Prepare for Trouble, Make It Triple

Posted in GRAND PRIX BEIJING 2015 on October 24, 2015

By Chapman Sim

Team Limited Grand Prix are exciting in many ways. For one, it's a very interesting format that doesn't receive as much attention as Standard or regular Sealed Deck, which is a shame because it's inexplicably enjoyable.

For another, it's a format where team dynamics are an integral part of victory, much like the World Magic Cup where Unified Standard and Unified Block are also utilized to test how well three players work together.

Most importantly, it's always exciting to zoom in on the killer lineups and marvel at three legends joining forces. Much like the combiners in Transformers, Team Limited events are the perfect setting for three esteemed individuals to combine into the ultimate killing machine.

Which are the top three trios to watch this weekend? In particular, we're highlighting three teams with members who have displayed mastery in Team formats!

From the American Front

Craig Wescoe, Rich Hoaen, and Mike Hron

Despite Grand Prix Quebec City taking place this very same weekend, these three players have decided to hop on board a trans-Pacific flight to arrive in Beijing this weekend.

Craig Wescoe, the Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Champion, most recently placed Top 4 at Grand Prix San Jose, incidentally also a Team Limited Grand Prix.

Rich Hoaen is especially well-known for his Limited prowess and is one of the few people who can claim to have ever mentored Kenji Tsumura as a protege. With his most recent achievement being crowned Champion of Grand Prix Kyoto 2015, a title he shares with Alexander Hayne and Mike Hron, it is not surprising to see him back for a second helping.

Hron was also part of "Triple H" which won Kyoto, but let's not forget that he also won Pro Tour Geneva 2007. This alliance results in possibly the most intimidating teams from North America this weekend.

The Hareruya Pros

Tomoharu Saito, Tomoharu Saito, and Yuta Takahashi

Word on the street is that there're nearly thirty all-Japanese teams present in Beijing. Perhaps the most star-studded one is formed by the three pillars of the Hareruya Pros.

Hall of Famer Kenji Tsumura is joined by relentless road warrior Tomoharu Saito, as well as three-time Grand Prix Champion Yuta Takahashi this weekend, all dressed in their maroon windbreakers and equipped with daunting resumes.

Perhaps their lists of achievements are too long to memorize, but I'd like to point out that all three titans have had massive experience operating at the team level.

Tomoharu Saito, alongside Shota Yasooka and Tomohiro Kaji, won the Ravnica Block Team Constructed Pro Tour at Charleston in 2006, while Yuta Takahashi was the finalist at the Time Spiral Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour in San Diego in 2007, alongside Kentarou Yamamoto.

One of Kenji Tsumura's five Pro Tour Top 8s comes from Pro Tour Atlanta, where he came in 4th with Tomoharu Saito and Tomohiro Kaji competing in Kamigawa Block Limited. (Notice Kaji's name coming up quite often this weekend?)

With so much experience between them, this is one of the deadliest teams on the roster, and one can expect great results from them this weekend. As we speak, they're 5-0 moving in Round 6 and we'll likely see more of them tomorrow.

The Asia Pacific Guard

Li Bo, Tzu Ching Kuo, and Choo Yong Han

It is never a pleasant feeling for the trophy to leave the country, much less the continent. In particular, Asia Pacific's finest players are attempting to give the foreigners a run for their money.

In addition to 11 Grand Prix Top 8s, Tzu Ching Kuo was the Captain and Champion of the inaugural World Magic Cup in 2012. It has been said that Kuo's feat of guiding three relative greenhorns to victory was a testament of his skills as a mentor and leader.

Li Bo is also a World Team Champion, a title he earned during the 2009 World Championships, together with Wu Tong and Zhang Zhiyang. Li is also a former China National Champion and Grand Prix Champion, and probably the most well-known player in all of China.

These two World Team Champions are accompanied by Singapore's Choo Yong Han, who previously came in Top 4 at Pro Tour Hollywood 2008, where he fell to Charles Gindy in the semifinals. Choo was also a former Singapore National Champion and has captained the team at the World Championships 2008 in Memphis. In addition, Choo has a pair of Grand Prix Top 8s to his name.

Clearly, all three players are very accustomed to high-level play and their unlikely alliance has surprised the local community. What most people don't know is that, these three players are among the very best in the Asia Pacific region and have been friends for nearly a decade.

Will their long-time rapport guide them towards a strong finish?