Friday, April 20: 9:00 am - Setting Sail
Hi, welcome to the Pro Player Blog for Pro Tour Yokohama delivered by your intrepid reporter-cum-player Craig Jones. We're finally back to nice safe Constructed waters, so I may actually have a shot of still be writing this come Saturday.
This is actually the third time I've been to Yokohama and the Pacific Convention Plaza. There's a fair bit of history here. In 1999 Kai Budde took the World Champion title in a particularly short and brutal finals match. I was part of the UK National Team and was fortunate enough to stay in the luxury surroundings of the Pacifico Hotel (or Giant Sail, as I like to call it).
The Professor and his assistants.
2005, and the World Championships returned to Yokohama. Katsuhiro Mori overcame Frank Karsten in a very long finals. As I'd qualified on ranking I stayed at a very cheap hostel in a run-down part of town. Japan is not all gleaming technology, but even in the run-down areas you can walk around late at night and not feel in any danger.
A year and a half on and we're back to Yokohama for the second Pro Tour of 2007. I'm back at the hostel again, sharing cupboard space with Stuart Wright. (I'm not joking. I visited judge Nick Sephton in the Wizards staff hotel and his toilet was larger than our room.)
But at least it's cheap.
The format today is Time Spiral Block Constructed, and it looks interesting. A week before this event there was a 4 x Premier Event on MTGO that sent tremors through the Pro community. All the Top 8 decks from a 100+ player tournament were White Weenie. This was a strong message. Either you play the little white dudes, or you better as hell beat them.
As I can't seem to win a White Weenie mirror to save my life I've gone for the hate route with a Stuart Wright concoction that effectively has 10 Sulfur Elementals main (no, I'm not cheating-Shapeshifter makes a double and Teachings fetches more).
I'm not going to put the full deck list up just yet. The problem with these tricksy blue decks is that they like their tricks to remain secret. Feel free to guess at the contents of the mystery deck from the game reports, and I'll post the full list at the end of the day (when everybody knows what everybody else is playing in any case).
Friday, April 20: 10:03 am - Round 1 vs. Kazuya Hirabayashi
For the last five Pro Tours I've started 0-2. Not the best record, and one I'd rather not continue. So, powered up with CC Lemon (with the Vitamin C of 70 lemons!) I aimed to end that record.
It started promising as my opponent, Kazuya Hirabayashi, mulliganed and then played Plains. My mystery deck likes playing against small white men.
Hirabahi made a Soltari Priest and then thought for a long time on turn three. I suspected Griffin Guide, but as I had mana open Hirabayshi went for the safer play of Cloudchaser Kestrel.
His early white men did some damage, but I was able to start drawing cards off Shadowmage Infiltrator. Void and Cloudskate blunted his offence and then two Sulfur Elemental sealed the game.
Always nice to get your best matchup to start with.
White weenie is still a scary customer though. In Game 2 Hirabayashi was able to break up my pseudo-pair of Sulfur Elementals by Sunlance-=ing a Shapeshifter. A pair of Calciderms later and we were off to a decider.
Game 3 was also tight. After making the second Sulfur Elemental and then completing the job with a Strangling Soot on Serra Avenger I had to hope Hirabayashi didn't find a fourth land for the pair of Calciderms in his hand. He didn't, and then I was able to untap with Cancel open.
White Weenie's fearsome reputation is justified. My deck is geared up heavily to beat it, and I still didn't feel that comfortable.
At least I broke my streak of 0-2 starts, though.
Friday, April 20: 11:31 am - Round 1 vs. Kazuya Hirabayashi
After a good matchup in round one it was time for the bad matchup in round two.
I kept a dicey opening hand that had two Sulfur Elementals but was missing blue mana sources. Against white it would have been okay, but unfortunately Lemaitre was running red, and so I was burnt out before my mana base sorted itself out.
I think this is a fairly bad matchup for me, but I was able to take Game 2 after he drew a bunch of Gargadons and not a lot else.
My reluctance to mulligan punished me in Game 3, as although I was able to steal back the initiative with Gemstone Caverns, my draw never really developed and I flooded out while he beat me down with some Mogg War Marshal tokens.
Friday, April 20: 12:30 pm - Round 3 vs. Ryousuke Aoki
Round 3 and I have no idea what my opponent is playing. We both mulliganed, and I stuttered a little on land. However I did manage to spring a surprise on Aoki when he sent in his Phyrexian Totem only to see a Sulfur Elemental spring from my hand. That knocked him back enough for me to take control with a Shadowmage Infiltrator (after Voiding away some annoying Darkheart Slivers) and then Teferi. Another sneaky surprise from the rogue Brine Elemental, and I took the first game.
Game 2 was frustrating as I didn't draw a third land for a while. I was able to make two Prismatic Lenses and a Totem, but my hand was log-jammed with powerful spells while he beat me down with a lone Darkheart Sliver. I resolved a Bust to try and slow down his Phyrexian Totem, but he recovered faster and finished me off with a Disintegrate.
Game 2 was basically a fight between Riftwing Cloudskates and Call of the Herd tokens. The elephants didn't win that fight, especially with a Hellkite in reserve.
Friday, April 20: 2:00 pm - Round 4 vs. Antoine Ruel
Antoine Ruel is running the red-blue Sittner burn concoction. I was convinced he was finally going to get some long-awaited payback for Honolulu, as Stewart Shinkins (who'd given him the deck in the first place) was adamant that this was a horrible matchup for my deck.
I thought it might be; there's a lot of burn in the deck, and I'd got mullered by a mono-red deck in round two.
It didn't really pan out that way, as I had some fairly ridiculous draws. After Keldon Marauders had mugged me for half my life total, my Riftwing Cloudskates came online with Shapeshifter backup. I thought I was probably toast as my hand was nothing but land, but then I drew a Hellkite and wiped out two face down Shapeshifters. I had a tricky decision whether to block his Marauders with my dragon. If I did he'd probably finish it off with burn. I had a Shapeshifter in hand to pull off tricks with the Dragon, but I had to block as my life total would have dropped to a dangerous 7. Antoine didn't finish it off as I expected, as he only had Word of Seizing in hand. A dragon-shaped Shapeshifter Lava Axed him, and that was enough.
There was a brief interlude after Antoine dropped my deck and had to run away while a judge picked it up.
Game 2 and I wrecked Antoine with a Void that took out a Sulfur Elemental in play and ripped out another in hand as well as a Dead // Gone. After that I drew an endless procession of Cloudskates and Shapeshifters to play yo-yo with his Blood Knight.
It still came down to the wire as a Fiery Temper dropped me to 2 life with a draw step left to the Frenchman.
Hmm, was it time to be on the receiving end?
I told him to slam it and awaited my fate.
Antoine just slid it to me across the table without looking.
I told him he should have slammed it.
Friday, April 20: 3:30 pm - Round 5 vs, Masahiko Morita
Me to Ted Knutson: "Isn't this guy good?"
Ted: "Used to be. Nowadays he's a bit sketchy. Just like you."
Sigh. How the once slightly-good… ish have fallen.
Morita used to be a master of the Asian Grand Prix and today was playing a mono-blue control deck with Deserts. Lots of Deserts in fact, enough to even keep Jonny Magic back at home. Fortunately I'd picked up an early tempo advantage and been able to chain Teachings to pick up both Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and a Bogardan Hellkite. The threat of the flash monsters was enough to keep Morita from tapping out, and then eventually I was able to get down Teferi with Draining Whelk to force it past Cancel.
Morita's deck doesn't work with Teferi in play. Man, I love that guy.
Game 2 and Morita started out with suspended Cloudskates. I tried to match with mine, but then his Teferi came out and my two suspended Cloudskates were stranded with no way home.
My deck doesn't work with Teferi in play. Man, I hate that guy.
Game 3 started promisingly, but then the wheels fell off with a suspended Aeon Chronicler. Although Morita was tapped out, I couldn't really take advantage. I didn't have a sixth mana for Bust, and a blind Void could be a waste.
Then the Chronicler came in and there was no way I could get Void to resolve, nor any of the expensive sorceries in my hand.
I'm starting to think my deck might be a bit too clever for its own good. Morita's more simple yet effective mono-blue strategy won out with a more focused game plan.
Friday, April 20: 5:00 pm - Round 6 vs. Motokiyo Azuma
Slivers? Where the hell have the white decks gone?
I hadn't really tested this matchup. The Wild Pair Slivers deck hadn't really performed online, and I wasn't sure it wouldn't be a factor.
It looked good Game 1 as I got down multiple Infiltrators and started outdrawing his Dormant Sliver. I bounced the first Wild Pair with a Cloudskate and then Cancelled it when it came back. My mana was steadily clicking up until the point when I'd be able to lock the game out with Brine Elemental.
Unfortunately, Azuma had two back-up Wild Pair in hand. When I tapped out he went off. He replayed the Pulmonic Sliver I'd Voided last turn and then set up infinite mana with Gemhide Sliver, Dormant Sliver, Basal Sliver, and Reflex Sliver (Play Gemhide, stack the draw trigger, it has haste, tap for mana, sac for mana, put on library rather than graveyard thanks to Pulmonic, resolve draw effect, draw Gemhide, repeat). At some point he fetched Necrotic Sliver and wiped my complete board.
I didn't really put up much opposition in Game 2 as I drew no mana to go along with the Lens and two lands in my opening hand. I was able to stop any combo shenanigans by Extirpating Dormant Sliver, but as my deck showed no willingness to pull out of the screw, Azuma was able to wipe me out by throwing random Slivers at my few remaining lands with Necrotic Sliver.
Hmm, it appears to have all gone wrong. No lives left now then.
Friday, April 20: 6:00 pm - Round 7 vs. Jan Kotrla
Jan Kotrla had been playing next to me in one of the earlier rounds, and so I knew he was playing White Weenie. This was a break; getting your good matchup when it comes down to the wire is pretty important.
That White Weenie deck is fairly durable however. Despite drawing two additional cards a turn thanks to a pair of Finkels, I was unable to find either Void or Cloudskate to deal with his Griffin Guided Soltari Priest.
Game 2 was a real struggle, and I only really pulled out of it by top decking a second Sulfur Elemental.
Game 3 I lived the dream and stole initiative again with a sideboarded Gemstone Caverns. Unfortunately a pair of Finkels was not good enough, as the first died to Sunlance and the extra cards did not include anything other than land and mana sources. The white creatures kept coming on his side of the table, and land appeared on my side of the table to bring my campaign to a fairly miserable end.
Uh, sometimes it's your day. I definitely used all my luck up against Antoine Ruel.
1-2, 3-4 and dead.
Friday, April 20: 7:00 pm - Round 8 vs. Geoffrey Siron
Now the white decks appear, and do you know the embarrassing thing, I can't even beat them.
Game 1 followed the plan and went pretty much like every game we had in testing: I made two Sulfur Elementals, and Siron scooped.
Game 2 did not follow the plan and multiple Voids did not stop the sideboarded tech of Opal Guardian.
Game 3 I kept a hand of Lightning Axe, Sulfur Elemental, and Prismatic Lens. Several turns later and I drew my first spell in the game. Not even Jonny Magic could retrieve this mess.
Sometimes it just isn't your day.
Oh well, at least I get to play the Prereleases tomorrow. That will hopefully cheer me up.
Hmm, I hope they have one of those useful guides with all the cards in. Trying to play with cards I've never seen before when they're in Japanese might be a little tricky.
1-2, 3-5, dead, buried, incinerated, battered and generally not happy.
Friday, April 20: 8:34 pm - The Mystery Deck
Now it doesn't matter, it's time to unveil the mysterious (and completely treacherous) deck:
PT Yokohama 07 - Time Spiral Block Constructed
This was Stuart Wright's concoction. We expected a lot of White Weenie, and so went for a deck that wipes out all their men. Multiple copies of Sulfur Elemental do just that and aren't bad against control. For the other matchups we have a bunch of powerful spells including Finkel. The deck is supposed to be played aggressively with Cloudskate maintaining tempo.
The Cancels are there to stop the powerful spells such as Bogardan Hellkite or Wild Pair from resolving.
The sideboard contains extra removal for the aggro matchups and Bust for the control matchups. The aim there is to get ahead on the board and then blow up the world before they can get control.
Overall the deck didn't deliver. I think it's just a little too tricksy for its own good. While it has game against most decks, it can just as easily malfunction. I lost most of my games to just not drawing the right spells for the right matchup or through mana issues. The shock was to go 1-2 against White Weenie, the supposedly unloseable matchup. Out of all the people playing the deck I think only one of us successfully made it into Day 2. Not a good result really.
Back to the drawing board for the forthcoming Grand Prix I guess.