Part of the fun in a Team Limited Grand Prix is watching how the top players in the region form alliances.
With the World Magic Cup just a month away, I thought it'll be a good time to check out how some of the Asian National Champions have elected to assemble their teams this weekend. Treat this as a little prelude and tie-in!
Sun Bo, China National Champion 2015
The China National Champion is Sun Bo, perhaps most well known for his three Grand Prix Top 8s and for coming in second place in a former Magic Online Player of the Year race against Shota Yasooka. Going by the online persona of duotianshi2013, Sun should have no problem selecting from among the big pool of talented Chinese players.
Despite the luxury of choice, he has opted to partner up with relatively less famous players but very close friends Ai Bing Ye and Jia Hao. Clearly, Sun is one player who puts onus on team spirit and player rapport more than simply finding top players to accumulate brute force.
"I think we've got good decks today. We managed to assemble the Red-Green Landfall deck, a Blue-Black Devoid deck as well as a White-Black Lifegain & Allies deck. All in all, I think things went pretty well," Sun said.
Oh Joo Hyun, Nam Sung Wook and Lee Joon Soo
Nam Sung Wook has decided to put his team's rapport to the test and has rallied Grand Prix Shanghai Top 8 competitor Oh Joo Hyun as well as former Korean National Champion Lee Joon Soo. All three players will be headed for Barcelona, while Park Jun Young had to sit out because of work commitment and also because you only need three players in a three-man team.
Oh and Lee's "strategy" was to give the "best player" the worst deck. "We built two good decks for ourselves and left the rest of the junk to big Wook." Needless to say, scraping at the bottom of the barrel, Nam failed to win his games but the team took the match in Round 1 anyway.
Nam professes, "My deck is so bad. You know you're in trouble when your best card is a foil Guul Draz Overseer. I'm going to lose all my games today, but it's still possible to win a Grand Prix without myself actually winning a match!"
Derek Tsang, (14) Lee Shi Tian and Chan Sze Hang
No Asian Grand Prix coverage is complete without paying a little tribute to Lee Shi Tian, four-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and four-time Hong Kong National Champion. He has teamed up with World Magic Cup Qualifier winner Chan Sze Hang who will be attending the World Magic Cup with Lee, as well as Derek Tsang who was last seen in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Taipei 2012.
Lee bemoaned that "they were in deep trouble". Their card pool was weak and their best deck was possibly a White-Blue Fliers deck.
"When you have neither a good Blue-Black Ingest deck, Green-based Eldrazi Ramp deck, a Red-Green Landfall deck or a Blue-Red Devoid deck, I think it will be an uphill battle. Especially in a tournament without byes, I think we will have a rough day ahead."
Huang Hao Shan is fresh off a 10th place finish from Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar and will bring his roommate and fellow MTG Mint Card member and Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur finalist Ryan Young Haowei to Beijing. Teaming up with close buddy Lin Shang-wei, it seems like this is a team to watch as well!
Huang Hao Shan, Lin Shang-wei and Ryan Yang Haowei
Huang states, "We did some practice Sealed Decks yesterday and none of the Red-Green Landfall decks were as good as the one we have today. It's a no-brainer to build, but the archetype relies heavily on the Landfall creatures that you open. Despite having Scythe Leopard as the premier one-drop in the deck, it's the Grove Rumblers you really want!"
Fabien Li, Kelvin Chew and Soh Weng Heng
As for Team Singapore, their reigning National Champion is writing this article, but the small nation's best hopes lie in the hands of three-time Singaporean National Champion Kelvin Chew, Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur Champion Fabien Li and three-time Grand Prix competition Soh Weng Heng. All three friends are also donning the MTG Mint Card team jacket and with years of hobbying together, they should be able to work together to achieve a great result.
Soh is piloting the deck with the most rares and commented that he was very surprised to see the Ally deck come together. "Usually, the Ally deck is very difficult to build, but somehow this card pool provided the specific uncommons and rares to make push it over the top. I also have a pair of Akoum Firebirds, which I believe are super awesome in the aggressive strategy."
Malaysia National Champion Raymond Tan declined to make the trip, as well as Philippines National Champion Taghoy Arnulfo. Thailand National Champion Veerapat Sirilertvorakul and Indonesia Champion Albert Budisanjaya are also nowhere to be seen.
I guess we'll have to wait for the World Magic Cup to see them in action!