In some very important ways, both finalists at the Innistrad Championship were already winners. In Simon Görtzen's case, he was literally the winner of Pro TourSan Diego 2010, but just by winning a match to start the Top 8 he (and his opponent Yuuki Ichikawa) qualified for this season's World Championship.
Not that it lessened the intensity for this final match, or at least what passes for intensity from the ever-stoic Görtzen. The champion-turned-commentator-turned-player again had returned to form with high level success over the last two years, now was seeking to add a second title to his impressive resume.
On the other side was Yuuki Ichikawa, also in his third career Top Finish and was the last player standing from the dominant Japanese team that had innovated in Historic with their highly tuned Golgari Food deck. Their metagame build bested all comers throughout the weekend and put four team members into the Top 8.
Of the most popular decks, it was the Golgari Food deck that boasted one of the best win rates, followed closely by Izzet Phoenix. So it made sense that the counterpart to Ichikawa's Golgari deck would be Görtzen's Izzet deck.
And like they had all weekend, both players just kept finding ways to win – so much so that the title match went the maximum number of matches.
It was considered a bad matchup for Görtzen's Phoenix deck, but Ichikawa''s deck did risk drawing too many of the same pieces of its "combo" of Food effects like
That's exactly what happened in the first match, with a strong draw from Görtzen demonstrating why theory only takes you so far: sometimes you play the games and a pair of
A fortunate break for the German? Maybe, but his tight play with the explosive Phoenix deck had laid the groundwork to make the upset possible, and in two quick games he suddenly found himself just one match win away from a second championship trophy.
But it wouldn't come easy, and Ichikawa showed in the next game why his deck was considered advantaged against Görtzen. The fast start of
Ichikawa had responded when his back was up against the wall, and he was now a game away from evening the series. But the second game was Görtzen's from the start. He had early
He went digging with
Three days of competition and a double-elimination Top 8 bracket hadn't been enough to clearly separate Görtzen and Ichikawa, and now the pair would play a third and final match to determine the winner of the Innistrad Championship.
Görtzen struck first. He was able to weather the storm of value and removal from Ichikawa, who resolved a large
But this match was fated to go the distance. Ichikawa fought back in the next game to ride a set of early
Both players kept opening hands on the slower side, and Görtzen was able to leverage early removal to keep the board relatively clear while making his land drops.
The problem was that he wasn't applying much pressure to Ichikawa, whose Food deck was built for the best late games in Historic. While Görtzen was working to build his board and keep pace, Ichikawa was able to deploy
When Görtzen finally did find threats, it was answered by
Whatever he needed, his draw step didn't find it.
With that, Yuuki Ichikawa became the winner of the Innistrad Championship, capping off a marvelous individual run and an even-more impressive team performance that saw four players advance to the Top 8. Listening to Ichikawa after the title, there's no doubt this superteam will continue to be a force for tournaments to come.
Congratulations to Yuuki Ichikawa, your #INNChamps Champion! 🏆— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) December 6, 2021
He was good to the Ravenous Squirrels, and they were good to him as he navigated the Historic Top 8 with Golgari Food. pic.twitter.com/liMugD7zCd