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Grand Prix Hong Kong 2013
Day 1 Coverage

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The letter A!fter nine rounds of intense competition battling a plethora of minotaurs and pegasuses and centaurs and griffins and hydras and sphinxes and cyclopes and whatnot, only four players remain undefeated!

Leading the pack are Grand Prix Beijing Top 4 competitor, Wong Wei Quan, fellow Singapore Ng Soon Lye, Yu Hung Yi as well as Christopher Tong. These few players are promised a good night's sleep and a much easier path to the Top 8 tomorrow.

However, their voyage will not be without bumps. Closely behind are Pro Tour Veterans Stanislav Cifka (9), Martin Juza (16), Ken Yukuhiro, Yuuta Takahashi, Shouta Yasooka, Chen Liang and Shuhei Nakamura (7), all at remarkable 8-1 records. Yuuya Watanabe (5) has also managed to scrape a 7-1-1 result despite his bout of illness.

A slew of talented players are also spotted at the 7-2 record, including Kelvin Chew, Li Bo, Huang Hao-Shan, Chanpleng Weranart, Leong Ding Yuan and former World Champion Antti Malin.

128 players will return tomorrow for six rounds of booster draft, before a new Top 8 is born. Will the locals be able to defend their hometown or will they succumb to the foreign invasion?













 

  • Grand Prix Trials Winning Decklists

    by Chapman Sim & Noel Neo















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  • Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – Country Breakdown

    by Chapman Sim

  • Country # of Players
    Hong Kong 333
    China 241
    Singapore 92
    Philippines 67
    Taiwan 58
    Japan 46
    Thailand 33
    South Korea 22
    Malaysia 22
    United States 17
    Indonesia 12
    Australia 11
    Russian Federation 9
    Canada 7
    France 3
    Sweden 2
    Northern Ireland 2
    Macau 2
    Finland 2
    Czech Republic 2
    Spain 1
    New Zealand 1
    Netherlands 1
    Kazakhstan 1
    Italy 1
    Hungary 1
    England 1
    Total 989



     

  • Saturday, 11:25 a.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1: The Pool

    by Noel Neo

  • Below is the Sealed pool that gave a yet unnamed pro much food for thought today. Featuring sufficient depth for all five colours to be playable, the deck construction process had to consider not just which cards within specific colours to play but also which decks and strategies to pursue.

    Would the pro opt for Red-White: Fast and Aggressive with two copies each of Wingsteed Rider, Ordeal of Purphoros and Akroan Hoplite; or would he be drawn to Control Black with Abhorrent Overlord, Keepsake Gorgon, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Sip of Hemlock and Lash of the Whip? And if he does choose Black, would it be supported with Blue for Griptide and Thassa's Emissary or Green for Sedge Scorpion, Fade into Antiquity and Artisan's Sorrow?

    Discuss what you think is the best option with this pool and check back later today to find out what our pro went with!

    View the card pool below or go here to start building your own deck from the pool!




     

  • Quick Questions #1:
    What is the best color combination in Theros Sealed?

    by Chapman Sim & Noel Neo

  • Kelvin Chew: Red Green
    Shouta Yasooka: Black Green
    Shuhei Nakamura: Blue Black
    Stanislav Cifka: Blue Green
    Kuo Tzu Ching: Red White, if you get many Heroic cards.
    Lee Shi Tian: Blue Green splash Red



     

  • Saturday, 1:15 p.m. – Pride of Hong Kong

    by Chapman Sim

  • Lee Shi Tian has had a stellar season. As the top-rated player in the region, Hong Kong's Lee Shi Tian has had the honor of representing APAC at the 2013 Magic World Championship. As he explains in his World Championship questionnaire, people from Asian countries in general give very little respect for gamers and Lee wishes to change the notion. Now that the Grand Prix Circuit has returned to his hometown this weekend after a hiatus of almost ten years, we've decided to get up-close and personal with him and throw him a couple of questions about the gaming lifestyle.


    Gold Pro Lee Shi Tian

    How did you become a Pro Player that you are today?

    I have been playing Magic for a long time but it was not until Grand Prix Birmingham that I had my first breakthrough performance. While studying as an exchange student in England, I attended Grand Prix Birmingham simply because I was in the area. I never expected to even make the Top 8, let alone win the entire event. With my new-found success, I started to travel around to play Grand Prix in the region.


    Trophy Shot at Grand Prix Birmingham 2008

    What made you decide to embark on this road?

    A year after winning Birmingham, I graduated from business school, majoring in accountancy. I was offered a job in a couple of auditing firms but a part of me wanted to do something different with my life. I wanted to play Magic. I asked myself whether I wanted to be "one in a million" or "the one". I simply wanted to be the best player in the region. It is a great source of satisfaction and personal challenge for me.

    Do you think your decision paid off?

    Many of my classmates eventually went on to work sixteen hours a day for the Big 4 (a term coined to describe the four largest auditing firms in the world) while I debuted at my first Pro Tour during that very year.

    Just a few seasons later, I managed to make Top 4 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. My few years of hard work had paid of! I'm still heartbroken that I ended the last season one Pro Point shy of achieving Platinum but that was the best year I've ever had in my career! I've also traveled more than most of my peers enjoying this game and that is a great experience no matter how you look at it.


    Playing against eventual Pro Tour Return to Ravnica Champion Stanislav Cifka under the Sunday Spotlight!

    What do you feel about being one of the few Pro Players in the region?

    Asians are well-known for being workaholics. The Pro Player lifestyle where one eschews a traditional career is simply not common for Asians. I am lucky to get a job in MTGMintCard, one of the biggest card retailers in Asia. It is not easy, but we all willing to try it out because of our passion for the game. Nobody knows how will we end up with, if we don't try, we will never know how things will turn out.

    What is your goal for the year?

    I would say that achieving Platinum is any Pro's goal for the year, so I will definitely work towards that. We have much lesser Grand Prix in the region compared to larger markets like the United States and Europe so I will definitely make sure I attend those that are nearest to me. Being Gold level this year also means I am able to attend all the Pro Tours this season and try to clinch the Asia Pacific spot for the World Championship once again.

    Speaking of the World Championship, what do you think about the recently announced changes?

    I'm excited to see the changes being made. Firstly, the number of player slots went up from 16 to 24. At the recently concluded Player Championship, Willy Edel and myself shared with members of the R&D that it was difficult to prepare for the event alone. The new changes awarding slots to the Top two players per region according to ranking by Pro Points is great! If I do manage to qualify again, at least I will have a playtesting buddy, rather than being on my own. I'm happy that our feedback did not fall on deaf ears! The expanded prize pool is never bad news and I'm sure it will make all invitees very happy.

    To view the improvements to the World Championship, click here.

    Any last words of inspiration?

    We all have dreams. Someday, we will all have to shelve our dreams to make way for other commitments in other aspects of our life. But the moment isn't now, and most definitely not today.




     

  • Round 3 Feature Match - Heavyweight Fight Club
    Andrew R Cantillana vs. Felix Tse

    by Noel Neo

  • This matchup between two base Green decks featured well buffed creatures on both sides of the table rumble in for some head-to-head action.

    Andrew had proven his limited chops by placing third in Return to Ravnica Sealed Grand Prix Singapore earlier this year. He is looking to repeat the accomplishment with a Green-Black based deck supporting bomb rares, removal and combat tricks in the three other colours though mana fixers like Sylvan Caryatid, Nylea's Presence and Burnished Hart.

    In his path stands Felix, who is sporting a Blue-Green deck with bounce and multiple copies of the Green removal spell – Time to Feed.


    Felix Tse

    Ting ting ting.

    Mirroring real life rumbles, the two players spent the initial turns sizing each other up with little actual action. At the end of turn nine, Andrew had taken three damage from an early attack and the game state was as follows:

    Andrew: Sylvan Caryatid, Underworld Cerberus, Reaper of the Wilds, Voyaging Satyr and Returned Phalanx (all five colours of mana untapped having sacrificed Burnished Hart)

    Felix: Thassa's Emissary with Feral Evocation, Sealock Monster, Nessian Asp and Voyaging Satyr

    Sea God's Revenge from Felix returning Underworld Cerberus, Voyaging Satyr and Returned Phalanx on turn 10 looked to be game breaking. And it was. But for reasons different from what you're thinking as you read this.

    The 5/5 Thassa's Emissary and Sealock Monster entered the red zone and were calmly taken down by Andrew with Supreme Verdict and Dauntless Onslaught on Reaper of the Wilds.

    Andrew then proceeded to rebuild his board and begin attacking with Underworld Cerberus. Felix was not out of the game yet as Nessian Asp reached monstrous proportions and found Time to Feed on the Cerberus.


    Andrew R Cantilla

    Unperturbed, Andrew simply made another colossus by bestowing Reaper of the Wilds with Erebos's Emissary and Nimbus Naiad for a 9/10 flyer with activated deathtouch and hexproof, and discard a creature card get +2/+2.

    In this all-in game state, Felix revealed his final trump in Savage Surge on the monstrous 8/9 Asp followed by a second Time to Feed. But it was not to be as Andrew had the creature card in hand for the profitable trade.

    Andrew takes game 1 on the back of his 9/10 flyer.

    Despite mulliganing down to six cards on the play in the second game, Felix managed to apply early pressure with Omenspeaker and Agent of Horizons with Feral Invocation.

    Andrew was, however, able to turn it into a race with Sylvan Caryatid powering out Erebos's Emissary and Underworld Cerberus despite losing Sentry of the Underworld to Time to Feed.

    The backbreaker came on turn seven when Felix's Staunch Hearted Warrior merely traded with Blood-Toll Harpy when a second Time to Feed met Dauntless Assault and Agent of Horizons faced Divine Verdict.

    With the threats on the other side of the table neutralised, Underworld Cerberus proceeded to close the game.

    Andrew rumbles on 2-0.

    In the post-match reflection, Felix confided that while game two might not have been winnable, he felt he misplayed game one. In particular, he was too impatient with Sea God's Revenge and should have waited till it either represented lethal or his opponent was tapped out.




     

  • Saturday, 2.45p.m. - Deckbuilding with Kuo Tzu Ching

    by Chapman Sim


  • Kuo Tzu Ching

    Kuo Tzu Ching is no stranger to the Asian Grand Prix Circuit. Not at all. In fact, his most recent accomplishment was a Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Kitakyushu, which marked his tenth career Grand Prix Top 8.

    However, even the best players can have bad days. After failing to advance to Day Two at Pro Tour Theros, the currently ranked 24th Kuo dropped six spots from the Top 25 Rankings. He would need a solid performance this week at Grand Prix Hong Kong if he wanted to remain on the charts.

    Going by the process of elimination, Kuo quickly dismissed his blue and black cards as unplayable. "Blue does not have any bounce spells, I really don't want to play blue without any bounce." The black cards were downright atrocious as he stared at the trio of Asphodel Wanderers. Now that two colors were out of the way, that made life much easier for Kuo.

    While gold cards define certain archetypes, Kuo was certainly not pleased to see six gold cards in his pool, occupying five precious uncommon slots and one rare slot. Battlewise Hoplite, Kragma Warcaller, Shipwreck Singer, Spellheart Chimera and Pharika's Mender did little to affect his decision to play two of the three Naya colors.


    Kuo intends to use these cards to win in the long game.

    He quickly put together his pool of white and green cards which presented him with a great curve and a solid game plan. White presented him with Hundred-Handed Giant, a pair of Wingsteed Riders as well as support spells like God's Willing, double Chosen by Heliod and the potentially backbreaking Dauntless Onslaught. Green gave him access to Nylea, God of the Hunt, Boon Satyr and a pair of Kuo's favorite green common, Leafcrown Dyrad. Nessian Asp is no slouch either and promises to be one of the best commons in Sealed.

    He lamented the lack of pump spells like Feral Invocation, Savage Surge and Battlewise Valor, all of which would have allowed him to play more aggressively. However, he was happy to maindeck Fade into Antiquity and Shredding Winds, a notion proposed by fellow MTG Mint Card teammates Lee Shi Tian and Huang Hao-Shan. "We feel that people generally build their decks based on what bombs they open. In this format, the most dangerous spells are the Gods, their weapons or creatures with evasion."

    Kuo briefly considered a red white heroic build, enabling him to utilize Anax and Cymede, Lightning Strike and Ordeal of Purphoros. "I don't have good bombs. If I feel like my opponent has a better late game than me, I will switch into Boros and become the aggressor. But in the meantime, I will play the white green deck which is more resilient and gives me a better late game plan."


    Barring any major hiccups, Kuo is confident that he will be able to make Day Two. He is now on a coffee break, mulling over his sideboarding options. Now all we can do is watch the day unfold...




     

  • Round 4 Feature Match - Blessings from the Sun
    Ken Yukuhiro vs. Li Bo

    by Chapman Sim

  • Now that Round 4 had begun and the Pros have all come out to play, it felt natural for the duo to be summoned to the Featured Match table. In this battle between Grand Prix Champions, Li emerged victorious in two quick games, handing Ken Yukuhiro his very first loss of the day.

    Despite his unseemingly undaunting stature, Li is actually a winning machine in disguise. He first shocked the world when he took home the World Championship team trophy back in 2009 and his most recent success was when he came up on top at Grand Prix Shanghai in 2012.

    Yukuhiro's resume is similarly impressive, his jovial appearance equally deceptive. With five Grand Prix Top 8s (including a win at Grand Prix Singapore this year), Yukuhiro's best performance came when he broke onto the Sunday stage at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored.


    Ken Yukuhiro

    Game One

    Li swiftly secured Game One with the help of Vaporkin and Heliod's Emissary. When Yukuhiro finally mustered two creatures to block, a timely Dauntless Onslaught (triggering the heroic ability of Phalanx Leader) made recovery impossible.

    The World Champion won the die roll and made use of his advantage to resolve an early Vaporkin. When Yukuhiro presented Nimbus Naiad to block, Li quickly dispatched it with Ray of Dissolution, putting him ahead in the damage race.

    Li's Heliod's Emissary threatened to make short work of any possible defense but Yukuhiro tried to stay alive with Nylea's Emissary and Nessian Asp.


    Li's Phalanx Leader put Yukuhiro in a terrible position. With any trick, Li could put a +1/+1 counter on all of his creatures, ensuring that his white emissary would be larger than Yukuhiro's green one.

    Already low on life from the early beatings, Yukuhiro could not wait any longer and decided to attempt the trade and hope for the best but Li was ready with Dauntless Onslaught (targeting Vaporkin and Phalanx Leader) to grow his entire team and seal the first game.

    Li 1 – Yukuhiro 0


    Game Two

    For the second game, Yukuhiro switched gears (and decks altogether) and sought to become the aggressor. Since he was on the play this time, he eschewed his blue green deck and switched into a speedier red white deck.

    "I had assumed that his deck was full of flyers and smaller creatures, which is why I decided to change my deck." Unfortunately for him, Li was able to stave off the early attacks to eventually seal the second game with Elspeth, Sun's Champion.


    Yukuhiro led with Favored Hoplite, Akroan Hoplite and Observant Alseid, backed up with a couple of tricks in his handm including God's Willing and Coordinated Assault. It would seem that his plan was panning out.

    Li had no creatures of his own and could only delay the onslaught with Voyage's End and Griptide, before rebuying that very spell with Mnemonic Wall.

    Using his slew of bounce spells, Li was able to eventually stabilize with Horizon Scholar, Scholar of Athroes and Heliod's Emissary. When Yukuhiro launched an all-out attack, Li annihilated half of Yukuhiro's team with Dauntless Onslaught.

    Li then proceeded to recruit a very devastating Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Well, that was it. Nobody really beats Elspeth. Not even Ken Yukuhiro.


    Li Bo

    Li 2 – Yukuhiro 0

    Li Bo advances to 4-0 and hands Ken Yukuhiro his first loss of the day.




     

  • Quick Questions #2: In general, describe how fast or how slow the Theros environment is?

    by Chapman Sim & Noel Neo

  • Kuo Tzu Ching: I think it is faster than triple Zendikar and Triple Gatecrash.
    Huang Hao-Shan: Around the same speed as RGD (Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze)
    Martin Juza: You can go fast or slow and I htink you can make it work either way.
    Yuuya Watanabe: Very fast, because there are too many pump spells and cards with Bestow.
    Shuhei Nakamura: In draft it can be really fast, but I don't really like the traditional beatdown style. I prefer to make one big guy with heroic, monstrous or bestow.
    Stanislav Cifka: It really depends. You can draft or build a deck control deck with bounce and removal.



     

  • Round 5 Feature Match - Aerial Champions
    Shouta Yasooka vs. Zhang Xiao Yu

    by Noel Neo

  • Shouta Yasooka is a Japanese pro who needs little introduction. Having won Pro Tour Charleston 2006 with Tomohiro Kaji and Tomoharu Saitou, Shouta has continued to rack up a string of Grand Prix Top 8s and is looking to extend his stay on the gravy train. He comes today armed with a Black-Blue Control deck themed around evasion and removal.

    His opponent – Xiao Yu is looking to make his first marks on the game with a powerful concoction similarly with Black at its core and with Red and Green for burn and acceleration.

    Games were brisk and tended to hinge on who could get his evasion guy to stick.

    Shouta took game one in record time with Artisan of Forms bestowed with Nimbus Naiad and copying Thassa's Emissary for a 5/5 flying Shadowmage Infiltrator on turn five. With the ground gummed up by Omenspeaker, Thassa's Emissary and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and unable to interact with the flyer, Xiao Yu quickly fell.


    Shouta swapping out Blue for Green with caption

    Xiao Yu took the early lead in game two with Blood-Toll Harpy, Voyaging Satyr, Fleshmad Steed and Fade into Antiquity for Shouta's first play of Akroan Horse. He kept the pressure on with Sip of Hemplock for an opposing Blood-Toll Harpy, though Shouta was soon able to gum up the ground with Cavern Lampad bestowed on the soldier token from the Horse.

    Xiao Yu was, however, able to ensure the Harpy completed the work it started with Disciple of Phenax stripping Sip of Hemlock and Hero's Downfall for Shouta's second attempt at a Blood-Toll Harpy of his own.

    Blood-Toll Harpy helped Xiao Yu equalise the games at one a piece.

    The final game was the one to watch with the advantage shifting from one player to the other.

    An early Omenspeaker helped Shouta smooth out his draw, though the following Opaline Unicorn immediately met Magma Jet and allowed Xiao Yu to do the same. Shouta's problem was that his hand was rather reactive as Xiao Yu discovered when Disciple of Phenax revealed Pharika's Cure and stripped Lash of the Whip.

    Shouta looked to repeat his game one feat by bestowing Nimbus Naiad on Omenspeaker and turning it into a race. Xiao Yu meanwhile continued to work on Shouta's hand with a second Disciple of Phenax taking Griptide, leaving Shouta with Pharika's Cure and sending him into top deck mode. Life totals at this point were Shouta 18 – Xiao Yu 15.


    Xiao Yu considering his options

    The plan didn't work so well this time as Xiao Yu was able to remove Shouta's threat entirely the following turn with Hero's Downfall on Omenspeaker and Magma Jet for the remaining Naiad.

    Shouta tried to stem the bleeding with Shipwreck Singer that quickly met Lash of the Whip, while Pharika's Cure was traded for Mogis's Marauder. He then tried to launch a comeback with Gray Merchant of Asphodel bestowed with Baleful Eidolon, but Blood-Toll Harpy and an opposing Gray Merchant with seven devotion locked him out of the game and match.

    Xiao Yu rides Blood-Toll Harpy and a wave of removal and discard to a 2-1 victory over Shouta Yasooka and an unblemished 5 round record.

    Shouta explained the reason he swapped Blue for Green in game two was for creatures with deathtouch in case Xiao Yu had large green creatures. Because he did not see any, he swapped back to Blue for the final game.




     

  • Round 6 Feature Match - A Twist of Fate
    Antti Malin vs. Chen Liang

    by Chapman Sim

  • The Asian community should remember that around five years ago, then relative unknown Lee Shi Tian took down Grand Prix Birmingham 2008. Incidentally, Antti Malin also made Top 8 that very event and later went on to win the World Championships at the end of the season. Since then, Malin has taken a step back from the game. Sitting at 5-0, he has proven that he hasn't lost his touch.

    His opponent Chen Liang has also enjoyed success at the Grand Prix level. His most recent performance was at Grand Prix Singapore 2009, where both himself and fellow countryman Kuo Tzu Ching made the Top 8 together that event. Kuo mostly credits Chen for his keen sense in grasping trends, deckbuilding and modification prowess. Chen continues to be a pillar of the Taiwanese community, where his opinions are still very much respected and highly regarded.

    After three tight games, it was Chen Liang to triumped over Antti Malin with his very powerful and synergistic black green deck, advancing to a pristine 6-0 record.

    Game One

    Chen Liang won game one by racing Malin's Spellheart Chimera, enchanted by Ordeal of Purphoros. The turn before Malin could "cash-in" the Ordeal, Chen used the combination of Time to Feed and Nemesis of Mortals to deal with it before it got out of hand.


    Antti Malin

    On his very first turn, Malin Annulled Chen's Leafcrown Dyrad and followed up that play with Spellheart Chimera and Ordeal of Purphorus. Chen retaliated with Scourgemark on Baleful Eidolon, soon joined by a turn 5 Nemesis of Mortals.

    After verifying that the Spellheart Chimera was a 3/5, Chen proceeded to use Time to Feed to take it down, leaving Malin with a lone Nessian Asp. Malin tried to race by bestowing Thassa's Emissary upon it but Chen's ensuing attack, coupled with Gray Merchant of Asphodel did him in.


    Malin 1 – Chen 0


    Game Two

    Antti Malin evened the match by building a 10/10 trampling monstrosity which Chen had no solution to.

    Malin smoothened his draw with Omenspeaker and Traveler's Amulet while Chen broke past with Leafcrown Dryad and Scourgemark. Malin threatened with Thassa's Emissary (the biggest Ophidian of them all) but it was outclassed by Chen's Erebos's Emissary.


    Both players were unable to budge, and Malin proceeded to assemble the biggest monster on the board. After turning his Ill-tempered Cyclops into a 6/6 trampling monstrosity, he bestowed a second Thassa's Emissary on it. When it entered the red zone, Chen decided to take one hit, before dropping Anthousa, Setessan Hero in a bid to launch a counterattack.

    When Malin coughed up several chump blockers, Chen realised he couldn't race the 10/10 card-drawing trampler and scooped up his cards.


    Chen Liang

    Malin 1 – Chen 1


    Game Three

    Game three was all about Agent of the Fates, which helped Chen crush the former World Champion. Despite having Griptide to bounce the 3/2 Assassin, it was not a permanent solution and all Chen had to do was point spells at it to win in heroic fashion.

    Chen led with Leafcrown Dyrad and Agent of the Fates, so Malin cushioned his creature count by first summoning a pair of Omenspeakers to "protect" his bigger guys.

    Chen bestowed Leafcrown Dyrad upon the assassin, knocking out the first of the two Omenspeakers, and then Scourgemark to knock out the other. Malin responded by returning Agent of the Fates to the top of Chen's library for temporary reprieve.

    When Malin dropped Polis Crusher, Chen simply recast Agent of the Fates and revealed Warrior's Lesson to trigger the sacrifce effect once more, bringing up the death toll to three.

    Malin cast Thassa's Emissary, hoping that Chen had no more tricks. Sure enough, Chen was out of targeted spells but Gray Merchant of Asphodel reduced Malin to just 5 life. Malin was forced to drop Stormbreath Dragon and keep it on defense but eventually he succumbed to Chen's overwhelming board.

    Chen Liang defeats Antti Malin and is now at 6-0!




     

  • Quick Questions #3: What is your favorite God & Weapon Pair?

    by Chapman Sim & Noel Neo




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  • Round 7 Feature Match - Bow, Horse, Demon
    Stanislav Cifka vs. Kelvin Chew

    by Noel Neo

  • Fellow alumni in the top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica where Cifka emerged champion, the pair had previously met in the final round of the Pro Tour's swiss rounds. Then, Kelvin had walked away with the match. Would history repeat itself or would Cifka manage to redeem himself?

    This mirror Green Black matchup (with light splash) is supposed to be about grinding out your opponent, so it's not surprising that both players opted to draw.

    Game one was over in a flash with Kelvin Chew stalling on two lands for three turns, which allowed Cifka's Voyaging Satyr to power out Borderland Minotaur and Nessian Asp to take the game.


    Kelvin Chew

    It was then Cifka's turn to be land light as Kelvin managed to develop a board with Voyaging Satyr and Nylea's Disciple bestowed with Erebos's Emissary to Cifka's lone Nessian Courser. Cifka tried to dig his way out of his mana problems with Voyaging Satyr, but Kelvin would have none of it and responded with Pharika's Cure.

    At just five life, Cifka was forced to begin offering what creatures he could summon as chump blockers, but with his mana issues not improving the pair were soon off to the deciding game.

    The final game played out like classic Green Black with both players holding out at the edge of losing to make a comeback.

    Cifka applied early pressure with Voyaging Satyr into Reaper of the Wilds. Kelvin's Read the Bones had, however, managed to find his own copy of Voyaging Satyr along with Pharika's Cure for its doppelganger. When Cifka stalled on three lands for a turn, it was all the window Kelvin needed to stabilise with Sip of Hemlock.


    Stanislav Cifka ponders the viability of his opening hand

    Cifka rebuilt with Nessian Asp, forcing Kelvin to play Pharika's Mender as a blocker without a return target. Bow of Nylea complicated combat and Leafcrown Dryad came down for Cifka. Kelvin continued to his attempts to slow Cifka by attacking his mana with Time to Feed targeting the Satyr.

    Akroan Horse provided Kelvin with the perfect stream of chump blockers which also threatened to overwhelm Cifka should the game go long. Now conscious of the clock, Cifka amped up his aggression with a 4/4 Mistcutter Hydra and a soldier sacrificed itself to keep Kelvin at nine life. Nylea's Disciple then brought Kelvin back to a more comfortable 13 life.

    Cifka continued to push damage with Dark Betrayal taking out Pharika's Mender. Kelvin's board was left empty after a gang block to neutralise the Hydra and Nylea's Bow started to grow Cifka's creatures.

    Disciple of Phenax discarded Nessian Asp, only for Cifka to draw and play his third copy and attack Kelvin down to a mere three life. But three is a long way from zero and coupled with his steady stream of soldier tokens, Kelvin begun to stabilise with recurring Phyrika's Mender action, Artisan's Sorrow disenchanting Leafcrown Dryad, and Baleful Eidolon as pseudo removal.

    The tide of battle begun to turn for regardless of how large Cifka's creatures got to, the ground was effectively clogged up. Cifka also begun to draw into a patch of lands while Kelvin was drawing gas like Erebos's Emissary, Fleecemane Lion, Sentry of the Underworld and Nylea's Disciple (to go back up to eight life).

    The situation persisted for a while as Kelvin added soldier tokens to his board and Cifka added +1/+1 tokens to his creatures and gained life off the Bow (up to 37 life). Eventually, Kelvin sought to break the stalemate by attacking Sentry favoured with Boon of Erebos into the monstrous Asp and taking it out with Lash of the Whip.


    A stalemate board.

    However, it was all for naught as just as Kelvin begun to take over the game, Cifka drew into Abhorrent Overlord, enchanted the Sentry with Viper's Kiss and shot it out of the sky with Bow of Nylea, and stole the game with the flying demon and its minions.

    Stanislav Cifka wins 2-1 and progresses undefeated.




     

  • Round 8 Feature Match- Constant Vigilance
    Chanpleng "Vee" Weranart vs. Kuo Tzu Ching

    by Chapman Sim

  • Chanpleng Weranart, affectionately christened "Vee" is the reigning Thai National Champ. After coming in 12th at Grand Prix Singapore, he followed up that performance with a Top 50 result at Pro Tour's Dragon Maze. He is a well-respected leader within the Thai community and all eyes are on him to perform this weekend.

    Kuo Tzu Ching, currently the 24th ranked player needs little introduction. World Magic Cup Champion. Gold Pro. 10 Grand Prix Top 8s under his belt. Enough said. Now, let's get on with the game.


    Kuo Tzu Ching

    Game One

    With the aid of Heliod, God of the Sun, Vee was able to cause an upset and fight back from a losing position. Kuo had managed to create a 7/6 flyer sooner than expected, which reduced Vee down to six life in just two attack steps. When Kuo tried to force in the final blow using God's Willing, Vee kept it locked down with the help of Triton Tactics, giving him two precious turns to recover.


    A 7/6 flyer which was attacking by Turn 6.

    Vee opened with Traveling Philosopher and Observant Alseid, while Kuo bestowed Leafcrown Dryad onto his Wingsteed Rider. Vee was ready with Griptide to send it back to the top. Undeterred, Kuo simply recast it on the next turn and bestowed Boon Satyr upon it, creating a 7/6 flyer which reduced Vee from 20 to 6 in a matter of two combat steps.

    Vee tried to race with Prescient Chimera, offering up Decorated Griffin as a sacrificial lamb but Kuo had God's Willing to grant protection from white to attempt the final punch. However, Vee had the last laugh and trumped Kuo by using Triton Tactics to untap Prescient Chimera, allowing him to block and cheat death temporarily.


    He made use of the respite to rebuild, adding Horizon Scholar, Wingsteed Rider as well as Heliod, God of the Sun over the next two turns. Now that his team had vigilance, Vee felt comfortable enough to swing with his entire team and Kuo scooped up his cards. Even if he could survive the attack, there was no way he could deal with the incoming stream of 2/1 tokens.

    Vee 1 – Kuo 0


    Game Two

    In an odd twist of fate, both players swapped their decks and in a split second, we were watching a blisteringly fast Boros mirror. However, Vee was able to create the dominant force, thanks to a pair of bestowed Observant Alseids on Spearpoint Oread and Cavalry Pegasus.


    A pair of Observant Alseids creates a dominant board for Vee.

    When Kuo summoned a pair of Wingsteed Riders, Vee dealt with them using Lightning Strike and Rage of Purphoros before any heroic shenanigans could take place. Even Anax and Cymede enchanted with Chosen by Heliod could not help Kuo turn the tables and he eventually lost to the vigilant army.


    Chanpleng "Vee" Weranart

    Vee 2 – Kuo 0

    Reigning Thai National Champ Chanpleng Weranart hands Kuo Tzu Ching his second loss of the tournament and locks up his spot for Day Two!




     

  • Day 1 Undefeated Decklists

    by Chapman Sim







  •  

  • Round 9 Feature Match - Token Warfare
    Shuhei Nakamura vs. Li Bo

    by Noel Neo

  • Shuhei Nakamura, ranked 7th in the Top 25 Pro Rankings is facing off against Li Bo, one of China's top players, in this mirror match of Blue White Elspeth. Both players are at 7-1, safe to enter day two, and are battling for a spot in the Top 8.

    The first game was a quick affair as Omenspeaker enchanted with Ordeal of Heliod kept Shuhei ahead throughout the game and allowed him to close with Heliod, God of the Sun, Evangel of Heliod, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

    Li Bo had attempted to race with an early Vaporkin, but the Ordeal kept Shuhei far out of reach. Shuhei also gained much tempo when he played the Ordeal and kept Annul mana open to counter Li Bo's Nimbus Naiad on turn three.


    Li Bo

    Li Bo took the early lead in game two with Scholar of Athreos. He tried to build on that with Phalanx Leader but it was Dissolve'd before it hit play. Shuhei again had Heliod, God of the Sun.

    The next phase of the game was a tempo skirmish between Chimeras and Sphinx. Shuhei's Prescient Chimera met Voyage's End the moment it hit play, so Li Bo's Horizon Scholar stuck first. When replayed, the Chimera was trumped by Li Bo's Elspeth, Sun's Champion who begun to marshal her soldiers.

    Shuhei was not yet out of the game, as Hopeful Eidolon bestowed on the Chimera brought Elspeth back down to one loyalty. When the Chimera next attempted to take Elspeth out for good, Horizon Scholar blocked the path with Battlewise Valor. Shuhei saved his creature with Triton Tactics and Li Bo upped the stakes with Dauntless Onslaught. But it was not be as the Gods Willing negated the damage.


    Shuhei Nakamura

    Li Bo then tried for a more permanent solution by bestowing Nimbus Naiad on the Sphinx, but Shuhei yet again had the perfect answer in Griptide. A series of chump blocks by the Naiad and Sphinx followed, before Elspeth activated her -3 loyalty ability to destroy Prescient Chimera and the Setessan Griffin Shuhei cast the previous turn finally put an end to her threat.

    While Li Bo had 12 soldier tokens from Elspeth, Shuhei was at a very comfortable 32 life from the lifelink'd Chimera and there were no profitable attacks for Li Bo. Li Bo had, however, exhausted most of his resources achieving this game state and Shuhei still had four cards in hand so Li Bo was pressured to end the game quickly and begun sending his team in despite some losses. Nakamura then dropped the bomb in the form of his own Elspeth, Sun's Champion.

    Li Bo was able to remove Elspeth from the equation, with help from Mnemonic Wall returning Voyage's End to bounce Heliod on his turn, but in so doing went down to just five soldier tokens, Scholar of Athreos and Travelling Philosopher.

    With Shuhei simply continuing to pump out the gas in Heliod, Sealock Monster and Master of Waves, Li Bo was soon overwhelmed.

    (7) Shuhei Nakamura wins 2-0 and advances to day two with an 8-1 record.




     

  • Saturday, 9:00 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1: The Player

    by Noel Neo

  • The Sealed pool presented to you earlier today offered a wide variety of choices. Our pro chose to maindeck Black-Blue Control for its suite of removal and coherent theme of evasion creatures to close the game. Who is this player?

    Shouta Yasooka, best known for winning Pro Tour Charleston 2006 with Tomohiro Kaji and Tomoharu Saitou and taking that year's the Player of the Year title, is also the 2009 Magic Online Sealed Champion and placed seventh in the 2011 and 2012 Pro Players Club standings.

    Shouta had agonised over the choice between the Controlling Black deck and the Aggressive Red-White option.


    Shouta Yasooka agonising over his choice.

    "Both decks are very playable and I decided on Black because of Abhorrent Overlord, which is a strong finisher that has no easy answers. Red-White remains a sideboard option and I intend to do so when paired against a slow deck."

    Between the supporting colours of Blue and Green, Shouta liked the conditional removal in Green but said Blue fit the overall theme better.

    "Blue has evasion creatures which fits the overall theme of the deck. This enables me to play Akroan Horse as my attackers can fly over the defender. Akroan Horse would not be playable with Green because the Green creatures would not be able to attack through. I may sideboard Green in when paired against a deck with large ground based creatures because of the Sedge Scorpions."

    Overall, Shouta was happy with his pool despite the playables being spread out among the colours because it gave him multiple sideboard options.

    He finished day 1 with an 8-1 record, the only loss being the feature match in round 5 against Xiao Yu and his overwhelming removal.




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