Sunday, November 26: 4:15 p.m. - Top 8 Preview and Profiles
So the Japanese gambit didn't quite work out how they wanted it to, since Mori ID'd and Saito lost to Molder Slug of all things. Tsumura, however, managed to hold up his end of the bargain, winning on the very last turn of extra time in game 3 of the Tog on Tog mirror match. His win allowed him to squeak into the Top 8 in eighth place pitting him against… Olivier Ruel. Also on that side of the bracket is Oiso vs. Saito, meaning we'll get back-to-back matches of player of the year candidates. Guess which match we'll be covering for the quarters?
Olivier Ruel - What can you say about him that hasn't already been said? How about the fact that he is now going for his fourth Grand Prix title this year.
Kenji Tsumura - The current runner up in the Player of the Year race is still looking for his first individual title.
Masashi Oiso - Yep, all three of them made it to the Top 8 playing three different decks. Ruel said he was hoping for an Oiso loss in the quarters because he didn't want to face Scepter Chant if he could get past Tsumura.
Katsuhiro Mori - The third member of the Oiso/Tsumura/Mori team also made it to the Top 8 this weekend, quietly racking up wins all weekend.
Tomoharu Saito - Saito missed out on the Top 8 down in Australia, but made up for it here. He just has to hope he doesn't face any Molder Slugs in the elimination rounds.
Li Gong Wei - This Chinese amateur finished Day 1 undefeated and ended the swiss in second place, guaranteeing a healthy pay day with the loss of his amateur status. He was the alternate on last year's Chinese National Team and is a hometown favorite.
Ming Da Tsia - Tsai was the 2004 Taiwan National Champ.
Dong Zhong - Dong lived in Australia for a while and is a former member of the Chinese National team. I have been informed that sketchy name puns are to be avoided, so I'll just move along.
Sunday, November 26: 4:37 p.m. - Quarterfinals: Kenji Tsumura vs. Olivier Ruel
I have been granted a pardon for my oversight of not covering this match in the swiss and now we get to feature it when it really matters. In truth, these two were hoping to escape each other in some fashion, hoping the other would fall along the way, but it didn't happen. Olivier did his best to knock Kenji out of Top 8 contention by bashing him in the swiss, but Tsumura is little more than 100 pounds of Magic prowess topped off by a spiky tuft of hair and he once again showed it by winning on the final turn of extra time in round 13. Now they are facing each other once again, though the matchup is one that severely favors Ruel. He's faced eight Psychatog decks without a loss in the last two Grand Prix and there's little reason to believe the result will change this time aside from the fact that Kenji Tsumura is a stone cold master of the game.
Tsumura won the die roll and elected to play first. Ruel had the first spell of the game in a turn 2 Birds of Paradise, but Kenji was right on schedule with the toothy one, dropping a Tog into play on turn 3. This tapped Kenji out, allowing Ruel to resolve Seismic Assault and then get really nasty by casting Cabal Therapy for Gifts Ungiven (hitting two) and then flashing it back for two more Circular Logics, leaving Tsumura with only a Pernicious Deed in hand. Kenji's hand was pure gas, but that single Therapy completely changed the course of the game.
Ruel might have had a turn 5 kill without the Deed around, since he had the Loam engine and a stack of land in his opening hand, but as he got going Tsumura blew the Deed, giving him at least one more turn. Ruel plucked Eternal Witness off the top of his deck and that was that - Kenji scooped without even making Ruel go through the motions, done in by having good cards in hand when the Therapy hit.
Ruel 1 - Tsumura 0
Once again Ruel's hand for game 2 was completely broken, containing Birds, Life from the Loam, Seismic Assault and a series of cycling lands. The only thing lacking this time was a devastating Cabal Therapy, though he did have a Duress lurking after turn 3 in case he needed to use it. The Therapy arrived on the next turn, hitting a counter on both the front and back ends, but Duress resolved, snagging a Gifts and suddenly Seismic Assault was in play again and the land engine was flowing like water. Tsumura wasn't without game though, using a Duress to steal the only spell in Ruel's full hand, a second Seismic Assault, and then blowing the Deed on the board to get rid of its twin. He ate eight more points of damage before that resolved, dropping to five but looking safe… for now.
Ruel merely shrugged in his uniquely French way and proceeded to pluck solid gold. Cabal Therapy? Don't mind if I do. Dark Confidant? Thank you very much, deck. The Therapy got rid of a lingering Psychatog in Kenji's hand, revealing a fresh Gifts Ungiven and Genesis. Kenji proved he would not be outdone in any topdecking war, dropping Psychatog directly into play from the top of his deck.
"Oh Kenji… We have some skills, don't we?" Ruel joked.
Ruel used those skills once again, cycling multiple lands (how sick is this uncounterable draw engine?) to draw Putrefy and another Therapy. The Therapy once again nailed Gifts Ungiven only after Olivier did Tog math to make sure he wasn't going to die the next turn (he could have Putrefied the Tog, but chose not to). He was then stunned a turn later when Kenji used Life from the Loam to generate Tog food out of nothing, leaving Ruel mumbling, "Apparently I miscounted somewhere…" Unreal.
Ruel 1 - Tsumura 1
Both players kept once again for the rubber game and they were off. Ruel cast a first turn Bird, following it on turn 2 with a cycled land and The Great One, who ran smack into Force Spike. Duress resolved a turn later revealing Circular Logic, Gifts, Smother, Psychatog and two lands, more good stuff for Kenji. Gifts hit the bin (I think its only purpose in this match is to act as a discard magnet) and Ruel resolved Seismic Assault right behind it. Another Duress stole away Circular Logic, but Ruel was stalled unless he could get his engine revved. "Life from the Loam," he said in a singsong voice, looking briefly stunned at the card he drew before immediately casting it and ending the Psychatog's life with a volley of flaming mud. Ruel then spent the next two turns playing with his graveyard and his hand, using his engine to build a massive hand of flaming death before dropping Tsumura to thirteen, and then killing him in response to a fetchland activation with six more lands to the dome.
Olivier Ruel is now firmly in the driver's seat for the Player of the Year race, but his only reward at the moment is squaring off against Masashi Oiso next round.
Ruel 2 - Tsumura 1
Sunday, November 26: 6:22 p.m. - Decklists: The Top 8 Decks
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
Wei Ligong - CAL
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
Kenji Tsumura - BEAMS Psychatog
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
Tomoharu Saito - Kikoushi
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
Ming Da Tsai - Let's Go
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
GP Beijing 05 Top 8 Deck
Sunday, November 26: 7:15 p.m. - Semifinals: Olivier Ruel vs. Masashi Oiso
Olivier was a bit late getting to the match table, but he had a solid stand-in take his place.
Olivier sat down at the table and immediately started complaining about how bad his matchup is. He figured it was probably 70/30, though that immediately changed to 80/20 when he lost the die roll. If you don't count the scoop to Mori a couple of rounds ago, Ruel hasn't lost in his last 19 rounds of Grand Prix with the deck, an impressive number considering just who he has had to face along the way. With Kenji already dispatched, Ruel has shot down his biggest rival for the Player of the Year title, but now must face the man in third place as well. Oiso has been his normal incredible self, bashing opponents with cheerful efficiency via Scepter Chant. Masashi really needs a win here to make sure Ruel doesn't gain any points on him for this tournament and put him further than ten points behind before next Wednesday.
Ruel had to take a mulligan in game 1, keeping his second hand and casting a first-turn Birds of Paradise. Burning Wish behind that resolved as well, grabbing Cabal Therapy from his sideboard. Oiso responded to the Therapy by Firing Ruel's Birds, making sure he wouldn't get a flashback this turn, though he did hit Thirst for Knowledge. Eternal Witness two turns later brought back the Cabal Therapy as Ruel looked for a window to resolve Seismic Assault. Cabal Therapy for Fact or Fiction Whiffed, but the flashback sent two Isochron Scepters directly to the graveyard and left Oiso with no hand. Winning from that point was rather elementary, all Ruel had to do was resolve the Assault on the next turn. The engine was online, the gas tank was full, and the Assault was… countered by a Counterspell Oiso plucked right off the top of his deck. Wow.
Dark Confidant gave Olivier an extra card drawing option, and Bob plus his bevy of cycling lands meant it was only a matter of time before he'd find what he needed. Five cards down he found another one, cast another Cabal Therapy to make sure the way was clear this time, and then chucked rocks at Oiso's head until he was merely a corpse. Everybody must get stoned.
Ruel 1 - Oiso 0
Oiso went on the aggressive for game 2, flipping an Exalted Angel on turn 4 and attempting to beat Olivier into a pulp. Unfortunately this was only after more discard from Ruel devastated his hand, leaving him with no other real options. Putrefy made sure she was a one-hit wonder, but Ivory Mask (the only one in Oiso's sideboard) followed right behind the Angel, complicating Oli's life dramatically.
Dark Confidant hit play to draw extra cards and get a little rowdy himself, but he managed to drop Ruel's life to six along the way, while Oiso's life was still a very healthy 21. Mikokoro was busy refilling Oiso's hand, while Ruel just kept digging, finally finding what he was looking for with a Burning Wish for Hull Breach. Counterspell solved that potential problem, putting Ruel's options at "Eternal Witness or lose." He found another one two turns later, resolved it getting back Hull Breach only to see the sorcery Mana Leaked. Olivier did some more futzing around with Life from the Loam and at the end of turn Oiso cast Cunning Wish for Brain Freeze, milling Olivier for eighteen, earning a robust "Oooo" from the crowd, and killing Ruel on his next upkeep.
"I thought that game was over after the first couple of turns. Duress then Therapy on the two Thirsts…"
Ruel 1 - Oiso 1
Ruel looked at his first four cards in game 2 and left the other three lying on the table, saying, "I keep." Oiso had to mulligan - a very bad thing when the two spells Ruel had revealed were Putrefy and Cabal Therapy, followed by another Therapy and plenty of land to work with.
The first Therapy named Counterspell, missing but revealing a stacked hand of Leak, Scepter, Wrath, Fact or Fiction, and Eternal Dragon. The second Therapy snagged the Leak, and then Burning Wish a turn later gave Ruel Life from the Loam. Sadly, many of the details for this have been lost to a computer crash, but along the way Oiso had two savage rips in a row, throwing an Isochron Scepter imprinting Lightning Helix on the table. Things began to look very grim for Olivier as his life was being whittled away in three point chunks while Oiso's kept going up.
Masashi is pleased to be facing such a pushover.
"I might win that race…" said Ruel, finally drawing his Seismic Assault seven life to Oiso's 27 with an untapped Scepter.
Ruel cycled a land and drew Loxodon Hierarch, a stellar pluck that gave him two more turns of life when cast, provided Oiso didn't have a counter. He didn't and suddenly Ruel had a very real chance of racing Oiso's enormous life total.
The final two turns of the game took forever as Oiso tried to figure out how much damage Ruel could possibly do to him and take action accordingly. He eventually passed the turn with no action except laying a land. Ruel could only do twenty-six points of damage on his turn plus an attack from the elephant, leaving Oiso at a precarious two life but able to untap and kill him on his own turn.
Oiso 2 - Ruel 1
Sunday, November 26: 8:49 p.m. - Finals: Dong Zhong vs. Masashi Oiso
Masashi Oiso can taste the Pro Points!
Dong Zhong is a 23-year old computer worker from China. He was actually able to attend Pro Tour: Los Angeles where he played Rock, but now he's China's last best hope of keeping the title for its first ever Grand Prix in country and he'll be relying on CAL to do it. His opponent is none other than Japanese superstar Masashi Oiso. Oiso had some tremendous luck in the semis to get past Olivier Ruel and is hoping for a win here so that he can shave Ruel's lead in Pro Points down to eight heading to Yokohama next weekend. The deck that he's relying on this time around is Scepter Chant, a matchup Ruel said is pretty good for Masashi, though it didn't really show in the semis.
Zhong won the die roll and chose to play, coming out of the gates with a turn 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder and its twin on turn 3. Oiso bettered those plays by a large degree, casting Isochron Scepter on his own turn 3, imprinting Counterspell. Zhong beat down with the snakes for a bit, working Bob under a counter for extra card drawing, but the animals all died on Oiso's next turn, smote by an angry god. Oiso let Zhong resolve Burning Wish for Life of the Loam, bringing the sickest card drawing engine in Extended online, but all Zhong could do with it was draw more cycling lands.
For his part, Oiso resolved a second Scepter, this time on Fire/Ice, giving him some pressure, though he was mostly worried about keeping Zhong's Seismic Assault off the board because he was failing to draw any additional action. Duress from Zhong snagged Absorb, Burning Wish for Hull Breach resolved, Hull Breach hit the Scepter counter, and then Zhong cast Eternal Witness. Oiso Iced Zhong's available Forest which was tapped for Green and then got a little lucky, drawing Counterspell from the top of his deck to keep the Hull Breach in the yard before Zhong was forced to pass the turn. One bullet dodged.
Zhong cast and resolved Solitary Confinement on his next turn, and Oiso got to cast Fact or Fiction, using the lonely Cunning Wish to fetch Orim's Chant which was then stuck on a stick for Masashi's turn. Oiso then made an extremely uncharacteristic mistake, Orim's Chanting with Solitary Confinement on the board for Dong. Luckily Isochron Scepter says "You may" on the card, or else Oiso would have lost right then and there because he'd have been unable to counter Dong's Assault. As it was, Zhong couldn't find the right mix of spells to get past the Sticks and Oiso went up 1-0 after a very long game 1.
Oiso 1 - Zhong 0
Zhong had a good start game 2, casting a first turn Birds followed by Dark Confidant on turn 2. Burning Wish two turns later let him get Cabal Therapy naming Thirst for Knowledge, revealing Mana Leak and Ivory Mask plus a host of lands. The flashback traded with Leak and Ivory Mask was once again in play and in force. The damage race after Zhong attacked a turn later was 9-8 in Oiso's favor - Bob was beating Zhong handily about the face in return for the extra card each turn. Zhong added another Maher clone to the board but Sensei's Divining Top trailed it, meaning Zhong could now control the bleeding much better. Zhong's attacks dropped Oiso to three, meaning he needed Wrath of God and he needed it now in order to survive. Isochron Scepter on Fire/Ice wasn't it and the match was now even at one a piece, eliciting a huge round of approval from the Chinese crowd.
Oiso 1 - Zhong 1
Zhong had to Paris to start game 3, keeping a one-lander with the second six but drawing a land on his first turn. Duress revealed Ivory Mask, Fact or Fiction and Fire/Ice, stealing the Fact. Burning Wish on turn 3 from Zhong resolved, fetching Cabal Therapy, which then ran into Mana Leak, allowing Oiso to plunk down Ivory Mask on turn 4. Now it became a race of card advantage. The Eternal Witnesses in Zhong's hand wouldn't help him because Burning Wish removes itself from the game, so Zhong needed to start digging in order to find enough attackers to overwhelm Oiso or another Burning Wish to grab Hull Breach, thus making Seismic Assault relevant. Oiso further gummed up the works with a Scepter on Counterspell.
Dark Confidant gave Zhong more card drawing power, but Oiso countered a Sensei's Divining Top behind it and an Eternal Witness as well. Another Top a turn later gave Zhong superior card selection and you could now read the concern on Oiso's face. Zhong played draw a whole lot, go for a couple of turns before eventually casting Putrefy on Oiso's Scepter, seeing it countered, and then trying to Eternal Witness it back, but Oiso again had a Counterspell waiting. Another Putrefy off the top plus another Witness finally ended the Scepter's reign. Oiso wasn't done though (he hardly ever is), casting a busty end of turn Fact or Fiction for two more Scepters, Exalted Angel, Thirst for Knowledge and a Mox. The piles were divided into artifacts and non, and Masashi chose the colored pile after a great deal of deliberation.
Zhong Dong would not be denied!
The Angel came in as a morph and Oiso passed the turn, looking cool despite a rather precarious situation. Genesis returned Eternal Witness to Zhong's hand and Dark Confidant attacked, again forcing a tough decision from Oiso. He chose not to block, dropping to eight life and then losing the Angel to a reprised Putrefy. End of turn Thirst for Knowledge left Masashi discarding his last Scepter, only two turns from death. Excepting of course that he played a Sensei's Divining Top and then flipped Fire/Ice into play off the Top, killing both of Zhong's men. Sadly, that was the last cool play for Oiso. Dong used the opening to cast Burning Wish for Hull Breach, Hull Breached Ivory Mask, and then slammed Seismic Assault into play, immediately pointing four lands directly at Masashi's dome.
This Grand Prix title is staying home! Dong Zhong is the winner of Grand Prix-Beijing!
Zhong 2 - Oiso 1