Both teams have already been thoroughly introduced this weekend and it probably comes as no surprise to see two of the hottest teams clash in the finals. After cruising through the Swiss rounds and the semifinals, both superstar teams are faced with possibly the hardest Team Draft of the weekend.
Interestingly, Wescoe's, Hoaen's and Hron's most recent Grand Prix Top 8s all utilized Team Limited. Wescoe made the Top 4 at Grand Prix San Jose earlier this year, while Hoaen and Hron won Grand Prix Kyoto in 2013. Despite their excellent track records, their opponents' resumes were far more daunting.
Let's get Yuuya Watanabe his 8th Grand Prix title!
For instance, nobody messes with Yuuya Watanabe. When Shuhei Nakamura took down Grand Prix Dallas to overtake him as the greatest all-time Grand Prix Master, Watanabe vowed that he would regain that honor. Sure enough, he is now battling for his eighth Grand Prix title, and had the help of Hall of Famer Makihito Mihara and wildly-popular Magic streamer Yuuki Ichikawa.
Table A: Craig Wescoe (White-Red) vs. Yuuya Watanabe (Red-Green Landfall)
Wescoe's deck looked pretty low on low drops, but he did have Resolute Blademaster and twin Kor Entanglers to breakthrough. In all honesty, his White-Red deck didn't seem quite as powerful as his opponent's.
The Japanese player's Landfall deck contained usual suspects such as Snapping Gnarlid, Valakut Predator and Territorial Baloth. However, powerful rares such as Dragonmaster Outcast, Undergrowth Champion and Oran-Rief Hydra gave the deck a significant boost.
Wescoe's Felidar Cub traded with Watanabe's Oran-Rief Invoker, leaving the Japanese player with Valakut Invoker. Watanabe turned up the heat with Undergrowth Champion and Territorial Baloth, and Wescoe's weenies were unable to withstand the assault.
In Game 2, Wescoe put up a respectable defense in the form of Fortified Rampart and Vile Aggregate, forcing Watanabe's Oran-Rief Invoker, Valakut Predator and Undergrowth Champion to stay home momentarily.
Blighted Woodland grew Undergrowth Champion into a 5/5, potentially a 7/7. When Wescoe declined to chump, Watanabe dropped Territorial Baloth and Oran-Rief Hydra on successive turns, before crashing into the red zone with a horde of 6/6s that could grow beyond proportion. Nissa's Renewal presented the overkill.
Long story short, Green creatures are bigger than White ones.
Craig Wescoe 0 – Yuuya Watanabe 2
Table B: Rich Hoaen (White-Blue Fliers) vs. Makihito Mihara (5-Color Green)
Hoaen's "flying control deck” sought to offer some pressure with Shadow Gliders and Cloud Mantas before closing out the game with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, Drowner of Hope and Ruin Processor. Gideon's Reproach and a pair of Sheer Drops offered his deck some finesse, while Horribly Awry and Spell Shrivel could help keep Mihara's threats off the table.
It seemed like a pattern, because Mihara seemed to be tasked with drafting the multi-colored deck once again. This strategy in Team Draft was two-fold.
Not only could he pick up the late Converge cards nobody favored, he could also cut away any dangerous cards from his opponents and use them himself. This time, with Beastcaller Savant, Fathom Feeder, Exert Influence and triple Tajuru Stalwart, he hoped it was enough to defeat Hoaen.
Mihara opened pretty nicely, starting with Beastcaller Savant to allow Seek the Wilds and Fathom Feeder on his third turn. He continued to churn out huge fatties, such as a turn-four Kalastria Nightwatch and a turn-five Tajuru Beastmaster. When Hoaen presented Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, an Exert Influence for five (playing around Lithomancer's Focus) stole it away from him, ensuring Mihara's victory.
In the second game, Mihara's combination of Eyeless Watcher and Veteran Warleader created a threat, big enough to attack past Coralhelm Guide and Shadow Glider. Hoaen's Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper proved threatening, but Mihara answered that with Bone Splinters. Using Ally Encampment to summon a 3/3 Skyrider Elf, Mihara seemed very much ahead and Hoaen sank into the tank.
Wescoe had already lost his match, and he was down to 8 life just like Mihara was. Fortunately, Hron was able use Drowner of Hope to push deal 2 damage with Shadow Glider, before granting the 5/5 unblockability and pumping it with Lithomancer's Focus for lethal.
In the rubber game, Mihara fixed his mana with Seek the Wilds, enabling a 3/4 Tajuru Stalwart. Hoaen said no with Horribly Awry. He further manipulated his library with Fertile Thicket, a strategy he had been adopting all weekend to riffle through his deck.
While Mihara was setting up his mana base, Hoaen used the time to summon Shadow Glider and Cloud Manta. Exert Influence stole the bigger flier away from him, and when Mihara tried to bolster his forces with 5/5 Ally, it was countered again, this time with Spell Shrivel.
That paved the way for Mihara to drop both Kalastria Nightwatch and Fathom Feeder next turn. A card-drawing activation found Mihara another land, bumping him up to 8 lands, and then 9 the next turn. If he declined to trade with the opposing Kozilek's Channeler, Mihara could potentially draw an additional two cards each turn in time to come.
However, it seemed like he didn't have enough time. Drowner of Hope once again reared its ugly heads, reclaiming board superiority in a blink of an eye. To better protect himself, Mihara bounced his own Kalastria Nightwatch and redeployed it, before adding Carrier Thrall and then keeping his fingers crossed.
Hron completed the one-two punch by sacrificing his final Eldrazi and casting Clutch of Currents for the win. Counting Shadow Glider, the 3/3 land, a 4/4 Kozilek's Channeler and a 5/5 Drowner of Hope, that's 14 damage in one fell swoop!
Rich Hoaen 2 – Makihito Mihara 1
The eyes on the prize!
Table C: Mike Hron (Blue-Black Ingest) vs. Yuuki Ichikawa (Blue-Red Devoid)
Hron's hopes of Ingesting a card early lay in the two Sludge Crawlers, but without any two drops or Benthic Infiltrators, he might find difficulty exiling two cards to utilize Ulamog's Nullifier. Two copies of Grip of Desolation was very powerful though, as were the triple Dominator Drones. Ichikawa had a sweet deck himself, including yet another pair of Nettle Drones which seemed to be his pet card all weekend.
Regardless, Hron was able deal with Ichikawa's early threats with Complete Disregard and Spell Shrivel, allowing a pair of Mind Rakers to hit play. Oracle of Dust was his next creature, effective against Ichikawa's Incubator Drone and a 3/3 land Awakened by Clutch of Currents. Double Touch of the Void pulled Ichikawa back into the game. Ulamog's Reclaimer returned a copy of the burn spell but Hron had the Adverse Conditions to seal the deal.
Hron dropped a pair of Sludge Crawlers and swung. Ichikawa declined to block, preferring to counterattack with Akoum Stonewaker, its token, as well as Nettle Drone. The latter was lost to Grave Birthing, a trick Ichikawa had forgotten to take into account. Despite Ichikawa's best efforts, he was unable to reach the finish line.
Mike Hron 2 – Yuuki Ichikawa 0
"There goes my 8th Grand Prix title,” wailed Yuuya Watanabe.
"Don't worry, you'll get it the next time," was my honest reply.
Congratulations to Craig Wescoe, Richard Hoaen and Mike Hron, your Grand Prix Beijing 2015 Champions!