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Round 5: Clash (Not That Clash) of the Titans

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Throughout its history, Magic has been defined by monumental clashes. It's what makes the Pro Tour so appealing. A former U.S. National Champion versus the first Japanese player to ever win a Pro Tour. Control versus agro in their most distilled forms. Even the ever-popular Islands versus Mountains. These battles are *gasp* Epic (I'll never get tired of that gasp.)

Paul Cheon and Masashiro Kuroda loom large in the feature match area.

In this script performance of Clash of the Titans, the part of the control-playing former American champion will be played by Paul Cheon. Paul is looking to continue his recent string of tournament successes with another strong finish here. Playing the part of the first Japanese Pro Tour winner is, surprisingly enough, the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour—Masashiro Kuroda. Talk about a good casting director. Kuroda has been playing strong for a few years now, and he's looking to return to the Sunday stage, something he hasn't been able to do at a Pro Tour since Nagoya in 2005. But don't let that fool you. He's one of the best.

Kuroda showed how good he is at rolling dice by schooling the American in a high-roll competition. (It's really hard to make a die roll sound epic, so don't hold it against me.) Cheon settled in nicely to his control role with a turn-two Spell Snare for Kuroda's Goblin Piledriver. A Goblin Matron on the following turn, however, managed to slip through the defenses and net Kuroda a Goblin Warchief. With the Chief threatening to take the reins in the game, Cheon decided to tap out to transmute a Tolaria West to grab a Slaughter Pact. Kuroda took the time while Paul was tapped out to play a freshly drawn Goblin Ringleader, which fetched him a follow-up Ringleader and a Skirk Prospector. Paul simply untapped, played a fourth land, shrugged, and passed the turn.

Kuroda exploded onto the board next turn with two Goblin Warchiefs. Damnation didn't scare him too much, since he could repopulate the board rather quickly. On top of that, if Paul didn't have the Damnation, he only had one turn to live. A swing with the whole team dropped Paul to 10. During Kuroda's end step, Cheon gave him a Fact or Fiction split to consider. The piles ended up with a Spell Snare and a Thirst for Knowledge in one pile and a Dimir Aqueduct, Polluted Delta, and Trinket Mage in the other. Paul wasted no time taking the pile with the lands.

It turned out that Paul did have the Damnation and he used it to clear the board. He followed it up with a very-undercosted Tombstalker. Kuroda seemed a little dejected that his men ended up dead, but had he calculated the risks when he committed them to the board. He played the Goblin Ringleader he had been holding to set up a Goblin Piledriver that came into play immediately and a second Ringleader for later use. With his board now starting to regain its former glory, Kuroda passed the turn to Cheon and his giant, flying demon.

Paul swung in with the Tombstalker, knocking Kuroda down to a mere 7. Damage from Barbarian Rings and Bloodstained Mires had begun to take its toll. He then added the sixth and seventh points of damage to the board, along with an Engineered Explosives for two, courtesy of his recently proven-to-be-fact Trinket Mage. After blowing the Piledriver up with the Explosives, Cheon played and immediately activated a Tormod's Crypt to prevent any Patriarch's Bidding shenanigans, as well as nullifying the threshold ability on Kuroda's Barbarian Rings. For the next few turns, it appeared the Rings would serve as nothing more than Mountains that helped reduce Kuroda's already dwindling life total.

Next turn, though, Kuroda scored a four-card Ringleader, putting a fresh set of goblins into his hand. He then sent both his Ringleaders into attack Paul, leaving no one back to defend the fort. Paul took the damage and looked a little concerned that Kuroda hadn't left any blockers home for his Trinket Mage. After all, the way he tapped, Kuroda only had a Bloodstained Mire and two Barbarian Rings in play for mana. Did I mention he was at 7? That kind of makes a difference.

Unflappable, Kuroda just sacrificed his Bloodstained Mire to get a Mountain, putting him at 6. He played a Skirk Prospector and used it to sacrifice his now tapped Goblin Ringleaders. Using that mana he played a Mogg War Marshal. That's three blockers for one creature, and enough life left over to end the next turn at 1. Supposedly.

Kuroda did take a hit to the face from the Tombstalker, dropping him to his last life point. A transmuted Tolaria West got Paul an Engineered Explosives, which he used to immediately remove Kuroda's token. He couldn't kill a non-token goblin because he couldn't risk Kuroda hitting threshold, since the two Barbarian Rings were on-board lethal damage. Kuroda had a trick up his sleeve, though, and he used his Prospector to sacrifice the targeted Goblin and his War Marshal to cycle a Gempalm Incinerator, removing Cheon's lone Trinket Mage.

Kuroda took advantage of the space he'd just cleared himself immediately. A swing from the two little men left Paul at two with Kuroda two cards from threshold. When Kuroda showed Cheon the other Prospector in his hand, which would allow him to reach threshold, Paul had to concede.

Kuroda 1, Cheon 0

Game 2

Game 2 began with an early Sensei's Divining Top, with activation mana thanks to Chrome Mox, for Paul. Kuroda brought his own invitation to the Chrome Mox Party, and he used his to try to get a Goblin Piledriver through the door. The party was "no Goblins allowed," though, and a Force Spike hammered that message home.

Paul continued playing the control game. All he felt like doing on his turn was simply activating his Top, playing a land, and passing the game back to Kuroda. If Paul wasn't going to put any men on the dance floor, Kuroda would certainly try. He managed to slip a few goblins past the doorman, and a second Piledriver and his little buddy the Mogg Fanatic decided to cut the rug.

Paul stuck to his guns, simply activating his Top, playing a land, and saying "go." Kuroda's next play got a bit of a chuckle from Cheon—Dralnu's Crusade. You can put a "read" counter on that one, boys. After picking it up and giving it a thorough inspection, Paul gave it the green light. All he did was play an end of turn Thirst for Knowledge.

Paul was playing the control game to a "T." He just bided his time, drew some cards and waited for the right time to play the inevitable Damnation. He also did a good job of picking off the most threatening cards on the board while trying to draw more cards out of Kuroda's hand. Don't forget, boys and girls, your life total is a useful resource, and Cheon was more than willing to pay some life to tap Kuroda's creatures down and force him to add more to the board. Smother took out a Piledriver, and a Goblin Matron was Counterspelled. That left Cheon with a mere one card. The time was right.

Damnation.

All the pretty Goblins went right to the graveyard, and Kuroda was left on the ropes. If any deck was going to be able to come back from having its team wiped completely out (besides Dredge), it would be Goblins. Kuroda certainly had the Goblin Ringleader to start the process, but Cheon had a Counterspell to stop the train from rolling. Moreover, he added a giant flying Demon to the board for the second game in a row to try and finish Kuroda off.

Kuroda wasn't quite ready to die, though. Cheon was sitting on single digits, which is the red zone for Goblins. Kuroda kept trying to rebuild his army for the final push before it was too late. Mogg War Marshal works fairly well with many of the goblins Kuroda could draw in the future. Unfortunately for him, Cheon had a Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. Let's just say that one of these token generators is a little better than the other. I'll give you a hint—it rhymes with Bahroku, and with good reason.

The next couple of turns were a mere formality. Kuroda never drew any real threats, and Cheon kept adding to his flying army. It didn't take too long before Kuroda decided to give the third game a try.

Kuroda 1, Cheon 1

Game 3

The third and final game started fast, but not quite optimally from Kuroda. Goblin Piledrivers on turns one and two were fine men, but they lacked the punch of a Goblin Warchief. When a third joined the fray on the next turn, though, things looked interesting. Cheon, though, wouldn't have any of it. With a Chrome Mox of his own, he blew the triplets away with an earth-shattering Damnation.

Kuroda wasn't looking too good, though, as he had failed to draw a second red source thus far. His mana base consisted of two Ghost Quarters and a Chrome Mox on red. Not ideal for a Goblins deck that wants all the red mana in the world. The second Mountain came the following turn, but it was too late. All Kuroda had were a few Mogg Fanatics, one of which he had held in his opening draw. Cheon, on the other hand, had all kinds of large, "Nate Price Approved" good men. Meloku and Tombstalker have been seen together so much recently, they might as well form a Vegas lounge act. The only thing Kuroda could really contribute in this final game was a bit of humor. When he flipped a Dralnu's Crusade on a moot Goblin Ringleader, he looked up at the judge with a smile and asked, "Goblin? No Tribal?" A few swings from the Royal Air Force of Cheonland and Kuroda was handed his first loss of the day.

Cheon 2, Kuroda 1

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