Semifinals: Wescoe/Hoaen/Hron vs. Ishimura/Ikawa/Takimura

Posted in GRAND PRIX BEIJING 2015 on October 25, 2015

By Chapman Sim

Wescoe/Hoaen/Hron were pretty much at the top of the standings all weekend, and lived up to expectations. As the first team to lock up their spot in the Top 4, they even had the luxury to concede the last Swiss round in order for a more favorable pairing in the Top 4 Playoffs.

Their opponents' (Ishimura/Ikawa/Takimura) road wasn't as smooth-sailing though. As one of the two teams going 11-3, only one team would make it to the Top 4 and they were able to triumph over Kato/Yasooka/Kakumae at “War of the Tiebreakers”.

Kazuyuki Takimura, Yoshihiko Ikawa and Shintaro Ishimura attempt to take revenge!

After navigating through fourteen rounds of Team Sealed, both teams will now be facing the daunting challenges of Team Draft. Not only would they need to assemble the best deck possible, they also need to be careful about passing good cards to their opponents.

Also, it was very possible for the signals to be read perfectly, and after the draft had concluded, each of these six players should know exactly what matchups they were up against.

A truly exciting match awaits!

Table A: Craig Wescoe (White-Blue splash Green) vs. Shintaro Ishimura (Black-Green Eldrazi)

Wescoe's deck was a classic White-Blue deck with a lot of evasion and powerful bombs such as Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper and Felidar Sovereign. He also had Lumbering Falls to help splash Kiora, Master of the Depths and Skyrider Elf. What he was struggling with was whether Scatter to the Winds, Stasis Snare and Sheer Drop were sufficient answers for Ishimura's Eldrazi monsters.

Unbeknownst to Wescoe, Ishimura's Black-Green Eldrazi Ramp deck didn't have many feared late-game bombs. As a matter of fact, both Ikawa and Takimura were deeply concerned about how Ishimura's deck had turned out. Despite having the mana acceleration and Eldrazi Scion generators, Ishimura had only a couple of haymakers to ruin Wescoe's day.

In Game 1, Ishimura stymied Wescoe's opening of Felidar Cub Shadow Glider and Cloud Manta with Carrion Thrall, Catacomb Sifter and Giant Mantis. Kozilek's Channeler into Breaker of Armies were Ishimura's next two plays, and Wescoe's board could be decimated in one fell swoop.

Fearing Ondu's Uprising, Ishimura tread carefully and declined to attack when Wescoe kept all his mana open. He was, however, forced to budge when Kiora, Master of the Depths hit the board. Sure enough, Wescoe had a trick, but it was Roilmage's Trick to keep Kiora alive while taking down Breaker of Armies. Faced with no other choice, Ishimura attacked with his entire team to take down Kiora, suffering significant losses.

After that nerve-wrecking episode, the board returned to a stalemate, with both parties loading threats onto the table. However, approximately a hundred turns later, Ishimura drew into Vampiric Rites, Brood Butcher and finally, the Swarm Surge that would secure him the first game.

Mike Hron's match is concluded as he watches Rich Hoaen's and Craig Wescoe's match. Did he win?

A few turns into his second game, Wescoe received updates that he didn't need to play out his next two games. That could only mean good news. Or the worst.

Craig Wescoe 0—Shintaro Ishimura 1

Table B: Rich Hoaen (Blue-Red) vs. Yoshihiko Ikawa (White-Black Lifegain Allies)

Hoaen's deck was a hybrid of Devoid and Ingest, as can be seen from his triple Mist Intruders, triple Murk Striders and double Nettle Drones. A tempo deck at heart, aimed to strike at the heart.

Ikawa's deck sought to abuse Serene Steward and Kalastria Nightwatch by triggering them with Kalastria Healer, Stone Haven Medic and Ruin Processor. With so much lifegain in his Ally-themed deck, this matchup looked to be interesting.

Sure enough, in the first game, Ikawa gummed up the ground with a duo of Fortified Ramparts before attempting to soar through the skies with Courier Griffin. Hoaen's Titan's Presence put a stop to that plan, and also broke apart the combo of Stone Haven Medic and Serene Steward with Processor Assault. Despite the defenses, Ikawa couldn't help but take continuous damage from a pair of Mist Intruders and the double Nettle Drones relentlessly pinging away.

In Game 2, Hoaen led with Mist Intruder and two Nettle Drones once again. After all, he did have multiple copies of each. Ikawa's removal-light deck wasn't well-equipped to deal with them, and could only attempt to race with Serene Steward, Ondu Greathorn and a pair of Kalastria Nightwatch.

If only Ikawa could find a reliable way to gain life. Well, it turned out that he didn't even need the Ruin Processor in his hand. Attacking with both 4/5s, he brought Hoaen down to 2 life. If Hoaen were to draw a colorless card, he would be able to kill Ikawa with a flurry of Nettle Drone triggers. He didn't.

Ikawa counterattacked for the win, with just one life left in the bank.

Game 3 saw Ikawa keeping Hron's Mist Intruder and Cloud Manta at home with Courier Griffin. However, Titan's Presence cleared away the obstacle, allowing Hoaen to race through the skies. Clutch of Currents further was Ikawa's subsequent setback, followed by Murk Strider. Ikawa could not get Kalastria Nightwatch to stick for even a single turn. The tremendous tempo advantage coupled with Touch of the Void and Nettle Drone ensured Hoaen's (and his team's) victory.

Why? Spoiler alert! Because Hron had won his match too!

Rich Hoaen 2—Yoshihiko Ikawa 0

Table C: Mike Hron (Black-Red Devoid) vs. Kazuyuki Takimura (White-Red)

Hron put together a lightning-fast aggro deck featuring a pair of Forerunner of Slaughters. Aside from the usual colorless suspects, Hron also had end-game troublemakers such as Barrage Tyrant and Guul Draz Overseer.

Takimura's White-Red deck was also fairly standard, featuring a bunch of weenies backed by cheap tricks. In particular, Tandem Tactics seemed to shine in this combat-oriented, damage-based matchup.

Angelic Gift lifted Makindi Sliderunner from the ground and threatened Hron's life total. When he tried Complete Disregard to exile it, Takimura saved it with Lithomancer's Focus. Stuck on three lands, Takimura forged ahead and quickly claimed the first game.

Next game, Hron led with Forerunner of Slaughter and Valakut Predator, but declined to attack when Takimura passed his third turn with three mana open. Considering that he had Expedition Envoy and Pathway Arrows on the battlefield (which he declined to equip), that certainly smelt very fishy indeed.

Hron played around a potential trick, adding Hagra Sharpshooter to the board, taking aim. Takimura presented nothing else, and lost his 2/1 to the the Hagra Sharpshooter the next turn. With an empty board, Takimura quickly got flattened.

In the third, Hron led with Sludge Crawler and Forerunner of Slaughter, while Takimura could only cough up Valakut Predator as a blocker. While adept at attacking, the Landfall creature was a Gray Ogre on defense. Nonetheless, Takimura took the trade and Hron replaced the fallen with Dominator Drone.

Stuck on only Red mana, Takimura could only watch while a second Forerunner of Slaughter and another Dominator Drone rip away at his life total.

Mike Hron 2—Kazuyuki Takimura 1

Team Wescoe/Hoaen/Hron defeats Ishimura/Ikawa/Takimura for the second time this weekend, and advance to the finals.