Posted in GRAND PRIX MANILA 2015 on January 4, 2015

By Neale Talbot

Tzu Ching Kuo and Lee Shi Tian, two of the Asia Pacific's best players, have faced off many times before. The two are well matched; in 2013 Lee had beaten out Tzu Ching Kuo as top rated player in the APAC region by a single point. Now, sitting in the slowly emptying hall, their skills - but not their friendship - would be tested.

Game 1

Lee cast the first stone with a Voyaging Satyr. Kuo charged out of the gates with a Fleecemane Lion. Lee considered his options, then chose to play a Dragon Mantle on Kuo's Fleecemane Lion in order to draw a card and find a third land, then play a morph. Kuo attacked, then cast a second Fleecemane Lion; Lee now needed to find his combo before being crushed by his opponent's kitties.

Kuo firmly in control against Lee in the semifinals.

Lee, continuing to cough from the cold that had plagued him, summoned a Sylvan Caryatid and passed. Kuo swung in, hitting Lee down to 10. Kuo used a Drown in Sorrow to kill Lee's Voyaging Satyr. Later, Kuo cast a Sylvan Caryatid of his own, then used Bile Blight to kill both Caryatids on the board, meaning Lee could not long protect his combo with Hexproof.

Lee flipped his morph to reveal Rattleclaw Mystic, then used the floating mana to cast Tormenting Voice. He found little, played a land and passed back to Kuo. Kuo called on Sorin, Solemn Visitor to help him. He pumped his team and crashed in, leaving Lee with just one turn to find his combo. Lee tried to Commune with the Gods but today the Gods just weren't listening. The next turn Kuo attacked for the win.

Kuo 1 - Lee 0

Game 2

Lee led off with a Turn 2 Caryatid. Kuo started off slower, playing a Thoughtseize to take a Dragon Mantle from Lee, but developing nothing on the battlefield. This gave Lee the time to slowly build his board and sculpt his hand. Lee cast a Commune with the Gods but missed finding a card. More turns passed with nothing from Kuo, while Lee cast an end of turn Dig Through Time, finding a Dragon Mantle and a Retraction Helix. However, with two Retraction Helix already in the yard, Lee was slowly running out of combo pieces and vulnerable to another Thoughtseize from Kuo.

Eventually, with two Sylvan Caryatid on the board, Lee felt it was time to go for the win. Kuo's board was a single Caryatid and Lee suspected Kuo would attempt the Bile Blight trick again. Lee cast a Jeskai Ascendancy, then paused to figure out how to go off while playing around Kuo's Bile Blight.

Lee tries to figure out how to play around Kuo's Bile Blight.

Lee cast Twinflame, targeting a Caryatid and triggering the Jeskai Ascendancy. Kuo responded with an Erase targeting the powerful enchantment. Lee let the stack resolve then played out a second Jeskai Ascendency. Lee uses a Retraction Helix to untap his creatures and begin the combo. In response Kuo cast Bile Blight on his Caryatid, failing to realise it wouldn't kill all the Caryatids due to the buff from the first Ascendancy. It did, however, kill the Twinflame token, meaning Lee could no longer untap for the three mana required to bounce his Ascendancy.

With no other noncreature permanent in hand, Lee had no way to win that turn, and with all his Retraction Helixes in the graveyard he also no longer had a win condition in his deck. Lee laughed, coughed, and conceded.

Kuo 2 - Lee 0