The players were both full of smiles as they settled in for this semifinal. Hwang had dispatched Harry Corvese in the quarterfinals, while Villela had edged out Frank Lepore. He didn't seem confident of making it past this penultimate hurdle – 'I have no idea how I won my quarterfinal'. Hwang wasn't buying it – 'But you're still here.' The Brazilian was running a straight green-white deck, and in truth it wasn't pretty. You couldn't say the same for Hwang – his Mardu deck looked odds-on favorite to reach the final. But, as they say, there's a reason you play the games...
Against the aggressive Hwang (in the deck sense only!), Villela had lots of early defense, featuring a regenerating Kin-Tree Warden and two Alpine Grizzly. He turned one of his dead bears into Delve fodder for Hooting Mandrils, and kept on expanding his board. It wasn't that any of the cards were outstanding, it was just that they were nigglingly efficient. With the board state effectively stalled, Outlast could come into play. Tuskguard Captain grew and grew. And grew.
You may be wondering what Hwang was doing through all this durdly green white excitement. The truthful answer? Plenty, but none of it especially noteworthy. Yes he got to turn up a couple of morphs, yes he got to use Debilitating Injury to kill a Kin-Tree Warden, and, yes, Ponyback Brigade brought along some friends for the ride. None of it was really doing anything.
However, 'doing something' was exactly the plan for Hwang. He unmorphed Jeering Instigator, stealing the 9/10 Tuskguard Captain from Villela (yeah, 9/10 – feel the beatings). That dropped Villela low enough that Arrow Storm became lethal.
The summary? Both players did lots of not much. Then Villela had his face burned off in a freak Instigator accident.
Hwang 1 – 0 Villela
OK, enough of this: this wasn't a game of lots of small plays, and a cluttered board state. This was a game of Villela drawing lots of land, Hwang casting War-Name Aspirant, equipping it with Ghostfire Blade, and then turning Villela's life total from 15 to 10 to 5 to thanks for playing. In truth, Villela wasn't too disappointed – he really meant it about not knowing how he'd managed to win his quarterfinal. As for Hwang, it was readily apparent how he'd won both quarters and semis – his Mardu deck is pretty good.
Hwang 2 – 0 Villela