Semifinals: Nam Sung Wook (Abzan Aggro) vs. Yuuki Ichikawa (Abzan Control)

Posted in GRAND PRIX SHANGHAI 2015 on May 17, 2015

By Chapman Sim

Both players have solid resumes and are about the most accomplished players left in the entire tournament. Nam Sung Wook and Yuuki Ichikawa both have multiple Grand Prix Top 8s, and have even shared a Pro Tour Top 8 together. They faced off at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in Atlanta, and it was Nam who advanced to the finals (only to fall to eventual Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin).

"This is a revenge match," Ichikawa joked. "I hope to win this time, of course!"

I asked who was favored in this match up and both players engaged in a brief debate. The conclusion was that it was "about even". Ichikawa pointed out that Nam was first to play, but he had Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Nam said he has Wingmate Roc as a trump, so it could be anyone's game.

Game 1

Nam kickstarted the semifinals with Heir of the Wilds. Ichikawa shoved Den Protector in its way. Nam recruited Anafenza, the Foremost, which quickly fell to Hero's Downfall.

Nam was running low on gas, even though he did have Sorin, Solemn Visitor to create a vampire token. His Planeswalker was not as powerful as his opponent's though.

Ichikawa tapped all his mana to recruit Elspeth, Sun's Champion, probably the best card against Abzan Aggro. Nam did have Hero's Downfall, but Ichikawa simply brought it back with the help of Den Protector.

Since Ichikawa couldn't recast Elspeth immediately, Nam summoned Wingmate Roc to keep things in check. Ichikawa immediately distributed two +1/+1 counters on the opposing pair of birds, bumping them up to four power each. Instead of creating three soldier tokens next turn, Elspeth's second ability was activated.

Yuuki Ichikawa triumphs with triple Elspeth.

The vampire token finished off Elspeth, but Ichikawa was ready with yet another on the top of his deck. Nam saw no way to deal with the third Elspeth and scooped up his cards.

Nam Sung Wook 0 – Yuuki Ichikawa 1

Game 2

A flurry of exchanges happened in the first few turns. It was the attrition war that favored Ichikawa, where all he wanted was to buy time and stay alive.

Ichikawa binned Fleecemane Lion with Thoughtseize, and used Abzan Charm to exile Anafenza, the Foremost. Valorous Stance from Nam killed the opposing Tasigur, the Golden Fang.

All this while, Heir of the Wilds and a monstrous Fleecemane Lion was whittling away at Ichikawa's life total. At a mere four life, Ichikawa had only one more draw step.

He ripped...

Elspeth, Sun's Champion off the top, to the roar of the crowd. Nam was not that excited though, as he shook his head and smiled at his misfortune.

However, he did have [autocard]Siege Rhino[/autocard] and a pair of Dromoka's Command to break past the line of soldiers. With Elspeth out of the way, Ichikawa eventually got stomped to death by the mighty Siege Rhino.

Nam Sung Wook evens up the score with a pair of Dromoka's Commands.

Nam Sung Wook 1 – Yuuki Ichikawa 1

Game 3

Sometimes, the match is simply decided by the number of Siege Rhinos drawn. When Nam cast Thoughtseize, what he saw made him shake his head in despair. He sunk into the tank at this sight.

Eventually setting on the "Eternal Witness" doppelganger, Nam knew that a pair of Siege Rhinos were on their way. Sure enough, Ichikawa recruited one of them on his fourth turn.

Nam assembled Anafenza, the Outmost and Wingmate Roc and tried to race. But that was impossible against a pair of rhinos. Coupled with their sheer size and "drain life" ability, Nam was forced into chump blocking mode. A second Wingmate Roc only delayed the inevitable.

Well, Rhinos are bigger than Birds.

Nam Sung Wook 1 – Yuuki Ichikawa 2

Yuuki Ichikawa has his revenge, and defeats Nam Sung Wook to advance to the finals.