Top Stories of Grand Prix Singapore

Posted in Event Coverage on December 17, 2017

By Chapman Sim

As Grand Prix Singapore - and 2017 - drew close, we invite you to join us in celebrating the most memorable moments of the weekend and the year.

Bidding Goodbye to Triple Ixalan Draft

This weekend marked the last time players would be drafting triple Ixalan at the Premier Event level. Before Rivals of Ixalan entered the format, let us take a look at some of the best draft decks - from each representing tribe - we encountered this weekend. Many of these products will likely be impossible to assemble come 2018 so let this be a little tribute.

Toshiya Kanegawa and Pirates

“Usually, I don't draft Pirates because it is a currently weaker tribe. But today, it was underdrafted at my table, and I got a powerful deck," said four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Toshiya Kanegawa.

What made his Pirate deck tick?

“The most important commons are Siren Lookout, Vanquish the Weak, and Pirate Cutlass. The best card in the deck is Hostage Taker, and I can protect it with Dive Down, Kitesail Freebooter and even Duress or reuse it with Siren’s Ruse and March of the Drowned - a card which I think is still very undervalued now. The four copies of Wanted Scoundrel really pushed my deck’s power to the extreme."

Naturally, he went 3-0 with this masterpiece in Pod 1. According to one of Kanegawa’s opponents - Nicholas Wong, the first ever Singapore National Champion - “his deck was absolutely bonkers."

Toshiya Kanegawa’s Blue-Black Pirates

Grand Prix Singapore 2017 Day Two
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Ekapong Pornpromlikit and Dinosaurs

Ekapong Pornpromlikit showed off his MVP of the morning.

Ekapong Pornpromlikit made the two-hour trip from his homeland to the shores of Singapore.. He participated in about 15 Grand Prix within the last few years and described himself as “an inspiring grinder who hopes to play in the Pro Tour one day." He went 2-1 with this deck, attributing the loss to unfortunate mana issues.

  • Sky Terror
  • Sky Terror
  • Sky Terror
  • Sky Terror
  • Sky Terror

Today, he might have the power of Huatli, Warrior Poet on his side - he called it a great card - but what was raising eyebrows about his deck were the five Sky Terrors! Together with Imperial Aerosaur, Shining Aerosaur, and double Pterodon Knight, that’s a lot of evasion! The best cards in a (nongreen) Dinosaur archetype were Charging Monstrosaur, Imperial Aerosaur, Territorial Hammerskull, and Thrash of Raptors. With some of these cards costing four or more mana, you want some low-costed Dinosaurs such as Raptor Companion and multiple Sky Terror(s), which is precisely what Pornpromlikit manage to pick up!

Ekapong Pornpromlikit’s White-Red Dinosaurs

Grand Prix Singapore 2017 Day Two
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Wu Yanfei and Zhang Yi and Vampires

Wu Yanfei and Zhang Yi showcased the best cards in their Vampires deck!

Wu Yanfei and Zhang Yi were from China, and they frequently travel with five-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Liu Yuchen and three-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Qi Wentao on their conquests. Wu and Zhang were also Level 1 and Level 2 judges respectively. Coincidentally, both of them drafted White-Black Vampires in the second pod and were happy to showcase a glimpse of their decks.

Both players agreed that Anointed Deacon was still the cornerstone of the deck. Even without many of the Vampire uncommons or rares, Anointed Deacon can pull everything together. However, when Rivals of Ixalan enters, Legion Conquistador will take the most massive hit.

  • Bishop of Rebirth
  • Bishop of the Bloodstained
  • Deathless Ancient
  • Duskborne Skymarcher
  • Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
  • Sanctum Seeker
  • Queen's Commission
  • Call to the Feast

“We traveled a fair bit this couple of years. It is enjoyable to travel and play Magic at the same time. We judge at the occasional Grand Prix and also when local stores need help with their PPTQs. However, we enjoy competing as well!" Even though they didn’t do so well in Day Two, they continued enjoying the tournament as an avid Magic fan would.

Kelvin Chew and Merfolk

“My deck is ridiculous. I will be quite upset if I don’t go 3-0 with this deck," declared (4) Kelvin Chew after he submitted his decklist. “My deck is filled most of the premium commons and uncommons you want in a great Merfolk deck."

Kelvin Chew’s Blue-Green Merfolk

Grand Prix Singapore 2017 Day One
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A couple of Kumena’s Speaker would have been sweet, but River Sneak, Merfolk Branchwalker, and Shaper Apprentice do a great job. Double Shapers of Nature and double Vineshaper Mystic provided a lot of raw power, and he was also able to put Deeproot Waters to good use!

However, the best cards were the five copies of River Heralds’ Boon! Wow. Winning out this draft, Chew moved up to 10-2 and remained a strong contender. However, his second Blue-Green Merfolk was not quite as strong as the first one, and he could only finish in 18th place this weekend.

Kelvin Chew and his “ridiculous” Merfolk deck.

Bidding Goodbye to 2017

Another year had come and gone. How time flies when you’re having fun! As the last Premier Event of the weekend before the festive season, we spoke to some players who shared with us their holiday plans, a nostalgic recap of their 2017, as well as their aspirations and goals of 2018!

Huang Hao-Shan

As for six-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Huang Hao-Shan, he may not be home in Taiwan in the coming fortnight. “I know it’s a great time to take a break at home, but I might be doing a mileage run to the United States to maintain my airline level. With just two more weeks to go before 2017 closes, I have to make the trip right after Grand Prix Singapore."

Huang Hao-Shan, the professional jet-setter.

As a frequent globetrotter and Grand Prix grinder, it was imperative for him to maintain some special flying privileges for additional comfort. Imagine chaining a few Grand Prix in a row back-to-back? A short rejuvenation session at the lounge or an occasional Business Class upgrade would go a long way in providing some needed respite. Huang will probably be headed for Las Vegas and spending his Christmas there, before flying back on New Year’s Eve for a gathering with friends. After that, he will finally find some time to sort out his 2018 schedule, as he had numerous events he wished to attend.

“My goal for 2018 is to, hopefully, maintain Gold again. If I succeed, that will be my fifth season as a Gold Pro on the Pro Tour. The best moment of 2017 was finishing 11-5 at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation to be gold this season. That tournament was also great because my good friend Yam Wing Chun made the Top 8."

As a pillar of the Taiwanese Magic community, Huang is a beacon of light for those around him. He hoped to inspire more Taiwanese players to play more tournaments and for them eventually, make it to the big stage.

Ken Yukuhiro

Ken Yukuhiro had three Pro Tour Top 8s as well as seven Grand Prix Top 8s - including a win at Grand Prix Singapore 2013. This weekend, he did not do as well as he hoped but was still delighted to share his upcoming plans.

“For 2017, the highlight was winning the Pro Tour Team Series together with all my teammates from Team Musashi. It was also great to be able to play in the World Championship for the first time. I did badly there, but it was an exciting experience to play with all the top players in the world. Every opponent was so skilled, and it was a great challenge for myself."

Ken Yukuhiro was looking forward to the “Christmas Musashi Party.

This Christmas, Team Musashi will be having a Christmas party together. “We (Shota Yasooka, Yuuki Ishikawa, Teruya Kakumae, Yuuya Watanabe) will be meeting up to play some board games and Magic, ordering some food, and counting down together. (Kentaro) Yamamoto is unable to attend due to family reasons, but we will still have a lot of fun." Then, for New Year’s, he will be traveling from Tokyo (where he resided) back to his hometown in Fukuoka. The five-hour trip by bullet train will bring him home to his family. “Mom and Dad will be happy to see me," Yukuhiro added.

Looking forward, Yukuhiro’s goal was to hit Platinum once more and qualify for the World Championship again. “I have only 8 Pro Points now, but I am confident I can do it!" His next Magic event will be Pro Tour Rivals to Ixalan (in February), and he decided to spend two months playtesting Modern.

Wee Pang Ming

For two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Wee Pang Ming, his plan for Christmas and New Year’s was just to relax at home. “It has been quite a hectic few months. Between traveling, preparing for Nationals, Grand Prix Hong Kong, World Magic Cup, and Grand Prix Singapore. After all that, I wanted to get some good rest before the next stretch."

Despite not doing well at the World Magic Cup, he remained proud of his country and team. However, Wee’s best memory of 2017 was winning Malaysia Nationals. “Winning Nationals validated the hours of work I’ve put in over the years. It is a source of satisfaction to have my efforts justified."

Wee Pang Ming was most glad to win Malaysia Nationals this year.

Going forward, the Bronze Pro wished to take his game to the next level. After Pro Tour Rivals in Bilbao, he would be attending a team Grand Prix in Sydney together with two of Malaysia's best players, Chye Yian Hsiang and Joe Soh. Both Wee’s teammates were Grand Prix winners, and he hoped to qualify for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary together. “My modest goal for 2018 would be to go for Silver. A good result at the Pro Tour is my dream."

Wee had some words for his friends and fellow Magic players back home. “Magic is more than just a game. To me, it is a sport where you develop competitiveness, discipline, work ethic, and friendship. Continue to play hard and strive to attain your goals, but don’t forget to enjoy the quality time with your friends and above all, have lots of fun!"

Shuhei Nakamura Broke The Four-Way Tie

Shuhei Nakamura’s a little abashed to admit how awesome he is.

It was unsurprising for Pro Tour Hall of Famer Shuhei Nakamura to make (yet) another Grand Prix Top 8. However, he was surprised to make it in with an X-3 record. To sweeten the deal, today’s performance broke the four-way tie between four of the most magnificent Grand Prix Masters of all time. Martin Juza, Oliver Ruel, Yuuya Watanabe, and Nakamura-san himself all had 28 Lifetime Grand Prix Top 8s before this weekend. Nakamura was bumped up to 29, making him numero uno not only regarding Top 8 appearances but also the number of victories as well. For the record, Nakamura won seven Grand Prix and remained the only person to ever win at least one Grand Prix in each Magic Geo-Region.

All eyes will be on Nakamura’s every move because his next Top 8 will make him the first player to reach 30 Grand Prix Top 8s!

Saito (Nearly) Slaughters Singapore (Again)

Grand Prix Singapore 2009 Champion

A trip down memory lane is always befitting when you’re nearing a time where everyone sings Auld Lang Syne. Eight years ago, Tomoharu Saito won Grand Prix Singapore 2009. The headlines screamed “Saito Slaughters Singapore” , and it became one of the most iconic catchphrases in Magic pop culture. When he went 9-0 on Day One and cruised into Day Two, it looked like he was on track to repeat. I jokingly told him over dinner that if he won, I would use “Saito Slaughters Singapore Again!".

However, it was not to be. After beating Nakamura in the quarterfinals, he lost to the eventual champion in the semifinals. Nonetheless, Saito’s deep run this weekend would be fondly remembered, especially the whole “Hooting Mandrills Episode."  This was Saito’s 26th Top 8 result, making him the 5th most prolific Grand Prix goer of all-time, after the four above-mentioned players.


Master Zhong Defends Home Turf

Two weeks ago, Lim Zhong Yi attended the World Magic Cup as the National Champion of Singapore. He and his team crashed out “like blue ice falling out of an airplane lavatory." It was a little depressing, but Lim did not allow it to dampen his spirits. He went to the beautiful coasts of Nice, France to soak in the beautiful scenery, recharge himself, and to “find some inner peace," just like he said he would on his Facebook wall.

And “come back strong” did he!

Affectionately known as Master Zhong by the locals, Lim had been on a relentless run. After winning Singapore Nationals earlier this year, Lim kept up with his hot streak and showed everyone why he was worthy of lifting the champion trophy on his home turf. Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognise them. Lim’s previous best finish was at Grand Prix Guangzhou 2016, where he placed third. Today’s victory proved that none of his prior achievements were flukes but a result of permanence, persistence, and perseverance.

For the past two Grand Prix Singapore, there was a Singaporean player in the finals - former National Champions Steven Tan and Chapman Sim (that’s me!). However, Masaaki Hitomi and Ken Yukuhiro took the trophy back to Japan, far away from us. Sian, right? Thankfully, this time around, Lim managed to win it for us all. Also, the only prior occasions where a Singaporean player won Grand Prix Singapore stretched back to 2000 and 2001, which were won by Sam Lau (also a National Champion) and Albertus Law respectively.

Assembling a White-Black Vampires deck (interestingly, the twenty-four boosters in the Top 8 draft did not offer a single Anointed Deacon), Lim used the lethal combo of Call to the Feast and Sanctum Seeker to defeat Pan Minxing in the finals. Without bias, this win was genuinely monumental for the Singaporean community. Once again, congratulations to Lim Zhong Yi for winning Grand Prix Singapore 2017!

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