Ever since Sheng Hsun Tsia won Grand Prix Taipei back in 2002, there has yet to be a successful defense. For a dozen years, Taipei has become the premier feeding ground for the Japanese. Makihito Mihara won in 2012, Shu Komuro in 2008 and Osamu Fujita in 2005.
Not today though.
Both Huang Hao-Shan and Lyu Li Ciang have successfully maneuvered past their quarterfinal and semifinal matches to set up an all-Taiwanese finals. Both players might have already qualified for Pro Tour Honolulu, but the battle was not over for Huang.
Huang has been having a rather quiet season after making the Top 8 at Grand Prix Melbourne few months back, and found himself at a mere 12 Pro Points this season. Now that he was in the finals, that guaranteed him 6 Pro Points. What this means is that he would be promoted to Silver when he attends the Pro Tour in Portland next week, such that he could attend Pro Tour Honolulu.
The first game was rather anti-climatic, but not for Huang though. Lyu was forced to mulligan down to 6 and kept a hand with a single Swamp.
He passed two turns, discarding Necrobite in the process. Huang made use of the opportunity to summon Welkin Tern, Bronze Sable and Amphin Pathmage, sealing Game 1 before Lyu could even draw a second land.
Huang Hao-Shan 1 – Lyu Li Ciang 0
Lyu interestingly chose to be on the draw this game, preferring to assume the role of the control player. Holding Spirit Bonds, Huang wondered whether he should deploy a two drop creature first, or get greedy with the spirit generation.
Oreskos Swiftclaw traded with Accursed Spirit, while Sungrace Pegasus got a boost from Divine Favor. Spirit Bonds finally entered the battlefield on Turn 4, and Huang's Turn 5 Amphin Pathmage granted him his first Spirit token.
The Salamander Wizard (bet you didn't pay any attention to it's creature type huh?) made itself unblockable, and Huang reduced Lyu's life total from 15 to 9. Huang kept up two mana to protect Amphin Pathmage, should Nightfire Giant decide to take its shot.
Huang once again made Amphin Pathmage unblockable, and Lyu tried to gun it down. Huang wasted no time, sacrificing a spirit to grant it indestructibility. This attack dealt 5 damage, reducing Lyu to 4. Assuming no tricks from Lyu, Marked by Honor sitting in Huang's hand would be able to turn Sungrace Pegasus into a 4/7 flyer.
Thankfully, Lyu was able to buy another turn with Covenant of Blood but Huang wasn't out of gas. Aside from Marked by Honor, Huang was also concealing Haunted Plate Mail and Heliod's Pilgrim. Fetching nothing, Heliod's Pilgrim was not without purpose, as it triggered Spirit Bonds for the valuable Spirit token. The attack with Sungrace Pegasus brought Lyu to 6 life.
Huang laid down his 7th land. Assuming he drew his 8th, he would be able to cast and equip Haunted Platemail on the pegasus for lethal damage. Huang didn't draw a land, instead Nimbus of the Isles which he summoned accompanied by yet another Spirit token.
That presented lethal damage on the board and Lyu activated Rummaging Goblin for potentially the very last time, discarded a usually-powerful but currently-useless Soul of Innistrad. If his deck served up no solutions, Huang would win even without the equipment sitting in his hand.
Lyu drew a card and extended his hand. The crowd roared. Huang Hao-Shan had advanced past the quarterfinals for the first time in his five Grand Prix Top 8s and managed to win it all! Team MTG Mint Card strikes again!
Huang Hao-Shan 2 – Lyu Li Ciang 0
Huang Hao-Shan defeats Lyu Li Ciang in two games to become the Grand Prix Taipei 2014!