STAGE TWO ROUND 2: HONG KONG VS. ISRAEL

Posted in 2014 WORLD MAGIC CUP on December 6, 2014

By Josh Bennett

Heading into this round already burdened with a loss, both of these teams would be eliminated from Top 8 contention with another here.

Team Israel

A Seat: Stav Brener

B Seat: Shahar Shenhar

C Seat: Ilan Bassan

"Coach": Evgeny Kotlev

Team Captain and potential repeat World Champion Shahar Shenhar has been showing his mental fortitude this week. Following an intense two days of top-level competition that earned him a spot in the World Championship Top 4, Shenhar had to both work with his team here at the Cup, and do work testing his upcoming semifinal match. Team Israel have been rising to the occasion, however, emerging as top seed in their pool for Stage 2. Unfortunately, they face elimination here as their only remaining opponent, South Korea, is 2-0.

Team Hong Kong

A Seat: Gama Ip

B Seat: Zhang Meng Qiu

C Seat: Lee Shi Tian

"Coach": Steven Yuen

Captain and fan-favorite Lee Shi Tian put his team ahead of himself in the weeks leading up to Worlds Week, making sure they would be ready for the big dance. This meant less preparation for World Championships, and his last-place 4-10 record was a heavy price to pay. However, his team have exceeded expectations with their Top 16 appearance. A win here would be the first step towards the Top 8. A loss would mean going home proud.

While Israel was playing to stave elimination, Hong Kong was battling to remain live going into the final round.

The Games

The Seat A match got underway first, with Ip's Abzan Aggro playing a cautious game against Brener's Blue-Black Control. He briefly stumbled on three lands, stole a Dissolve with Thoughtseize, but still refused to commit a creature to the board.

In the middle, Lee was playing the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo deck that he piloted to a Top 8 at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir against Bassan's Red-White Tokens. Despite a mulligan to six he opened with Sylvan Caryatid and Kiora's Follower. Bassan was stuck on two land and trying to make the best of four Raise the Alarm tokens. Unfortunately for him, he had no disruption. Lee dropped the Ascendancy and showed him Retraction Helix for his Caryatid. He could now bounce and replay his Dragon Mantle thanks to his two creatures, both which would grow arbitrarily large, and he would also churn through his deck until he found an Astral Cornucopia for 0 so that he could use Kiora's Follower to tap down blockers instead of generating mana. Then he would attack for the win. Bassan didn't force him to go through the motions.

Lee 1 - Bassan 0

In the middle seat, Shenhar's Abzan Whip had resolved Siege Rhino against Zhang's Jeskai Beatdown. Zhang went to the air with Mantis Rider and then Ashcloud Phoenix, hoping to outrace Shenhar. Shenhar was having none of it. He played Whip of Erebos and delved Murderous Cut on the Mantis Rider. Zhang was on the back foot.

Things were even more bleak for Ip, who had watched Brener resolve Jace's Ingenuity and Dig Through Time. He did have Rakshasa Deathdealer in play, slowly working Brener's life total, but it was hard to imagine a positive outcome.

Team Israel, captained by Shahar Shenhar, attempts to even up game counts across the matches.

Zhang had tried to rebuild but Shenhar had stocked his graveyard with a second Rhino and the gulf between their life totals was only getting larger. Soon they were shuffling up for Game 2.

Shenhar 1 - Zhang 0

Lee was hiding behind Nyx-Fleece Ram early in his second game against Bassan, but was hobbled by a clunky draw. Bassan resolved Goblin Rabblemaster, then Hordeling Outburst and an Erase on the Ram to clear a path. Lee had no removal, and died to the following attack.

Lee 1 - Bassan 1

Brener continued to pile up the good news for Team Israel when his resolved Pearl Lake Ancient was enough to convince Ip to move to the next game.

Brener 1 - Ip 0

In contrast to their first game, Shenhar and Zhang were all answers and no action. Zhang could only keep a Hushwing Gryff in play, versus a couple Satyr Wayfinder for Shenhar.

Ip evened the score against Brener quickly when his turn-three Anafenza, the foremost went unanswered.

Brener 1 - Ip 1

Meanwhile, Lee's deciding game against Bassan was advancing quickly. Bassan tried to Erase an early Jeskai Ascendancy, but Lee was ready with Retraction Helix for his Caryatid to return it to his hand. A turn or two later he had again assembled the combo.

Team Hong Kong, captained by Lee Shi Tian, takes a match lead thanks to Lee's signature Jeskai Ascendancy combo.

Hong Kong 1 - Israel 0

Meanwhile in the middle seat, the long game had favored Shenhar's deck of powerful draws. Whip of Erebos finally showed up and began to stack up advantages that buried Zhang in short order.

Hong Kong 1 - Israel 1

So it would all come down to Brener and Ip. Brener had the advantage of the play and Despised away Fleecemane Lion on turn two. Ip brought out Rakshasa Deathdealer. Brener desperately needed a second Island to unlock his hand of two Jace's Ingenuity and Dissolve. He missed on two attempts, then tapped out for Perilous Vault. Ip found a second Lion and played it.

Brener peeled his card. Now he'd be happy with any land, but instead his deck coughed up a third Jace's Ingenuity. Ip swung in for seven and passed, leaving Brener at 11. Brener slowly drew his next card. He needed removal, or an untapped land, but certainly not the Dissolve that greeted him. He passed the turn, hoping to bluff something, but Ip was not dissuaded. He went the whole hog, pumping his Deathdealer once, twice, and then finally three times, tapping out in order to attempt lethal. Brener could only extend his hand in defeat.

Israel 1 – Hong Kong 2

It was agony for Team Israel, and only relief for Team Hong Kong. They had bought themselves a chance. Next round they would face Greece for the Top 8.