Against The Odds – Making Top 8 at Pro Tour: Kobe (Part 1)

After a lengthy absence, the 2005 Player of the Year Kenji Tsumura returns to StarCityGames.com! Today he begins the epic tale of his storming performance at Pro Tour: Kobe, covering the first three drafts and sharing insights on the Time Spiral draft format. He also gives us some advice concerning sideboarding in Limited matches…

Hello everybody, it’s been a long time…

I would like to give you my tournament report of Pro Tour: Kobe. This will be in three parts: today’s installment covers the first three drafts in full.

Let’s get started: Here is my first draft deck from the tournament:

To tell the truth, I think this deck was terrible. The idea of playing U/G and splashing Empty the Warrens is from Katsuhiro Mori. I was advised by him. I think this technique is nice when you have two or more Herd Gnarrs.

If you watch the quarter-final between myself and Bastien Perez, you can see that this particular combination can finish the game easily. I think RG is ideal for this strategy, like Perez’s deck from the Top 8, but it is an interesting idea, splashing Red into U/G.

Round 1: Mallamaci, Giacomo Alberto. B/G
I get nervous when the Round 1 begins in any tournament. I’m sure everyone is the same, hehe.

My opponent played a Black/Green deck. Game 1, I attacked with Herd Gnarr and a few other men to deal seven damage, and won thanks to Strength in Numbers trampling over for the remaining points.

Game 2 saw my early Errant Ephemeron make the game good for me, but my opponent resolved Magus of the Mirror. Fortunately I had a bounce spell at that time, so I dealt damage little by little and then bounced the Magus at the last possible moment to win the game.


Round 2: Davis, Robb. W/R/G
Game 1 I swung with two Herd Gnarrs early on in this game, which was a fine start for me. But soon after that I found myself unable to draw or play creatures, and a few turns past with both of us playing draw-go. It was my opponent that acted first.

He played Stonebrow, Krosan Hero, and followed with Tromp the Domains

I was on twenty life, with two Herd Gnarrs in play. Luckily, I had the Sprout, and I was able to survive thanks to this excellent combination. After that, I played the Empty the Warrens I had been holding back for a long time, and swung with the two Gnarrs to win the game.

Game 2, my opponent couldn’t draw his fourth land, but he played Grapeshot and Thrill of the Hunt extremely well, forcing me into bad trades. I was also a little mana-flooded, and I lost this game.

Game 3, when the dust settled and the board was pretty even, saw my opponent play the Stonebrow, Krosan Hero and Tromp the Domains combo again!

Thankfully, I survived on two life thanks to the Herd Gnarr plus Thallid Germinator plus Sprout combo. If he had had Grapeshot, I would have lost the game. I won the next turn by swinging with all of my creatures.


Round 3: Salas Dominguez, Camilo. Mono White
Game 1, I took a mulligan but I assembled the strong Scryb Ranger plus Fledgling Mawcor combo. As my opponent was playing mono White, this combo finished the game easily.

Game 2 saw me keep a hand with two spells I’d brought in from the sideboard, and five lands. I drew nothing except lands… and lost. I kept that hand because the two spells in question sat at two and three mana on the curve, but perhaps I should have taken thee mulligan…

Game 3 was similar. I couldn’t supply any relevant action on my side of the table, and did nothing against my opponent’s fast beatdown draw.


I picked Sudden Death as my first pick, but there was no card useful except Celestial Crusader in the next. I don’t like the combination of W/B, so I thought I would stop drafting Black in the worst case, and picked the Crusader. However, I saw Soul Collector and Liege of the Pit in the next pack, so I decided to play Black after all by picking Soul Collector. After that, I followed the signals of the player on my right and settled in W/B.

Many of you may wonder if Dark Withering is strong without ways to discard it… in this case, it was very good indeed. Yes, I wondered whether or not to play this card, too. This deck has a lot of creatures with an evasion ability, so this deck’s purpose is to attack from the beginning of the game, and kill opponent’s fatties with removal to keep on attacking. Therefore the high cost (six mana) is not a problem at all. Estimations of any card will change depending on the deck you’re playing, I think. Make sure to practice a lot, guys!

Round 4: Fromm, Felix. U/R/B
Game 1 we played Skulking Knight and Shadow Sliver on our respective third turns, and my opponent didn’t draw any more creatures until very late. I gained some life with Jedit’s Dragoons to be safe, and killed his two Fury Slivers that were played late, and won the game.

Game 2, my opponent didn’t draw many creatures, and just I attacked him until he died. He played a lot of removal spells but didn’t play a creature to follow up, so I beat him with the creatures that survived.


Round 5: Fung, Gan. G/B with R
If I won this match, I’d be in Day 2, but in similar circumstances before I’ve lost twice in succession. I kept myself on my toes.

Game 1 and the early game was good for me, but my opponent’s Spectral Force forced me to reconsider. I dealt with it, but took a heavy loss in doing so, and things became worse for me. My opponent was a forest short of activating his Weatherseed Totem, so I kept on attacking with nothing more than my Cloudchaser Kestrel, but he activated Urborg Syphon-Mage’s ability when he drew cards he didn’t need, and kept his life high.

My hope – Celestial Crusader – was killed, and finally he got a Forest and swung with all his guys. I survived with Drudge Reavers and Tendrils of Corruption, and thanks to its life gain I won this game.

Game 2, my opponent’s draw wasn’t good. I played Dark Withering to kill his Spectral Force, and that brought me the victory.


Round 6: Desprez, Kevin. U/B splash R
I was now eligible for Day 2 play. I was very happy. My opponent had also made Day 2 for the first time, so we shook hands to cerebrate and began the game.

Game 1 started badly. In the early game, I couldn’t play my creatures with any consistency. In addition to this, I didn’t draw the Tendrils of Corruption I depended on, and the Time Stop of Brine Elemental killed me.

Game 2 was different. We both made a good game of things, but I found two copies of Tendrils of Corruption to win the race.

Game 3 saw me screwed at two mana. Unfortunately, he played bounce spells each turn… and I lost.


In the third draft, I was seated next to Katsuhiro Mori. I wondered whether to choose Amrou Scout or Riftwing Cloudskate. I thought that starting out with a Rebel strategy was a good call, and therefore picked Amrou Scout. From then on, a massive amount of White found its way to me, and I succeeded in making a deck that could easily post a 3-0 record.

Round 7: Peter Chao. U/R
Game1, he seemed he didn’t draw his creatures, so I played Amrou Seekers、and Serra Avenger. However, Sulfurous Blast brought me crashing back to earth! I had Zealot Il-Vec and Ironclaw Buzzardiers in my hand, but he had more, and the difference was very hard for me. I lost.

To help, I went to the sideboard. In came two D’Avenant Healer, and out went two Zealot il-Vec. I saw few creatures with one toughness, so these had to go.

Game 2, and my opponent didn’t draw a Red mana source. I killed him with a creature enhanced with the excellent Griffin Guide.

The final game of first day was a showcase for my opponent. He played the Riftwing Cloudskate and Tolarian Sentinel combo, and even worse… Draining Whelk! I could do nothing, and died in short order.


As the deck was strong, this loss is tough for me, but I went to bed at the end of the day thinking, “I will do the best I can tomorrow, to make the most of my chance.”

The Importance of the Sideboard

Before writing my Day 2 report, I would like to talk about my sideboard.

After every game I play, I change one or two cards in my maindeck. I see a lot of people begin shuffling for the second without even taking a look their sideboard, but I think for sure that there will be something you should change in every matchup. The only exceptions to this are if you think, “my opponent’s deck is simply too strong,” or “there is no other cards I’d rather play, because of a failure in my drafting.”

The best example I can give here is Jedit’s Dragoons. This card should be played when your opponent plays White and you don’t see many creatures with flying. When I play White and see this card in the latter half of a draft, I will pick this. One reason is that I don’t want my opponents to play this. The other is that it makes a fine sideboard option against decks with little evasion.

This is obviously true when you’re playing Sealed deck, so why not the same in draft? To put it simply, when you see enchantments or artifacts in the game (Sacred Mesa, Temporal Isolation, etc), you will play Molder… won’t you? The same is true when you draft. There could be lethal card to battle against opponent, sat sadly in your sideboard. It would be a crime not to play such a card. Make sure you take a look between games, or you may be missing out.

To end, I’ll finish up writing about the third draft, with the first two rounds on Day 2.

Round 8: Gan, Vincent. W/B with U
White versus White is good for me, because my creatures are better than most decks of this type, including that of my opponent in this case. I won Game 1, then sided out Ironclaw Buzzardiers and Bogardan Rager. I put in two copies of D’Avenant Healer and my Jedit’s Dragoons for game 2.

In the early game things looked good for him, due to his removal spells. Happily, the D’Avenant Healers and my Serra Avenger are excellent for both attacking and defending, so I won Game 2.


Round 9: Itaru, Ishida. W/U
He played Griffin Guide earlier than I managed, but I had Griffin Guide in my hand too. I destroyed his Griffin Guide with my Cloudchaser Kestrel, and when the board became more even, I recruited a lot of Rebels with my Amrou Scout to win the game.

I went through the same sideboarding plan as I did in round 8.

Though my opponent took a double mulligan, he still played Spiketail Drakeling on turn 3, Flickering Spirit on turn 4, and Griffin Guide on turn 5. Consequently, I lost immediately.

For the final game, I took a long look at my game-plan. I decided not to play Cloudchaser Kestrel unless it was absolutely necessary, because I thought this match’s key card was Griffins Guide.

My first action was D’Avenant Healer, followed with Serrated Arrows. It is a bit slow, but I succeeded in controlling the board with the powerful artifact. My opponent tried to attack me, playing Griffin Guide on his water-breathing Viscerid Deepwalker, but next turn I answered with Cloudchaser Kestrel to destroy the Griffin Guide. I gained life with Jedit’s Dragoons, and Serra Avenger ensured my victory.


I made 2-1 in this draft, and 6-3 in total. Next time, I’ll kick off with the fourth draft… but today, I will say good-bye.

See you next time!

Kenji Tsumura.

(Translated by Naoki Shimizu)