Posted in GRAND PRIX MANILA 2015 on January 4, 2015

By Neale Talbot

Christian Calcano's had brought Abzan Whip as his weapon of choice for his 100th Magic GP. His opponent, Tzu Ching Kuo, had also brought an Abzan deck, but one that focused on gaining advantage through the use of Planeswalkers rather than Whips. With 13 GP Top 8s between them, both players posed a serious threat.

Game 1

The start of the game saw Calcano pressing his land advantage against Kuo. Both cast Thoughtseize, Kuo taking Calcano's Courser of Kruphix; Caclano taking Kuo's Sorin, Solemn Visitor. The two continued to mirror each other, Calcano's Rhinos trading for Kuo's removal, Calcano's Doomwake Giants trading for yet more Hero's Downfalls. This continued until Calcano cast a Hornet Queen and Kuo was forced to reset the battlefield with End Hostilities, followed by a well kept Sylvan Caryatid.

Kuo keeps in the game with a well timed End Hostilities.

Calcano tried to get back on the board, but his monsters continued to be rained down on by Kuo's removal. Kuo's card advantage from using Abzan Charm to aggressively draw cards started to add up. A Courser of Kruphix from Kuo was soon followed by Sorin, Solemn Visitor, who creating a Martin Jůza token (care of Christian Calcano's deckbox). Meanwhile Calcano was forced to play Doomwake Giant for little value. Kuo dispatched it with an Azban Charm, pumped his team and entered the red zone. Kuo pushed forward while Calcano struggled to find a solution. Eventually, with enough Jůza tokens, Kuo closed out the game.

Calcano 0 - Kuo 1

Game 2

From the outset Calcano was firmly on the offensive. Although set back a little by a Thoughtseize from Kuo taking his Courser of Kruphix, he landed a Siege Rhino and pressed forward. Kuo's luck kept up, managing to find removal for each of Calcano's threats. However Kuo found himself stranded on four lands and a grip full of spells he couldn't get out fast enough. Kuo called on Sorin, Solemn Visitor, only to have the token exiled by Calcano and Sorin destroyed.

Calcano cast a Thoughtseize, seeing Sorin, Utter End, Rhino, Elspeth, Unravel the Aether, Drown in Sorrow.

"Land", said Kuo, "I just need Land." Calcano took the Drown in the Sorrow and passed.

Kuo cast another Sorin and chose to make a Jůza token. Calcano used a fetchland to flush away a Hero's Downfall off the top of this deck in order to find more threats than Kuo could match. He choose to keep Anafenza, the Foremost on the top of his deck, and summoned a Hornet Queen from his hand.

Calcano struggles after another End Hostilities sets him back.

Kuo couldn't find the fifth land he desperately needed to play his End Hostilities to keep Sorin alive for post board-wipe value. Instead Kuo used Sorin to gain some life, knowing Sorin will be killed the following turn. Calcano attacked, killed Sorin as expected, then played Anafenza, the Foremost plus Pharika, God of Affliction. Kuo passed, but when Calcano attacked the following turn Kuo used Utter End to exile Pharika and sacrificed his Courser blocking Anafenza.

Down to just five life, Kuo finally cast End Hostilities. Kuo quickly stabilised with a Siege Rhino, then Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Calcano neutralised Elsepth somewhat with a Doomwake Giant but couldn't swing in. After a bit of back and forth Kuo cast Read the Bones, then a second Rhino. At this point both players were at nine life. Eslepth made tokens and Calcano seemed resigned to his fate.

Kuo swung in with the team. Calcano attempted to block profitably and cleared most of Kuo's board. Kuo sacrificed his Eslepth to finish off the Doomwake, then played out a second Elsepth, Calcano's team eliminated.

"I think I'm dead," admitted Calcano.

"Thank you for the Jůzas," laughed Kuo.

Calcano 0 - Kuo 2