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Okita's Glorious Rise in Nagoya

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Congratulations to Yuuji Okita, the Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 Champion! Despite reservations about his matchup with the ubiquitous Zombies, Okita managed to run the tables to a perfect 9-0, before dispatching both RB Aggro and a BR Zombies deck on his way to the title. Okita's win prevents Zombies from taking its third title in four events, something that is sure to cause celebrations around the world.

In addition to this triumph over the dark armies, Grand Prix Nagoya provided us a great look at how the metagame of Standard continues to evolve. GW Aggro has died, UW Control has added red, Zombies is packing heat for Zombies, and Reanimator has become a major force. The real question at this point is how will things change between now and Grand Prix Atlantic City next month? A month is a long time to wait, but when it finally gets here, you can be sure that players will have paid close attention to what happened this weekend.

Until then, congratulations once again to Yuuji Okita and the Human race for surviving the Zombie apocalypse to become the Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 Champion!




Quarterfinals   Semifinals   Finals   Champion
1 Kyouhei Kawaguchi   Ryuji Murae, 2-1        
8 Ryuzi Murae   Yuuji Okita, 2-1
       
4 Kenji Tsumura   Yuuji Okita, 2-0   Yuuji Okita, 2-1
5 Yuuji Okita    
       
2 Rahman Aryabhima   Rahman Aryabhima, 2-0
7 Kazuaki Shinohara   Rahman Aryabhima, 2-1
       
3 Mamoru Nagai   Mamoru Nagai, 2-1
6 Kazumasa Satou    







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EVENT COVERAGE TWITTER

  • by Steve Sadin and Nate Price
    Top 5 Cards

  • by Nate Price
    Finals
    Yuuji Okita vs. Rahman Aryabhima

  • by Nate Price
    Semifinals
    Yuuji Okita (Human Reanimator) vs.
    Ryuji Murae (Red Black Aggro)

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Decklists
    Decklists of the 9-16 Place Finishers

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Player Profiles

  • by Nate Price
    Semifinals
    Rahman Aryabhima vs. Mamoru Nagai

  • by Steve Sadin
    Quarterfinals
    Kenji Tsumura (Junk Reanimator) vs.
    Yuuji Okita (Human Reanimator)

  • by Nate Price
    Quarterfinals
    Mamoru Nagai (Naya) vs.
    Kazumasa Satou (RB Aggro)

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Top 8
    Decklists

  • by Nate Price
    Sunday, 5:00 p.m.
    Deck Tech: Human Reanimator with Yuji Okita

  • by Steve Sadin
    Sunday, 4:40 p.m.
    Deck Tech: Red Black Aggro with Kazumasa Satou

  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 2 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Day 1 Blog
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

INFORMATION
 1.  Yuuji Okita $3,500
 2.  Rahman Aryabhima $2,300
 3.  Mamoru Nagai $1,500
 4.  Ryuji Murae $1,500
 5.  Kyouhei Kawaguchi $1,000
 6.  Kenji Tsumura $1,000
 7.  Kazumasa Satou $1,000
 8.  Kazuaki Shinohara $1,000
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  • Sunday, 4:40 p.m. – Deck Tech: Red Black Aggro with Kazumasa Satou
    by Steve Sadin

  • Before this weekend, if I had heard that someone was playing an aggressive deck with Swamps and Mountains, I would have assumed that they were playing Black-Red Zombies. But after seeing the many types of Aggressive Red Black decks that players have found success with this weekend, I won't be so close-minded.

    Turns out, there are a number of very different ways to build aggressive Blood Crypt decks. One way to do it is to switch over to a red base and to fill up the earliest parts of your curve with cards like Stromkirk Noble, Rakdos Cackler, and Ash Zealot.

    This is exactly what Kazumasa Satou did, and he was rewarded with a Top 8 finish for his resourcefulness.

    Kazumasa Satou Red Black Aggro
    Top 8 Grand Prix Nagoya


    Why did you play your Red Black deck instead of Zombies?

    "My deck plays a lot like Zombies against Thragtusk decks, but my deck is very good against Black Red Zombies. Because of cards like Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, and Geralf's Messenger, Black-Red zombies is very weak on defense – while I get to control the race by playing things like Ash Zealot which is a very good blocker, and a good attacker."

    Why did you play Rakdos Keyrune?

    "It avoids Supreme Verdict, it gives you defesnse against Thragtusk, it can't be killed by Ultimate Price or sorcery speed removal, and if you have a Knight of Infamy it can attack past Restoration Angel. Plus, turn three Rakdos Keyrune, fourth turn Thundermaw Hellkite is nuts."

    Why did you play Ultimate Price?

    "Because it kills Restoration Angel by itself –and Victim of Night is too difficult for my deck to cast."

    Why did you play Mizzium Mortars?

    "Like Ultimate Price, it's removal that can kill Restoration Angel – but it can also kill Loxodon Smiter. Plus, sometimes I can jump my mana up to six thanks to Rakdos Keyrune and overload it which is obviously very good."

    Does you deck have any bad matchups?

    "Naya. Thragtusk plus Restoration Angel is very hard for me to beat, and Bonfire of the Damned is a very big problem. My friend Isao Kimata lost three times to Naya yesterday, while my only loss came against Jund because of mulligan troubles."

    Why did you play Archwing Dragon in your sideboard?

    "I have it against Blue White Flash. They can't block with their Restoration Angels, I can make it uncounterable with Cavern of Souls, and they can't kill it with Supreme Verdict."

    Would you play this deck at a tournament next weekend?

    "Definitely!"




     

  • Sunday, 5:00 p.m. – Deck Tech: Human Reanimator with Yuji Okita
    by Nate Price

  • Ironically, Okita admitted that he didn't feel his deck had a very good matchup with Zombies, especially before sideboarding.

    "I do not really like the matchup with Zombies," he said. "This deck is a combo deck, and that matchup is a classic combo versus control match. It is a race. They are trying to kill me, and I am trying to flashback Unburial Rites on an Angel of Glory's Rise on turn four. I don't have nearly as much control as I do in other matchups."

    This struck me as odd, especially considering the power of Nightshade Peddler and Izzet Staticaster to dominate creature matchups. The Staticaster alone is capable of blocking almost every creature the Zombies deck has and killing a few of them to boot. Okita explained this disparity to me.

    "It is because of their removal," he explained. "They are playing more removal spells to beat the creature decks, and they can use it to kill my creatures, too."

    It seems like this is another case of being a casualty of the response to Zombies. Still, this could have some very positive repercussions in weeks to come. If trends continue, it seems that many of the more aggressive decks are becoming more like midrange decks. A good example of this can be seen in the strong showing of Naya decks in this tournament. As that happens, Human Reanimator could see a very conducive format emerge.

    "My best matchup is definitely against GW decks. Decks like GW, Naya, and other midrange decks are very weak against Staticaster and Peddler, giving me an advantage. I don't think I would play this deck next week, but I can see a time when this deck might be best."

    When it does find that perfect window, it will be interesting to see what wrinkles have been added. The deck's construction is very straightforward. One-third of the deck is creatures, one-third of the deck is cards that put cards into the graveyard, and one-third of the deck is lands. Toss four copies of Unburial Rites into this and you have probably the most straightforward deck concept in Standard. Straightforward decks like this can be hard to alter, as they tend to be very tight and require every card that is already a part of the deck. Still, it never hurts to look for ways to improve upon things.

    "I would definitely change the mana," Okita said after deliberation. "Right now, I have no black mana sources, so I cannot cast Unburial Rites without flashing it back. This has been problematic at times, so I would like to make that easier on me."

    I honestly hadn't noticed the lack of black mana and how ridiculous that was with Unburial Rites being so important to the deck until Okita mentioned it. After all, he never seemed to me to have trouble casting it. Much of that comes from the very impressive suite of cards aimed at filling up his graveyard. In addition to the expected Mulch, Tracker's Instinct, and Faithless Looting, Okita has two absolute gems rounding things out: Chronic Flooding and Izzet Charm.

    "Ideally, I want to cast Mulch on turn two and Chronic Flooding on turn three. Chronic Flooding is possibly the best card in my deck," he beamed as he picked a copy up.

    It's easy to see why. I have literally never seen anyone play that card, even in Limited. The fact that it was not only being played in Standard, but contending for Top 8, absolutely thrilled me. It is the single most efficient mill spell in his entire deck, able to hit at least three times most games, netting him nine cards for a mere two mana and one card. If he gets two out, I have watched Okita put half of his deck into his graveyard before turn six. In a deck that wants to combo out as fast as possible, this depth of digging is invaluable. Nearly as impressive, especially given the field, is Izzet Charm.

    "Izzet Charm is very good against aggro decks," Okita said. "I have two more in the sideboard that I bring in against them. It can also be good against control."

    It is always great when a deck wants to use all three abilities on a Charm as much as Human Reanimator does Izzet Charm. First, there is the obvious ability to use it as a discard enabler. Add to that the ability to function as a two-mana, instant-speed removal spell, and you have a potent card against aggressive decks. Finally, the ability to counter counterspells against control really makes this a perfect card for this deck. It is likely that Okita should have been playing a full four in his main deck instead of leaving two in the sideboard.

    Despite Okita's initial comments to the contrary, he did admit that his matchup against aggressive decks got better after the first game.

    "I have two Izzet Charms to bring in against Zombies. I also have these," indicating four Cathedral Sanctifiers.

    Harkening back to the Human Reanimator deck that gained popularity during Innistrad-block Constructed, the Sanctifier is ideal in the matchup with Zombies. It gives a great life boost. The 1/1 body is capable of either trading with Gravecrawlers to slow opponents down or blocking a Geralf's Messenger, preventing it from dying and retriggering the ETB effect. All of this is designed to buy time until an Angel of Glory's Rise comes into play to allow it to all happen again. He also has Rolling Temblor, which functions as an effective board-clearing spell against Zombie decks. The remainder of the cards in his sideboard are great for making his matchup with control better.

    "Against control, I can't rely on Unburial Rites," he told me. "They have Rest in Peace, which can be very tough for me to handle. I have Ray of Revelation, which can get rid of it, but my best plan is just to be aggressive and attack them. I can use my Cavern of Souls to force Goldnight Commanders, Geist-Honored Monk, Huntmaster of the Fells, and eventually Angel of Glory's Rise into play and attack them. If they don't have Rest in Peace, I don't care as much about cards like Supreme Verdict. I can just make an Angel and use it to kill them in one attack with Izzet Snapcaster and Goldnight Commanders."

    Currently, it seems like this deck might not be positioned the best, especially if Okita's pessimism about the matchup against Zombies is to be believed. If that is possible to overcome, which it may very well be, this version of Reanimator provides a much more explosive option than the Junk version.

    So there you have it. You have two extremes, both operating under the same mechanical umbrella. You have Junk on one side, with its drawn-out, grinding efficiency and consistency. You have Human on the other side, with its single-minded focus and explosiveness. Which you choose is up to you. If nothing else, the fact that both decks were in Top 8 contention after sixteen rounds of play proves that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Or reanimate an Angel. Whichever metaphor floats your boat.




     

  • Top 8 Decklists
    by Event Coverage Staff

  • Aryabhima, Rahman
    Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 - top 8 / Standard

    Satou, Kazumasa
    Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 - top 8 / Standard

    Tsumura, Kenji
    Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 - top 8 / Standard




     

  • Quarterfinals – Mamoru Nagai (Naya) vs. Kazumasa Satou (RB Aggro)
    by Nate Price

  • In a format of players trying to "go over the top" of one another, Kazumasa Satou has chosen to take the low road, going under them. His RB Aggro deck is the natural successor to the Monored decks of earlier in the season. Taking advantage of the naturally faster backbone that the Monored deck has to offer, Satou has added Falkenrath Aristocrat, Ultimate Price, and Knight of Infamy to the deck to give it a bit more ability to clean up after his early damage.

    His opponent this round is Pro Tour Dark Ascension Top 8 competitor Mamoru Nagai, running Naya. Naya is positioned very well in this tournament, taking advantage of the leagues of aggressive creatures running around the format by playing cards like Bonfire of the Damned, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Thragtusk.

    As the higher seed after the Swiss, Nagai earned the right to choose to play first. He mulliganned his first hand, but seemed more or less content to stay with his six-card hand. He was going to need every edge his deck could provide him, as Satou's deck was capable of some blazing starts. First came Rakdos Cackler, followed immediately by Knight of Infamy. Nagai merely built his mana. Satou added a Rakdos Keyrune on his third turn, one of the silent stars of his deck.

    Come the fourth turn, Nagai had been knocked down to 13 before he began to build himself back up. A Huntmaster of the Fells came down, bringing with it a 2/2 Wolf token and 2 life. Satou came prepared for the inevitable meeting with Huntmaster, however, using a Mizzium Mortars to remove it before activating his Keyrune and attacking with his team. Nagai was forced to trade his Wolf for the Cackler, dropping back down to 10. Bonfire of the Damned was a miracle topdeck for Nagai, allowing him to remove the Knight of Infamy, but the Keyrune was unfazed.


    In addition to providing a three-powered, first-striking attacker, the Keyrune also provides the RB deck with a reliable way to make sure that it is able to hit five mana, essential for hitting the top end of its curve. With all of the pieces in place, Satou was able to cast a Thundermaw Hellkite, getting in for a quick five damage, halving Nagai's life total. After Nagai passed the turn, Satou added an Ash Zealot to his side and attacked. Nagai had one of the few cards in the format that is capable of reliably killing the Hellkite, Selesnya Charm, but the two damage from the Zealot was enough to put Nagai in range of Searing Spear, giving the first game to Satou.

    Mamoru Nagai 0 - Kazumasa Satou 1

    Nagai's second game began much better than his first. Off the back of a first-turn Avacyn's Pilgrim, he was able to put a brick wall into play before Satou could even get started. Loxodon Smiter is a massive obstacle for the BR deck to deal with, especially if they don't have Mizzium Mortars to remove it.


    Satou had a Stromkirk Noble on his first turn, but it was forced to sit around doing nothing until the Smiter got out of the way. While waiting for that to happen, Satou aimed a pair of Appetite for Brains at Nagai, revealing:


    Quickly putting the two Huntmasters into the exiled zone, Nagai shrugged and went to take his turn. With no other business in his hand, he simply chose to attack with his Smiter and use his Wolf Run to pump it up. Satou took advantage of the window to attack with his Noble, turning it into a 2/2. Over the next two turns, Satou added a pair of Knights of Infamy to his side, giving him a pair of attackers that could get through Nagai's defenses.

    Unfortunately for Satou, one of Nagai's defenses was also one of his biggest threats: Sigarda, Host of Herons. As soon as she hit play, you could see that Satou was nervous. He hadn't been able to get off the ground incredibly fast, and was facing down a ridiculously fast clock. He tried to get through for as much as he could with his protection from white, but it didn't take long before Nagai sealed things with a Huntmaster of the Fells and Kessig Wolf Run, still sitting at an unfairly safe life total.

    Mamoru Nagai 1 - Kazumasa Satou 1

    For the final game, Satou was on the play, which greatly benefitted his incredibly aggressive deck. He opened with a Stromkirk Noble and Ash Zealot, quickly dropping Nagai to 17. Just as in the previous game, Nagai made an early Loxodon Smiter thanks to an Avacyn's Pilgrim. And, just as in the previous game, Satou was stopped cold.


    Satou took a moment to write the cards down before considering his options. Both the Thragtusk and Huntmaster were bad for his deck, providing effectively two creatures and a reasonable amount of tempo loss. Even though the Huntmaster was going to be able to hit play faster, Satou chose to take the Thragtusk, which effectively gives the same benefits but on a larger scale.

    As expected, Nagai untapped and made the Huntmaster that Satou had left him. This drove his life total back up to 19, far from where Satou would like to see it. A Falkenrath Aristocrat provided the first opportunity to put Nagai back down to a manageable level, but 15 was still a few turns from closure. Plus, Nagai had a reasonable army of his own. Loxodon Smiter was in a position to attack now, flanked by Huntmaster and his Wolf, so Nagai began to attack. With the seeming board advantage, Nagai pressed harder, passing the turn to flip his Huntmaster. Nagai targeted the Aristocrat with the Ravager's triggered ability, causing Satou to sacrifice his Ash Zealot.


    Facing a difficult situation, Satou understandably took his time to figure out what to do. After about forty-five seconds of deliberation, Satou added an Ashe Zealot to his team and attacked with it and the Aristocrat into a 2/2 Wolf, Avacyn's Pilgrim, and Ravager of the Fells. When Nagai blocked the Zealot with his Ravager, Satou tried to finish it with a Searing Spear after resolving first-strike damage. In response to that, however, Nagai had the Restoration Angel needed to save it, generating a new Wolf and 2 life in the process.

    In the face of this ridiculous turnaround and already desperate odds, Satou nodded and conceded the match to Nagai.

    Mamoru Nagai 2 - Kazumasa Satou 1




     

  • Quarterfinals – Kenji Tsumura (Junk Reanimator) vs Yuuji Okita (Human Reanimator)
    by Steve Sadin

  • Hall of Famer, and 6 time Pro Tour Top 8 Competitor Kenji Tsumura spent the better part of the last two weeks playtesting his Green White Black Reanimator deck to a point where he felt completely comfortable playing it this weekend. He even cut the Lingering Souls (a card which had previously been thought to be an automatic inclusion) from the deck because they were underperforming against a field full of Thundermaw Hellkites.

    His hard work has once again paid off for him, as he finds himself in the thirteenth Grand Prix Top 8 of his career.

    But despite his plentiful time spent practicing, Tsumura now finds himself playing against a deck that he had not expected to see this weekend...

    Yuuji Okita decided to play a Human Reanimator deck that uses Chronic Flooding (yes, really) as one of his primary ways to fill up his graveyard with humans like Nightshade Peddler, Izzet Staticaster, Huntmaster of the Fells and Goldnight Commander which he brings back with Angel of Glory's Rise.

    While the deck is loaded up with cards that might cause players to laugh on first sight, Okita has proven this weekend that the deck is incredibly potent.

    Game One

    Tsumura opened with an Avacyn's Pilgrim, and a pair of Centaur Healers – but those would ultimately prove to be of little significance against Okita's combo of Nightshade Peddler, and Izzet Staticaster quickly killed them all off.

    Okita then further built up his board with another Izzet Staticaster, and filled his graveyard with a Mulch - while Tsumura rapidly dug through his own deck with a pair of Grisly Salvages, and a Mulch.


    Before Kenji could set up anything of note, however, Okita cast an Unburial Rites on an Angel of Glory's Rise that brought a Huntmaster of the Fells along with it.

    Realizing that he didn't have much time to act, Tsumura cast an Unburial Rites to return his Thragtusk into play. Predictably, Okita activated his Izzet Staticaster to kill off the Thragtusk at the end of Tsumura's turn.

    Okita then untapped and made exactly the play that Tsumura was hoping he would make – activating Izzet Staticaster on his main phase to kill a beast token, and set up an attack with Angel of Glory's Rise, Huntmaster of the Fells and a wolf.

    This was just the opening that Kenji had been hoping for.

    With the deathtouching Izzet Staticaster tapped, Tsumura used the opportunity to cast an Angel of Serenity – targeting Okita's Nightshade Peddler, and both of his Izzet Staticasters.

    However, even this seemingly good opportunity wouldn't be enough for Kenji.

    In response to the Angel's enter the battlefield trigger, Okita activated his untapped Izzet Staticaster to kill off his own Nightshade Peddler.

    During Tsumura's end step, Okita played another Izzet Staticaster, then untapped and Cast an Angel of Glory's Rise which brought back a Nightshade Peddler.

    A few quick attacks later, and Okita was up a game.

    Yuuji Okita 1 – Kenji Tsumura 0

    Game Two

    Both players mulliganed to begin game two, then spent their early turns filling up their graveyards.

    Tsumura's Grisly Salvage put a Angel of Serenity right where he wanted it, while a pair of Chronic Floodings, a Mulch, an Izzet Charm and a Faithless Looting gave Okita an abundance of tools to work with.

    As soon as he got the opportunity, Tsumura cast an Unburial Rites returning an Angel of Serenity, and exiling an Angel of Glory's Rise, and two Izzet Staticasters from Okita's Graveyard


    However, that would only serve to slow Okita down a bit as he continued ripping through his deck with his two Chronic Floodings.

    Before Tsumura could so much as put a dent in Okita's life total, the rogue deckbuilder had cast an Unburial Rites for an Angel of Glory's Rise that brough a Nightshade Peddler, and a Huntmaster of the Fells (which he immediately paired together) along with it.

    At this point all that Kenji could do was cast a Thragtusk which, in the context of this game, served to do very little.

    Okita then passed his turn without casting a spell, allowing his werewolf to flip into a deathtouching Ravager of the Fells which killed off Tsumura's Angel of Serenity.

    Another Unburial Rites allowed Tsumura to bring back his Angel of Serenity – which came into play, and targeted Okita's Angel of Glory's Rise, Ravager of the Fells, and Nightshade Peddler.

    But just like in the first game, Okita responded to the angel's trigger by casting an Izzet Staticaster, and killing off his own Nightshade Peddler.

    A few more Chronic Flooding triggers later, and Okita's graveyard had once again grown to mammoth sizes. When he was finally good and ready, Okita cast an Unburial Rites for Angel of Glory's Rise that brought a Huntmaster of the Fells, an Izzet Staticaster, and three Nightshade Peddlers back along with it.

    Tsumura, fully aware of just how bad of a situation he was in, untapped and cast a Sever the Bloodline targeting Nightshade Peddler - but in response, Okita activated an Izzet Staticaster to kill off Kenji's Angel of Serenity, then activated another Izzet Staticaster to kill all of his own Nightshade Peddlers.


    After the dust had settled, Tsumura tapped out to flashback an Unburial Rites to targeting Angel of Serenity, but Okita countered it with an Izzet Charm.

    When Okita hard cast another Angel of Glory's Rise a turn later Tsumura knew he was beat.

    After lingering over the board for a moment, Kenji extended his hand and wished Yuuji good luck in the Semifinals.

    Yuuji Okita 2 – Kenji Tsumura 0




     

  • Semifinals – Rahman Aryabhima vs Mamoru Nagai

    by Nate Price

  • Coming into the Semifinals, Rahman Aryabhima found himself in position to join only Brian Kibler, Martin Juza, and Alex Shvartzman as the only non-Japanese players in the history of Magic to win a Grand Prix in Japan. His weapon of choice was an interestingly tweaked BR Zombies deck featuring Blood Artist, Mark of Mutiny, and Flames of the Firebrand. All three of those cards are fairly good against the aggressive decks in the field, giving him quite an edge throughout the course of the tournament.

    His opponent had a deck very well suited to the field as well. Mamoru Nagai's Naya deck has all of the tools needed to survive a Zombie apocalypse: ways to keep his health up, a little angelic help, and lots and lots of fire. In a format once declared impossible for midrange to succeed in, clearly Nagai and his Naya deck have proven them wrong.

    Aryabhima got started quickly, as expected from his Zombies deck. Gravecrawler and Diregraf Ghoul both hit play early and began to go to work on Nagai's life total. A temporary stumble kept Aryabhima from making his second land drop, but its appearance on the following turn allowed him to keep developing. A Knight of Infamy joined the fray, and Nagai soon found himself down to 8 life and facing a trio of attackers.


    He gave himself some breathing room on the following turn, as a Bonfire of the Damned for one cleared away everything but the Diregraf Ghoul. Aryabhima was able to rebuild with a second Ghoul and a Gravecrawler on his turn, dropping Nagai to 6. Nagai once again found a stabilizing influence, this time in the form of Huntmaster of the Fells. His life went back up to 8, and the two creatures provided him a perfect way to slow Aryabhima down.

    Aryabhima attacked with his three creatures. Nagai wasted little time before blocking the Diregraf Ghoul with his Wolf token. Aryabhima replaced it with another 2/2, this time an unleashed Rakdos Cackler. When Nagai made a Thragtusk on the following turn, it appeared that he might be able to push himself just outside of the Danger Zone.


    Aryabhima had different plans, however, using a Mark of Mutiny to steal the Huntmaster and attack. Nagai chose to block the Diregraf Ghoul and dropping to 4 in the process. Aryabhima had likely chosen not to steal the Thragtusk to avoid pushing its toughness high enough that a Searing Spear or Flames of the Firebrand wouldn't be able to kill it. Still, the damage may have been much more beneficial, especially when Nagai played his second Thragtusk on the following turn.

    Now at 9 and controlling three massive creatures, Nagai had a semblance of control. He wasn't quite willing to attack yet, fearing the attack back or another Mark, but that soon evaporated. Aryabhima added a Geralf's Messenger to his team, knocking Nagai down to 6, but that was as low as he would go. Nagai attacked with his team, signaling that he likely had a Restoration Angel. At the end of Aryabhima's turn, he indeed flashed the Angel in, giving him 5 more life and leaving him with three defenders. At this point, it was all Nagai's game, and Aryabhima knew it. After drawing his card, he chose not to waste any more time, conceding the game.

    Rahman Aryabhima 0 - Mamoru Nagai 1

    Aryabhima had another quick start, this time going from Gravecrawler to Rakdos Cackler, even managing to kill an Avacyn's Pilgrim along the way. This would prevent Nagai from playing the second-turn Loxodon Smiter that he had used to dispatch Kazumasa Satou in the Quarterfinals. Nagai had a Pillar of Flame of his own, using it to kill the Cackler.

    Aryabhima's Gravecrawler began its assault. Attacking for two a turn, Aryabhima sped his clock up with a Geralf's Messenger, knocking Nagai down to 11. Nagai slowed things down a touch with a Bonfire of the Damned for one, but it only caused Aryabhima to pause before replaying it from his graveyard. The real hit came when he played Huntmaster of the Fells, going back up to 13. Aryabhima attacked in with his two creatures, and Nagai traded his Wolf away with the Messenger, which promptly returned for another 2 life. After combat, Aryabhima played a second Messenger, knocking Nagai to 7. Things seemed quite good for him


    When Nagai attacked for two on his turn, it was clear as crystal what he intended to do with his four mana. He simply passed the turn, letting his Huntmaster transform. This killed the freshly-cast Messenger, knocking Nagai to 5. Then, in Aryabhima's attack, Nagai used a clearly-telegraphed Restoration Angel to reset the Huntmaster, gaining 2 life and another creature. The Angel traded with one of the Messengers, while the Wolf sacrificed himself to block the other. On the next turn, Nagai was forced to lose his Huntmaster of the Fells, dropping to 4.


    Aryabhima let out a massive sigh as Nagai tapped five for a Thragtusk. Even with Nagai at 9 life, the Thragtusk had an immense potential to steal the game for Nagai. That sigh of disbelief quickly changed to a sigh of relief, as Aryabhima top-decked a Falkenrath Aristocrat, giving him just enough attack damage to seal the game before Nagai could gain any more life.

    Rahman Aryabhima 1 - Mamoru Nagai 1

    Aryabhima once again began with a Gravecrawler, giving him the first creature on the board. Nagai, meanwhile, cultivated his mana with a Farseek. Aryabhima's Knight of Infamy allowed the Gravecrawler to attack for 3, but it was the only attack it would get. Nagai cast a Bonfire of the Damned for one, clearing the board. When he passed the turn, it became clear that this wouldn't be exactly like the last games had been: Nagai was missing his fourth land.

    Aryabhima pressed. He easily found a third black source, dropping a Geralf's Messenger into play. Nagai fell to 15. Loxodon Smiter provided an impressive wall for Nagai, but Knight of Infamy allowed the Messenger to attack for four, offering the trade. Nagai sat pensively as he considered his options. Realizing shortly thereafter that Aryabhima had forgotten to announce his exalted trigger, Nagai blocked and called over the judge. The judge indeed ruled that Aryabhima's trigger was missed, and the 3/2 Geralf's Messenger died to the Smiter, much to Aryabhima's chagrin. After combat, Aryabhima added a Gravecrawler and Rakdos Cackler before passing the turn.


    Nagai was still without a fourth land. All he could do was create more brick walls to buy him time, adding a second Loxodon Smiter to his team. Aryabhima was clearly upset about having been called for failing to announce his trigger, but it appeared that he was being given another chance. A Falkenrath Aristocrat hit the table, attacking in alongside the unblockable Knight of Infamy, dropping Nagai to 7. Nagai thumbed through his hand after drawing, gradually putting a freshly-drawn land into play. Facing four guaranteed points through the air and four other creatures, Nagai eventually decided to add a third Smiter and an Avacyn's Pilgrim to his side. Aryabhima decided to simply send his Falkenrath Aristocrat, this time announcing his exalted trigger, and Nagai dropped to 2.

    Nagai had his back against the wall. Thragtusk negated the last Aristocrat attack, but he was simply going to drop back down to 2 on the next attack. In order to cast Thragtusk, Nagai had to tap his Avacyn's Pilgrim, leaving him four untapped blockers.

    Four was exactly the right number, as Aryabhima untapped and cast one of the best sideboard cards I have seen in Standard: Crippling Blight. The one-mana enchantment is ideal for dealing with pesky mana creatures, Falkenrath Aristocrats, or, in this case, preventing a Thragtusk from being able to block. With the Blight in place, Aryabhima had one more attacker than Nagai could handle, sending him to the finals with a chance to make history.




     

  • Top 8 Player Profiles
    by Event Coverage Staff


  • Aryabhima A. Rahman

    Age:
    Hometown: Malang Indonesia
    Occupation: System engineer


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Top 32 Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2009

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    I don’t have much time to play since I started working, but sometimes I play at the PWC events in Yokohama.

    Your deck archetype:
    Zombies.

    Why did you choose your deck?
    I like to win fast or lose fast I have more time to rest.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    0

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    6-1

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?

    The one with Thragtusk, or an aggro deck if my opponent plays first.




    Mamoru Nagai

    Age:25
    Hometown: Kanagawa-ken
    Occupation: Service industry


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Top 4 Pro Tour Honolulu 2012

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    Yellow Submarine Yokohama, PWC, Card Shop Tarumo

    Your deck archetype:
    Naya

    Why did you choose your deck?
    It’s good against Rakdos and Selesnya.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    3

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    5-0-2

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    None.

    What is your favorite movie?

    My Neighbor Totoro.




    Kazuaki Shinohara

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Aichi-ken
    Occupation: company employee


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    None

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    Team So Cool (Aka group), Nonny-tei (thanks for letting me stay!), Card Brunch Hon-yama #2, BM Yaba Branch

    Your deck archetype:
    Rakdos mid-range

    Why did you choose your deck?
    I was debating between this and GWB Reanimator until the last minute, but I decided to go with the simple smash-face deck.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    2

    Day 1:
    9-0

    Day 2:
    4-2-1

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    Kazumasa Sato

    What is your favorite movie?

    Forrest Gump.




    Kazumasa Sato

    Age: 29
    Hometown:
    Occupation: company employee


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    LMCC Top 4

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    TEAM WANPAKU!

    Your deck archetype:
    Rakdos Beatdown

    Why did you choose your deck?
    It’s the fastest in the environment, and it’s the one I spent the most time on tuning with my friends.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    1

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    5-0-2

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    Kazuya Shinohara.

    What is your favorite movie?

    After School.




    Ryuji Murae

    Age: 25
    Hometown: Hyogo-ken
    Occupation: burnmaster


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    Finalist, Kansai Legacy Circuit

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    BIG MAGIC Nipponbashi

    Your deck archetype:
    Rakdos

    Why did you choose your deck?
    When I was wondering over which deck to play, the decklist had blood on it.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    3

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    5-1-1

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    None. Bring it on!

    What is your favorite movie?

    300.




    Kyohei Kawaguchi

    Age: 24
    Hometown: Wakayama
    Occupation: Freelancer


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    PTQ Barcelona winner, Day 2 of multiple Grand Prix and Pro Tours

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    Mana Source Iwade, Mana Source Hon-ten

    Your deck archetype:
    Rakdos Midrange

    Why did you choose your deck?
    I didn’t have the cards to make a Blue Jund deck, so I built a deck I did have the cards for.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    2

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    6-1

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    Okita.

    What is your favorite movie?

    Ring.




    Kenji Tsumura

    Age: 26
    Hometown: Osaka
    Occupation: student


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    2005 Player of the Year, Hall of Fame 2012

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    Johnnie’s store, Magic Online

    Your deck archetype:
    GBW Frites

    Why did you choose your deck?
    It’s good against beatdown and I because I thought there wouldn’t be many Bant Control decks in the environment.

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    3

    Day 1:
    8-1

    Day 2:
    5-1-1

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    Okita.

    What is your favorite movie?

    My Neighbor Totoro.




    Yuji Okita

    Age: 27
    Hometown:
    Occupation: company employee


    Previous Magic accomplishments:
    None

    Shop and/or community where you usually play Magic:
    Mana Source

    Your deck archetype:
    Human Reanimator

    Why did you choose your deck?
    It’s fun!

    What was your match score?

    Byes:
    0

    Day 1:
    9-0

    Day 2:
    4-1-2

    What are your deck’s worst matchups (among the other Top 8 players)?
    Any Rakdos.

    What is your favorite movie?

    Armageddon.




     

  • Decklists of the 9-16 Place Finishers

    by Nate Price




  •  

  • Semifinals – Yuuji Okita (Human Reanimator) vs. Ryuji Murae (Red Black Aggro)

    by Steve Sadin

  • Okita's Human Reanimator deck has turned more than a few heads this weekend. And understandably so. How is anyone's head supposed to remain completely affixed when they see a Chronic Flooding deck tearing up the tournament?

    Ryuji Murae's deck might not be anywhere near as earth shatteringly original as Okita's, but his take on Red Black Aggro is still sufficiently different from most Red Black decks to warrant notice. Murae's deck actually shares more in common with Mono-Red decks (he's only splashing black for Knight of Infamy, and Falkenrath Aristocrat) than it does with the Black Red Zombies decks that have been making their presence felt at American and European events over the past few weeks.

    Game One

    Both players mulliganed to start their Semifinal match - but while Murae was content to stick with his six card hand, Okita had to go down to five.

    Murae opened with a Rakdos Cackler, and a Stromkirk Noble – while Okita first play was an Izzet Staticaster that immediately blocked Murae's Rakdos Cackler, and killed off his Stromkirk Noble in combat.


    Murae had a Pillar of Flame to finish off the Izzet Staticaster, and then kept the pressure firmly on by playing a Hellrider, and immediately attacking with both of his creatures a turn later.

    A new Izzet Staticaster jumped in front of the Rakdos Cackler, but Okita still fell to 11 from the attack.

    And while a Zealous Conscripts allowed Okita to drag himself back into the game for a moment (by giving himself a blocker that was capable of trading with Hellrider and untapping his own Izzet Staticaster to kill off Murae's Rakdos Cackler) – that moment wouldn't last as a miracled Bonfire of the Damned for three, and a Falkenrath Aristocrat gave Murae a quick one game lead.

    Ryuji Murae 1 – Yuuji Okita 0

    Game Two

    Okita kept his hand in the second game, but Murae again had to mulligan. Murae kept his 6 card hand and opened with a Duress that stripped away a Faithless Looting, and left Okita with a hand of Nightshade Peddler, Izzet Charm, double Huntmaster of the Fells, but no blue lands.

    It was clear to Murae that it was going to take Okita a while to do anything of note. Unfortunately for Murae, however, he had no way to capitalize on this.

    A third turn Rakdos Cackler gave Murae his first threat of the game – and while he was able to kill off an Izzet Staticaster with a Searing Spear, he had no answer for the Huntmaster of the Fells that Okita followed it up with.

    When Murae took his assault to the air with a Falkenrath Aristocrat he seemed to be very much back in the game...

    But without any good spells to follow it up with, Murae could only sit and watch as his situation went from bad to worse. And when Okita was finally able to kill off his Murae's Falkenrath Aristocrat by transforming Huntmaster into a Ravager of the Fells, Murae knew he was finished.

    Ryuji Murae 1 – Yuuji Okita 1

    Game Three

    Despite the fact that Murae's deck is known for its aggression, he didn't play a single threat before casting a Hellrider on turn 5 in the deciding game.


    This proved to be far too slow, as a Chronic Flooding, and a Faithless Looting allowed Okita to Unburial Rites an Angel of Glory's Rise that brought back a pair of Huntmasters, a Cathedral Sanctifier, and an Izzet Staticaster along with it.

    And while Murae had some burn spells to help buy a few turns, it was only a matter of time before Okita found himself in the finals.

    Ryuji Murae 1 – Yuuji Okita 2




     

  • Finals – Yuuji Okita vs. Rahman Aryabhima

    by Nate Price

  • This finals was going to be a test for Yuuji Okita. Speaking with him earlier in the day about his deck, he revealed that he wasn't too pleased with his matchup against Zombies. My initial reaction was, "Umm...if you don't think you play well against Zombies, why would you ever play that deck?" My second was, "You've only lost one match...clearly you must be doing something right."

    Now, he's sitting in the finals of Grand Prix Nagoya, one match away from taking the title, and he has to face the deck he didn't want to play against. Honestly, I can't imagine how many people out there are openly rooting for Okita to take home this title and prevent BR Zombies from winning yet another Grand Prix. I'd imagine it's at least one or two. But Okita doesn't like his chances, even after beating Zombies three times throughout the tournament, he still doesn't like it.


    Aryabhima, on the other hand, is packing a Zombie deck built to beat other Zombie decks, not Reanimator decks. While his deck is very well-tuned against the rest of the field, he might not be able to handle the one-shot fireworks of this combo Reanimator deck. Still, Zombies always has a massively fast core, so his speed may be enough to slip under the Unburial Rites.

    Aryabhima started off with a Diregraf Ghoul, immediately following that with a Rakdos Cackler. Okita found a piece of his engine early, putting a Constant Flooding on a Rootbound Crag. Blood Artist came down for Aryabhima, and he attacked for four, dropping Okita to 14.

    Okita began to dig. Constant Flooding sent three cards to his graveyard, while Mulch sent four more. A Faithless Looting finished his turn off, sending yet two more to his graveyard. In all, Okita had put four creatures into his graveyard, including an Angel of Glory's Rise, but there was no Unburial Rites. He had a copy in his hand, but he wasn't playing any black sources. It had to hit the graveyard.

    Aryabhima kept attacking, and Okita fell to 10. He didn't have a third land, so his options were quite limited. Despite a good start, Aryabhima was not in a great spot when Okita cast Huntmaster of the Fells. Okita's two creatures allowed him to block and trade away with Aryabhima's creatures on the next turn. While the Blood Artist knocked Okita back down to 8, he was perilously close to stabilizing with an Unburial Rites. After losing his attackers, Aryabhima cast a Geralf's Messenger, dropping Okita to 6, and passed the turn.

    This was it, the turn that Okita had to make his move. The turn that he always feared would never work out his way. He began by tapping his lands for mana, dumping more cards into his graveyard. The very last one to hit his graveyard was the Unburial Rites he needed to win the game. He cast it on Angel of Glory's Rise, bringing back the following creatures:


    Okita stacked the triggers such that he could steal Aryabhima's Blood Artist with his Conscripts before the Commander's triggers resolved, giving him three large creatures with haste. Seven other creatures hit play that turn, giving each of Okita's attacker +7/+7. With that much damage, Okita was able to end the game in one fell swoop, dealing exactly one more damage than necessary to kill Aryabhima.

    Yuuji Okita 1 - Rahman Aryabhima 0

    For someone who didn't like his chances against Zombies, his first game against it in the finals was fairly impressive. His sideboard gave him even more cards that would help him against Zombies. Cathedral Sanctifier provides life and a blocker, Izzet Charm provides additional removal, and Rolling Temblor can wipe the board long enough for Okita to go off. Aryabhima isn't without his own tricks, as his Deathrite Shaman is just bonkers against Reanimator, as is the graveyard-removing power of Rakdos Charm.

    Aryabhima began with a Gravecrawler, exactly as expected from his deck. A Knight of Infamy joined it on the next turn, and Aryabhima attacked for three. Okita began digging on his second turn with a Faithless Looting. An Angel of Glory's Rise hit the graveyard, giving Aryabhima a look into his future. Undaunted, Aryabhima did all he could, attacking for four and dropping Okita to 13. After combat, he added a Diregraf Ghoul and passed the turn. Okita had no play on his turn, simply passing back to Aryabhima.

    And then it was over. With Okita at 13, a Falkenrath Aristocrat came down, swinging in for ten damage. Okita hadn't managed to get any more cards in his graveyard, so there was no way that he was going to be able to actually stop Aryabhima on his next turn. Rather than draw things out, Okita simply conceded, less than three minutes into the game. So much for needing sideboard cards.

    Yuuji Okita 1 - Rahman Aryabhima 1

    One more match and something great would happen, regardless of the outcome. Either Okita would win, wresting a third title in four events from the hands of Zombies, or Aryabhima would win and join Brian Kibler, Alex Shvartsman, and Martin Juza (though he might as well be Japanese) as the only non-Japanese players to win an individual Japanese Grand Prix. It's an exclusive group, and joining the ranks is an impressive notch on any player's belt.


    Okita was on the play in the final game, benefiting him greatly by giving him a step ahead of the aggressive Zombies deck. Both players mulliganed, and Okita did not look happy with his second hand. After putting his face in his hands, he gasped a breath before deciding to go back for five. He looked slightly relieved when Aryabhima followed suit.

    Interestingly, neither player's deck is particularly affected by mulligans. Obviously, they have less cards to play with, but each is capable of more than adequate draws, even with only five cards. Okita has Mulch and Chronic Flooding to get his engine going, and he doesn't care if his cards like Izzet Charm and Faithless Looting simply mill him. Aryabhima, on the other hand, only needs two lands and three creatures to get the ball rolling, something his deck can easily cough up.

    Aryabhima began with a Gravecrawler and Knight of Infamy, while Okita started with the aforementioned Mulch. Following that with a Cathedral Sanctifiers gave Okita a bit more breathing room, though they wouldn't be able to block the Knight of Infamy. Aryabhima attacked with the Knight, and Okita showed off his other great sideboard card: Izzet Charm. The Knight died, and Okita stayed safely at 18. Aryabhima added a second Gravecrawler to his team and passed the turn.

    Okita made a Chronic Flooding on his turn, drawing exactly the cards he needed to make his win from five cards a reality. Unfortunately, Aryabhima was doing quite well himself, ramping all the way up to Falkenrath Aristocrat. Okita traded his Sanctifier for a Gravecrawler and dropped to 12.


    Facing a very quick death, Okita needed to get there quickly. His earlier Mulch had put an Unburial Rites and a Huntmaster of the Fells into his graveyard, giving him some potential to stall a little longer. But who wants to stall when you can just win? Chronic Flooding put an Unburial Rites into his graveyard, and the Angel came into play, along with an army of buddies. Between the lifegain and the ridiculous number of creatures that just came into play, Okita was hilariously safe from harm. Aryabhima wisely sacrificed his Gravecrawler to his Aristocrat in response to the Angel hitting play, but Okita's new Izzet Staticaster killed it during Aryabhima's upkeep. With nothing left in play and facing the comical assortment of creatures on Okita's side, Aryabhima conceded the final game, making Yuuji Okita the Grand Prix Nagoya 2012 Champion!




     

  • Top 5 Cards

    by Steve Sadin and Nate Price



  • 5. Crippling Blight

    In a format that changes as swiftly as Standard appears to, it's always imperative to stay on top of the latest tech. This little gem came out of the sideboard of Finalist Rahman Aryabhima's BR Zombies deck.

    This card kills the following creatures found in the Top 16 of Grand Prix Nagoya: Arbor Elf, Avacyn's Pilgrim, Gravecrawler, Knight of Infamy, Falkenrath Aristocrat, Snapcaster Mage, Blood Artist, and Stonewright. That alone makes it a reasonable card, but why is it better than Pillar of Flame, which exiles creatures, or Tragic Slip, which is an instant?

    Simple. Play it on a Loxodon Smiter or a Thragtusk and your opponent can't block with them. This seemingly innocuous line of text is ridiculously important against the green decks in the field, which look to present creatures that the Zombie decks simply can't attack through.

    This simple spell completely wrecks combat math, and it single-handedly won Aryabhima his final semifinal game. I spent all weekend looking for tech, and this gem escaped my notice until the last minute. Now, I've made sure it won't slip yours.





    4. Knight of Infamy

    Between Diregraf Ghoul, Gravecrawler, Rakdos Cackler, Stromkirk Noble, Stonewright, and Reckless Waif there are a lot of good aggressive one mana creatures in red, and black right now. And depending on what kind of a deck you want to run, then you can make a valid argument for including (or not including) any of these creatures.

    However, when it comes to two mana creatures, you don't have quite as much room to maneuver.

    If you're playing an aggressive Red-Black deck that you absolutely have to play Knight of Infamy.

    The fact that it has protection from white allows you to attack with impunity past Restoration Angels, and Loxodon Smiters -- and the fact that it has exalted allows you to send your Ash Zealots or your Gravecrawlers (depending on what kind of a deck you're running) into Thragtusks without any fear of retribution.

    So the next time you sit down to build a Red Black deck, make sure that you start with 4 Blood Crypt, 4 Dragonskull Summit, and 4 Knight of Infamy before you do anything else.





    3. Huntmaster of the Fells

    A few short weeks after Huntmaster of the Fells was printed, it propelled Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Brian Kibler into the Finals of Pro Tour Dark Ascension.

    Nearly a year later, Huntmaster of the Fells continues to make its presence felt -- playing a pivotal role in decks like Mamoru Nagai's Naya concoction that can accelerate it into play on turn three, and in Grand Prix Nagoya Champion Yuuji Okita's Human Reanimator (where it's a threat, a way to buy time, and a combo piece).

    So the next time that you think that Huntmaster of the Fells is going to go quietly into the night, you should remember that that's exactly where Werewolves thrive.





    2. Unburial Rites

    If Thragrtusk, and Falkenrath Aristocrat are the two most important creatures in Standard right now -- then I think it's safe to say that Unburial Rites is the most important spell.

    Between control decks like the Four Color Value Rites deck that Conley Woods piloted to a Top 4 finish at Grand Prix San Antonio, Reanimator decks like Kenji Tsumura's Angel of Serenity deck, and Combo Reanimator decks like the one that Yuuji Okita used to win this very tournament -- it's clear that there are plenty of good ways to build your deck around Unburial Rites.

    So if you think that you can just ignore graveyard based strategies in Standard, then you're sadly mistaken.





    1. Chronic Flooding

    The most play I've seen Chronic Flooding get prior to this weekend was as a proxy card. Now, it's gone and won itself a Grand Prix.

    Described by Yuuji Okita as the best card in his deck, Chronic Flooding provides an immense number of cards milled for a very minimal investment. Two mana gets you three cards per land tapped.

    If you play it on turn two, you are likely going to tap that land three more times, milling a whopping nine cards in the process. In the last game of the finals, where both Okita and his opponent mulliganned to five, it was Chronic Flooding that provided him a steady stream of cards in his graveyard, leading ultimately to his victory.

    I watched most of Okita's games on Day 2, and I don't think he lost a single game where he resolved a Chronic Flooding on turn two or three. It's simply the best bang for your buck, as far as milling goes. All this from a card that has seen more use as a coaster than a Magic card.

    Nice find.






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