With qualification already assured for the Pro Tour in Washington D.C. next February, the pressure is at least partially off Harry Corvese and Eugene Hwang. There's cash and a trophy on the line, but thankfully no stomach-churning pit of despair for a losing quarterfinalist who also misses out on a PT slot. Neither player are strangers to knockout play. Hwang made the Top 8 of GP Vancouver earlier this year, while Corvese is a repeat offender – this is his fourth shot at taking home a trophy. After a day full of green black decks, Corvese was running Jeskai, while Hwang was solidly Mardu.
The Jeskai deck was typically tempo in the early stages, but not necessarily to Corvese's best advantage. He had mulliganed to six, and remained stuck on four mana for several turns, meaning that his Crippling Chill and Force Away were more gap-stoppers than back-breaking tempo plays. Still, the damage was accumulating. Hwang simply replayed/untapped his relevant forces, and pressed his advantage. Corvese was using any number of spells to keep in the game – another Force Away, Deflecting Palm – and suddenly Hwang was in range of fiery death. He looked to take out Mystic of the Hidden Way, but Corvese had done enough damage for Jeskai Charm to be lethal.
'I did NOT expect to lose that game' said Hwang, and frankly, I can see his point.
Corvese 1 – 0 Hwang
In the battle of Mardu versus Jeskai, there are going to be fireworks sometimes, since both Clans would like to be on the front foot. It was the Mardu, and Hwang, that won that particular battle, quickly dropping Corvese to 6, and constantly leaving him vulnerable to tricks during combat, having been forced to tap out for more creatures, attempting to stabilize the board. That's not really a place that Jeskai wants to be – those Prowess creatures just aren't as impressive once they're staying at home – and it was quickly all square.
Corvese 1 – 1 Hwang
The early looked like it should be critical, and Hwang dominated. Ghostfire Blade, Leaping Master, Ruthless Ripper, War-Name Aspirant, Chief of the Scale... That's a lot of red zone action against a lone Bloodfire Expert for Corvese, who was 'forced' (ho ho ho) to Force Away, then use Suppression Field on the Chief of the Scale. Part of the problem for Corvese was that Mardu decks are quite happy to exist with just creatures. They attack just fine as they are. The Jeskai deck, meanwhile, wants creatures and spells, ideally at the same time. He briefly managed to have two creatures on the battlefield, but only to trade them away. None of it mattered, as Leaping Master lived up to its name and delivered the final damage with a Ghostfire Blade firmly attached.
Corvese 1 – 2 Hwang
As the players congratulated each other on fine weekends, Corvese confirmed that he had been a little creature-light through the draft. Still, he gets to have another go at a trophy in two weeks at Grand Prix Los Angeles, which is Hwang's home town. 'I was thinking about quitting the game at the end of this month' Hwang confessed with a grin.
Now? Probably not.