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Day 1 Blog Archive

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TABLE OF CONTENTS


  • Blog - 9:31 p.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff
  • Blog - 7:15 p.m. - Round 8: Tomoharu Saito vs. Ryousuke Aoki
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 6:34 p.m. - Round 6: Antoine Ruel vs. Quentin Martin
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 4:09 p.m. - News and Notes
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 2:51 p.m. - Quick Questions #2
    by Keita Mori
  • Blog - 2:37 p.m. - Round 4: Bram Snepvangers vs Kenji Tsumura
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 12:55 p.m. - Our Lips Are Sealed
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 11:13 a.m. - Quick Questions with the Pros !
    by Keita Mori
  • Blog - 10:51 a.m. - Setting the Stage
    by Ted Knutson
  • Blog - 10:29 a.m. - It's Good to Be Back
    by Ted Knutson

  • BLOG


     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 10:29 a.m. - It's Good to Be Back
    by Ted Knutson


  • Persimmons are everywhere.

    Oh, the things I give up for this job. See, while I'm here in Japan busting my hump to bring you coverage, the biggest college football game of the year is less than a day away in the United States. Sadly, it will not be shown on television here in Yamagata (in fact, there are no English language stations at all available in the hotel, not even BBC World), meaning I would either need to watch it via the internet at some ungodly hour (thank you, ESPN Game Plan), or I can get sleep in preparation for what will assuredly be a lengthy Day 2 of drafting. Oh sure, I could do both and show up bleary-eyed and exhausted for a 14-hour coverage day, giddy that I both saw the game and got to come to Japan for a working vacation… but I'm a pro and I wouldn't do that to you guys. I just wanted you to know that this job isn't all candy clouds and rainbows - there are some sacrifices required, especially during football season.


    Enough grousing (you'll start to think Jon Becker is doing coverage instead of me), on with the show. It's been a while since I've done a Grand Prix here in Japan. Sure, I was just here for Pro Tour-Kobe about three weeks ago, but Pro Tours lack the same intimacy as the Grand Prix scene here. For example, we didn't say much about Kobe the city (the Kobe beef is ridiculous), but I'm happy to tell you a bit about Yamagata. It's a sleepy mountain town of about 250,000 people located about 3 hours north of Tokyo via bullet train. The local area is renowned for agricultural products, including cherries, grapes, yams, persimmons (currently in season - ripe fruit can be seen hanging from trees everywhere on the journey between here and the hotel), and finally sake. The distance from Tokyo and lack of monumental local population that comes with most Japanese cities makes it impressive that 359 players have showed up to battle here this weekend. There's also a kickass mountain that's a windy, 40-minute bus ride from town named Zao. During the winter season, skiers flock to its slopes to get their shoosh on. Aside from that, there's not a whole lot to do here, which is why I spent yesterday afternoon bowling and playing ping pong with a group of traveling pros here this weekend. In fact, the site itself is across the street from actual freaking farms, so it's far from the megalopolis people traditionally associate with Japanese urban areas.

    Deckbuild is about to begin here, so I'll leave you now with a wince-inducing quote heard from a nameless individual at dinner last night. "Try the fish testicle - it's delicious!"



     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 10:51 a.m. - Setting the Stage
    by Ted Knutson


  • Shouta Yasooka 57
    Shuuhei Nakamura 49
    Tomoharu Saito 45
    Takuya Oosawa 44
    Kenji Tsumura 43
    Mark Herberholz 42
    Jelger Wiegersma 39
    Olivier Ruel 38
    Tiago Chan 37
    Willy Edel 36
    David Brucker 36
    Richard Hoaen 35
    Paulo Vitor da Rosa 35
    Helmut Summersberger 34
    Antoine Ruel 34

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the season has boiled down to. Yasooka is clearly in pole position going into the final Grand Prix of the year, a full eight points ahead in a race that only has this event plus the World Championships in Paris to increase point totals for those trailing him. A win for Shuuhei plus a bagel for Yasooka would tie up the race and make for an extremely exciting Worlds, but if Yasooka finishes in the Top 2, he could basically lock out any real contention for the Player of the Year title before Paris, an exceptional performance for a player few knew before this year. The non-Japanese pros who made the trip over this weekend include Wiegersma, Chan, Hoaen, and Antoine Ruel, all of whom are technically still in contention for the big title. However, most of them admit that Yasooka might not be catchable at this point, and the real reason they are here is a late season scramble for points to help them lock in a higher Pro Tour Players' Club level for next season. Not unlike last year in Beijing, this tournament will have a major effect on the storylines we will be following at Worlds, so stay tuned.


     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 11:13 a.m. - Quick Questions with the Pros !
    by Keita Mori




  • What color is your least favorite in Time Spiral?

    Richard Hoaen: Raphael Levy: Kouichirou Maki:

    Green-no question.

    ?Red. I got 2 Sulfurous Blast, but how am I supposed to splash that!?

    Green. (When I asked why, all I got was an angry stare from Maki.)


    Antoine Ruel: Kenji Tsumura: Shuuhei Nakamura:
    White! White (After thinking for some time) I don't particularly like or dislike one color more than another. Personally, I don't like Slivers, though.


     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 12:55 p.m. - Our Lips Are Sealed
    by Ted Knutson


  • Sealed deck is perhaps the most skilltesting crapshoot in Magic, and this weekend opening packs was even more tense than normal due to the fact that some people bought some very expensive plane tickets to be here, and would like to parlay that expense into things like an extra $500 per Pro Tour, free plane tickets to every PT, or maybe even a POY title. During the deckbuild, I settled in to observe Shuuhei Nakamura and Rich Hoaen, both of whom have a lot riding on this weekend's outcome, and both of whom received interesting and difficult pools to build.

    Shuuheii
    Nakamura opened his packs to find a pair of Magi greeting him, both of the white, Disky variety. Talk about a nice way to start. Also sitting in his white cards was a Knight of the Holy Nimbus and Mystic Enforcer, plus Temporal Isolation, welcome sights indeed. Shuuhei also seemed to have solid green cards, and splashed some red for removal spells like Rift Bolt. The deck was solid, but unspectacular, assuming you discount the pair of walking Wraths, of course.

    Looking at the cards he chose not to play , Nakamura clearly made some tough choices. His blue was pretty good, with both Errant Ephemeron and Ovinomancer waving to him from the sidelines in search of some play, and red was shallow but contained Sulferous Blast. His task was eased by the fact that his black cards were mostly unplayable. I asked him what he thought about the deck, and after practicing with it for a while, he said he was just hoping for the 6-2 he needed for Day 2.

    Rich Hoaen

    Hoaen
    Rich Hoaen used nearly the entire time allowed to figure out how to build his deck. It wasn't that his card pool wasn't powerful - it certainly is, but the power is in a number of different colors, so Rich put some hard thought into how to maximize his deck. Speaking of power, Magic's hottest pyromancer and flavor text mistress is sitting in Richie's sideboard. That's right, I said Rich left Jaya in his sideboard, and it's not because he's not playing any red cards - he is. He even has a pair of Search for Tomorrows to snatch Mountains from his library, but Rich felt that the depth of his double black cards (headlined by a pair of Sengir Nosferatu) was too good to try and get greedy with Jaya. I guess he felt double vampire plus a host of removal and Stormbind was good enough to give him a shot at running the table. Anything less than 4-1 (plus 3 byes) with this deck would be a disappointment.


     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 2:37 p.m. - Round 4: Bram Snepvangers vs Kenji Tsumura
    by Ted Knutson


  • Kenji Tsumuraa

    Our first feature match this weekend gives us two Top 8 members from Kobe. Reigning Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura is practically a rock star in the world of Magic, and is adored by amateurs and pros alike everywhere he goes. Kobe marked his fourth Pro Tour Top 8 in an astonishingly short period of time, and more than a few people think that if Kenji stays interested, his name will eventually be used in the same breaths as other legends like Kai and Jon. Sitting across from the diminutive Tsumura is studious Dutch beanpole and long-time pro Bram Snepvangers. Bram's Top 8 in Kobe was the third in his long and illustrious career, and though he has a real job back home, he took vacation time to come here to Yamagata and compete. Other fun facts about Bram include the fact that Japanese bowling alleys apparently don't stock shoes big enough to fit his feet, leaving him to wear the largest pair of bowling shoes they had like slippers, which in turn led to some classic waxed floor wipe outs.

    Bram started the game with a suspended Search for Tomorrow on turn 1 and Spinneret Sliver on turn 2, while Tsumura flashed Scryb Ranger into play at the end of Bram's turn. Kenji cast Wurmcalling for a 3/3 on turn 4, matching Bram's Nantuko Shaman, but one-upping him in style by putting a Rich Hoaen token into play. The Japanese love their boom booms. Undying Rage from Bram on his sliver got nasty, while Tsumura put Stonebrow into play, trying to keep up with Bram's beats. The attacks continued on each side, rapidly lowering once healthy life totals. A flashed Havenwood Wurm from Bram on Kenji's attack looked like it would finish things, but Bram blocked the Thallid Germinator and Kenji cast Stonewood Invocation on Stonebrow to end a quick game 1.

    Tsumura 1 - Bram 0

    Spinneret Sliver and Havenwood Dryad from Bram was a good start for the Dutchman, but Call of the Herd from Kenji made attacking immediately problematic for Bram. Bram was nonplussed, shipping his Dryad in for 3, and then casting a shiny Mystic Enforcer. The next turn went badly for him, as Kenji cast Sudden Shock on the Enforcer and then followed with Grapeshot, killing the Mystic and the Dryad to retake control of the board. Kenji added to the pressure with Savage Thallid a turn later while Call of the Herd was still in his graveyard, giving him a big lead, especially since his hand was full of gas as well. A few more attacks, another well-timed Grapeshot, and Bogardan Rager on an unblocked elephant gave Kenji the win.

    Tsumura 2 - Bram 0



     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 2:51 p.m. - Quick Questions #2
    by Keita Mori




  • Who do you think will win the Player of the Year Race this year?

    Richard Hoaen: Raphael Levy: Kouichirou Maki:

    Kenji (Tsumura).

    I'd like to say "Quentin Martin !"…But I think it will be Jelger Wiegersma.

    If I were a betting man, I'd put my money down on Yaso (Shouta Yasooka). If I weren't a betting man, I wouldn't care.


    Antoine Ruel: Kenji Tsumura: Shuuhei Nakamura:
    "Quentin Martin !" I'd like to win, both for myself and to justify Olivier Ruel's faith in me, but with a 14-point spread… I'd like to win if I can, but I don't think I'll have a chance if Yasooka makes Day 2 here.



     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 4:09 p.m. - News and Notes
    by Ted Knutson


  • The most backbreaking card that I have seen played (by far) has been Draining Whelk. Raphael Levy got smashed by it in Round 4, after waiting until his opponent's draw step to use his Haunting Hymn and watching in horror as his opponent gained a 7/7 flier via the card he just drew. Raph was noticeably livid after the match. Shouta Yasooka also used it to great effect, countering a Kaervek the Merciless from Mihara in round 7, forcing the CAL designer to put his head in his hands. In spite of those beatings, however, I think the biggest swing came from a random game where I watched one player counter a game-ending Phthisis. He went on to win that game, but lost the match.

  • Another cool play today came in a match with Osamu Fujita and Ryo Ogura where Fujita had an Errant Ephemeron in play and a Deep Sea Kraken with one counter left on it. Ogura, who had been killed by the exact same play back in Kobe, cast Sudden Death on the Ephemeron, getting a two-for-one in the process when the last counter on the Kraken was removed and it tried to come into play in response, but was squashed by split second.

  • I was nosing around among the Japanese to see what deckbuilding teams had formed for Worlds, when I discovered some interesting information. First of all, classic deckbuilder Itaru Ishida has basically retired from deckbuilding to concentrate on his career, leaving a gap for his usual teammates. Additionally, when I asked Katsuhiro Mori who he was working with, he indicated that he was flying solo, but then as I asked more players, it became clear that like last year, most of the Japanese were planning to work together on decks, particularly for Extended. It makes perfect sense - why mess with the successful tactic that lead Japan to sweep POY, World Champion, and the team title in 2005?



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  • Saturday, Nov 18: 6:34 p.m. - Round 6: Antoine Ruel vs. Quentin Martin
    by Ted Knutson


  • Antoine Ruel has had a relatively quiet year by his standards, especially since his Top 8 in Hawaii at the beginning of the year. Of course, a quiet year for a Ruel only means 3 Grand Prix Top 8s, and a possible level 5 finish, so don't feel sorry for Toutoune just yet. Quentin Martin is having perhaps his best Pro Tour season ever, and this is in spite of the fact that he spent a large portion of the year backpacking various places around the world. Both players are looking for extra points to secure their status for next year, and as of yet, neither one has a loss in the tournament.

    Ruel won the die roll and opened the game with suspended Viscerid Deepwalker and Deep Sea Kraken. Martin cast a morph on his third turn, followed by a Sporesower Thallid. Ruel's Deepwalker plus Strength in Numbers dispatched Martin's Thallid, giving Antoine the early lead. He built on that with Crookclaw Transmuter and Clockwork Hydra, while Martin was forced to grab a Mountain with Search for Tomorrow and pass the turn still far behind Ruel in board position. Stonebrow for the Englishman stabilized a bit, while Merfolk Trickster kept the Kraken at bay for a turn and forced Ruel to ship the turn without an attack, though he had been steadily erasing Quentin's life total for a couple of turns now. Martin's untap was very fruitful, giving him a Chronatog Totem and Riftwing Cloudskate, bouncing the Kraken back to Ruel's hand.

    While Martin was stabilizing, Ruel was building up counters on his Hydra and a Havenwood Wurm in hand that flashed into play. One attack from Ruel's superior forces put Martin at 4, and Might of Old Krosa on a forestwalking Yavimaya Dryad the next turn finished the job.

    Ruel 1 - Martin 0

    "Nice Wurm…" Quentin noted, in his usual dry style. Antoine responded with, "I hated it, but then all my opponents played that card and destroyed me with it, so I decided to start playing it as well." "I love that card," admitted Martin.

    Martin had to double mulligan for game 2, but he kept a smile on his face, in part at least because of his Durkwood Baloth, Cloudskate, Errant Ephemeron start. Even more astounding, he had a turn 4 morph to add to his army. Ruel said before the game that this was the best hand his deck had produced all day, but it was now clear he would need to prove it. A pair of Nantuko Shamen, Yavimaya Dryad, Looter il-Kor and Serrated Arrows certainly helped him keep up with Quentin. Not content merely to keep up, Toutoune used Brine Elemental and then a Dream Stalker to restock his original Arrows before playing his second. He also reached across the table and smacked Quentin upside the head for no apparent reason, abusing Martin as much as humanly possible before he conceded.

    Ruel 2 - Martin 0



     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 7:15 p.m. - Round 8: Tomoharu Saito vs. Ryousuke Aoki
    by Ted Knutson


  • Like most of the pros in his country, Tomoharu Saito has had an exceptional 2006 season. In addition to his Top 8 a couple of weeks ago in Kobe, Saito and teammates won Pro Tour-Charleston. He only has one GP Top 8 this year, but a 7-0 start here in Yamagata might be a sign that he's on his way to another one. Saito's opponent is one of the new generation of Japanese players, Tokyo university student Ryousuke Aoki. Aoki is relatively unknown, but lost to Katsuhiro Mori when playing for Top 8 at Japanese Nats earlier this year. Both players are hoping for a win here to ease their way to a Top 8 during the draft portion of the event tomorrow.

    Aoki parised his first hand, and then was immediately under the gun as Saito suspended Search for Tomorrow, flashed Scryb Ranger, and cast Watcher Sliver on turn 3. Luckily for Aoki, the Watcher inadvertently provided a nice blocker when Aoki put Basal Sliver into play. Saito attacked with the Watcher, Aoki blocked, and then Saito chose to trade the two by sacrificing his Sliver before casting Essence Sliver and Yavimaya Dryad. Fury Sliver a turn later tried to make sure the game was not close, but Aoki's deck was good and provided Conflagrate, Firemaw Kavu, and Lightning Axe to keep Aoki competitive. In fact, Aoki stabilized fully at 3 life and started to attack with his now active Kraken, but fell to 1 from a flashed Celestial Crusader. Giant Oyster stopped that nonsense, but with Saito a turn from dying, he topdecked Tromp the Domains and smashed for the win.

    Saito 1 - Aoki 0

    Aoki got to keep a seven-card hand in game 2 and got the oh-so-sexy Time Bug + Deep Sea Kraken on turn 3 start. Unfortunately, he also got stuck on three lands, unable to use any of the six spells in his hand to counteract Saito's impressive army of slivers (including backbreakers Pulmonic and Fury). A few more grimaces and non-land draws for Aoki and that was game, giving Tomoharu Saito a very good start to his weekend.

    Saito 2 - Aoki 0



     
  • Saturday, Nov 18: 9:31 p.m. - Day 1 Undefeated Decks
    by Event Coverage Staff






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