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Akira Levels Matsuyama!

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日本語の取材へ

Akira Asahara is the Grand Prix-Matsuyama champion! The 26-year-old Osaka native used Keiga, Higure, and a small ninja army to assassinate an all-star Top 8 that featured four previous Pro Tour Top 8 members. After going undefeated on Day 1, Asahara locked up his place in the final draft with a win in Round 13. Then in the quarterfinals he managed to defeat a seemingly unbeatable green-red draft deck that featured three Glacial Rays and a host of strong creatures and pump spells, courtesy of a little luck and a lot of dragon. Then down a game in the semifinals, Asahara staged a comeback, defeating Takayuki Toochika 2-1 courtesy of a double-mulligan and some heavy manaflooding for the Top 8 rookie. On the other side of the bracket, Masashi Oiso somehow tore through both Tomoharu Saito and Kentarou Nonaka, in spite of having what he felt was a pretty mediocre deck. This set up a potentially epic finals that failed to live up to the billing. It seems that green-white decks often have problems dealing with unblockable Throat Slitters, and the evil rat of doom featured prominently in two lightning fast games, the first supported by a Soratami Mirror-Guard, and the second by Higure, the Still Wind. When Oiso's last-ditch Cage of Hands on the rat was countered by Veil of Secrecy, he simply extended his hand, congratulating Asahara on his second career Grand Prix title.


Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Jun'ya Takahashi   Akira Asahara, 2-0        
8 Akira Asahara   Akira Asahara, 2-1
       
4 Osamu Fujita   Takayuki Toochika, 2-0   Akira Asahara, 2-0
5 Takayuki Toochika    
       
2 Masashi Oiso   Masashi Oiso, 2-0
7 Tomoharu Saito   Masashi Oiso, 2-0
       
3 Shuuhei Nakamura   Kentarou Nonaka, 2-1
6 Kentarou Nonaka    


EVENT COVERAGE INFORMATION

  • Decklists: The Top 8 Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Blog - 8:36 pm: Finals - Akira Asahara vs. Masashi Oiso
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 7:50 pm: Semifinals: Asahara vs. Toochika
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 7:21 pm: Top 8 Draft Predictions and Roundup
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 7:02 pm: Top 8 Profiles
    by Keita Mori

  • Day 2 Blog Archive: Draft Reports, Top Pro Play, Quick Interviews, Last Round Action, and Much More
    by Ted Knutson
  • Round 12: Pods
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Round 9: Pods
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Decklists: Day 1 Undefeated Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Day 1 Blog Archive: Guest Artist, News and Notes, Top Pro Play, Round 8 Action, and Much More
    by Ted Knutson
  • Info: Day 1 Player List
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Info: Fact Sheet
    by Event Coverage Staff
 1.  Akira Asahara $2,400
 2.  Masashi Oiso $1,700
 3.  Kentarou Nonaka $1,200
 4.  Takayuki Toochika $1,000
 5.  Osamu Fujita $800
 6.  Shuuhei Nakamura $800
 7.  Tomoharu Saito $800
 8.  Jun'ya Takahashi $800
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BLOG

 
  • Sunday, May 15: 7:02 pm - Top 8 Profiles


  • Masashi Oiso

    Masashi Oiso

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm a 21-year-old college student from Higashi-hiroshima City.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    I finished in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Yokohama, PT New Orleans, PT San Diego, and PT Columbus. I won Grand Prix Boston, and also finished in the Top 8 of GP Utsunomiya and GP Hong Kong.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I haven't been playing Magic too much lately, as I've been concentrating on my school studies. I do play Magic Online, but again, not too much recently.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I used a White-Black deck with a splash of red, mostly for removal, which I had a lot of. I had 3 byes, and the deck went 4-1.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    I went 3-0 in the first draft with a Red-Green deck featuring Kumano, Master Yamabushi. In the second draft, I won one match with a Red-Black deck, then drew into the finals.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    Every match I played with him in my deck, I drew Kumano.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    A White-Black spiritcraft deck.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Probably some variant of the Gifts Ungiven control deck that Shouta Yasooka made when Champions of Kamigawa first came out.


    Osamu Fujita

    Osamu Fujita

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm 27 years old, and live in Kyoto. Right now, I'm a freelancer.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    Finalist, Pro Tour Amsterdam; Finalist, 1999 APAC Championship; Finalist, 2003 Japan Nationals. I also was the Finalist at Grand Prix Taipei and GP Hiroshima.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I usually play Magic on weekends with my friends. I don't play online.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I built a Red-Black deck with a touch of Blue in it. I went undefeated, with 3 byes.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    My first draft deck was a Red-Green steroid beatdown deck. In the second draft, I went Red-Black.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    In the sealed portion, I somehow managed to play 3 colors, all with spells that had double colored mana in their cost.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    Either Blue-White or anything with Green.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Some kind of Mono-Red deck.


    Akira Asahara

    Akira Asahara

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm a 26 year old optimist who lives in Kanagawa.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    None, really. (Editor's Note: That's the answer Asahara gave us, but he has won The Finals twice as well as a Grand Prix.)

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I play Magic through image training.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I played a Red-Green deck to an 8-0 record (with 3 byes).

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    My first deck was a Blue-Black one that went 2-0-1. My second was a Blue-White deck that went 1-1-1.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    I experienced an epiphany in a hot spring.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    Ninjas and bomb rares.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Ninjas, of course.


    Jun'ya Takahashi

    Jun'ya Takahashi

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm a 17 year old high school student in Yokohama.
    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    I played in PT Nagoya.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I usually get together overnight with friends in Tochigi. I can't play Magic Online because I don't have a credit card.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I had a White-Black deck that went 6-1-1.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    My first deck was a Red-Green beatdown deck, and the second one was a crazy White-Blue deck.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    Picking Kami of the Hunt over Kabuto Moth.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    Red-Green beatdown.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Red-Green spirit beatdown.


    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Shuuhei Nakamura

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm a 23 year old college student from Osaka.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    I've been on the Pro Tour once or twice. (Editor's Note: Nakamura was the Finalist at Pro Tour Columbus.)

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I play real Magic about 3 times a week, usually at tournaments on the weekends. I log onto Magic Online almost every day.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I had Umezawa's Jitte and 39 other cards. Oh, yeah, one of them was Shining Shoal. It did me some good once in a while. I didn't lose a match on Day 1.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    I went 1-1-1 in the first draft with a White-Blue deck. For the second draft, I had a Green-Blue deck with a splash of White. My record then was 2-1.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    The last match of Day 1, I played against an insane deck that had both Jitte and Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and I somehow managed to win.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    Something white and speedy.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    I haven't played Standard for a while so I'm not sure…Probably Tooth and Nail or a Green control deck.


    Takayuki Toochika

    Takayuki Toochika

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm 27 years old. I work as an engineer in Sagamihara City.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    Top 32, PT Philadelphia.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I usually play on the weekends. I just started Magic Online right before I went to Philly.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I had 1 bye, and went 7-1 with a White-Black deck with a few Red cards.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    I drafted a White-Black Samurai-Nezumi deck the first time, and a White-Blue deck in the second draft.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    My opponent in the last match of the first day offered to draw, but I turned him down. He didn't make it to Day 2.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    White-Black Samurai.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Tooth and Nail.


    Kentarou Nonaka

    Kentarou Nonaka

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I freelance in Osaka. I'm 20 years old.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    I played in PT Columbus, and also 2004 Nationals.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I play usually twice a week, at BIG MAGIC in Osaka.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I had a Red-Black beatdown deck with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Umezawa's Jitte. I had strong enough green in my sideboard that I could make a switch if I needed to.

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    In the first draft, I had a White-Black with a Jitte. My second draft deck was a White-Red Spirit deck.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    Between the Sealed Deck portion and the first draft, I was able to get 2 Jitte.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    White-Black.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    Tooth and Nail.


    Tomoharu Saitou

    Tomoharu Saitou

    Please tell us where you live, how old you are, and what you do.
    I'm 21 years old and live in Tokyo. Right now, all I do is play Magic.

    What have been some of your major tournament accomplishments?
    I won The Finals in 1999, and was Top 4 at Pro Tour Atlanta as a member of One Spin. I've managed a money finish 6 times out of my last 7 Grand Prix.

    How often do you play Magic, and where? Do you play Magic Online?
    I play Magic basically every day. I don't play Magic Online.

    Please tell us what kind of deck you used in the Sealed portion of the tournament, and how well it did.
    I went 7-1 with a pretty average deck. I just got lucky in my matchups…

    Tell us about your draft decks.
    For the first draft, I went Green-Black, and the second ended up being Red-Green.

    Any memorable episodes from this weekend?
    I came to this tournament not just wanting to win, but telling myself I had to win.

    What kind of deck are you hoping to draft in the final round?
    Either a Red-Green or Red-White beatdown deck.

    If you were going to play in Regionals this year, what Standard deck would you pick?
    I haven't played Standard since The Finals 2004, so I have no idea what the metagame is like.


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 7:21 pm - Top 8 Draft Predictions and Roundup


  • Apparently the Japanese decided that they were unimpressed by what transpired at Grand Prix-Detroit, widely considered to be one of the best Grand Prix Top 8s in years, so they tried to outdo the Americans by throwing a Pro party of their own. From the perspective of posterity, that plan was foiled by three complete unknowns, leaving us with only five huge names here in the Top, but an indicator of how deep this Grand Prix ended up can be found in the fact that the last invitation to Pro Tour: London extended all the way down to the guy in 22nd place, a ridiculous stat. Fujita, Oiso, Saitou, and Nakamura all have recent Pro Tour Top 8 showings, and Asahara is probably the best Japanese player never to have a breakout performance on the Pro Tour. It will be interesting to see whether the kids in this draft can beat the awesome names sitting with them at the same table and end up with the title.

    As Kouichirou Maki told noted, the Top 8 will end up being seven draft decks vs. one Block Constructed deck. We were looking at the color matchups in the brackets and trying to predict the outcome of each match, when he threw his hands up in the air saying that Jun'ya Takahashi had to win unless something went horribly awry. I tried to point out that Osamu Fujita also had a very good deck, and Nonaka's wasn't too bad either, but he shoo'ed that away stating, "No no, I saw that deck last weekend at Pro Tour: Philadelphia. Takahashi has to win." I thought about it for a moment and had to agree with him, since I've never seen a draft deck with 3 Glacial Rays, 2 Kodama's Might, Yamabushi's Flame, Hanabi Blast, and a host of excellent creatures to boot. It will take some serious mistakes or a minor miracle to stop this kid from taking home his first Grand Prix title. The rest of the deck matchups break down like this:

    Takahashi vs. Akira Asahara
    Asahara has a solid blue-black deck, but those colors don't stand up very well to a truckload of burn.

    Osamu Fujita vs. Takayuki Fujita
    Fujita was green-blue through the first pack and was considering a splash for black when Kumano arrived on his doorstep. He then tossed all non-red and green cards to the side and ended up with a strong deck featuring the Master Yamabushi, Sosuke, Ishi-Ishi, some removal, Strength of Cedars, and a bunch of snakes. His opponent also has a decent deck constructed mostly of black-red spirits with Rend Flesh, Torrent of Stone, and Hideous Laughter as part of his removal suite. Fujita's on a roll this weekend, and if it weren't for the fact that Takahashi's deck is so insane, Fujita would be my pick to win this table.

    Masashi Oiso vs Tomoharu Saitou
    Oiso's draft did not go as he hoped. He got into white early, but for some reason there didn't seem to be a ton of white at the table and that left him scrambling for playables in the middle of the packs. He finally ended up with a green-white deck, but it's probably the worst deck he had to play this weekend and doesn't feature Kumano or Kodama of the North tree to bail him out. Saitou's blue-white deck is a little better and has Teller of Tales and Uyo, Silent Prophet at the top end of his curve to make things difficult for Masashi. This match seems to be a bit of a push, but Saito should win it on deck strength.

    Shuuhei Nakamura vs. Kentarou Nonaka
    This match will be a mirror match of black-white decks, considered by many to be the strongest archetype in Champions/Betrayers draft. Nakamura was the beneficiary of some very solid downstream removal in pack 3, as Asahara, Oiso, and Fujita all passed on Horobi's Whisper and Sickening Shoal, giving Shuuhei some late gifts while they stayed in their colors. His creature strength isn't the greatest, but the deck is better than average and should give Nonaka a run for his money. Nonaka's deck actually has more removal than anyone else's except the Block Constructed deck, and most of his playable are black, with the occasional white hit like Opal-Eye hanging out as well. This match will be a tossup, meaning if it comes down to play skill, Nakamura should prevail.


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 7:50 pm - Semifinals: Asahara vs. Toochika


  • You would think after all this time I would simply stop making Top 8 predictions, since I know they spell doom to all parties involved, but it's never been quite this bad. This time every single prediction I made went for the quartefinals awry. Akira Asahara beat the unbeatable draft deck, using a deep soulshift chain to buy enough time for Keiga and Devouring Greed to win him the match. Osamu Fujita was left shaking his head as his extremely strong green-red deck failed to show up two games in a row, gifting Toochika into the semifinals. In the other half of the bracket Masashi Oiso defeated Tomoharu "Landflood" Saito, and Kentarou Nonaka was able to dispatch Shuuhei Nakamura in a fast, but hard fought three-game mirror match.

    That leads us to this semifinal, where Asahara's strong blue-black deck faces Toochika's equally solid red-black deck with the winner earning a trip to the finals. Toochika came blazing out of the gates on his first two turns, throwing a Frostling and Akki Avalanchers down on the table, but that was where the fun ended, as his deck refused to cough up a third and fourth land. Meanwhile, Asahara cast Soratami Mirror-Guard to go along with a rawdogged Mistblade Shinobi, making it very difficult for Toochika to keep any men on the board.

    A much-needed Mountain let Toochika use Torrent of Stone to get rid of the Soratami, and suddenly it was on. Soul of Magma plus Long-Forgotten Gohei threatened to wreck Asahara's weenies and his life total at the same time. Higure was a welcome reinforcement for Akira, but with Kami of Fire's Roar now in play, the ninja master was too late - the enhanced-spirit army proved more than enough to bring home the win once Toochika actually had mana to cast them,

    Toochika 1 - Asahara 0

    Game 2 wasn't even a game, as Toochika mulliganed twice and then hit a pocket of land flood while Asahara used Higure to recruit a ninja army and evened the match at one a piece.

    Toochika 1 - Asahara 1

    Toochika was happy to see lands and spells residing happily together in his opening hand, while Asahara looked uncertainly at his own before choosing to keep it. Turn 3 showed the reason for the concern when Asahara missed his third land drop, giving Toochika a nice tempo advantage. Toochika took the opportunity and used it wisely, chucking spirited beats right at Asahara's head. Akira finally found a Swamp on turn 4 and began to stabilize, casting a Cruel Deceiver on one turn and Takanuma Bleeder on the next to try and stop Toochika's Brutal Deceiver and Ember-Fist Zubera. The gang block took down the Deceiver, killing the Bleeder in the process. To help Asahara's recovery, about the time he started drawing lands, Toochika stopped drawing spells, causing all of his initial pressure to evaporate minus a Cursed Ronin with some potential to go super-sized. Cruel Deceiver ended any plans of that by blocking and revealing a land on top of Akira's deck, and suddenly Asahara was the player on the offensive. Offense is always more impressive when it includes a Dragon, and Akira's swings turned positively sexy when the lithe form of Keiga hit the board. Two swings of the dragon's tail and Devouring Greed sealed the deal, putting Asahara through to the finals.

    Asahara 2 - Toochika 1


     
  • Sunday, May 15: 8:36 pm - Finals - Akira Asahara vs. Masashi Oiso


  • Masashi Oiso

    You could not have chosen two bigger stars in Japan to fill the spots for the final match of this Grand Prix. Masashi Oiso's Pro Tour resume outstrips every one of his countrymen and he already holds a Grand Prix title to boot. Akira Asahara is one of the most successful Japanese players of the last couple years on home soil, and he also holds a Grand Prix title to go along with back-to-back wins at the Japanese year-end Finals in 2003 and 2004. Additionally, just by getting this far in the tournament, Oiso has put himself on the cusp of Level 5 status in the Pro Tour Players Club, so it has been a rather rewarding weekend for the young superstar, even if he can't manage to defeat his close friend to take home another title.

    The deck matchup appears to be an ugly one for Oiso, since Asahara's deck features bombs (Devouring Greed, Keiga, Higure, Throat Slitter), fliers, and host of soulshift, while Oiso's deck is an admittedly underpowered green-white creation. In fact, if you were judging on deck strength alone, Oiso probably should have been bounced in the quarterfinals, but there's a reason why they play the games and Oiso's playskill has more than a little to do with his presence as one of the last two men standing here in Matsuyama.

    Oiso was the one who took the early lead in game 1, casting a Kitsune Diviner, Faithful Squire, and then Order of the Sacred Bell to Asahara's Takenuma Bleeder. Asahara attacked with his Bleeder into the Order and Oiso chose to trade rather than let Asahara wreck him with Throat Slitter, but an attack from Soratami Mindsweeper on the next turn lead to exactly that. Soratami Mirror-Guard was the next play from Asahara and Oiso stared helplessly at the three lands in his hand before beginning to shuffle his deck for game 2. Mirror-Guard plus the rat of death is a combination that Oiso's green-white deck cannot deal with.

    Asahara 1 - Oiso 0

    Akira Asahara

    Game 2 started with a weenie brigade once again for Asahara, but this time the script changed briefly to put Higure, the Still Wind into play off of a Cloudskater attack. The ninja master attacked and then called Throat Slitter to duty, once again threatening Oiso's whole deck with a potentially unblockable rat of doom. Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Indomitable Will spelled that scenario for a bit, tapping Higure, but Asahara had a host of weenies left in the tank and the moment one got through, Throat Slitter was going to leave him defenseless.

    Blessed Breath foiled one assassination attempt on his Decoy, while Loam Dweller joined the team to help out, before Cage of Hands looked to end the Slitter's attacking days. Asahara had Veil of Secrecy ready and waiting for just that situation, and Oiso packed it up, conceding the match was unwinnable with the cards his deck could provide and conceding the title to his friend.

    Akira Asahara is the Grand Prix-Matsuyama champion!

    Asahara 2 - Oiso 0

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