Haibing Hu has likely been playing longer than anyone else in this Top 8 with his first Pro Tour experience going all the way back to Pro Tour Nice. He had played the CawBlade deck previous to the recent bannings and used it to qualify for Pro Tour Philadelphia but was not planning on playing the deck this weekend. The version he ended up playing was designed by Gerry Thompson and was essentially handed to him in his drive to the event. After playing what he described as a sloppy round one of the event, he realized that his opportunities to play Magic competitively were precious and told himself to tighten up. And that is exactly what he has done.
His opponent, Owen Turtenwald, has been playing tight all year with a Top 16 at PT Paris and a slew of Grand Prix Top 8s propelling him to near the top of the Player of the Year standings. Owen was playing the same list as fellow Top 8 competitors LSV and Ochoa with just minor differences. With 10 Pro Points awaiting the winner of this event, and the possibility of the extra points available to the National team, winning this match could go a long way toward his Player of the Year aspirations.
Fittingly for this mirror match both players kicked things off with Preordain -- a card that saw every single deck in the Top 8 play the full four copies. Haibing -- who had gotten to play first by virtue of higher standing in the Swiss rounds -- followed up with Hawk on turn two.
Owen dug with a second Preordain and passed the turn. Hu untapped to play Sword of Feast and Famine and attacked for one. Owen played a Squadron Hawk a turn later and searched out a second one. It chump blocked Hu's equipped Hawk and Haibing reinforced with a second copy. Owen played out another Hawk and searched the balance out of his deck
Hu played out third Hawk to round out his quartet as well. Then he played Preordain and swung with his two Hawks -- Owen threw a Hawk in the path of the oncoming Sword bearer. Owen played a tapped land and passed the turn with a lone Hawk. Hu attacked and Owen chumped. He played Into the Roil on the Sword at the end of the turn. Hu used that opportunity to Tectonic Edge Owen's Colonnade.
The Hawks kept coming for Owen as did a fresh copy of Celestial Colonnade. Hu untapped -- and just sent his two Hawks in. Owen blocked the Sworded one and used Into the Roil to kill Hu's Hawk by bouncing the Sword at the end of the turn. Hu replayed the Sword on his next turn and paid three more mana when Owen Mana Leaked it. Hu did not have mana left over to requip but attacked for one.
Gideon Jura showed up to help Owen and promptly killed the tapped Hawk. Owen still had one mana up -- representing Dismember if Hu wanted to animate his land and attack it. Hu played Emeria Angel and made a token with Tectonic Edge, which he promptly used on Owen's Collonade. The score was 14 to 20 in Hu's favor.
Timely Reinforcements arrived for Owen. He broke an Arid Mesa and and went down to 19 -- he had gone up to 20 from the spell. He tapped out to play Sword and then went +2 for the Gideon. Hu moved the sword to a bird token and Gideon died -- but no discard or untap for Hu since he attacked the Planeswalker. Hu played another Hawk.
Owen did not equip and just sent in the team of tokens. Hu had no blocks. Owen tapped all his mana and flipped a Consecrated Sphinx on the board. Hu looked at his hand but had to let Owen draw two cards. Ironically the culprit he drew was Mana Leak. Hu animated his land and sent everything toward the red zone. Owen put the Sphinx in he way of the sworded bird token and Hu played Dismember. Tectonic Edge after combat gave him a fresh token.
Owen played another Sword and Hu let it resolve. Owen equipped two soldiers -- and maybe Hu rethought not using the Mana Leak. He discarded it to an unblocked token and chumped the other. Hu fanned through Owen graveyard and then attacked with everything. Owen Into the Roiled the equipped bird with kicker. Owen fell to 7. Hu had to think... He opted to play another Emeria Angel over Day of Judgment. and played a fetch land.
Owen played Jace Beleren and attacked with two sworded tokens. Hu chumped them both and fetched land at end of turn. Owen had three mana untapped and three cards in hand. Hu had just one card -- the aforementioned Day of Judgement. Hu put the Sword on a Hawk and attacked with everything.
"You got it," said Owen.
Celestial Colonnade led off on both sides with turn two Squadron Hawk for Owen. No Hawk for Hu who passed turn with two mana open. Owen played a second Hawk while Hu played a pair of Preordains on his second turn. Owen's turn four Emeria Angel was more than enough for Hu to pull the trigger on Day of Judgment on his turn four.
Owen started to rebuild with Gideon which he promptly sent to 8 loyalty while Hu had Emeria Angel. Owen also had Emeria Angel as well as Dismember for Hu's. Hu had his own copy of Dismember and then played another Angel -- it is the last one that always gets you -- and passed the turn with it and a bird token.
Preordain from Hu found Scalding Tarn. He attacked as he was contractually obligated to do and Owen traded a bird token and Hawk for two bird tokens. Gideon fell to 8. Hu made two tokens, played Jace Beleren, and drew a card. Gideon went to 6 to kill the Angel and Owen played a Hawk -- he had four mana open including Inkmoth Nexus.
Hu drew a card with Jace. He sent one token at Gideon and Owen traded his Hawk for it. Owen kicked Into the Roil at the end of the turn and Hu played Spell Pierce after confirming that Owen was on one card in hand. Owen played Preordain, played Tarn and broke it -- "Three in hand?" he asked of Hu -- before animating his Colonnade and his Gideon. He sent the Planeswalker at Hu and the land at Jace. Hu traded Colonnades and chumped the Gideon.
Hu untapped to play Tectonic Edge and Oblivion Ring the Planeswalker. Owen had one card and played it -- Sword of Feast and Famine. He animated his Inkmoth and equipped. Owen wanted to get Hu to use the Edge to clear the way for his Colonnade. Hu took three poison and discarded an Island. Owen untapped but had no cards.
Squadron Hawk showed up for Hu and he promptly played a second one -- they are like buses in that regard. Owen attempted another Gideon Jura but it was foiled by Mana Leak. Hu attacked for two with his Hawks and the rest of the fleet came down post combat. Owen equipped his Nexus again and this time Hu used his Tectonic Edge on it -- he had drawn a Dismember. Hu attacked for 8 with his full suite of Hawks and a Colonnade. When Owen saw the Dismember after tapping all his mana to animate equip his Colonnade they were onto game three with the bricks of the wall pressed into Owen's back.
Owen kept a six carder and a turn two Hawk undid any damage from his mulligan as he searched out all three of his remaining birds. He did not play Hawk on turn two, rather an Azure Mage that can do a little of everything from beat down to control. Hu promptly cracked a fetch and Mana Leaked it. Owen played a second Hawk on turn three but frowned when Hu played Emeria Angel -- he had the Dismember though. The third Hawk came down but Hu had yet another Emeria Angel -- Owen's draw seemed land heavy.
Hu looked at the six lands across from him and shrugged. He played Gideon and had it Spell Pierced. He did have a sixth land to play for his Consecrated Sphinx -- something made more frustrating when Owen used Tectonic Edge on Hu's Tectonic Edge and said go. Hu had a Sword of Feast and Famine Mana Leaked but resolved his next copy a turn later -- making bird tokens all the while. Owen used Into the Roil with kicker on the Emeria Angel and sent in his Hawks -- Hu traded a bird for it.
Hu equipped a bird token and attacked. Owen threw a Hawk in the way. Meanwhile Hu was now fetching Hawks of his own. Emeria Angel and land gave Owen some breathing room as well as a clear window for Hu to replay his own Angel after Owen chumped the sworded token. Hu took four from Owen's Colonnade but was able to resolve Consecrated Sphinx.
Hu was drawing cards while Owen was playing off the top of his deck. He played a Hawk and chose not attack. Two more cards came his way during Owen's turn. Hu played Into the Roil with kicker on his opponent's Emeria Angel when Owen said go. Owen broke the fetch he had just played for a fourth token to go with his Hawk.
Hu played a land and sent all his his non-angels and non-sphinx creatures into battle. When dust settled Owen had only a Hawk. Hu played Preordain and then went to his discard step. Owen played Into the Roil with kicker on the Sphinx. He still had five mana open. Hu played Mana Leak and two Spell pierce to fight through it -- he would get two cards back on Owen's draw step.
"Discard?" asked Owen.
"Not any more," said Hu.
Owen replayed the Angel and played a land his hand was empty. Hu Dismembered the Angel and attacked with everyone. Owen chumped as best he could but it would require a miracle to come back with and empty grip and board against Hu's full hand and air force. Just to be safe...Hu played Gideon as well.
Final result: Haibing Hu advances to the semifinals in a three game sweep of Owen Turtenwald.