by Hew, Jun-Wei
There's an running joke among the Top 8 competitors. With four local representatives from Singapore, accompanied by a pair of Taiwanese, a single Japanese and a Malaysian, there was much talk about the "'Singapore' vs. 'the rest of the world'" matchup. With the quarterfinal matches over at 2-2 apiece, the semifinal matches continued this rivalry. This semifinal match pitted Singapore's Jonathan Chan (formerly Australia's before he moved over), running Sped Red, against Japan's Higashino Masayuki, and his Suicide Necro deck.
When Higashino discovered what his semifinal matchup was, he was quick to acknowledge the difficult game ahead. (or easy game, depending on which side of the table you're on). With the words "You win," a grin, and a handshake, the two players began. Red had always been a difficult matchup for Suicide Black, and in this case, possibly even worse, with Necropotence increasing the effectiveness of Chan's burn spells. On the other hand, Higashino is an established player, and in combination with the uncanny ability for aggressive decks to steal unexpected victories, he may still be able to pull out a win.
Higashino won the opening die roll, and naturally, elected to go first. His opening hand consisted of a single creature - a Sarcomancy. He did, however have four lands in his opening hand. Higashino thought about his hand for a while, and elected to keep it, partially because he knew that lands would be important in this matchup against Chan's land destruction. Chan kept his hand with no further thought.
Higashino burst out a Sarcomancy, along with a sigh as Chan answered back with a Seal of Fire, setting the pace. Higashino's next play, consisting of only a sole Badlands might've told Chan about his hand, but Chan didn't do anything more other land to play a second Mountain, and cast a Mogg Fanatic. On Higashino's next, turn, he still hadn't drawn a single creature, and the Sarcomancy was taking him down. Thinking for a while, he eventually decided to play the Necropotence, and drew three cards, which, to his dismay, still did not contain a creature. Chan's Fanatic visited for a point of damage, and Pillage destroyed Higashino's Badlands. Higashino's next attempt at abusing the power of the almighty Skull resulted in three creatures - another Sarcomancy, over which he had mixed feelings, and a pair of Black Knights, which he employed over the course of the next two turns. Unfortunately, his Sarcomancy, in combination with his Necropotence, wasn't doing him much good, and to make matters worse, Chan's two consecutive Pillages kept him even further behind, along with a newly drawn Cursed Scroll. Although at the time, Higashino had an Unholy Strength in his hand, he decided not to power up his first Black Knight, but instead playing out the second. Chan's newly topdecked Rishadan Port made Higashino's mana problems even worse, and with 3 life remaining, facing a Cursed Scroll and his own Sarcomancy, not to mention his Necropotence keeping him where he was, Higashino decided to concede the first game.
In preparation for Game 2, Higashino brought in a pair of Addles, a couple of Bad Moons and three Engineered Plagues. Remembering the damage that was caused by his own Sarcomancy, he decided to leave them on the sidelines. Chan just brought in a pair of Bottle Gnomes, taking out two Dwarven Miners.
Although Higashino's initial hand contained several lands, they were of the wrong type. Staring at his land, which consisted of two Wastelands and an Undiscovered Paradise as his only lands, Higashino decided to keep it, possibly since his only card that required double black mana was the lone Black Knight in his hand. A first turn Duress by Higashino also revealed Chan's hand: a Hammer of Bogardan, a Cursed Scroll, a Stone Rain, a Ghitu Encampment and three mountains. The Cursed Scroll went to dust, and Chan played his Ghitu Encampment, which was Wasted by Higashino the next turn. With both players back at square one with no permanents on either side, Higashino played his Undiscovered Paradise on his turn, which was met with a Mountain. Higashino's mana problems spelt trouble over the next few turns, as he was unable to pressurize Chan to any great extent. An Unmask and Addle took cards out of Chan's hand, but a pair of newly drawn Avalanche Riders only increased Higashino's predicament. After seeing no new lands for five turns, Higashino finally had the option to cast one of two cards: Dauthi Horror or Bad Moon. Casting the Dauthi Horror, which does not exactly make the most useful blocker in this situation, he passed the turn over to Chan. Although Chan's Stone Rain was discarded via Duress, the board position that had been established was sufficient. With Jackal Pup, Seal of Fire, Avalanche Riders and 18 life, compared to his three life and Dauthi Horror, Higashino conceded, advancing Chan to the Grand Prix-Singapore finals against Singaporean Sam Lau, playing Trix.
Final Result: Jonathan Chan wins, 2-0.