ay 1 of Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur has come to a close! Yes, folks, it's that time when the vanquished are banished out of the air-conditioned comfort of the Pyramid Mall and into the disgustingly temperate Friday Night Air. Of the thousand-plus players that started the weekend, only a relative handful -128 all told- can't go too wild in enjoying the fantastic food, hospitality and nightlife that KL has to offer.
While the unfortunates nurse their wounds over steaming and spicy bowls of food and perhaps a frosty beverage, our stalwarts are heading home to an early night in preparation for tomorrow's Theros draft. Leading the pack are our undefeated players; Jack Teo, Shouta Yasooka and Yusuka Iwasaki have all gone 9-0, heading into Day 2 with a perfect record. There are 125 players nipping at their heels, though, and Theros draft is a mature format, with few surprises left in it. How will players gain an edge over their opponents to eke out that precious Top 8 slot? Which strategies will reign supreme? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
Grand Prix Trial Winning Decklists
by Pip Foweraker
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial #1 Winner Shaiarizan F Hassan
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial #2 Winner Ryan Beley
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial #3 Winner Kelvin Lew
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial #4 Winner Andrew Lemmon
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial 5 Winner Lim Victomano
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial 6 Winner Aziz Riphat
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial 7 Winner Soon Ceong Teh
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial 8 Winner Khairul Anvar
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur 2014 Trial 9 Winner Maikhu Suripat
Saturday, 12:03 p.m. – Reflections on Theros – Part 1
by Noel Neo
Six of the players who made top 8 at Grand Prix Hong Kong 2013 have returned for another shot at top honours. We caught up with them to tap their expertise on Theros Limited. This first part includes conversations with Ng Soon Lye, Lu Xiaoshi and Denny Dunsford.
How do you think the Theros Limited format has evolved from release to date?
Soon Lye: The Monstrosity mechanic has definitely grown in importance. Games tend to reach the late game, so you want to have the beef to dominate when it does. It is possible to play the quick game with RW, but otherwise, beef!
Xiaoshi: I agree beef is important in Sealed, where it is about bombs and having the largest creature on the board.
Denny: Agreed and agreed. In fact, because of the dominance of green in Sealed, I would go so far as to say Hunt the Hunter is a standout card. It's still a sideboard card, but has a huge impact in games where it's relevant and it's relevant more often than not.
Focusing on Draft now...
Xiaoshi: I think we've come to realise red is not as strong as we initially thought and UG is stronger. Sideboard cards have also become a little more important.
Importantly, the possible strategies and overall skill level have also matured. So players have decks with better synergy and are less likely to make mistakes like misreading cards. The impact is it is more difficult to consistently do well in the current environment.
Denny: Green has gotten too slow. I used to be able to do well with mid-range green decks, but players are now drafting streamlined heroic BW and UW decks that do very well. You need to have a good suite of ramp if you want to do well with green.
Soon Lye: I would say the path to victory is to find your core colour in the first five picks and have the discipline to stick with it. Pick up a secondary colour based on what's under drafted.
It's interesting Denny mentions streamlined heroic BW. That's essentially the deck Tom Martell rode to victory at Grand Prix Sacramento last week... and his deck in relative terms had a noticeable absence of bombs. Not a single rare, with Whip of Erebos and Insatiable Harpy in the sideboard.
Denny: I agree with the decision to sideboard the Whip. It doesn't really help him close the game quickly and that's what his deck wants to do. Not so sure on the Harpy. It is a really good card.
Xiaoshi: Yes. A few of us followed Tom's drafting and he had very good strategy. He had a spot of indecision when considering which cards to cut but I think his decisions were right. The decision to keep Whip and Harpy in the sideboard might also have to do with double black in the cost. Tom's early drops were white with a few double white in the casting cost like Phalanx Leader and Wingsteed Rider, so he might have wanted to ensure he had smooth mana. I'm not sure I personally would have had the courage to sideboard a bomb like Whip of Erebos.
Soon Lye: Tom's deck had excellent synergy. Wingsteed Rider was the MVP and Whip fits better in GB.
Denny, you touched on streamlining heroic decks and speed. Say you're drafting a quick white-x deck and it's pack 3. Would you pick Wingsteed Rider over Elspeth, Sun's Champion?
Denny: Haha... I do think synergy trumps bomb, but I'm still going to go with Elspeth in this situation. I might even take Celestial Archon over Wingsteed Rider.
Born of Gods is going to be released soon. What do you think it's impact on Limited would be?
Soon Lye: RG will make a comeback. Fanatic of Xenagos, Xenagos, God of Revels and Flame-Wreathed Phoenix are really strong. The format probably get a little faster.
Xiaoshi: It's still going to be about beat down. Especially given the Tribute mechanic, where decisions for your opponent become more difficult when he has lower life.
Thank you for sharing and good luck!
Saturday, 12:50 a.m. – Reflections on Theros, Part 2
by Pip Foweraker
With Noel Neo deep in conversation with most of the Top 8 from Theros' inaugural Grand Prix: Hong Kong, I managed to snare a moment with perennial Pro Martin Juza and Grand Prix Bangkok's finalist, Nicholas Wong. We had some quick chats about the development of the format, and of one particularly contentious deck-building decision by Tom Martell on his way to victory last weekend in Sacramento.
We've had a few months now for the Theros Sealed and Draft formats to mature. What has changed in your perception of the formats over time?
Juza: In Sealed, it's difficult to tell, because there are fewer events. But in Draft, people have been creating more and more aggressive decks. At the birth of the format, particularly at Pro Tour Theros, players were focusing on the monstrosity mechanic, large creatures, and the most powerful bestow effects.
As the format has matured, though, the value of cheap tricks, aggressive creatures and tempo-gaining cards are all rising. The Ordeals - even the 'bad' ones - are a good example of this. Aqueous Form is a great example of a card that's gone from a possible 23rd to a confidently mid-range pick.
Wong: I haven't been particularly enamoured with the Theros Limited environment, and I'm quite keen to see what Born of the Gods brings to the tables. Theros Draft and Sealed is increasingly about controlling the tempo of the game, and this leads to swingy board-states. Investing time and mana into either a monstrous creature or using a bestow ability reduces the effectiveness of damage-based removal.
The best removal in the format right now is blue, which is a little silly. Griptide, Voyage's End and Sea God's Revenge are all impressive cards. Especially when players are concentrating on gaining advantage through bestow or heroic triggers, being able to make a creature even temporarily disappear can give you an overwhelming advantage.
Are there any Born of the Gods cards that have caught your attention? In particular, what do you think of the Inspired mechanic?
Juza: I haven't looked at many of the Born of the Gods previews yet. The inspired mechanic looks like it will create some interesting decisions in Limited. Players tend to fantasise about how their decks will curve out - "Two-drop, three-drop, five-drop, bomb!" - but gloss over the far more common situations where you have a bunch of 2/3's staring each other down and not much happening on the board. Having creatures that specifically force you to tap them down - either with the little instants and tricks in Born of the Gods or through attacking - will lead to more complex game states and more choices to make.
Wong: I'm glad to see Springleaf Drum printed as an enabler for the Inspired mechanic. I think it will have some higher value in Limited, as it lets you turn on your Inspire guys and smooth out your mana and draws at the same time.
That said, the most-hyped Inspired card, Pain Seer, falls well short of the Dark Confidant-level hype that has surrounded its previewing. Dark Confidant created card advantage on its own, without needing to necessarily interact with either other cards in your deck or your opponent (through attacking). Even if there's a way around those issues and your Pain Seer can survive early combat and draw you a couple of cards, Dark Confidant variants aren't in an inherently strong place right now.
In terms of other cards, I'm keen to have a play with Phenax, God of Deception. He seems underpowered initially, but I think there's a deck for him somewhere. And if it's possible to break him, then he could end up being one of the stand-out cards of the set.
In winning last weekend's Grand Prix Sacramento, Tom Martell drafted and then consigned to his sideboard a copy of Whip of Erebos, widely considered a powerful card if not a certified bomb. Your thoughts?
Juza: I don't actually like the Whip at all. I would happily take most of the top commons from any colour over it in a draft. In fact, that's what happened to me at Pro Tour: Theros. I had a pack 1, pick 1 choice of Whip of Erebos and Heliod's Emissary, slammed the Emissary, and didn't look back.
The problem with the card is that it's pretty often a Time Walk for your opponent. Spending a whole turn to gain 3 or 4 life at some point down the track is not the best deal. Sure, there will be times when you live the dream and win a race through lifegain or actually get a relevant creature back, but there will be more times when the card effectively does nothing while your opponent plays things that beat you.
Wong: Martell made a good call, and he won, so who am I to second-guess him?
Whip of Erebos is a great example of a card that spends most of its time either helping you win more, or being a distraction from actual victory. Because the format is increasingly tempo-based, spending four-to-eight mana without seriously affecting the board state is often going to be a losing proposition.
That's not to say there aren't times that the Whip will be phenomenal. I'm not a fan of the whole weapon cycle - perhaps in Constructed, but I like my Limited cards to be more impactful.
Saturday, 1:31 p.m. – Conversations with Team mtgmintcard
by Noel Neo
Chapman Sim, fellow coverage writer and finalist at Return to Ravnica Limited Grand Prix Singapore 2013, is also a member of team mtgmintcard, the Asian answer to the emergence of super teams such as ChannelFireball, Star City Games and Face to Face Games. Featuring a roster of Pros including Kuo Tzu-Ching (Taiwan), Huang Hao-Shan (Taiwan), Li Bo (China), Lee Shi Tian (Hong Kong), Zhang Meng Qin (Hong Kong), Soh Weng Heng (Singapore), Shouta Yasooka (Japan) and Junya Iyanaga (Japan), the grouping aims to equalise a field where shared innovation and deck tech can allow an entire team to leapfrog the competition.
We caught up with the team to understand how the movement was started and how they coordinate their testing across a span of geographies.
How was team mtgmintcard formed?
Chapman and Hao-Shan: It started informally really. There are a few of us from Asia who regularly travel to Pro Tours and we started to hang out together and coordinate schedules, etc. Over time, this just evolved into the concept of a testing group and more formalised team structure.
Outside of the core team, we also test with and exchange ideas with other Pros like Ari Lax, Ken Yukuhiro, Kelvin Chew, etc.
The team spans a number of countries. How do you coordinate the testing across the geographic distance?
Chapman and Hao-Shan: The internet is a fantastic enabler. We prepare ourselves and swap ideas through email, facebook, etc. When we play MTGO, we would take screenshots and post them for critique by other team members so the entire team benefits from the experience.
To be honest, we do less testing for Grand Prix. Testing for Pro Tours is a lot more intense. We would rent an apartment and huddle together to fine tune our approach to the metagame. Ken Yukuhiro would be joining our testing group for the next Pro Tour.
With the release of Born of Gods on the immediate horizon, what do you think would have the most impact on Limited?
Shi Tian: The Heroic archetype seems to have received a boost with more Heroic creatures and Auras. WR should become more viable as a result and the format would become a little faster.
Any particular commons and uncommons catch your eye?
Shi Tian: Akroan Skyguard and Meletis Astronomer looks interesting.
Chapman, the last time you switched from writing to playing, you reached the finals of Grand Prix Singapore. You must have learnt something from your time behind the laptop. Any tips on Theros Limited?
Chapman: Well, tempo is really important in this format. It is more important than bombs. The dearth of cost efficient removal means it's difficult to claw back into the game once you're behind.
Round 4 Feature Match – Diyana Abdul Rahman vs Tomoharu Saito (UB vs Naya)
by Pip Foweraker
Rahman apologised nervously as she sat down at the feature match table. "I'm still a little slow", she explained, having only started playing a few months ago. This was her first GP, and she had battled her way to the 3-0 table only to be summoned to a feature match against the dreaded Saito. "I know who you are!", she laughed as the players introduced themselves.
Rahman summoned a Tormented Hero and ran it into Saito's Leafcrown Dryad, regenerating it with a Boon of Erebos. Saito summoned a Nessian Courser and passed, Rahman happy to trade her Hero against it with the aid of a Pharika's Cure.
Saito summoned a Heliod's Emissary, then bestowing it with another Leafcrown Dryad. Rahman played what defence she could, but Saito didn't give her any opportunity to recover. He flashed in a Boon Satyr to take the first game in brutal fashion.
In between rounds, Saito and Rahman chuckled about the incongruously flamenco-style guitar music being piped over the speakers at the venue. "The music is good, but not good for thinking", Saito laughed. "I cannot do combat math to music."
Tomoharu Saito, with a song in his heart and combat math on his mind.
Tomoharu Saito 1 - Diyana Abdul Rahman 0
The second game started off less aggressively, with Saito summoning a Nessian Courier, Rahman with a Returned Centaur to keep things under control. Saito tried an attack with his Courier, and Rahman blocked. A pause stretched into eternity - we all held our breath - and Saito smiled and moved his Courier back to his side of the battlefield. Rahman pumped a little first in victory - correctly calling a Pro's bluff is one of the better feelings in competitive Magic - and looked to her board to see how she could take the game.
Rahman summoned a Baleful Eidolon, while Saito had a Fabled Hero and a Chosen by Heliod to swing the game in his favour. When he attacked, Rahman had a Boon of Erebos to block and kill the Courier, while the Fabled Hero punched on in for a healthy chunk of her life total. A Sip of Hemlock finished off the Hero, allowing Rahman to attack unopposed for the first time in the match.
Rahman ruminates her next assault.
Saito had a Vulpine Goliath, while Rahman summoned a Grey Merchant of Asphodel to even out the life totals somewhat. Saito played a Phalanx Leader and then flash-bestowed a Boon Satyr onto it, spreading a Heroic trigger around and generally getting all up in Rahman's grill. An attack step later, and it was all over.
Tomoharu Saito 2 - Diyana Abdul Rahman 0
Post-match, Saito and Rahman chatted briefly about their mutual love of excellent Japanese food, before Saito offered to workshop Rahman's deck with her. Rahman's deck was originally mono-black in construction, but with a bevy of powerful cards in her sideboard.
A few pointers from the master, and Rahman moved on to the rest of the day's rounds with bolstered confidence (and a mean-looking deck!), having survived her first feature match against one of Magic's true gentlemen.
Post-game analysis forms a big part of improving at Magic, and there are few better teachers than Saito.
Round 5 Feature Match - Hideki Tsujimoto vs Terry Soh
by Noel Neo
Terry has been Malaysia's stalwart Pro for the past decade. Winner of the Magic Invitational 2005, his is the face of Rakdos Augermage.
Having been on a bit of a hiatus since making the top 8 at the 2009 World Championship, Terry remains a legend on the local scene. Would this be his comeback event?
Game 1 was a thrilling exchange of massive tempo swings and evasive creatures.
After mulligans on both sides of the table, the players had different but equally effective routes to draw out of early mana woes. Hideki with Ordeal of Thassa on Omenspeaker and Terry with Warriors' Lesson on a pair of Wingsteed Riders.
Hideki stuck on Islands
Griptide netted Hideki the first tempo advantage in the race between the Thassa favoured and unblockable (Aqueous Form) Omenspeaker and Terry's pair of 3/3 Wingsteed Riders.
Terry pondering the impact of the Tempo Swing
Terry eventually nominated Elspeth, Sun's Champion to takedown the sea god's champion. But Hideki had a second Aqueous Form and Agent of Horizons to complete the race ahead.
At the end of the round, Terry pondered the optimal play when Hideki attacked a 2/4 Ordeal'd Omenspeaker into Traveling Philosopher and Wingsteed Rider with an Island open. He had chosen not to block as a play around Triton Tactics, but on hindsight, it might have been a bluff or misplay on Hideki's part.
Game 2 saw Terry clawing back from an early mana flood after a single mulligan. Nessian Asp allowed him to stabalise at 10 life to Hideki's 16 (damage from Wingsteed Rider) and Hundred-Handed One apparently solidified his board position.
However, Griptide copied by Meletis Charlatan demonstrated why board position is ephemeral against a blue deck and Hideki notched his second win with a team of Sealock Monster, Staunch-Hearted Warrior and the Charlatan.
Hideki wins 2-0 and advances undefeated.
Round 6 Feature Match – Tomoharu Saito (Naya) vs Arif Kamaruddin (G/W)
by Pip Foweraker
Saito stumbled on mana for the first game, eventually landing a Fabled Hero but being unable to attack effectively with it. Kamaruddin had no such issues, powering out and then suiting up a Wingsteed Rider with an adequate defence to take the first game without any real concerns.
Karamuddin keeps a tight grip on proceedings
Arif Kamaruddin 1 - Tomoharu Saito 0
Kamaruddin started the game with a Favored Hoplite and an Ordeal of Heliod, getting off to an aggressive start. Saito had a Leafcrown Dryad, looking mildly concerned at the imposing attacker on the other side of the board. Kamaruddin attacked unblocked with his Hoplite, while Saito cast an Ordeal of Heliod on his Leafcrown Dryad and attacked. Kamaruddin seemed happy to race, summoning a Wingsteed Rider and passing.
Saito feels the pinch
Saito left his Dryad home to block the Rider, still with only 3 lands open. Kamaruddin bestowed a Nimbus Dryad on his Wingsteed Rider, taking it safely out of Dryad range, and attacked with both creatures. Saito flashed in a Boon Satyr to gang-block the Hoplite, who offed the Dryad.
Saito launched his offense with the Satyr, and had a Divine Verdict for the attacking Rider when it came in next turn. Kamaruddin rebuilt his board with a Nemesis of Mortals, and with a Voyage's End to take care of Saito's next play, the players wrapped up the match.
Arif Kamaruddin 2 - Tomoharu Saito 0
For both players, the match highlighted how important it is to be able to play defensively when stumbling on mana. Too many players will mentally resign themselves to losing the game or will throw away creatures on bad blocks. Saito was clearly on the defensive for the second game, but managed to nearly eke out enough breathing room to stabilise. Had Kamaruddin not had the splashed Voyage's End, the game would have settled in to a more drawn-out battle.
Perhaps, for Saito's sake, we might talk to the venue organisers about turning the 'tunes down - having what seems to be an jazz-instrumental version of 'Killing Me Softly' playing on near-continuous loop can't be helping anyone's mental state.
Round 7 Feature Match – Raymond Tan vs Arrian Fer Ordonez
by Noel Neo
Raymond is an emerging Pro who made the top 8 of two Grand Prix last year. By now, he's very comfortable at the feature match table. At stake in this game is a secure spot in Day 2.
Despite a mulligan by Arrian, Raymond was facing an equally if not more painful land flood. Swamp after Swamp came down for Raymond, all the while a second Island remained elusive.
Still, some early skirmishes played out above the board as Arrian's Shipbreaker Kraken met Griptide, then Stymied Hopes. Meanwhile, Raymond's Omenspeaker and Wavecrash Triton traded blows with Wingsteed Rider for life totals at 14-13 in Raymond favour. Until Nimbus Naiad on Wingsteed Rider that is.
Though Raymond found Griptide soon enough. Arrian had also deployed Cavalry Pegasus and Heliod's Emissary, and the following Sea God's Revenge was lethal.
Game 2 was more of the early game standoff as Arrian's Setessan Battle Priest faced Wavecrash Triton. Action begun as Heliod's Emissary met Annul from Raymond, then Raymond's own Thassa's Emissary met Divine Verdict.
Raymond opted for the unconventional play of Griptide on his own Emissary to set up for the long game. Observant Alseid on Battle Priest allowed Arrian to push some damage, but when he tried to up the stakes with Hopeful Eidolon, it was his Hero's Downfall.
This was the perfect setup for Thassa's Emissary to be bestowed on Waveclash Triton, a play three turns in the making, but which took Raymond all the way with a supporting cast of Griptides.
The rubber game was more of an anti-climax as Raymond mulligan'd and stalled on two lands for multiple turns. In the post-game analysis, his peers pointed out his play of putting Returned Phalanx on top of his library off a turn 1 Temple of Mystery could have been the fatal error.
Arrian wins 2-1 and is a lock for day 2.
Round 8 Feature Match – Razif Rosdin Vs Hsia Lei Peng
by Pip Foweraker
The announcement of these two players' impending battle drew a wave of enthusiastic applause from across the room. Both needed to win both this and the next round to make Day 2, and they settled down to their match surrounded by a crowd of friends and good-natured jeering from onlookers, many of whom were holding mobile phone cameras, 'To catch all the play errors for later', we were assured.
Rosdin blasted out of the gates with a Favored Hoplite and an Ordeal of Nylea, while Peng summoned a Vaporkin. Unable to block the ultra-aggressive 1-drop, the Vaporkin swung back through the air to keep Peng racing. The Ordeal popped early thanks to the Hoplite's heroic ability, letting Rosdin accelerate his land drops at a brutal pace.
Peng studies his options
He took full advantage of his extra lands by summoning a Centaur Battlemaster, while Peng was forced to make do with a Triton Fortune Hunter. When Rosdin bestowed a Leafcrown Dryad on his Battlemaster, Peng shook his head and reached for his sideboard.
Razif Rosdin 1 - Hsia Lei Peng 0
Rosdin started with a Voyaging Satyr, while Peng had a Vaporkin and a Burnished Hart. Rosdin summoned a second Voyaging Satyr, leaving this coverage guy downcast there weren't any pun-worthy situations on the board. Because double Satyr action is disappointing to have to pass up.
Rosdin: 100% Battlemaster. 0% Satyr pun.
Rosdin, less devastated by the unpunnability of his board state than some, summoned his imposing Centaur Battlemaster once again. Peng cracked his Hart to fetch out some lands, including a Swamp that had gone unseen in the previous game.
He summoned a Fabled Hero and a Nimbus Naiad to help clog the board a little. Rosdin, undeterred, used a Time To Feed to clear out Peng's Fabled Hero and turn the Battlemaster all kinds of nasty. Rosdin, clearly not one to hold back, rumbled them in to the red zone, and dropped a Feral Invocation on his Battlemaster, pumping it to ludicrous proportions. Peng barely blinked before taking the damage, summoning a Celestial Archon to keep things ticking along on his side of the board.
Rosdin cast an Ordeal of Heliod on his Battlemaster, netting himself 3 +1/+1 counters and 10 life - not a bad effort! - before sending it lumbering in to be chumped by the Nimbus Naiad. Peng had an Aqueous Form on his Vaporkin to help him scry for answers to the behemoth, but was essentially diminished to trying to play a chump blocker for the Battlemaster every turn.
The game took a brief hiatus when Peng unintentionally mis-ordered the resolution of the heroic trigger from a Triton Fortune Hunter and the scry effect from a Battlewise Valor, but the game continued without dire consequences thanks to some player-friendly minutiae in the DCI's Penalty Guidelines. Read the cards, folks!
Despite Peng's best efforts, the Battlemaster proved too much for him. In the end, a Prowler's Helm for Rosdin took the game and the match in a most impressively monstrous style.
Raxif Rosdin 2 - Hsia Lei Peng 0
Saturday, 5:03 p.m. – New Generation of Malaysia: Raymond Tan, DE Cards
by Noel Neo
Raymond Tan of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is on a roll! After reaching the top 8 of Return of Ravnica Limited Grand Prix Bangkok 2013, he followed that by taking home the trophy at Standard Grand Prix Kitakyushu 2013.
Look out Pro scene! This self-effacing (he attributes his performance to pure luck) master of both Limited and Constructed formats has set his sights on the big stage. It would be his first trip to Worlds and to the Pro Tour and he wants to make an impact.
Raymond currently prepares with team DE Cards, a coalition of Malaysian players based in Kuala Lumpur and named for the store they frequent. Being a local group, they are able to engage in more face-to-face testing, which involves building the entire gauntlet and predicting the metagame for Constructed and determining draft picks together for Limited. MTGO features prominently in the lead up to a major tournament.
For Theros Limited, Raymond has a preference for blue-x tempo decks. He is running just such a concoction today and is fortunate his pool includes bombs like Shipbreaker Kraken and Prognostic Sphinx.
He believes Born of Gods would boost the power level of black and RG. It would be a more challenging draft format going from 3 Theros to 1 Born of Gods and 2 Theros as archetype synergies and power levels are redefined.
On specific cards, he thinks Bile Blight is the sure non-rare first pick.
Round 9 Feature Match - Terry Soh vs Chen Liang (GW mirror)
by Noel Neo
This bubble match features Terry Soh against a fellow veteran – Chen Liang, who was last in the lime light at the top 8 of Grand Prix Manila 2009. It is a GW mirror with Celestial Archon and Anthousa, Setessan Hero in Terry's team and Fleecemane Lion and Elspeth, Sun's Champion in Chen Liang's.
Game 1 saw Terry furiously churn through his deck to smooth his early game mana after a mulligan – Battlewise Valor on Leonin Snarecaster on an otherwise clear board for the scry, then Chosen by Heliod for its cycle effect to find his third Plains on turn four.
Terry cycling through his deck in a land hunt
Chen Liang meanwhile had Wingsteed Rider and ambushed the Leonin with Savage Surge. When Terry's Staunch-Hearted Warrior attacked into its doppelganger when Chen Liang had just a single mana open, he called Terry's bluff and chose to block.
With Terry's gas having been exhausted in the early game and still land light, Chen Liang was able to seal the game with the 3/3 Rider and Setessan Griffin.
Terry went on the early offence in Game 2 with Nessian Courser, Wingsteed Rider, and Traveling Philosopher quickly having Chen Liang on the ropes.
A monstrous Fleecemane Lion managed to stymie any profitable ground attacks and Chen Liang found Setessan Griffin to hold the air, but he was at just 8 life by then.
The Lion stands alone
Terry then brought out the heavy guns by summoning Anthousa, Setessan Hero, though Chen Liang's Elspeth, Sun's Champion that evened the odds was a definite one-up.
Elspeth just changes the tenor of a game
Riding on his Champion, Chen Liang proceeded to take firm control of the game with Last Breath on Wingsteed Rider and Elspeth destroying Celestial Archon. By the time Chen Liang had 9 soldiers on the board, the game was all but over.
Chen Liang wins 2-0 and advances to day 2.