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  • Sunday, May 15: 10:41 am - Draft 1 with Masashi Oiso


  • Masashi Oiso and Ted Knutson

    You are Masashi Oiso. You are a 21-year-old junior in mechanical engineering, and in three short years you have racked up four Pro Tour Top 8s and the respect of players and deckbuilders around the world. You are located in this position in Pod 2:

    1 Tomoharu Saitou
    2 Kanji Satou
    3 Masashi Oiso
    4 Takemasa Mouri
    5 Shintaro Ishimura

    This is a brief sample of the picks you received early in each pack:

    Pack 1
    Pick 1: Kodama of the North Tree, Hideous Laughter, Mystic Restraints

    Pick 2: Gibbering Kami, Dance of Shadows, Mothrider Samurai

    Pick 3: Hana Kami, Blind with Anger, Ronin Houndmaster, Villainous Ogre

    Pick 4: Kami of Ancient Law, Burr Grafter, Ashen-skin Zubera, Soratami Cloudskater

    Pick 5: A very weak pack. Unearthly Blizzard or Orochi Leafcaller

    Pick 6: Burr Grafter, Moonring Mirror

    You also get passed a late Kami of Fire's Roar in Pack 7 and a Hundred-Talon Kami in pack 8

    Pack 2
    Pick 1: Kumano, Master Yamabushi, Glacial Ray, Blessed Breath, Scuttling Death, Kami of the Hunt

    Pick 2: Frostwielder, Rootrunner

    Pick 3: Moss Kami, Gale Force

    Pick 4: Kodama's Might and little else

    Pick 5: Blessed Breath, Soilshaper, Cranial Extraction

    Pick 6: Humble Budoka, Hearth Kami, Honden of Cleansing Fire, Samurai Enforcers

    Pack 3
    Pick 1: Moonlit Strider, First Volley, Shinka Gatekeeper, Scaled Hulk, Blinding Powder

    Pick 2: Horobi's Whisper, Forked-Branch Garami, Ogre Marauder

    Pick 3: Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Frost Ogre, Waxmane Baku, Moonlit Strider

    Pick 4: Callow Jushi, Terashi's Verdict, Enshrined Memories

    Pick 5: Frostling, Moonlit Strider, Indebted Samurai

    Pick 6: Blademane Baku, Loamdweller

    Admittedly the above list is not complete information, it simply reflects most of the better cards Oiso saw as well as the cards he pondered over before making his picks. Now for some tough questions:

    1) Following front to back, what colors did you end up in?
    2) What colors are your neighbors in?
    3) What does your deck look like?

    Here's what Oiso ended up doing. It's obvious that unless you absolutely hate Green (and we'll be asking players that question in some polls later today), you have to take Kodama of the North Tree in the first pack. If nothing else, you probably need it for playing Block Constructed, right? From there you grab Mothrider Samurai, Blind with Anger, Kami of Ancient Law, and Unearthly Blizzard in the abysmal pack 5, noting that the overall quality of the packs seems pretty weak right now. You then draft Burr Grafter in pack 6, snag a very late Kami of Fire's Roar in pack 7, noticing that red is open in front of you, and snag the Hundred-Talon Kami in pack 8 with a bunch of other chaff.

    Pack 7 is where things actually went wrong for Masashi, because that Kami of Fire's Roar threw everything off. It made it look like red was completely open in front of him, and he didn't pass any good red cards behind him, making him feel like he successfully cut off that color and should be rewarded for it in pack 2. What he did not know was that both Satou and Mouri right next to him were also in red, thus obliterating most quality red cards from any of their decks. If you look one seat out from Masashi after pack 1, you will also see that both of those players were heavily in Green. This is not the place you want to be at a draft table in order to end up with a good deck.

    Next you open Kumano, so you are absolutely stuck in the same color as both of your neighbors from that point forward. After that you take Frostwielder, Moss Kami, Kodama's Might, Soilshaper, Hearth Kami, and grab another Burr Grafter. Pack 3 is where you finally realize that white is actually the only color that's open to you in the entire draft, but by then it's too late to fix the problem. All those great white cards from Betrayers pass right through you while you crap for spirits and decent men, and end up with a highly mediocre deck featuring exactly zero real removal spells and none of the green depth that usually comes at a booster draft table when there aren't 3-4 drafters in that color - no late Tribe Elders, Sustainers, or Decoys passed his way.

    When I talked to Masashi, he was happy with his bombs, but wasn't pleased with the overall quality of his deck. He admitted that he noticed white was wide open in pack 3, but for some reason the cards didn't indicate too much of that in pack 1 or pack 2. Overall it was a very odd draft, and Oiso will need a little luck and some very strong play to make it out of this pod in good position for the Top 8.


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 3:59 pm - Round 10 Ryoma Shiouzu vs. Shohei Yamamoto


  • Ryoma Shiouzu

    While Akira Asahara and Shuuhei Nakamura are battling it out to determine who the last undefeated standing would be, we're taking this opportunity to cover the other feature match, where one of the coolest draft decks we've seen in this format is actually on display. Since Betrayers became legal, even the strongest advocates of the Dampen Thought archetype have admitted that it's mostly dead, but stories pop up from time to time about someone drafting a really hot Ire of Kaminari deck instead. That's exactly what Shiozu did here today, except he did it on Day 2 of a Grand Prix, providing a nice showcase for anyone that hasn't seen one of these decks in action.

    Shiozu started very slow to begin the match, with Peer Through Depths his only spell through four turns, facing off against an army of Bile Urchin, Waxmane Baku, Kitsune Blademaster, and Devoted Retainer from Yamamoto. Honden of the Seeing Winds. Joyous Respite splicing Dampen brought Shiozu's life back up to fourteen, but now a pair of Waxmanes on the board for Yamamoto made the concept of blockers irrelevant and Okiba-Gang Shinobi added the complication of discard to any plans of defense from, so Shiozu cast one last Dampen to see four more cards from Yamamoto's deck and then packed it up for game 2.

    Yamamoto 1 - Shiozu 0

    A turn 2 Peer found Glacial Ray for Shiozu, giving him some solid removal in the early game to help combat Yamamoto's spirit weenie army. Turn 5 brought the conundrum of Honden of Seeing Winds or Honden of Infinite Rage, but with no real pressure mounting from Yamamoto, Shiozu voted in favor of drawing more cards to help him put away the game. Joyous Respite Time Walked Yamamoto's team, but he just kept playing small men and had tricks to save them from Shiozu's Honden. Honden of Life's Web fixed that problem, giving the Dampen deck a three-damage shotgun each upkeep, but Yamamoto's attack put Shiozu at one. Eerie Procession tutored up a third Joyous Repite for Shiozu, moving his life back to 11, and finally the engine began to roar, while Yamamoto considered his remaining options. Tomorrow, Azami's Familiar gave Shiozu a card selection engine to go along with his four cards a turn, and now the only question seemed to be whether he could kill Yamamoto before he ran out of cards.

    Peer through Depths splicing Dampen Thoughts threw some irrelevant cards into Yamamoto's graveyard, but sending damage to the dome was clearly preferable at this point as Shiozu targeted Yamamoto with the red Honden twice, and then finished him off with an attack from his spirit arm plus Ira of Kaminari splicing Ray plus Glacial Ray itself.

    Yamamoto 1 - Shiozu 1

    Shohei Yamamoto

    Yamamoto's start for game 3 was much slower than the previous games, but that didn't help Shiozu one iota because while his hand was filled with gas, he needed some lands to make it all work. A Forest plus a Sakura-Tribe Elder fixed the problem and then he went to work with a Red Honden and spliced Glacial Rays flying everywhere. Shiozu dropped to two life, but that was as low as he went as, Iro of Kaminari splicing Horobi's Whisper and Glacial Ray cleared the board, and then the Hondens and Shiozu's reusable burn engine finished the job, giving him a very tight, well-played victory.

    Shiozu 2 - Yamamoto 1

    Meanwhile over in the other feature match, Akira Asahara displayed some Dampen action of his own, but could only end up with a hard-fought draw against Shuuhei Nakamura, meaning there would still be two undefeated players in the tournament for at least one more round.

    (Special thanks to Keita Mori for providing Shiozu's decklist.)



     
  • Sunday, May 15: 4:08 pm - Round 11 Roundup


  • Proving it is best to be both lucky and good, Masashi Oiso went 3-0 with his Green-Red Kumano + Kodama of the North Tree deck. In his Round 11 match, he took game 1 with Kumano on the board, blowing right past Nagao and Kabuto Moth with Unearthly Blizzard splicing Kodama's Might. Then in game 2 he had the very tough choice of which legend to play on turn 5, while his opponent simply held his head in his hands.
  • A little Japanese Graffiti

  • Olivier Ruel ended up 2-1 with his first draft deck of the day, probably knocking him out of Top 8 contention, but still leaving him in position to land somewhere in the money. Ryoma Shiozu's amazing four-color Ire of Kaminari deck could only pull 2-0-1 in his pod, but it drew a ton of spectators in each round, especially when he was in the feature match area.
  • After the first draft, Akira Asahara was the only undefeated left standing - his draw with Shuuhei Nakamura the only blemish on his otherwise perfect record. Nakamura came out of the first pod 1-1-1, running his record to 9-1-1 on the weekend, and Osamu Fujita came out of that pod 10-1, putting all of them within spitting distance of Top 8 qualification.

  •  
  • Sunday, May 15: 4:26 pm - Quick Interviews with the Pros


  • Akira Asahara

    Akira Asahara

    What is the best color combination in Champions-Betrayers draft?
    Blue-White or Blue-Black

    Is there any color you absolutely hate to draft?
    No, there's nothing I don't like.

    What cards do you want to open in Champions of Kamigawa?
    Kabuto Moth and Glacial Ray.

    What cards do you want to open in Betrayers of Kamigawa?
    Ninja of the Deep Hours.

    Name two underrated cards.
    Kami of the Tattered Shoji and... um...

    Name one overrated card.
    Umezawa's Jitte. It's very good but I believe it is beatable.

    Osamu Fujita

    Osamu Fujita

    What is the best color combination in Champions-Betrayers draft?
    Blue-White.

    Is there any color you absolutely hate to draft?
    Nope.

    What cards do you want to open in Champions of Kamigawa?
    Meloku or Kumano.

    What cards do you want to open in Betrayers of Kamigawa?
    Jitte.

    Name two underrated cards.
    Kitsune Diviner and Frostwielder. They don't get enough respect.

    Name one overrated card.
    I don't really care how other people draft, I'm always just picking the right card for my deck, so I don't know the answer.

    Olivier Ruel

    Olivier Ruel

    What is the best color combination in Champions-Betrayers draft?
    Blue-white, but no one likes green so that's what I usually end up drafting.

    Is there any color you absolutely hate to draft?
    I try to avoid red. It's very shallow and while it has some good cards as first picks, the rest of the color is just bad.

    What cards do you want to open in Champions of Kamigawa?
    Meloku, Kabuto Moth.

    What cards do you want to open in Betrayers of Kamigawa?
    Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni.

    Name two underrated cards.
    Orochi Sustainer - you still get this card way too late. I also think Mistblade Shinobi is a bit underrated.

    Name one overrated card.
    Mountain. How can three or four people draft that color at every table and still expect to win?

    Masashi Oiso

    Masashi Oiso

    What is the best color combination in Champions-Betrayers draft?
    White-black.

    Is there any color you absolutely hate to draft?
    Normally green, but if you open a bomb (like Kodama of the North Tree), you have to just go with it.

    What cards do you want to open in Champions of Kamigawa?
    Meloku, Kumano.

    What cards do you want to open in Betrayers of Kamigawa?
    Jitte.

    Name two underrated cards.
    Hankyu, twice.

    Name one overrated card.
    Waxmane Baku, but I have to explain. Waxmane is still a very good card, but its value depends on how many spirits you have in your deck. There are many times were I think Split-tail Miko is actually the better pick for some decks, but no one really talks about it.


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 4:41 pm - Draft 2 with Shuuhei Nakamura


  • Shuuhei Nakamura

    You are Shuuhei Nakamura. You are a 23-year-old student from Osaka. When George Harrison died, you bought his entire collection of vintage 70s clothing and that is all you'll be seen wearing for the rest of your life. If you weren't so quiet, the ladies might think you were a wild and crazy guy, especially since you look good in polyester. You were a finalist at Pro Tour: Columbus and finished 9th at Pro Tour: Philadelphia, losing to countryman Kenji Tsumura in the final round. Thus far on the weekend you are 9-1-1, and need to probably go 2-1 or 1-1-1 to make the final draft table. Oh, and you hate the color green.

    The players around you at the draft table look like this:

    7 Akira Asahara
    8 Kentarou Nonaka
    1 Shuuhei Nakamura
    2 Masashi Oiso
    3 Takayuki Toochika

    This is a brief sample of the picks you received early in each pack:

    Pack 1

    Pick 1: Kabuto Moth, Kitsune Blademaster, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Rootrunner

    Pick 2: Innocence Kami, Rend Spirit, Ghostly Prison

    Pick 3: Strength of Cedars, Kodama's Might, Kami of Fire's Roar, Kami of the Painted Road

    Pick 4: Kodama's Might, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Wicked Akuba, Ghostly Prison, Brutal Deceiver

    Pick 5: Order of the Sacred Bell, Kami of the Hunt, Kusari-Gama, Brutal Deceiver

    Pick 6: Devouring Greed, Devouring Rage, River Kaijin

    Pick 7: Kodama's Might, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Villainous Ogre

    Pack 2

    Pick 1: Kami of the Hunt, Scuttling Death, Nezumi Graverobber, Mystic Restraints, Moss Kami

    Pick 2: Cage of Hands, Seshiro the Annointed, Nezumi Ronin

    Pick 3: Blind with Anger, Kodama's Might, Orochi Sustainer, Kami of the Hunt

    Pick 4: Shisato, Whispering Hunter, Consuming Vortex, Waking Nightmare

    Pick 5: Matsu-Tribe Decoy, Soulless Revival, Akki Coalflinger

    Pick 6: Psychic Puppetry, Minamo's Meddling, Waking Nightmare, Devoted Retainer, Cloudcrest Lake

    Pick 7: Dance of Shadows, Nezumi Ronin, Soratami Clouskater, Dripping-Tongue Zubera

    Pack 3

    Pick 1: Torrent of Stone, Matsu-Tribe Sniper, Split-Tail Miko, Loamdweller, Genju of the Falls

    Pick 2: Horobi's Whisper, Sclaed Hulk, Throat Slitter, Ogre Recluse, Disrupting Shoal

    Pick 3: Yukora, the Prisoner, Horobi's Whisper, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Moonlit Strider

    Pick 4: Budoka Pupil, Sakura-Tribe Springcaller, Blazing Shoal, Moonlit Strider

    Pick 5: Gnarled Mass, Mistblade Shinobi, First Volley

    Pick 6: Mistblade Shinobi, Phantom Wings, Petalmane Baku, Kami of the Tattered Shoji

    Pick 7: Minamo's Meddling, Harbinger of Spring, Yomiji Who Bars the Way, Kami of the Honored Dead.

    Now for the tough questions:

    1) Following front to back, what colors did you end up in?
    2) What colors are your neighbors in?
    3) What does your deck look like?

    If you are Nakamura, in spite of the fact that you really hate green (the only drafter I talked to this weekend to express that opinion), you were simply getting passed too many good cards to avoid that color. Your first picks were Kabuto Moth (over the Ryusei), Innocence Kami, Strength of Cedars, Kodama's Might, Order of the Sacred Bell, and River Kaijin. Then in pick 7 you get a lucky pack and make the very interesting choice of snatching Sakura-Tribe Elder for your deck in place of a second Kodama's Might, even though Mights get better in multiples. As Nakamura later explained it to me, drafting green is all about getting the mana accelerators early and then casting fatties, while the pump spells are less important to that strategy. Having drafted a lot lately, I thought that was the old Champions strategy, but with Betrayers you get more good three-drops and less good fours, and the Might was the obvious choice. Of course, I'm not the Level 5 guy in the Pro Tour Players Club sooooo...

    In pack 2 you get a very tough set of choices again. You started out in white, but that dried up rather quickly, so now you only know you are green-x, where x is yet to be determined. Nakamura passed the land dragon and yet another Kami of the Hunt for Nezumi Graverobber, perhaps thinking he might switch into black at that point, but that wasn't exactly the best plan, since Oiso was firmly entrenched in red-black and wasn't going to feed Shuuhei many good cards with skulls in the casting cost. For pick 2 you get the awesome hookup from Seshiro, and then pick an Orochi Sustainer over both Might and Kami of the Hunt in pack 3, grab Consuming Vortex over basically nothing, and then pick a Decoy, Cloudcrest Lake, and Soratami Cloudskater.

    At this point in the draft, Oiso is solidly black-red, after some initial confusion Nonaka is now white-red, and the two guys sitting next to those gentlemen are both white-blue, while your deck is still green-x where x is anything but red.

    Pack 3 gives you a first-pick Genju of the Falls, Throat Slitter, Springcaller, a fourth-pick Badunkadunk Pupil, Bob Gnarly, Phantom Wings, and Harbinger of Spring. When it's all said and done, you come back to build your deck and still aren't sure exactly what colors you'll end up in. Some later picks were hate drafts that may make your deck as a splash, while the initial white cards you drafted will not likely end up in your deck. You finally choose to play green-blue with a small splash and hope that it is good enough to get you the one or maybe two wins you need to make the Top 8, but you know you didn't have a very good draft.


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 5:01 pm - Round 14 - Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Kazuya Hiyabayashi


  • So this is it for Shuuhei Nakamura - a win and he's in, but a loss means he'll end up with a Top 16 finish. It's still not a bad result, considering he earned $250 just for showing up this weekend, but it's not a result he'd be happy with. His opponent Kazuya Hiyabayashi is no slouch. The man finished 9th at last year's Pro Tour: Amsterdam and has a Grand Prix Top 8 or two himself, plus a solid portfolio of interesting Constructed designs including Dancing Ghoul in Extended. He's currently sitting at 30 points with an outside shot at a Top 8 appearance himself, but he'd need help from a variety of matches to make it in.

    Nakamura got the start he was looking for in game 1, with a turn 2 Elder into a turn 3 Order from Taco Bell (made all the more amusing because there are no Taco Bells in Japan). Budoka Pupil followed the monks onto the board, facing down a lonely Brutal Deceiver. The Deceiver attacked and Nakamura let it through only to watch it turn into Throat Slitter right before his eyes. Thankfully he had a Consuming Vortex in hand to Evacuate Hirabayashi's team plus more men in hand to bring the beats and that was it. Game 1 lasted all of five minutes on the clock and put Nakamura one step closer to another Top 8 appearance.

    Nakamura 1 - Hirabayashi 0

    Hiyabayashi drew first blood in game 2 with a Ronin Houndmaster followed quickly by Ogre Recluse - not a team Nakamura's Humble Bumble and Matsu-Tribe Decoy wanted to see. Nakamura's men teamed up to take down the Houndmaster, but Jibber Jabber (Gibbering Kami) arrived to keep the pressure on, pressure that increased when Rend Spirit sent Nakamura's fresh Gnarled Mass to the grumper. Nakamura played Harbinger of Spring to try and stave off the largest of the beats, but Hiyabayashi flashed him a removal spell and it was on to game 3. Total time taken for the first two games including shuffling: 14 minutes

    Nakamura 1 - Hiyabayashi 1

    In games 2 and 3, Nakamura made the dicey decision of keeping two Island, no Forest hands with green men and mana fixers present. Both choices paid off for him, as he drew Forests on the first turn of each game, activating all the green spells in his hand. In this game Shuuhei used the green to cast Orochi Sustainer followed by Matsu-Tribe Decoy, River Kaijin, and Sakura-Tribe Elder. This unimpressive squad of men faced down a Nazumi Ronin, Wicked Akuba, Takenuma Bleeder, and Ember-Fist Zubera from Kazuya. The Elder and Kaijin killed the rat, but Bleeder got in some damage while Nakamura tried to solidify his defense with a Kabuto Moth. Befoul on the Moth met Veil Of Secrecy, and Nakamura practically whooped with joy as he followed that play by casting Seshiro and attacking with two snakes.

    Without a removal spell to be found, Hiyabayashi was doomed and a couple attacks later he extended his hand, congratulating Shuuhei on once again winning his way to the Top 8.

    Nakamura 2 - Hiyabayashi 1

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