Posted in GRAND PRIX SHIZUOKA 2015 on January 11, 2015

By Josh Bennett

It will be a long day for these two, with little room for error. Christian Calcano is hot off his Top 8 appearance in Manila last weekend, but both he and Mark Yaocheng were saddled with two losses on Day 1. Only one of them will escape the first pod unscathed.

The Players

Christian Calcano has been called many things: Relentless Globetrotting GP Grinder, Amateur Rap Theorist, Certified Anime Fanatic. He’s in the hunt to add “Back-to-Back GP Top 8’er” to that list. His deck in this first draft was one of hideous power. Any time your deck description includes “a pair of Savage Knuckleblades” you know you’ve got something special.

Christian Calcano (left) and Mark Yaocheng (right)

Singapore’s Mark Yaocheng is a regular of the APAC Grand Prix circuit with a few cashes under his belt. He’s still chasing that first Top 8 and hopes to pile up the wins today to claim it. His deck is a textbook Abzan Warriors deck, heavy on the aggression with plenty of tricks.

The Games

Calcano got himself a natural turn-three Savage Knuckleblade, but in the meantime Yaocheng hadn’t been idle. He had started with Disowned Ancestor and morph, and spent his fourth turn outlasting and getting himself a 5/5 Kin-Tree Invocation token. Calcano summoned Sultai Flayer and held back. Keen to rid himself of Big Knucks, Yaocheng dropped Raider’s Spoils and attacked with his token. Calcano was happy to trade and so double-blocked.

He untapped and played out Alpine Grizzly, then Savage Punch on his Flayer to dispatch the Ancestor and hit for five. Yaocheng returned fire for three and played Unrelenting Krumar, stuck on four land. Calcano hit again and the Grizzly traded with the Krumar, only to be replaced by a face-up Sagu Mauler.

Yaocheng drew his next card, looked at his hand, and said “Yeah, we can go to the next game.”

Calcano 1 – Yaocheng 0

Yaocheng was first on the board with Chief of the Edge, but a Blossoming Sands on turn three meant he added nothing to the board. Calcano drew, and then with a shrug played Force Away, missing his third land drop. Yaocheng replaced his Chief with High Sentinels of Arashin. Calcano’s deck took pity on him and coughed up the land he needed for Alpine Grizzly. Yaocheng hit for three and replayed his Chief, holding up three mana.

Mark Yaocheng

Calcano played a morph and held back. Debilitating Injury took care of the morph and a 4/4 Kin-Tree Invocation token joined the party. Calcano had Savage Punch to take care of the High Sentinels but wasn’t out of the woods yet. Down came Raiders’ Spoils for Yaocheng and the Grizzly tackled the big token. Calcano replaced it with a morph he was happy to trade for the Chief of the Edge, but Yaocheng rebuilt immediately with Seeker of the Way and Sultai Scavenger. Savage Knuckleblade showed up far too late, and they moved on to a third game.

Calcano 1 – Yaocheng 1

Bad news from the start for Yaocheng, with a mulligan into a slow, reactive hand. Calcano was happy to trade his Alpine Grizzly for Kill Shot and replaced it with a morph. Yaocheng hoped Salt Road Patrol would slow him down, but it did not. The morph came in and went unblocked. Calcano thought for a moment, then decided to spend his turn unmorphing. It was Pinewalker.

Yaocheng seized the initiative with a big turn of Suspension Field on the Pinewalker, then Kin-Tree Invocation and hit for two. Calcano didn’t so much as blink. He untapped, dropped Savage Knuckleblade and then an equally Savage Punch to blow up the token. He even had the extra mana for haste and six damage to the face. Yaocheng swung for two more and summoned Sultai Scavenger. Calcano hit again with his Knuckleblade and pumped it to put Yaocheng down to just four life. He was holding Force Away.

Christian Calcano

Still, Yaocheng wasn’t out of it. He soared overhead for three and summoned Mardu Hordechief, giving himself plenty of blockers. He put Debilitating Injury on the Knuckleblade and passed with one card in hand. Calcano bounced the Knuckleblade at end of turn, then untapped and replayed it with haste. The 1/1 warrior dove in the way. Calcano added an Alpine Grizzly to his board, another lethal attacker. Yaocheng was a few turns from victory with his Scavenger. He played Despise and caught Sagu Archer, seeing the Force Away in Calcano’s hand. He was forced to play fully defensively, and the vise continued to tighten. Soon Force Away and Savage Punch teamed up to give Calcano the win.

The Aftermath

“I wish I’d seen Suspension Field earlier, I could’ve boarded in Naturalize. Couldn’t bring myself to do it for just Raider’s Spoils.”

“I was just hoping you weren’t Temur when I passed you the first Knuckleblade in pack three.”

“I was blue green with just a couple of black cards, and I thought well why don’t I hedge.” Calcano fanned out three cards: Icy Blast, Ghostfire Blade and Sagu Mauler. “Opened these Pack 1, Pack 2, Pack 3.”

Yaocheng could only laugh and shake his head. “I thought the draft went well for me, I just knew there was a superior deck out there and I didn’t want to face it.”