TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Blog - 5:12 p.m. - News and Notes
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 5:01 p.m. - Round 14 : Ryo Ogura vs. Alvin Tan
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 4:23 p.m. - Deck Tech: Balancing Tings
by Jun-Wei Hew
- Blog - 3:44 p.m. - Round 12: Ding Yuen Leong vs. Masahiko Morita
by Jun-Wei Hew
- Blog - 1:37 p.m. - Play the game. See the world. Taste exotic fruit?
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 1:09 p.m. - A Gift to the Grind
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 12:22 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown
by Jun-Wei Hew
- Blog - 10:41 a.m. - Round 10 : Tomoharu Saito vs. Shuuhei Nakamura
by Ted Knutson
- Blog - 10:02 a.m. - S-A-T-U-R… D-A-Y Night!
by Ted Knutson
Sunday March 4: 10:02 a.m. - S-A-T-U-R… D-A-Y Night!
Last night was the judge dinner here in Singapore, which was a nice excuse to get out, see theharbor esplanade, and take pictures.The evening cityscape is crisp and beautiful, if a bit steamy.
Chinese New Year gives a new definition to 'social mixer.'
Sea cucumber tastes nothing like cucumber or the sea. Tawk amongst yourselves…
This is pepper crab, who might actually be superior to cousin and long-time roommate chili crab.
Laura from Taiwan double dinnered just for the chili crab.
The view from outside my room before bed.
Sunday March 4: 10:41 a.m. - Round 10 : Tomoharu Saito vs. Shuuhei Nakamura
"Today's first match was against a level 5 mage. This time… level 6." Shuuhei Nakamura certainly wasn't getting any gifts from the pairings gods, but that's what usually happens when you linger around the top tables at an Asian Grand Prix. Just so you know, last round he managed to beat Kenji Tsumura, and this time is facing slapmaster and innovative deck designer Tomoharu Saito. Nakamura is running Balancing Tings here in Singapore, a deck that Frank Karsten admitted this morning might be the best in the format, but one that is also nearly impossible to play well. Olivier Ruel also observed this on Saturday morning, saying that he played so terribly with the deck last week that he did not deserve to win, but as evidenced from his 7-1 record on Day 1 (the same as Shuuhei), practice has smoothed out some wrinkles. Saito is also running the same deck as last week, his version of U/W Tron that he calls Urza's Stompy. It's geared to have good game against the aggro decks in the field and demolish combo decks… which could mean bad things for Nakamura.
Sato opened the game with Chalice of the Void for 1, an ugly play against the Tings deck that uses all the one-mana artifact color fixers to dig through its deck as quickly and efficiently as possible. Nakamura tried to Balancing Act on turn 4, but saw that one Remanded after he had sacrificed all his lands to cast it. Saito quickly had the full Tron in play, cycled six soldiers into the game with Decree of Justice, and then locked the game outright with an unanswered Chalice of the Void for 4. That was a remarkably fast game for a control on board contrrol/combo matchup.
Saito 1 - Nakamura 0
Nakamura had to mulligan on the play in game 2, and then saw his first land destroyed by a Ghost Quarter from Saito. Nakamura put two more lands into play, and then sacrificed a Terrarion at the end of his fourth turn in order to not see it Repealed and locked out under a Saito Chalice for 1. Saito then began churning through his deck with multiple Thirst for Knowledge, and eventually countered a Lotus Bloom via Chalice for 0 this time, while Nakamura did a whole lotta nothing. The vice on Shuuhei's options tightened ever so slowly with each additional turn, but Sato eventually tapped out while digging for countermagic, opening the door for Nakamura to cast Insidious Dreams for 3, getting three lands from his deck. His face then fell when he saw Saito play Mindslaver, and then add Crucible of Worlds to the vice on the next turn in addition to activating the Slaver. That was really the last straw for Nakamura's chances, and Saito won the concession when he cast Gifts Ungiven on his own turn.
Saito 2 - Nakamura 0
Sunday March 4: 12:22 p.m. - Metagame Breakdown
Aggro, aggro, aggro! The "Levy effect" was in full force here at Grand Prix-Singapore, with Day Two defined by the sea of aggressive decks, led by none other than Domain Zoo's victory over at Grand Prix-Dallas just one week ago. Aside from that however, the metagame pretty much mirrored Dallas, with Loam and Tron showing constant success.
The fall of Tog and Opposition is quite evident, despite Opposition's popularity with the local populace, as evidenced by the international lineup. Several players were seen walking away from the tournament site yesterday, shaking their heads at the unexpected resurgence of red.
Sunday March 4: 1:09 p.m. - A Gift to the Grind
As a coverage reporter, guys who tell great stories or are fun to hang around with during the course of the tournament tend to be our favorites, but there's another type of player that we generally have a soft spot for, and that's the grinder. These are guys who seem to attend nearly every Grand Prix on their continent, occasionally post a strong Grand Prix finish, but can never seem to "make it" when it comes to the big time. They are clearly talented players, but for whatever reason, they can't catch the final break needed to catapult themselves into level 3 of the Pro Tour players club, and all the groupies, Cristal, and sundry perks that come with it. In the States, it's guys like Patrick Sullivan and John Fiorillo who hold this special badge of respect. Here in Asia, Singapore native Royce Chai is one of my favorite guys to quietly follow.
For those of you out there asking "Who?" Royce is a 29-year-old high school teacher and Singapore resident. He has two Grand Prix Top 8s to his name, and says he can't remember how many Pro Tours he's actually played in at this point. He seems to travel everywhere I the region, and clearly loves the game. This weekend, he chose to battle with Loam, and stands at 8-5 through 13 rounds, or right about where you'd expect to find him. He asked me to tell his wife and students that he said hi.
Anyway, one of the reasons I am mentioning this is because the new Grand Prix structure benefits guys like Royce almost more than anyone else. Royce makes it to Day 2 of seemingly every GP in Asia and Japan, but doesn't make that coveted Top 32 money slot nearly as much as he'd like to. Well these days, that's not quite the killer that it was last season. While Top 32 is obviously better than Top 64, the new GP payout means that even if Royce were to drop in the first round of Day 2, he'd still take home a Benjamin for his troubles.
All prizes are in U.S. dollars.
|Main Tournament Prize Schedule|
Sunday March 4: 1:32 p.m. - Play the game. See the world. Taste exotic fruit?
One of my favorite things to do when coming to new countries is to walk into their grocery stores and see what the people who live there eat in their everyday lives. Back at Grand Prix-Beijing, I did this and was rewarded with a mindblowing experience that made me realize the Chinese have an entirely different expectation when it comes to the word "fresh." (Moving, wiggling, or at least bleeding are perhaps more accurate terms for what they get.) I did that here in Singapore the other day and noticed wild varieties of fruit that I had never seen or heard of before.
Now a favorite pastime of many Asian hosts seems to be playing "gross out the white guy." I'm usually game for this with no complaints, and the Singaporans seemed overly happy to indulge my fruit fetish this time around. Luckily, scorekeeper Sinclair Yuen was very stern in his warnings about something called durian. "I'll bring you some, but a lot of people have been known to grow nauseous just from the smell. When I bring it in, gradually creep closer to it, and if the smell is too strong or too bad for you, quickly run away." This is a fruit, mind you, not a rotting corpse. Non-plussed, I chose to endure possible fruit torture in the name of science and journalism, to better inform our readers in their future endeavors.
More durian. It may also harbor face huggers inside.
Quietly, I was also excited about the prospect of having the Europeans sample some durian for themselves, but Mr. Yuen nixed that idea. "I don't want the management coming to complain to us about the smell, so we need to clean it up in the next 5 minutes or we could contaminate the whole convention hall." Instead, I grabbed the French and had them try the rest of the batch. Here are the verdicts:
Durian: "The king of fruits." Tastes like a bland, slightly bad banana. Very pasty texture inside.
Dragonfruit : Tastes like a sweeter kiwi, though it looks like rice with black sesame on the inside.
Longan: Like lychee, except a bit more tart.
Mangosteen: "The queen of fruits." This one is perhaps the most difficult to describe. The texture is that of a plum, but the taste is like a fruit sweet tart. Delicious.A still life of (clockwise) mangosteen, dragonfruit, jambu, longan.
Jambu: It looks like a bright pink pear, the texture is that of an unripened apple, and the taste is mildly sweet.
Play the game, see the world, taste exotic fruits wherever you go. Mottoes to live by.
(Note: these are the last pictures of food this weekend, I promise.)The insides of each fruit.
Sunday March 4: 3:44 p.m. - Round 12: Ding Yuen Leong vs. Masahiko Morita
Ding Yuen, Singapore's sole player with a Worlds Top 8 to his name, is running the sole survivor of yesterday's slaughter of Elvish Opposition decks, while Morita continues his Asian Grand Prix stomping with Gifts Tron.
Opening strong with a second turn Trygon Predator, Leong's follow-up Cabal Therapy successfully nabbed Morita's Thirst for Knowledge. Seeing Remand, Gifts Ungiven and Chalice of the Void as Morita's only viable plays, a topdecked second Cabal Therapy was Remanded before the first was flashbacked to the call of Gifts Ungiven.
However, despite the strong opening, Leong' deck was not forthcoming. Morita could easily sense the lack of action coming from Leong, and had a lot of breathing room to slowly cycle and recycle his newfound Eternal Dragon for his board position, while Leong's deck coughed up land after land- his only other play being the aforementioned Cabal Therpy, whiffing on Exalted Angel before taking out a retrieved Eternal Dragon.
Morita's Gifts Ungiven the next turn flung him back into the game.
Leong gave him the two spells.
Morita 1 - Leong 0
Accelerants were the name of the second game, with Leong opening with second turn Wood Elves, and Morita with Azorious Signet. Leong tried a Trygon Predator to take out the Signet, but was trumped by the almighty third turn Wrath of God.
Leong was quick to recover with a twin pair of Coiling Oracles, while Morita joined in with a not-so-mystery morph.
His next draw step presented him with Triskelion, which he quickly played to take out the pair of Oracles, but that left him open to Leong's Beacon of Creation. With the Opposition in hand, Leong threatened to lock the board down the next turn.
Morita tested the waters by serving with his (still morphed) Angel and Triskelion, and smelt trouble when Leong declined to block. However, Leong's cunning plan was stymied by an even more cunning plan as a neatly topdecked Ghost Quarter took out Leong's second source of blue.
Of course, not to be so easily outdone, the top card of Leong's deck was a Windswept Heath to get a replacement blue source. Naturally.
Morita 1 - Leong 1
Piracy Charm took out Leong's starting Birds of Paradise, while Duress revealed Morita was short of land. Taking out the Condescend which could dig Morita out of his rut, Trygon Predator hit the board in an attempt to end things quickly.
Morita drew a miss, an island, and then another miss.
Playing about the Repeal which Leong knew was in Morita's hand by playing his 3-casting-cost spell, a Wood Elves, and then declining to play the Elf in his hand, Leong threatened to seal the deal with Opposition the next turn.
The long-awaited fourth land gave Morita some breathing space, paving the way for Gifts Ungiven, presenting Chalice of the Void, Ray of Distortion, Petrified Field and the last Tron piece, where after some thought, Leong gave Morita the Ray and Crucible.
Leong got to play with his Opposition one last time before Ray of Distortion hit it, but replaced it with a second. Morita was one white mana away from being able flash back the Ray of Distortion, breaking out of the lock again. Repeal bought him some time, preventing Leong from expanding his creature base.
The piercing sound of the clock calling for time then cut through the air.
At this point, it was painfully obvious that neither player was in a position to win the game, so the last five turns were more of a formality. Leong had one last out to clinch the win for himself by topdecking a Beacon, but it was not to be.
Morita 1 - Leong 1
Sunday March 4: 4:23 p.m. - Deck Tech: Balancing Tings
Forgotten, but not gone, Balancing Tings is back! Spearheaded by the Japanese in liason with the Europeans, this latest version was the surprise they had in store for Singapore.
Upgraded with Draco-Explosion into the mix, the deck now has two different ways to kill. With Insidious Dreams in the deck, only one copy of both Erratic Explosion and Draco is needed, letting you fire off a surprise 16 damage to the head in a format where practically everybody will unknowingly help you with the last 4.
Today, three people have run the deck to Day 2 - Olivier Ruel, Shuuhei Nakamura and Shingo Kurihara.
Olivier first saw the deck on Magic Online and was impressed by it, prompting Antoine to scour the internet for a decklist. However, they hadn't gotten the deck tuned to the point where they were happy with it by GP-Dallas, so turned to their other decks for that particular tournament.
On the other side of the planet, Nakamura had also planned to run Balancing Tings independently after heavy recommendations from his friend, Yun Suhan. However, with much of his attention focused on drafting Two-Headed Giant for the Pro Tour, Nakamura was not able to spend much time playtesting Extended, and in fact, most of the deck construction process took place over the phone.
When the Ruels met Nakamura at Dallas, things started to come together.
Nakamura and Suhan had made several choices that the Ruels were happy about, notably the Remands and Fire/Ice, and the Ruels incorporated those elements into their deck. The Ruels had also met the person behind the Magic Online account that started it all for them, who also gave them him latest development in the deck- fitting in Draco Explosion.
From then on, the four of them worked on the deck via e-mails to come to the version we see today. The final addition, coming with Olivier's stamp of approval is Quicken, allowing you to fire off instant Balancing Acts after a Fact or Fiction or cycled Decree of Justice. Quicken also allows you to break out from under an Opposition, in what would otherwise be a difficult matchup.
According to Nakamura, the deck is difficult to play, not because of the tutors but because you need to pay careful attention to your mana. Ensuring you have WWGG3 for the Balancing Act-Terravore combo is easy enough, but when you're throwing in Remands, Fire/Ice and Orim's Chant into the mix, things get complicated really quickly. As testament to this, there was a turn today where Nakamura spent a whole five minutes just thinking about which land to play!
The most notable difference between the Japanese version and Olivier's version (according to Olivier, Antoine chickened out) are the Burning Wishes. The Japanese preferred the extra redundancy from the Burning Wishes in addition to the Insidious Dreams, in exchange for the reduction in speed, but they don't see anything wrong with their exclusion, leaving it up to personal preference.
Finally, the Ruels would like to give a shout out to the person on Magic Online in appreciation for the deck.
|Shingo Kurihara||Shuuhei Nakamura||Olivier Ruel|
|Sensei's Divining Top||1||1|
|Leyline of the Void||4|
|Ray of Revelation||1|
Sunday March 4: 5:01 p.m. - Round 14 : Ryo Ogura vs. Alvin Tan
As we roll into the final round of swiss action, we have 5 pros guaranteed their spot in the Top 8 joined by a Japanese semi-pro rounder. That leaves two spots up for grabs, one of which will certainly go to the players in this match, provided they do not draw. Alvin Tan is Singapore's last hope for a spot in the Top 8, but in order to get there, the Singapore National Champion will have to get by two-time Worlds Top 8 member Ryo Ogura.
Talking to Kenji Tsumura earlier in the day, he said that he, Rich Hoaen, and Julien Nuijten were 1-7 against Counterbalance decks back in Dallas. That puts the matchup firmly in Ogura's favor, since he is playing Counterbalance Tog against Tan's Loam deck.
Tan got off to a decent start with first turn Birds of Paradise and second turn Wall of Roots, but by turn 3, Ogura had the soft lock of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance in play with mana open. Tan tried to Putrefy the Top on turn 4, but Ogura just flipped over Thirst for Knowledge to counter it. IN fact, on that turn Ogura countered spells of one, two, and three converted mana cost, earning a "What can I do?" look from Tan. The game appeared as good as over already, Ogura just needed a victory condition. The game continued for numerous turns, with Ogura countering a number of spells from Tan via the enchantment and actual counterspells until Dark Confidant finally resolved for Tan. Damnation a turn later cleared the board.Ryo Ogura
Ogura 1 - Tan 0
Both players took mulligans to start game 2, with Tan resolving Burning Wish for Shattering Spree on turn 2 after Ogura put a Tormod's Crypt on the table. Dark Confidant came down for Ogura, while Tan was having trouble drawing a third land. When the land finally arrived, Tan put Seismic Assault into play, but could not draw another land to kill Ogura's Confidant. Cabal Therapy from Tan named Trinket Mage, a card Ogura was not running in his decklist, revealing 3 lands and two Spell Snares from the Japanese player while Tan kept getting thumped by Bob. Psychatog a turn or two later ended the game in short order.
Ogura 2 - Tan 0
Sunday March 4: 5:12 p.m. - News and Notes
- 4 players were disqualified this weekend for referencing outside notes during the course of the match. The majority of these happened on Day 1 and were specifically for looking at sideboarding notes, but one of these DQs happened all the way up at table 2 during round 13 from a player that likely would have made the Top 8. Instead, his disqualification put Kurihara into the elimination rounds.
- The one matchup that Loam decks absolutely to not want to face is Counterbalance Tog. Kenji Tsumura stated that in Dallas, he and friends went 1-7 against the deck, and I saw that trend continue here in Singapore all weekend long. Tog decks here in Singapore also seem to echo popular opinion from last week that Trinket Mage is just clunky in the deck and deserves to be replaced.
- Tsuyoshi's latest Extended creation is a deck he's calling Deadguy Boros, build to try and replicate the success of Deadguy Red builds of Red Deck Wins. Tsuyoshi went sightseeing early on Day 2 (he was still allowed to play, but chose to go see Singapore with girlfriend Asami after a 1-3 start), so I grabbed Osamu to talk briefly about the deck. Icatian Javlineers are as close as you can get to a useful Mogg Fanatic, and they are a great answer to all the Dark Confidants you will see. Rift Bolt is in for Firebolt simply for the mana to damage ratio and because there aren't enough two-toughness creatures in the format to worry about, while the increase in Zoo has increased the number of three-toughness creatures by a good bit. Maindeck Molten Rains are a Fujita staple, but the card I was really curious about was Blistering Firecat. Osamu scratched his head for a second and then said, "Ask Tsuyoshi." The master deckbuilder returned and explained that Firecats are 7 damage for four mana, and almost no decks right now run kill cards that can deal with it. The added element of surprise is also welcome. Since Osamu made the Top 8, you can check out the decklist there.
- Ladies and gentlefolk, your Singapore Top 8: