Posted in GRAND PRIX SHANGHAI 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 4, 2014

By Chapman Sim

Zhang Zhiyang is one of China's finest players, with three Grand Prix Top 8s and a World Team Champion title under his belt. This makes him one of the most decorated Chinese players in the room today. At a 6-2 record, he would need to win his last match to advance further.

However, Yuuya Watanabe is in his way. A major roadblock, considering Watanabe's daunting resume. Twenty one Grand Prix Top 8s. Seven wins. He is hunting for his eighth. He has already won two Grand Prix in China, so I'd say he is a strong contender.

Game 1

Zhang found his opening seven unsatisfactory and went down to 6, but that didnt stop him from recruiting Watcher of the Roost, a morph and Mardu Hordechief.

Watanabe wasn't to be outdone, quickly summoning three morphs, Alabaster Kirin and Abzan Battle Priest, growing it to a 5/4 lifelink creature in just two turns.

Watanabe made use of the window that Zhang was tapped out to destroy Mardu Hordechief with Rite of the Serpent and attacked with his entire team. Zhang pushed two creatures in the way of the 5/4 lifelinking creature and used his morph to block one of three Watanabe's morphs.

The reason for Watanabe's aggressive trading was immediately obvious. After the bloodbath, he used the cards in his graveyard to pay for Shambling Attendants and then Sultai Scavenger. Zhang was unable to recover from the speed and reached for the sideboard.

Yuuya Watanabe delves his way to victory.

Yuuya Watanabe 1 – Zhang Zhiyang 0

Game 2

Zhang had Watcher of the Roost and Mardu Hordechief as early drops but that was quickly stymied by Watanabe's Sultai Scavengers and Alabaster Kirin. Zhang pointed two burn spells at them, only to have Watanabe replace the fallen Scavenger with another.

When Watanabe tried See the Unwritten, Zhang countered that with Disdainful Stroke. That paved the way for Dazzling Ramparts and Abzan Guide to resolve and Zhang was in serious trouble. Despite having Kill Shot for Abzan Guide, he could not stop Watanabe's Treasure Cruise or the Sultai Scavenger chipping away at his life total.

Pearl Lake Ancient was an impressive body, but nothing Dazzling Ramparts couldn't handle. However, the same could not be said for Ashcloud Phoenix, and Watanabe eventually perished in its fiery wake.

Zhang Zhiyang equalizes the score with the help of Ashcloud Phoenix.

Yuuya Watanabe 1 – Zhang Zhiyang 1

Game 3

Watanabe opted to let Zhang play first this time, feeling that both decks weren't particularly speedy.

Zhang Zhiyang flung a plethora of removal spells at whatever Watanabe had to offer. Winterflame, Smite the Monstrous and double Arc Lightning. Scaldkin chipped away at Watanabe's life total.

See the Unwritten from Watanabe granted him Sultai Soothsayer, a decent blocker to deal with the opposing Summit Prowler. He recovered with Rakshasa Vizier and Alabaster Kirin and it looked like the tide had started to turn. He attacked with his team, dropping Zhang from 18 to 11.

Watanabe morphed down Mystic of the Hidden Way, and turned him face up at the end of Zhang's turn. Once again attacking with his whole team, that reduced Zhang to just 2 life. Watanabe had the Crater's Claw to secure his seat in Day Two.

Yuuya Watanabe 2 – Zhang Zhiyang 1

Yuuya Watanabe beats Zhang Zhiyang to advance to Day 2!