Grand Prix Beijing—Hironobu Sugaya's First Win over Xu Su
Deep into the first game of the finals, Hironobu Sugaya found himself with only three permanents: Voldaren Duelist, Ember-Eye Wolf, and Stensia Masquerade. His opponent, Xu Su, had a powerful enchantment of his own in the form of Always Watching. This meant the players didn't want to meet in combat—instead choosing to trade damage back and forth.
The life totals were even at 6. When Sugaya attacked with his two creatures, Xu decided to block the Vampire, but opted not to block the Ember-Eye Wolf. When Sugaya noticed this, he got giddy with excitement. The nervousness that he had been exhibiting at the beginning of the match went away as he flicked one of his cards to the front of his hand.
After double-checking the math, Sugaya threw down Rush of Adrenaline, giving him lethal damage. Aptly named, Sugaya raised his hands and let out a sigh of relief—right before shuffling up for the second game.
Grand Prix Barcelona—Fabrizio Anteri Clinches His Fifth in Style
There were plenty of memorable moments to take from Grand Prix Barcelona, but nothing tops the dominance shown by Team EUreka's Fabrizio Anteri. Not only did the 10th-ranked player win his fifth Grand Prix, thereby locking up Platinum level for the next Pro Tour and taking the lead in this season's Grand Prix Master race, but he did so in stylish fashion.
He already left an impression in Round 15, where his green-black draft deck came out ahead in a true graveyard bash. In that match, Anteri had the Call the Bloodline/Sanitarium Skeleton combo going and was making two tokens per turn cycle, but he still had to fight his way past Watcher in the Web and a huge mass of tokens from Rise from the Tides. The resulting board state, littered with cards on both sides of the battlefield, was bewildering to watch, but Anteri found a way to win and advanced to the Top 8.
There, he drafted a hyper-aggressive red-white deck featuring the one-two punch of Rush of Adrenaline plus Uncaged Fury. In the second game of the finals, he was behind the entire game, getting utterly crushed. And then he attacked with Flameblade Angel. His opponent, at 17 life, saw no need to chump-block. Not that it would have mattered. "Rush of Adrenaline, Rush of Adrenaline, and Uncaged Fury. It's 18 damage." By winning completely out of nowhere with that pump-spell combo finish reminiscent of Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense, Anteri not only laid claim to another trophy, but did so in an way that left everyone gasping for air.
Grand Prix Albuquerque—Jiachen Tao and Seth Manfield's Quarterfinal Clash
Team East West Bowl has firmly established itself as one of the game's elite powerhouse teams since the beginning of the new year. This weekend, the crew saw four members of their team playing for Top 8, three in the feature match area, and two made the successful conversion—reminiscent of their triple win-and-in at Grand Prix Vancouver earlier this year.
However, though Round 15 was awesome, the greatest moment of the tournament featured a civil war of sorts within the rising group of all-stars. Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Champion Jiachen Tao found himself pitted against teammate and reigning World Champion (3) Seth Manfield in the quarterfinals. The rest of the Top 8 took a back seat as people pushed their way through a crowd of spectators to catch a glimpse of this intense clash of titans. Eventually, World Champion Seth Manfield and his Red-Green Werewolf deck emerged victorious from the most dramatic match of the weekend. The two shook hands, nodded heads, and said, "See you at the airport tomorrow."