The Kobe Beef Championship



The first time I went to Japan was for Pro Tour Kobe in 2006, and it led to one of my most memorable Magic experiences. The Pro Tour itself was a bust (I went 3-3, and you needed to go 4-2 to make Day 2), but I was lucky enough to play in a side event that I’ll remember forever. That event was the Kobe Beef Championship, and today you get to hear about the highest steaks tournament I’ve ever played in.

The Event

The tournament was a Two-Headed Giant (2HG) Time Spiral Sealed tournament, with the prize for the winning team being an all-expenses paid Kobe beef dinner. Kobe is famed for its beef, and Paul Cheon and I wanted a piece of that. Neither of us made Day 2 of the Pro Tour, and neither of us had the funds to purchase Kobe beef (especially given that we weren’t winning any money in the Pro Tour). Seeing this tournament on the schedule gave us hope, and we were determined to win a delicious piece of history for ourselves. You can even see a coverage post advertising the tournament here.

The Decks

The exact deck lists have been lost to the sands of time, but we opened a fantastic pool. I was playing a blue-red control deck, with a sweeper in Sulfurous Blast, and Paul had a green-black control deck, with Avatar of Woe as a highlight (both named cards being extra good in 2HG). The decks complemented each other nicely, and we were excited to get to play.

Sulfurous Blast   Avatar of Woe

The Format

For those of you who haven’t played 2HG (which is most people), it was a format WotC was trying to make popular back in 2006 to 2008 or so. It never really took off, but at the time, there were a lot of 2HG tournaments. The way it worked was that both teams played a 2v2 game, with a shared life total and both players on a team taking their turn at once. Attacking creatures could be blocked by either player, and you could of course discuss plays with each other. That made certain cards way better (like Avatar, which counted all graveyards), and in general, you wanted your decks to have a unified gameplan.

The Rounds

We cruised our way through the Swiss, with some notable events happening on the way. Our decks truly were busted.

  • A team next to us called the judge because their opponent unwittingly morphed a Riftwing Cloudskate (a card that doesn’t have morph). Normally, the penalty would be a game loss, but because 2HG is just one game per match, the judges conferred and decided the penalty would be to return the Cloudskate to hand and make the owner lose 10 life. What???
  • When we were 6-0, we got paired against a team at 5-1. They asked us for a draw, but we declined. See, the team was Arnost Zidek, fresh off a PT Top 8, and his random friend, so we decided to try and knock them out instead. That random friend was actually Martin Juza, who later would become a teammate and close friend of ours.
  • Sulfurous Blast dealt six to each team, thanks to there being two players per team, and we used it to deal lethal multiple times.

We went into the Top 4 at first seed, and luckily for us, there was no deck swap. We got to use our busted decks in the home stretch, and it worked! Two games later, we were the Kobe Beef Champions, and had a reservation at a renowned Kobe beef steakhouse later that evening.

Fathom Seer Slipstream Serpent

The Dinner

Sadly, this was before smartphones, and we didn’t have a way to take pictures, so I’ll have to describe the experience rather than provide photo proof.

We entered the restaurant, which was a small establishment with a square bar in the middle, where the head chef was. We sat at the counter, so we got to see him at work, and there were seats for maybe 12 people total in the whole restaurant.

As we entered, the chef knew who we were, thanks to Wizards making the reservations. We sat down, and he asked us if we were the kobe beef champions - when we said yes, he was thrilled. I suppose it’s not every day that someone wins a tournament to eat at your restaurant. He actually upgraded us from the $150 kobe beef dinner to the deluxe $250 kobe beef dinner, which we were quite grateful for.

The spread was unique - he started by giving us beef sushi, which is exactly what it sounds like. Small pieces of raw beef with sauce on it over rice - something I’d normally be hesitant to eat, but not here. The sushi was tender and tasted excellent, and I’ve never had anything like it again.

The main course was kobe beef cubed and lightly grilled to a nice medium rare, with mushrooms and potatoes alongside it (also grilled). The beef was the star of the show, and the combination of the hype around the meal and the meal itself made it taste incredibly good. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and not only did I get to share it with one of my best friends, we knew we’d quite literally earned it. It’s no surprise that this is one of my fondest Magic memories, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Author: Luis Scott-Vargas

Magic the Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFB UltimateGuard

Luis is one of the most accomplished players in Magic: the Gathering history. His journey with Magic began in 1994, when he and his friend Seth bought a starter deck of Revised and two packs of The Dark each. Little did he know that this was a life-defining moment, as once he opened a Fire Elemental and Wrath of God, he was hooked. Learn more about Luis.