Japanese Nationals Report *3rd*

A little over two weeks ago, Masashi battled the best players Japan had to offer and ended up on the Japanese National team. This is the story of how he got there, complete with insights on the current Standard format and his favorite archetype in CBS draft.

Day 1

Hello this is Masashi Oiso. I was able to come in third place in the 2005 Japanese Nationals and thanks to that, I will be competing as a Japanese National Team member for the World Championships in November. For this article I would like to talk about my experience and my thoughts about finishing third in this prestigious tournament.


First a few comments before we get to Nationals. This year the Limited format for Japanese Nationals was same format as the Pro Tour that took place in June, so I started testing for Standard early, since the base set was rotating out. But before I started testing, I realized that the only cards that were used in Standard were actually rotating were Plow Under, Vine Trellis, and Boil and that Hypnotic Specter appeared to be the only card that had an impact from the new core set. The decks that use Urza lands can freely use game breaking cards like Tooth and Nail and Mindslaver once they get all three pieces, so in this format you must either use the Urza lands yourself (ex. Tooth and Nail, Blue Tron), win before they get all the Urza pieces (ex. Mono Red, White Weenie, Viridian Rats), or you must able to win while an opponent has all the Urza pieces (ex. Mono-U Control). The anti-Tron decks try to fight off the Tron decks with land destruction, Damping Matrix, and/or Jinxed Choker. However the Tron decks have Viridian Shamans and counter magic so it becomes difficult for the anti Tron decks to disrupt the Tron decks. Through some practice I was able to figure out that I wanted to play some sort of Tron deck for standard. To be honest, the Tron mirror matches are so dependent on who gets all the Urza pieces that I didn’t want to put so many cards against the mirror matchup because they can be so pointless if the opponent can get all the Tron pieces. However, if I put too many cards against the faster aggro decks, the deck just ended up being too weak, so even after testing I couldn’t decide on what kind of Tron build I wanted.

Then one week before Nationals, when I probably should have been practicing for Nationals, Kenji Tsumura and I were in Salt Lake City for the Block Constructed Grand Prix instead. During that time, all we played were Block Constructed and when I got back home from the long trip I was so tired that I couldn’t even test Standard because of all the fatigue that started to kick in as I got back to Japan. So in the end, I ended up getting a Blue Tron decklist from Morita Katsuhiko which had innovative cards choices like Acquire in the maindeck and Boseiju, Who Shelters All in the sideboard. Looking at the decklist, I really thought that it was well-tuned, so although I rarely ever do this, I decided to enter the tournament with the exact same 75 card decklist as Morita Katsuhiko.

Japanese Nationals was a zigzag format of Standard and Limited, so I would like to start with some Day 1 analysis from the Standard portion. Round one I played against Tooth and Nail and my opponent seemed a little bit land screwed during the game. When he was finally able to Mindslaver me, he wasn’t able to Tooth and Nail afterwards so I was able to win after he gave me back my turn. Then in the second round I was paired against Morita Kastuhiko, the player that shared his deck to me! I won the first game, Morita won the second game, and on the third game I was able to win because I got all the Urza pieces and he didn’t. I felt really bad that I won, despite the fact that I got the entire decklist from Morita. Next round I played against Tomohiro Saitou’s Mono-Red deck. This matchup is very favorable for whoever gets to go first and not only was I able to go first, I was able to get all three Urza pieces even when he kept destroying my lands with Molten Rains (Tomohiro cast a total of eight Molten Rains through this match). He also didn’t draw any Genju of the Spires during the match and I was able to start out 3-0 going into the draft.

I wasn’t able to practice drafting that much during August, but I knew I liked the Red/Green archetype and that I was going to favor my picks toward Red/Green for the draft. It seemed like the pack was responding to my wish when I saw that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker was in my opening pack! I happily take the Jiki and when I was able to get a second pick Glacial Ray, my tension was at an all time high. On top of that, I took Hana Kami and as I was dreaming about the combo of Kiki Jiki and Hana Kami, I realized I was I only had five Green cards at the end of pack one. If I drafted patiently, I definitely could have switched to a different color (other than Green), so I was regretting my mistake a little bit but by the end of the draft I knew the deck itself was strong enough. However my momentum from Standard seemed to have faded away somewhere among my card choices, as I would lose a game with four or five lands in my hand and then I would lose another game sitting with a full hand and only Forests in play. I ended up with an awkward record of 2-2 for the draft and Kiki-Jiki-Mirror, Breaker was never able to make a appearance either…

I ended Day 1 at 5-2, and since my goal was to make the National team, I had to go 5-1-1 or better for Day 2. For the first pick of the second draft I passed Teller of Tales and Honden of Seeing Winds and took Kami of Fire’s Roar. Other than the third pick where I had nothing else to take and picked Cage of Hands, I was straight Red/Green throughout the entire draft. However during the eighth pick I was passed Honden of Cleansing Fire and Gibbering Kami and I became a little worried about my neighbor’s colors. However, the rest of the draft went smoothly as I didn’t receive any late picks like that during the rest of the draft. I feel I was able to better identify my neighbor’s colors then I could in the first draft and my deck ended up being stronger then the first.

My first round opponent for Day 2 was Black/Green and he started off with a turn 2 Raving Oni-Slave and followed that up with O-Naginata, so my life total was reduced rather quickly. However with the combination of Genju of the Spires and Shinen of Life’s Roar I was able to grind down his life total and win that game. Next game, Genju of the Spires and Genju of the Cedars ran wild and I was able to win the match. Next round I was paired against Ando Renji and during the draft he was able to get an Opal Eyes, Konda’s Yojimbo that I opened fifth pick. The rest of his cards were extremely strong and he was able to win against me 2-0 quite easily. Now on the edge of elimination, I was up against Mr. Asahara…

Kills Genjus.  Dead.

I had some advantages for this match. Since Mr. Asahara was to my right, I knew most of the cards in his deck and I had Arashi, the Sky Asunder, which is U/W’s worst nightmare. However I ended up miss picking at the end of the draft and passed a Cut the Earthly Bond. I had three Genjus in my deck, and I was worried that would make my Genjus ineffective against him. First game I was able to run over him with Arashi, the Sky Asunder and Genju of the Cedars. Second game I gambled and kept a hand that was dependent just on Arashi, the Sky Asunder. The hand ended up being too weak and I lost game two. Third game, as the game started stalling, I drew Arashi for the third time this match and I was able to get an advantage. Mr. Asahara had his army of U/W creatures still alive, but I was able to run over his army with Shinen of Life’s Roar and win the match.

Finally, the second day of Standard and round eleven of the tournament. In order to stay in Top 8 contention, I had to win three matches in a row. My first opponent was playing a Blue/Green control deck splashing for Black. Game one I was never able to get my Urza pieces and I lost as my opponent dropped his Meloku, the Clouded Mirror. However the next two games I was able to get my Tron, counter his Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach, and I was able to win with Memnarch before my opponent could activate his Sensei’s Divining Top. Next I was up against Nakano Yoshitaka’s White Weenie deck. Right as I was about to die, I was able to get assemble the Tron and I played Memnarch. Next turn I had to take control of his creature in order to survive, but I only had three Blue mana open, so I wouldn’t be able to counter anything when I took control of his creature. My opponent played Damping Matrix on the turn I played Memnarch, so I was able to stabilize at one life and win game one. Game two, Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch and Culling Scales ended up being very powerful and I was able to win the match.

Finally needing just one more win, I was up against White Weenie again. I knew what deck my opponent was playing so I mulliganed the hand of 3 Condescend, Sensei’s Divining Top, and 3 Urza’s Mine. The mulligan ended up backfiring when opponent went turn 2 Leonin Skyhunter, turn 3 Glorious Anthem, and then turn four Auriok Champion times two. This is a relatively weak start for White Weenie against Blue Tron, but nonetheless my hand ended up couldn’t handle it and I ended up losing game one. In the second game my opponent played Hokori, Dusk Drinker even when I had Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch in play and I was able to win the game without my opponent doing anything else during the game. For game three, my opponent didn’t have a turn 1 creature and I was able to take control the game with Meloku, the Clouded Mirror and Triskelion. I was able to protect my life total as I took control of the game and win the deciding match.

For the final round I was able to ID with Ichiro Shimura and secure my spot in the Top 8!

Next week you’ll read how Masashi Oiso was able to grind into the National Team, and get an in-depth look at his Top 8 matches.