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The Finals of Pro Tour Thunder Junction

April 29, 2024
Corbin Hosler

More than 200 competitors from across the globe. Inspiring stories of individual and team performances, dominant draft decks that no one saw coming, and Standard surprises played out through eighteen rounds of Magic over the last three days. Pro Tour Thunder Junction was a celebration of the Pro Tour's return to Magic's home in Seattle—and it all led to this:

Yuta Takahashi versus Yoshihiko Ikawa. Two Pro Tour veterans and stalwarts of the Japanese Magic community with nine Top Finishes between them, and of course the Magic World Championship XXVII title Takahashi holds. Two teammates on the Moriyama Japan team that dominated the Top 8 of this tournament.

As the friends settled in for the last match of the weekend, Moriyama Japan was already guaranteed a trophy would be heading home with them, thanks either to Takahashi's Azorius Control deck or Ikawa's Domain Ramp.

The only question? Which of these players would hold it.

Yoshihiko Ikawa

Yuta Takahashi

The Games

They traded resources and land drops for the first six turns of the game, with removal and ramp running into countermagic and removal. As Marshall Sutcliffe accurately pointed out in a previous round of Ikawa's, if the opposing deck couldn't apply enough pressure to force his hand, the game didn't really begin until turn seven—or seven mana, anyway—when Ikawa could start casting Atraxa, Grand Unifier. And so worry-free, thanks to Cavern of Souls.


That's exactly what happened in the first game. Ikawa cast the Phyrexian precisely on time, and the flurries of the first few turns transformed into an avalanche of interaction and card advantage from both sides. Ikawa would cast Atraxa; Takahashi would remove her. Takahashi would reload with Memory Deluge; Ikawa would try to exhaust the answers found from the dig spell.

Back and forth it went, until each player had well upwards of 10 lands in play. As the mana counts and life totals inflated and deck sizes decreased, Takahashi tried to hold on and wait out Ikawa's threats. But while removal is great against many things, it doesn't do much against direct damage—and with a final burst of burn, Ikawa seized Game 1.

The second game looked like the first. Neither player could stick a threat, and the game wound on into the later turns again—but on the play and with no Atraxa in sight to worry about, Takahashi got on the scoreboard and evened things up at one game apiece.

With things tied up at one game apiece and sideboards introduced, Ikawa had two copies of one of his best early-turn plays: Up the Beanstalk. The enchantment has been a recurring source of card advantage across multiple formats since its printing in Wilds of Eldraine, which is why Takahashi expended a Negate on the first.

But the second copy resolved a turn later, and once it was in play, every turn of "nothing" happening would actually benefit the Domain Ramp player. That's why Takahashi removed it as soon as he could with March of Otherworldly Light—but with counterspell shields fully down, Atraxa, Grand Unifier arrived with Cavern of Souls to refill Ikawa's hand yet again.

Or it would have, if not for the clutch Tishana's Tidebinder the former world champ had at the ready. The play gave Takahashi a window to victory, if he could find a way to remove the Atraxa herself, which began to attack on the next turn. The swings knocked Takahashi down to just 4 life, a breakpoint against Ikawa's Archangel of Wrath.

With his back up against the wall despite his heroic save, Takahashi went into the tank to try and find a way out against Ikawa's 45 life and lethal board. When he came back out of that tank, it was to concede to Ikawa's boardstate and take the pair into what could be the deciding game of the match.

Yoshihiko Ikawa had been dominant all weekend; now he was just one game away from winning the title at Pro Tour Thunder Junction.

The fourth game started promisingly: Ikawa used an early Negate to buy time and Topiary Stomper to ramp. Takahashi cleared the board with a Sunfall, but that's a reactive play to a proactive gameplan, and it left the path clear for Ikawa to resolve a fully powered Herd Migration and deposit five Beast tokens into play.

Takahashi had a plan: tap mostly out for Hullbreaker Horror but hold up March of Otherworldly Light and a card in hand to pitch. That would allow a small window to try and outvalue the Beast swarm and give Takahashi a path to victory.

That's what the world champ did—and Ikawa instantly showed his teammate the Leyline Binding and Archangel of Wrath in his hand that guaranteed the win. Takahashi conceded on the spot, and in the blink of an eye, Takahashi was up embracing his teammate and congratulating Yoshihiko Ikawa on winning the final match and earning the trophy and title of Pro Tour Thunder Junction champion.

After the victory, Ikawa credited his entire team—after they had mobbed him to celebrate the stunning victory.

Yoshihiko Ikawa, Winner Pro Tour Thunder Junction

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