn Scion of Oona from Takahashi, that met a fast Peppersmoke, which in turn was nearly hit by a faster Peppersmoke from Takahashi himself. Spellstutter Sprite allowed Hirabayashi’s Peppersmoke to resolve though, and after a flurry of spells Hirabayashi seemed able to count himself ahead. and not simply due to a life advantage.

    On his attacks, Hirabayashi tried a Peppersmoke on a blocking Sower of Temptation. This met Scion of Oona from Takahashi. Scion of Oona popped up on the other side of the board, only to be stopped by Spellstutter Sprite. Now that Sower was dead for Hirabayashi, suddenly it was Takahashi who was ahead, with that dangerous knight, and a suddenly full board.

    A Mistbind Clique in Hirabayashi’s upkeep was the final play of the game, and when it tapped him down, Hirabayashi scooped up his cards.

    Yuuta Takahashi defeats Kazuya Hirabayashi 2 - 1!

  • Blog 10:30p.m. - Still Alive
    By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw
  • While some names have already dropped off the standings, I figure it’s worth making a note here that many well-known players are still fighting it out in the last round of day one, looking for the huge success, that triumph that will push them towards the top 8. Or at least a few more Pro Points. With only one loss to their name so far, the most well known player would be Shuuhei Nakamura, joined by Ryuuichi Arita, Kazuya Hirabayahi, Ryouma Shiozu and Ren Ishikawa all looking to close in on Shingou Kurihara, who was undefeated at the start of this round.

    With two losses we have Akira Asahara, Shuu Komuro, Yuuya Watanabe, Makihito Mihara and the gentlemen’s gentleman, Masashiro Kuroda. Fighting near or on the bubble is Tsuyoshi Fujita, Tomoharu Saito and Tiago Chan, hoping to squeak into day two. The cake is a lie.

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