Semifinals: Liu/He/Zhang vs. Watanabe/Mihara/Ichikawa

Posted in GRAND PRIX BEIJING 2015 on October 25, 2015

By Chapman Sim

China's last hopes to retain the Champion trophy on local soil lay in the hands of Liu Yuchen, He Yue and Zhang Zhiyang. It wasn't going to be easy though, because they were matched against Yuuya Watanabe, Makihito Mihara and Yuuki Ichikawa in their semifinals.

Liu Yuchen, He Yue and Zhang Zhiyang, China's final stalwarts!

Table A: Liu Yuchen (White-Black Allies) vs. Yuuya Watanabe (White-Red)

Watanabe's deck focused on doling out early damage with the help of efficient beats such as Kor Castigators and annoyances like Firemantle Mages. The pair of Angelic Gifts would prove to be a great tool, especially when paired with bigger threats such as Ondu Champion, Shatterskull Recruit or Deathless Behemoth! Planar Outburst and Ondu Uprising offered the potential for blowout situations.

Liu's Allies deck was also of similar nature, but he did have access to some lifegain cards such as Kalastria Healer and Drana's Emissary that could swing the race in his favor.

Both players traded Kor Castigators and tried to flood the board with threats during a temporary respite. However, a timely Ondu's Uprising reduced Liu's board to nothing, while Watanabe had a pair of Valakut Invokers on his side. A couple of lands later, Liu realized that he was locked under these triggers and quickly reached for his sideboard.

The second game didn't go too well for Watanabe though, but he managed the comeback in Game 3 with Kor Bladewhirl and Kor Castigator against Liu's slow draw. Well, Liu was forced to mulligan and summoning nothing until turn five. By then, the writing was on the wall and Liu lamented his misfortune while he prayed for his teammates to win!

Liu Yuchen 1—Yuuya Watanabe 2

Table B: He Yue (Red-Green Landfall) vs. Makihito Mihara (5-Color Green)

Mihara's colorful deck had a Blue-Green core with a splash for goodies such as double Roil Spout and to maximize his Skyrider Elves. Topping out the curve were a bunch of badass Eldrazis, Ruin Processor, Eldrazi Devastator and Void Winnower, he also sought to abuse some of the Converge cards in his pile, such as the very fancy Prism Array.

He Yue would strive to end the game quickly before Mihara could reach his powerful endgame, with his Red-Green Landfall deck. A cursory glance indicated that he had all the archetype needed.

Facing a pair of Snapping Gnarlids, Mihara coughed out some speed bumps in the form of Eldrazi Skyspawner, before clearing out He's hand with an Awakened Mire's Malice. That bought him enough time to land a 5/5 Skyrider Elf, as well as Prism Array. Scrying 3 and tapping down He's board accordingly, Mihara quickly took Game 1.

Triple threat!

In cruel irony, Mihara lost his lead twice as quickly as he gained it. Flooding out after drawing ten lands, he was quickly crushed by three Snapping Gnarlids and an enormous Territorial Baloth.

In the third, Mihara kicked off with Lifespring Druid to enable a 5/5 Skyrider Elf, which met with Plummet as soon as it hit the board. However, He had no creatures on the board until turn five, when he dropped Territorial Baloth. Mihara churned out Catacomb Sifter and Ruin Processor and He's beatdown deck looked like it was out of possibilities.

How could one expect to punch past a 7/8 and deal 20 damage with just a single 4/4 on the board? To aggravate matters, an Awakened Roil Spout reduced He to nothing. Another Awaken spell, this time Mire's Malice cleared out He's hand. Emeria Shepherd gave He a fighting chance, but a topdecked Prism Array allowed Void Winnower to deal the finishing blow!

He Yue 1—Makihito Mihara 2

Table C: Zhang Zhiyang (Blue-Black Ingest) vs. Yuuki Ichikawa (Blue-Red Devoid)

Ichikawa's deck was a hybrid of Ingest and Devoid. He was able to exile cards for processing via Mist Intruder and Benthic Infiltrator, in order to utilize two copies of each Oracle of Dust and Ruin Processors. Two copies of Nettle Drone and Touch of the Void offered his deck a little reach, backed by double Spell Shrivel and Adverse Conditions.

Dismissing some of Ichikawa's early threats with Spell Shrivel and Complete Disregard, Zhang tried to further cripple Ichikawa's resources with Transgress the Mind. Ichikawa revealed the last two cards in his hand (Outnumber and Processor Assault) “fizzling” it.

He did, however, topdeck Ulamog's Reclaimer the next turn, which allowed him to kill Zhang's Eldrazi Skyspawner with Outnumber before bringing it back from the yard. Zhang found insufficient creatures to outlast two removal spells in Ichikawa's hand, prompting him to scoop up his cards.

In the second game, Ichikawa's opener of double Nettle Drone and Vile Aggregate provided a much faster clock than Zhang's Culling Drone, Benthic Infiltrator and Dominator Drone. Backed by Spell Shrivel and Dispel, Ichikawa was able to continually deploy creatures while keeping them alive.

Despite Zhang's best attempts, no creature could slip by, aside from the unblockable 1/4. Vestige of Emrakul and Oracle of Dust fueled the final triggers of Nettle Drone, and when Zhang tapped out for Ugin's Insight, he was finished off by Ichikawa's entire team charging into the red zone.

Zhang Zhiyang 0—Yuuki Ichikawa 2

Yuuki Ichikawa, Makihito Mihara and Yuuya Watanabe will attempt to dazzle us one more time in the finals.

Watanabe/Mihara/Ichikawa sweeps Liu/He/Zhang 3-0 and moves on to the second and final team draft of the weekend, where they will be playing to become potential Grand Prix Champions!