Posted in GRAND PRIX LOS ANGELES 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 19, 2014

By Frank Karsten

Eugene Hwang, having won Grand Prix Orlando two weeks ago, started the day as our King of the Hill, and he has held on to his seat for the entire day. This round, Gold level pro Brad Nelson will try to dethrone him.

Neither of these two players has Siege Rhino or Mantis Rider in their deck. With the Top 8 of last weekend's Pro Tour being dominated by those two cards, it is easy to forget that Khans of Tarkir contains a lot of cards for the other clans as well. Yet, Nelson has a Mardu deck that showcases the power of Butcher of the Horde, and Hwang has a Sultai deck based around Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Let's see how they match up!

Brad Nelson came to battle with Butcher of the Horde.


Game 1


Game one featured a lot of removal spells. As the game progressed, the graveyards of both players were getting fuller and fuller with cards like Murderous Cut, Crackling Doom, and their victims. At the point we'll tune in to the game, Nelson had managed to whittle down Hwang all the way down to 6 life but had no creatures on the battlefield except for a lonely 1/1 Goblin token. Hwang, in the meantime, had just milled Whip of Erebos and Hornet Queen with Nyx Weaver, which meant that he would be able to gain the upper hand if the game would go long.

With this game state, the key play of the match came when Hwang cast Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Nelson, who had Crackling Doom in hand, had the option of letting Sidisi resolve and then kill it while the enters-the-battlefield trigger was still on the stack. This way, even if Hwang would mill a creature, he wouldn't get a token because Sidisi wouldn't be on the battlefield when the trigger resolved. If that sounds like good timing, Brad found an even better one: He cast Crackling Doom in response to Sidisi, thereby killing Nyx Weaver (or rather, forcing Hwang to sacrifice it for Whip of Erebos). This got Hwang down to 4, thereby turning on Butcher of the Horde or Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker as an out. As Nelson explained after the match, this play gave the best chance of winning the game because he had no way to beat Whip of Erebos. He had to hope that a hasty flier was lurking on the top of his deck. Unfortunately, his deck did not cooperate: Nelson drew an irrelevant card and conceded in the face of a lifelinking Sidisi.

Eugene Hwang relies on Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to fill his graveyard.


Game 2


Game two was all about black cards that could return creatures from the graveyard. After trading resources for a while (specifically with Crackling Dooms in response to Sidisi's enter-the-battlefield trigger to deny Hwang a shot at a 2/2 Zombies), Hwang was about to take over the game with Whip of Erebos. Nelson's deck doesn't feature many answers to the Whip, but one is enough: He had Banishing Light to turn what would otherwise be a walk-over for Hwang into a fairly close game. However, the door was slammed shut when Hwang drew Soul of Innistrad. Nelson didn't have another Banishing Light, and had no way of stopping all the creatures that were coming back from Hwang's graveyard.

Eugene Hwang sticks around at the King of the Hill table, with his Sultai deck moving to 8-0. Brad Nelson falls to 7-1 with his Mardu deck, but he still has his Day 2 slot locked up. We'll be sure to give both of their decks a more detailed deck tech treatment tomorrow!