Posted in GRAND PRIX MANILA 2015 on January 4, 2015

By Neale Talbot

In a scene reminiscent of the 2012 World Magic Cup, Tzu Ching Kuo of Taiwan squared off against Zax Ozaki. Kuo had lead the Chinese Taipei team to victory in San Francisco, while Ozaki's Filipino team had made Top 8. Both players had brought Abzan decks to GP Manila, though with very different archetypes.

Game 1

Kuo led off with a fast Fleecemane lion, while Ozaki led off with Sylvan Caryatid. Kuo continued to apply pressure with a Siege Rhino. Ozaki played out a Siege Rhino of his own, while Kuo followed up with a Sorin, Solemn Visitor and used Thoughtseize to force Ozaki to discard a Doomwake Giant. Kuo used Sorin to pump his team and attack, but Kuo responded with Hero's Downfall on his opponent's attacking Rhino, then played out a second Rhino of his own.

For the next few turns the two continued to trade creatures and removal spells. Eventually Tzu took control of the board with a Liliana Vess, Elspeth, Sun's Champion and a monstrified Fleecemain Lion. However, Tzu also found himself on a perilously low life total compared to Ozaki, who had used the lifegain from Whip of Erebos to good advantage. Elspeth went to a single loyalty counter, killing Ozaki's final creature, a Doomwake Giant, and Tzu seemed in the driver's seat.

Kuo Tzu Ching in the driver's seat during Round 10.

All that changed the following turn when Ozaki used Whip to return Eidolon of Blossoms, then cast double Courser of Kruphix, drawing twice, including a revealed Ashen Rider. With an active Whip of Erebos on board the Ashen Rider made short work of both Planeswalkers, while the card advantage provided by the Eidolon of Blossoms slowly but surely overwhelmed Tzu.

Ozaki 1 - Tzu 0

Game 2

Tzu remained on the play, with a fast Thoughtseize revealing a very slow hand from Ozaki. Tzu took a Whip of Erebos, and next turn summoned a Courser of Kruphix. Ozaki did very little as the Courser smoothed Tzu's draws and allowed him to keep the pressure up, casting multiple Siege Rhinos.

While Ozaki tried his best to remain in the game, finding Hero's Downfall for each of the Rhinos, Tzu continued to harass Ozaki with two Coursers of Kruphix and continued Thoughtseizes. Eventually Ozaki's only out appeared to be the Hornet Queen in his hand, but he struggled to find a seventh land. Ozaki cast an Eidolon of Blossoms, hoping to hit a land, but missed again. Tzu destroyed the Eidolon with a Hero's Downfall and quickly dispatched Ozaki with his centaurs the following turn.

Ozaki 1 - Tzu 1

Game 3

Ozaki was on the play for the first time this match and fired off an early Thoughtseize to nab a Thoughtseize from Tzu. The next few turns neither player could keep a permanent on the table; Ozaki's enchantments were removed by Tzu's Unravel the Æthers, while Tzu's Courser's were removed by Ozaki's Hero's Downfall. Eventually Ozaki stuck a Siege Rhino, while Tzu found himself stranded on three lands.

Zax Ozaki looking for a win in the Feature Match area.

Just as Tzu looked to pull out of his mana shortage, clearing the board with End Hostilities, Ozaki summoned an Ashen Rider, exiling one of Tzu's lands. Tzu managed to kill the Ashen Rider, but again lost a land in the process. Ozaki topks fast advantage of his opponent's struggles with a new Siege Rhino, Courser of Kruphix and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Tzu knew he was overwhelmed and extended the hand.

"The deck is basically a Constellation/Whip deck, with a See The Unwritten twist." Ozaki said afterwards. "It has a transformational sideboard that allows me to take out the Constellation package to become a midrange/control deck, using Thoughtseize and Elspeth, Sun's Champion to take control. No-one expects it, and their removal becomes worse. I've been been Top 8ing with this deck, same exact build, for months now. I went to the finals of four GP Trials, then won a PPTQ with it. I'm enjoying it a lot."

Ozaki 2 - Tzu 1