he Chinese have a saying. "Shi Quan Shi Mei", meaning "to be perfect in every way, worthy of a score ten out of ten". This was exactly what we had today at Grand Prix Beijing, with exactly 1010 players, a record-setting high in Mainland China.
Three players exited Day One with perfection. Nam Sung-Wook from South Korea went undefeated with the very same deck that he won Grand Prix Melbourne with, a testament to his mastery with Mono Black Devotion.
Fellow friends Wang Chih Min and Terry Cheng Tung-Yi from Taiwan are both armed with the fiery and "flame-bouyant" Boros Burn deck, clearly a crafty metagame choice to prey upon the sea of control decks in the field. By the way, if the name Cheng rings a bell, he happens to be the exact same World Magic Cup Champion (alongside Kuo Tzu-Ching, Ivas Yang and Paul Renie) who topdecked the very famous Bonfire of the Damned against Brian Kibler at the Magic World Cup 2012
Hot on their heels are a bunch of other talented players at a decently healthy 8-1 record, including Naoki Shimizu, Shuhei Nakamura, Raymond Tan, Yuuta Takahashi and Lee Shitian.
Other Grand Prix veterans like Ken Yukuhiro, Frank Karsten, Makihito Mihara, Yuuya Watanabe, Kuo Tzu-Ching and Kelvin Chew also made the final cut, ensuring that tomorrow will be action-packed for sure. We'll see you tomorrow back here in Beijing!
Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists
by Event Coverage Staff
Zhang Jiyu Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #01)
Feng Renpu Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #02)
Jian Zhong Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #03)
Zhao Yue Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #04)
Jen Chien Ming Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #05)
Cho Jeong Woo Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #06)
Lu Liguo Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #07)
Li Zheng Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #08)
Zhang Mengqiu Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #09)
Sun Fangzhou Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #10)
Yang Mingjun Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #11)
Hu Ti Grand Prix Beijing (Trial Winner #12)
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. - The Continuation from Cincinnati
by Chapman Sim
The Standard season is in full swing and we've had some time to digest what Born of the Gods has had to offer. With Grand Prix Cincinnati just concluded, let us take a quick peek at the state of the metagame and how we expect the Chinese to adapt accordingly. For starts, it was pretty much a great week for Thoughtseize, as represented by 23 (out of a possible 32) copies in the Top 8.
Putting three Esper Control decks in the Top 8 (and several more in the Top 16), we can safely conclude that this three-color control deck will continue to be one of the top contenders this week in Beijing. The weekend in Cincinnati culminated in an all-Esper finals between former Player of the Year Brad Nelson and eventual Champion Kyle Boggemes. Nightveil Specter proved to be an major game-changer for the mirror, and it was exactly what Boggemes used to sweep the Top 8 to clinch his first Grand Prix title. We expect Chinese players to jump on the bandwagon, or at least be prepared to beat this monster control deck.
One of the trumps is possibly Jacob Maynard's Naya Hexproof deck. Laden with downright-unfriendly and untargetable creatures like Gladecover Scout, Voice of Resurgence and Witchstalker, it even has Boros Charm and Mending Touch to protect against the omnipresent Supreme Verdict. Unflinching Courage is traditionally good against aggressive strategies and Madcap Skills provides a light touch of "evasion" as well as an alarmingly fast clock in combination with Ethereal Armor.
Perhaps the only deck capable of handling a colossal hexproof, first-striking and lifelinking monster would be the black-based control decks packing Devour Flesh. With Thoughtseize championed as one of the best cards in the format, black mages only need to make a choice of whether to end games with Pack Rat, Desecration Demon or Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Orzhov Control propelled Jared Boettcher and Auston Tramper into the Top 8, so we expect Swamps and Plains (and Temple of Silence) to remain popular in Beijing.
Speaking of ending games quickly with black creatures, Clyde Martin opted to pack a quicker punch with unassuming dudes like Tormented Hero, Rakdos Cackler and Pain Seer. Packing a similar removal and hand disruption package as Boettcher and Tramper, Martin however opted to close games quickly with Herald of Torment and Mogis's Marauder. Bamf!
Lastly, the demise of Blue Devotion is mostly an urban legend, seeing how Jeffrey Pyka managed to bring Thassa, God of the Sea and Ephara, God of the Polis into the Top 8. Admittedly a little weak against Esper, we expect this archetype to be less popular this weekend, but never underestimate the power of Master of Waves and Bident of Thassa.
With over a thousand players in the tournament hall today, it marks the largest tournament in China to date! Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates and may the odds be ever in your favor!
Round 3 Feature Match – Da Wang (Esper Control) vs. Zhiyang Zhang (Mono-Black)
by Pip Foweraker
Zhiyang Zhang is one of China's better-recognised players, being a member of the winning Worlds team in 2009. This weekend, he's piloting a Mono-Black build against Da Wang's Esper control. The matchup is reminiscent of similar decks across formats dating back to Magic's infancy: the crux of the games will be whether Wang can stabilise against an efficient, disruptive strategy in time for his more-powerful-in-the-abstract control cards to take the match. With Mono-Black riding high in the current format, a lot will come down to the few 'free' slots that each player has tinkered with from the more common 'stock' lists, as drawn from the many recent events featuring both popular decks.
Both games would feature early aggression and disruption from Zhang, but Wang was able to stabilise in both instances, the power of multiple Planeswalkers being too much for even Pack Rats to punch their way through.
Zhang had the first meaningful action with a Pack Rats. Wang was unfazed, Dissolving a Thoughtseize and calmly dropping lands to Detention Sphere the Rats. Zhang stalled on lands, casting an Underworld Connections but losing out on tempo by not being able to activate it immediately. Wang had a Jace, Architect of Thought to push himself further ahead on cards, while Zhang summoned another Pack Rats and offed the Jace with a Mutavault.
Wang used another Sphere to wipe out Zhang's Underworld Connections, giving Zhang a window to divest himself of a Lifebane Zombie. Wang's hand was full of gas: an Elspeth, a Sphinx's Revelation and a Dissolve stared down the Zombie. As the damage started to stack up, Wang fired a Revelations for 4 and summoning an Elspeth to clog the ground up.
Wang wistfully wonders, 'Whence will my Wrath wreak woe on these worrisome wretches?'
A Thoughtseize from Zhang nabbed a second Sphinx's Revelation, leaving Wang a window to summon a Jace. Zhang responded by casting a Hero's Downfall on the Elspeth before she got too out of hand. Wang had just shown a pair of Dissolves during the resolution of the Thoughtsize, and thought long and hard before letting it resolve, keeping his mana open for any further threats from Zhang.
Zhang elected not to cast anything and just bashed with his team, forcing Wang to sacrifice a Mutavault on defence and dropping him to 2 life. A suicidal Jace activation found him a Supreme Judgment to clear out Zhang's army. When he attacked with a Mutavault for lethal, Wang fired off a Sphinx's Revelation to keep himself alive for another turn. A second Elspeth looked to tie down a Zhang's Desecration Demon.
Stabilising at 1 life, Wang started to claw his way back into the game with an army of Elspeth tokens, while Zhang's library chose not to give him much gas for a couple of turns. Wang switched to an aggressive stance having accumulated an army of Soldier tokens. When he attacked, Zhang tried a Bile Blight to clear them out and (hopefully!) let his Desecration Demon take the first game. Wang had the counter, stopped Zhang's follow-up Gray Merchant of Asphodel cold, and took the game a few swings later.
Da Wang 1 - Zhiyang Zhang 0
An early Duress from Zhang saw a hand replete with lands, a Sphinx's Revelation and a Dark Betrayal. Zhang took the Revelation, leaving Wang looking to the top of his deck for something to stymie Zhang's game plans. Relentless, a Thoughtseize took theDark Betrayal and let Wang knocking the top of his deck.
Zhang's Lifebane Zombie started the clock ticking. Wang managed to draw aDissolve, but Zhang, either reading his opponent or just playing conservatively, merely animated a Mutavault and bashed for 5. Wang summoned a Jace, Architect of Thought and used his first ability, forcing Zhang to split his attacks or give the control player some breathing room. Zhang hit the Jace and summoned a Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Zhang expresses mild frustration at not having either an alliterative surname or an answer to Elspeth.
Wang's Jace found him a Blood Baron of Vizkopa to shore up things on the ground and potentially gain himself some life back. Zhang had a Pack Rats, and then both players settled dow, their dudes staring across the battlefield at each other for a cycle of turns. Zhang drew something relevant and began his assault, Wang's Blood Baron gobbling the Lifebane Zombie . Wang failed to notice that the attacking creatures had been previously neutered by Jace's ability and mistakenly dropped his planeswalker in the bin. He recovered the following turn with a fresh one, who revealed a pair of Sphinx's Revelations, to Zhang's mild consternation. It was time for the Blood Baron to get to work, the powerful vampire rumbling in. Zhang returned fire by taking out the second Jace and threatening a pile of Pack Rats.
Time was called and, one game up, Wang switched strategies and held back with his Blood Baron during extra turns. Zhang had a Devour Flesh, but Wang tapped his sole remaining mana to activate a Mutavault. Once the land was animated, Zhang offed it with a Hero's Downfall and ended up clearing out the Blood Baron and knocking Wang down to a dangerously low life total. On his last turn, Wang found a Supreme Judgment, and that was enough to blow out Zhang's army and seal the match.
Da Wang 1 - Zhiyang Zhang 0
Round 4 Feature Match – Shuhei Nakamura vs. Lei Yu Sheng
by Chapman Sim
Being at the perfect score for the first third of the day is a good feeling but Lei was not pleased to be paired against Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura. Armed with a Jund Monsters deck, splashing black for Dreadbore, Reaper of the Wilds and Rakdos's Return, Lei would need to play exceptionally well to beat Nakamura's streamlined Mono Black Devotion deck.
Nakamura kickstarted the game with double Thoughtseize, quickly removing Courser of Kruphix and Domri Rade from Lei's grip. He continued the disruption with a Lifebane Zombie on turn three, netting Reaper of the Wild this time.
Lei did manage to peel a replacement Reaper of the Wilds, but Nakamura trumped with Desecration Demon, a much faster clock than the gorgon was. Lei could only attempt to race by attacking Reaper of the Wilds, while finishing off the intimidating zombie with Mizzium Mortars.
Nakamura denied him two mana and "demonic sacrificial fodder" by pointing Bile Blight at a pair of Elvish Mystics, allowing Lei to Scry twice. This didn't net him anything useful, but Domri Rade was able to help him tank a hit from the Desecration Demon.
Turn 5 Pack Rat with 3 mana open was the final nail in the coffin though. When Lei passed the turn dropping a relatively-underwhelming Courser of Kruphix, Nakamura simply made a copy of Pack Rats, before untapping and casting another from his hand.
A flurry of hand disruption from Nakamura quickly destroy's Lei's chances.
Shuhei Nakamura 1 – Lei Yu Sheng 0
Lei opened with Sylvan Caryatid and Polukranos, World Eater and Nakamura deflected both with a combination of Devour Flesh and Hero's Downfall. However, Lei was ready with Reaper of the Wilds once again.
Nakamura tried to pull ahead with card advantage provided by Underworld Connections, while using a pair of Duresses to strip Dreadbore and Rakdos's Return from Lei's hand, leaving him with just a pair of Stormbreath Dragons.
Ripping a 4th land off the top and tapping Sylvan Caryatid, Lei was able to deploy a hasty dragon. Sacrificing Sylvan Caryatid to feed Desecration Demon, Lei struck for eight damage, forcing Nakamura to summon Gray Merchant of Asphodel (for six) to stay alive.
Despite Nakamura's attempts to block, Lei was able to cough up enough creatures to keep Desecration Demon tapped, until he finally finished it off with Dreadbore and clinching the match with the Reaper of the Wilds that had proved problematic to remove.
Lei Yu Sheng equalizes the score against Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura.
Shuhei Nakamura 1 – Lei Yu Sheng 1
Nakamura was first to begin and he did start excellently. Boring but brutal, the classic combination of Thoughtseize and Pack Rat enabled him to remove Ultimate Price and he was able to duplicate a copy unopposed.
Lei had an equally fast start involving Turn 1 Elvish Mystic, Turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid, Turn 3 Reaper of the Wilds and Turn 4 Stormbreath Dragon. Even though he could keep back Reaper of the Wilds to block, Lei decided to turn both his monsters sideways, indicating he would like to race the rodents.
Muttering under his breath, flicking his cards and tapping the table profusely, Nakamura started to do the math. Could his three (and counting) rats outrace Lei's 8 power of creatures? Clearly he felt he could and decided to go down to 10 life.
Nakamura counterattacked with 3 rats, and made a 4th, dealing 12 damage in one fell swoop. As the game reached it final throes, both players knew they had but one turn at most. Lei decided he was at the point of no return and continued to turn both his monsters sideways, but Nakamura was ready with Doom Blade, securing his victory.
It didn't matter what he was going to draw next, it would most likely become his fifth Pack Rat.
A horde of Rats outrace Reaper of the Wilds and Stormbreath Dragon.
Shuhei Nakamura 2 – Lei Yu Sheng 1
Round 5 Feature Match – Hao-Shan Huang vs. Ken Yukuhiro
by Pip Fowerake
Hao-Shan is one of the APAC region's most recognisable players, consistently posting exceptional results as both a player and as a member of the eminent MTGMintcard team. Ken Yukuhiro's reputation as a deck designer and one of Magic's sharpest brewers is well deserved, his creations raising eyebrows and winning matches left, right and centre. Huang brought a powerful Esper deck to the table, but Yukuhiro's U/B Heroic deck outmanoeuvred its way through the control matchup, highlighting one of the advantages of bringing an unknown quantity into an established metagame.
Huang led off with a scry land, while Yukuhiro opened with a Watery Grave and a Tormented Hero. The Hero got pinged with an Azorius Charm, stemming his offensive ever-so-briefly. Yukuhiro simply summoned a second Hero.
Huang's Thoughtseize showed a hand of Xathrid Necromancer, Agent of Fates, Springleaf Drum and a Boon of Erebos, the first hint that this wasn't a variant on Mono-Black Aggro. Huang nabbed the Necromancer and passed with a sigh and a shake of his head, clearly not liking the look of the next few turns.
Yukuhiro summoned the Agent of Fates and attacked with his Hero, threatening all manner of heroic triggers on his following turn. Huang waited until Yukuhiro animated and attacked with a Mutavault to Doom Blade it, but Yukuhiro kept his land hanging around with his Boon of Erebos. Huang had a Detention Sphere for the Agent of Fates, but looked to be falling behind.
Ken 'Heroic' Yukuhiro, Level 17 Shenaniganist
Yukuhiro attacked, then summoned a Pain Seer and a Springleaf Drum to power out a Tormented Hero (and give himself a draw off the Seer, thus living the dream of idealist deckbuilders since the cards were spoiled). Huang summoned a Jace, Architect of Thought and shrunk Yukuhiro's creatures. Yukuhiro used a Retraction Helix to deal some more damage to Huang, then attacked him down to a precarious 1 life. When the Pain Seer flipped a Boon of Erebos off the top of Yukuhiro's library, Huang scooped up his cards and headed for the sideboard.
Ken Yukuhiro 1 - Hao-Shan Huang 0
Yukhiro started things off with Tormented Hero. His follow-up Xathrid Necromancer got Dissolved, and Tormented Hero took his Last Breath fairly shortly thereafter. Yukuhiro powered up with a Pain Seer and dropped a Hidden Strings on it. Huang tried to off it with a Last Breath, and when that got countered, a Dark Betrayal, but Yukuhiro had a Mizzium Skin to keep the Dark Confidant-wannabe around for another untap step.
Huang plots the demise of a certain Pain Seer
Yukuhiro added to the pressure with an Agent of Fates. Huang, having enough of this nonsense, unloaded a pair of Detention Spheres to clear the board, then followed up with an Ætherling and a Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Yukuhiro shrugged and shuffled up his cards.
Hao-Shan Huang 1 - Ken Yukuhiro 1
Huang mulliganed to 5 for the decider and Yukuhiro opened with his now-eponymous Tormented Hero. He followed with a Thoughtseize, showing Blood Baron, Elspeth, Supreme Judgment and 2 lands in Huang's hand - not bad for a 5-card starter. He took the Judgment, Huang simply laying lands and passing. A Xathrid Necromancer helped drop Huang to 12 before Yukuhiro summoned an Artisan of Forms.
Huang had his 4th land for the Blood Baron, but was forced to have it come into play tapped. On a somewhat perilous life total, Huang pondered his options before pointing a Detention Sphere at the Artisan of Forms. Yukuhiro attacked with both his creatures before summoning a Desecration Demon, obviating Huang's unsummoned Blood Baron, which Huang was obliged to cast regardless.
Yukuhiro cast a Hidden Strings, tapping the Blood Baron and triggering Heroic from his Tormented Hero. The tapped Baron stopped the Demon for a turn, but Huang couldn't find any answers, Yukuhiro's innovative U/B concoction taking the match.
Ken Yukuhiro 2 - Hao-Shan Huang 1
Round 6 Feature Match – Sun Bo vs. Nam Sung-Wook
by Chapman Sim
Both players have unblemished records thus far and intend to keep it that way. Nam Sung-Wook has had the honor of being the first South Korean player to win a Grand Prix, achieving this feat at Melbourne less than a month ago. Running the very same deck that propelled him to victory, Nam is back with Mono Black Devotion, but has tuned his deck to run Duress in the maindeck in view of the shifting metagame.
His opponent, Sun Bo, is no slouch himself. Known as duotianshi203 on Magic Online, he was the powerhouse that almost nearly became the MTGO Player of the Year, narrowly losing to eventual winner Shouta Yasooka by a two mere Qualifying Points.
Sun laments that it was a heartbreaking defeat, considering he had been leading the entire season for the first ten months before being overtaken. Regardless, he remains one of the most well-known players in Mainland China and will try to disrupt Nam's attempt at perfection.
After a trip to Paris, Nam opened with Duress, nabbing Syncopate from Sun's hand. This left Sun with with just a fistful of lands and a lone Supreme Verdict. Thankfully, he had a pair of Scrylands at the ready, which enabled him to smooth out his future draws.
Not having a third untapped land, Nam activated Mutavault, and swung for 4 damage, before laying Temple of Deceit. This prompted Sun to cast Jace, Architect of Thought to slow down the bleeding by shrinking the opposing army.
Sun decided it was time to draw some cards and flipped over Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Sphinx's Revelation and Azorius Charm. Nam was clearly very experienced in this matchup, and wasted no time in isolating Elspeth. Sun took the larger pile, with Sphinx's Revelation and Azorius Charm.
Regardless, double Pack Rats and double Mutavault crashed into the red zone. Nam activated a third Mutavault, turning all the Pack Rats into temporary 5/5s, but only for a short moment. Sun blocked the first Mutavault with his own, and sent the other onto the top of the library.
Supreme Verdict cleared the board and it looked like Sun was in firm control having protected his Jace for upwards of five turns. Sun fired off the first Sphinx's Revelation, and then another. Soon Ætherling reared it's ugly head and even Underworld Connections from Nam could not bother Sun as he proceeded to close the game in three attack steps.
Sun Bo 1 – Nam Sung-Wook 0
Sun's strategy seemed to be keeping land-heavy hands and hoping for good cards on top with the help of the dozen Scrylands in his deck.
Nam used Thoughtseize to remove Blood Baron of Vizkopa, leaving Sun with nothing but land. But being the talented player that he is, he topdecked Syncopate to stop Nam's Nightveil Specter. Nam was unbothered, and resolved Underworld Connections. Without Detention Sphere, Sun would eventually become buried with the extra card granted per turn.
The extra cards drawn were pretty useful. Duress forced Sun to lose Elspeth, Sun's Champion, paving the way for a very scary Erebos, God of the Dead. When Blood Baron of Vizkopa hit play, Nam was ready with Devour Flesh.
Despite drawing the Detention Sphere he required (exiling Underworld Connections), Nam proceeded to draw not one, not two, but three cards from Erebos on the next turn, clearly unbothered about his life total in this matchup.
Eventually, using Duress to clear the way, he resolved Desecration Demon and finished Sun off in two quick punches, plus a lethal Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Sun Bo 1 – Nam Sung-Wook 1
After both players took a mulligan, Nam's double Duress and Lifebane Zombie forced Sun to discard Sphinx's Revelation, Detention Sphere and Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
This reduced Sun to just three lands in play and two more in his grip. Scrying into Jace, Architect of Thought, it was taken down by Hero's Downfall. When Sun used Dark Betrayal to kill Lifebane Zombie, Nam replaced it with Notion Thief, maintaining the pressurizing clock while switching off Sphinx's Revelation temporarily.
Nam continued to draw more cards with Underworld Connections and Read the Bones, burying Sun with card advantage. When Nam presented Nightveil Specter, Sun decided to throw in the towel and extend the hand.
Drawing a million cards while preventing your opponent from doing so, is a great strategy to secure victory, as demonstrated by Nam.
Sun Bo 1 – Nam Sung-Wook 2
Nam Sung-Wook defeats Sun Bo and moves to 6-0.
Saturday, 6:00 p.m. - A Quick Chat with Zhou Quan
by Chapman Sim
Zhou Quan is pretty well-known in Mainland China. In fact, he is the defending champion of this event, having won Grand Prix Beijing 2013 less than a year ago. Swimming past a pool of nearly 900 players, he successfully defended the trophy by beating Nonthakorn Kositaporn of Thailand in the finals, with the aid of Gift of Orzhova.
Zhou Quan, winner of Grand Prix Beijing 2013
Now that he has had his taste of victory, he is back in Beijing to show that he was no fluke. At the moment, he is standing at an undefeated 5-0-1 record. "I'm playing Esper today. The probability of getting a draw is quite high compared to the other decks," Zhou admitted.
A logistics manager by profession, he has also furthered his own passion by opening a card store in Shanghai, aptly named the Champion Card Store. Quickly becoming a huge part of the Chinese community, he was glad to share with me that he will soon be hosting a Pro Tour Qualifier at his store.
Zhou Quan, possible winner of Grand Prix Beijing 2014?
When asked about his MTG plans for the year, Zhou says he will be attending Grand Prix Shanghai for sure since it is just a stone's throw away. He is thinking of attending Grand Prix Taipei but aside from these regional events, he is fully focused in running his game store. "I don't have as much time to play as I want. At the moment, my priority is improving my store for the betterment of the Shanghai community." We wish him the best luck as he rushes off to view the pairings for Round 7!
Saturday, 7:20 p.m. - A Quick Chat with Makihito Mihara
by Chapman Sim
Former World Champion (14) Makihito Mihara is possibly the most accomplished player in the room today. He has enjoyed a decent season, even if he professes that he isn't doing as well as he wants to be.
Currently sitting at 31 Pro Points, he is all locked up for Gold next year but surely he can't be happy with "just" that. He is Hall of Famer calibre after all, and nothing less than Platinum is befitting of his status.
A couple of years back, he failed to make the ballot, possibly because his resume was not as impressive as the eventual inductees (Paulo Vitor Dama de Rosa, Masashi Oiso and Kenji Tsumura) but since then, he has added two more Pro Tour Top 8s in Year 2013 alone. This bumped him up to five Pro Tour Top 8s, a feat only 23 other players have matched or surpassed, and almost all of them are Hall of Famers already. Suddenly, seven Grand Prix Top 8s and two wins seems like icing on the cake. Let's just say it wouldn't surprise anyone if he was a hot favorite.
Makihito Mihara speaks about his plans for the remaining half of the season.
Right now, he has his eyes set on renewing his Platinum membership, but time is not in his favor. "I got married last year and my job is keeping me busy. At the moment, I can only attend Grand Prix Nagoya and Grand Prix Taipei before the season ends. I just don't have time to travel more this year."
Doing some simple math would suggest that he is assured 37 Pro Points (6 from the minimum of two Pro Tours). That would require him to pick up an additional 8 Points from the final five events which he intends to attend, including this one.
That averages a Top 75 finish in both Pro Tours and an average of Top 32 in both Grand Prix. While I casually suggest that it shouldn't be a problem for a player his stature, he humbly professes that it is not as easy as one might think.
A nifty combo granted by Born of the Gods, which Mihara was happy to abuse.
Currently at a 6-1 score, he seems to be doing rather well with his Esper Midrange deck, the very same one that helped him break into the Top 8 of Magic: The Gathering's first ever Super Sunday Series. Incidentally, he qualified for the event by winning the Super Sunday at Grand Prix Beijing last year.
Let's hope that Beijing will be kind to him once again, and grant him the much required Pro Points he needs. Good like Mihara-san!
Round 7 Feature Match – Raymond Tan (Burn) vs. Yi-liu Liu (B/g Devotion)
by Pip Foweraker
This feature match highlights the raw power of an all-in strategy against an unprepared field. Red mages have been asking questions of the other colours - mostly 'What was your life total again?' - since the dawn of Magic, and the current Standard format is no exception. Scry is a powerful mechanic when it digs you closer to the next burn spell. Black-based decks in Standard are particularly vulnerable to burn, as two of their key strategic cards - Thoughtseize and Underworld Connections - play very comfortably into a burn deck's game plan. Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Blood Baron of Vizkopa can provide some relief, but they come at the higher end of the mana curve, which is always a risk...
Liu opened with Thoughtseize showing Tan with a Magma Jet and Chandra's Phoenix. He summoned a Pack Rats, which was promptly Shocked. A second Thoughtseize took a Searing Blood, but Tan had his Phoenix and a Mutavault (in addition to the Thoughtseize damage) to keep the pressure up regardless. Liu had an Abrupt Decay for the Phoenix, then cast an Underworld Connections to try and draw into some more answers. Tan didn't give him the time, pushing through more burn damage and recycling his Phoenix to take the first game.
"Are you a little burned, or is that just a deep Tan?"
Raymond Tan 1 Yi-liu Liu 0
Liu's opening Thoughtseize took out a Chandra, Pyromaster, and an Ash Zealot was met with an Abrupt Decay.
A Magma Jet and a Warleader's Helix went to Liu's head, and a Lightning Strike took out a Nightveil Spectre. A Boros Charm knocked Liu to a precarious 4, but Tan's Chandra's Phoenix barely entered the red zone before it was shot with a Hero's Downfall. "No more charms!", pleaded Liu, as he tested the waters with a Thoughtseize. Seeing the coast was clear, he summoned a Gray Merchant of Asphodel and then followed it up with another, gaining a little breathing room.
Liu, barely containing his overwhelming joy at this most fortuitous of matchups.
Unfortunately for Liu, his room ran short as Tan threw a freshly drawn Lightning Strike at him, reanimated his Phoenix and finished things off in short order with another flurry of burn to the dome.
Raymond Tan 2 - Yi-liu Liu 0
Round 8 Feature Match – Sun Wei vs. Yuuya Watanabe
by Chapman Sim
Yuuya Watanabe has been on the bubble before. In fact, he is also rather good at coming back from the clutches of death to win the entire tournament outright. Not that he is envious of his current predicament (5-2), but his opponent Sun Wei certainly wasn't happy to be paired against the Japanese superstar either.
Watanabe has chosen Mono Black Devotion as his weapon of choice this weekend, while Sun opted to play Mono Blue Devotion instead.
Sun opened with a seemingly aggressive start involving triple Cloudfin Raptor and double Mutavault. There was one problem though, Sun was stuck on just a single blue mana.
When Watanabe used Thoughtseize to remove Frostburn Weird and Lifebane Zombie to exile Judge's Familiar, the trio of 0/1 raptors looked really awkward indeed.
Sun was forced to use Rapid Hybridization to kill Pack Rats, but Watanabe was ready with a replacement. Failing to draw a second Island, Sun conceded with two Frostburn Weirds in his grip. Weird game (pun intended).
Sun Wei stumbles on a rather awkward draw, involving three Cloudfin Raptors which were unable to evolve.
Sun Wei 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 1
This time, Sun failed to draw a one-drop but least he was able to deploy Frostburn Weird, Tidebinder Mage and Nightveil Specter, now that he had access to three Islands. Watanabe's draw was considerably slower, and could only manage Underworld Connections and Desecration Demon.
Sun attacked with his trio before destroying the demon with Rapid Hybridization after it had been declared as a blocker. Watanabe took a light scratch, but he replaced the fallen demon with another, keeping Sun's entire army at bay.
Watanabe continued to draw cards with two Underworld Connections but Sun wanted his fingers in the "card advantage pie" too. After casting Bident of Thassa, he sacrificed Mutavault to tap down Desecration Demon, allowing Nightveil Specter to attack unopposed. This granted him a Swamp, useful for casting any of Watanabe's future spells.
However, Watanabe put a stop to that plan. He attacked with Desecration Demon for 7 and drained Sun for 8 more with Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Cyclonic Rift could only delay his death. Ignoring the Mutavaults still in play, Grey Merchant would enter play for yet another time seal the deal regardless.
Yuuya Watanabe defeats Sun Wei and moves to 6-2.
Round 9 Feature Match – Tung-Yi Cheng (Burn) vs. Gong Yin Mao (Jund)
by Pip Foweraker
Both players were undefeated heading into the final round of Day 1 of GP Beijing. Tung-Yi Cheng had been riding a wave of hyper-aggressive creatures and burn, and Gong Yin Mao had piloted a monstrous concoction of creatures to a perfect record.
Mao's opening Elvish Mystic was scorched by a Searing Blood. Cheng followed up with a pair of Ash Zealots, who started pinging away at Mao's life total. Mao summoned a Reaper of the Wilds and passed. I stood up to try and take a photo, and by the time I had the lens cap off, Cheng had played a flurry of removal, there was an adjustment of life totals, and suddenly a slightly ill-looking Mao was reaching for his sideboard. Length of first game: two minutes, twelve seconds.
Mao's slightly shellshocked expression is perfectly understandable at this juncture.
A pair of Sylvan Caryatids did a pretty decent job of clogging the ground up for Mao in the early stages of game 2. Cheng's Boros Reckoner was Abruptly Decayed, but Mao's Polukranos suffered the same fate as Prometheus, Cheng sending a Chandra's Phoenix cracking in overhead unchallenged.
Cheng does the math on just how fast he can set you on fire.
A Reaper of the Wilds from Mao started to get to work on the ground, but he couldn't find any answers to the troublesome flier. Mao dropped a bit of removal and some more guys on the ground, but Cheng simply unloaded his hand of burn and re-cast his Phoenix to take the match. A classic demonstrance of a burn deck simply refusing to meaningfully interact with its opponent's game-plan and merrily doing its own thing, mostly through the application of flame to face.
Tung-Yi Cheng 2 - Gong Yin Mao 0