Huang Hao-Shan is not just your regular "familiar face" on the circuit.
Aside from being a full-fledged Gold Pro and a hardcore globetrotter, he is also the defending champion of this tournament. To refresh your memory, Hao-Shan was the hero who lifted the trophy two years ago, keeping the title on local soil.
Huang Hao-Shan, Grand Prix Taipei 2014 Champion
"I have been practicing with Green-White Tokens for the past month, and even had Raphaël Lévy give me some pointers when we met at Grand Prix Costa Rica. He is truly a master, and taught me many things I never knew about the deck. It looks straightforward, but there are many interactions that are unintuitive. I believe it is the best deck, and I'm always an advocate of playing the best deck. I did ditch the Chandra, Flamecallers though, sorry Raph!"
Hao-Shan finished X-3 at Grand Prix Costa Rica, bringing his Pro Point total up to 40 for this season. While most would be envious of being in his position, he confesses that it is a actually rather uncomfortable spot.
"I'm already locked for Gold the next season, so naturally I'm hoping to reach Platinum. To pick up 10 Pro Points will mean that I have to go 11-5 at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, which is not an easy task. Alternatively, I can also try my best to make the Top 8 this weekend, and hope to push up my total to 44. This allows me to finish 10-6 at the Pro Tour for 6 points, which allows me to get to the finish line. Even better, if I win this Grand Prix, I'm locked for Platinum outright!"
However, dreams don't always come true and things don't often go one's way. Huang picked up a third loss in Round 12, meaning that his dreams of defending his title or making the Top 8 has evaporated entirely. That doesn't mean that he isn't enjoying his weekend, as evidenced by the photograph below.
Aside from chasing Platinum, he also other endeavors on his mind. Rushing home after a month-long trip comprising Grand Prix Los Angeles, Grand Prix Minneapolis, Grand Prix Costa Rica and Grand Prix Columbus, he made it just in time for Chinese Taipei's very first World Magic Cup Qualifier. With 40 Pro Points in the pocket, he is most likely locked to become the Chinese Taipei National Champion for the second year running, but never passes up a chance to play Magic.
"The biggest reason that I want to play in the WMCQ is because it is a good opportunity to meet some old friends and make some new ones. I am often on the road, and don't get a lot of chances to play locally. Ever since Chinese Taipei won the World Magic Cup in 2012, I've also dreamed of becoming a World Magic Cup Champion, and I'm very excited to see who ends up winning."
Just because he is going to the World Magic Cup doesn't stop him from crushing. His philosophy is simple, if he is there to compete, he wants to do his very best regardless of the stakes. Continuing to pilot Green-White Tokens, he cruised through the Swiss rounds to make it to the Top 8.
After winning his quarterfinals, he ended up being paired against Tzu Ching Kuo in the semifinals.
"Tzu Ching Kuo has already won the World Magic Cup before, but I have never had the chance to team up with him. If Kuo makes it to the team, it can bolster Chinese Taipei's chances of becoming a repeat World Magic Cup Champion."
With big dreams and a bigger picture in mind, Hao-Shan decided to concede to Kuo for old time's sake, in the hopes that he could win the finals. At that point, it was unclear who the other finalist would be. It turns out that one of his best friends, Huang Yung Ming, ended up in the finals.
"At that point, I was feeling a little torn. Yung Ming lives in Taichung and we've known each other for half our lives. We often practice together at the same local store, and he is a loyal friend and nice guy all around. While I'm also very good friends with Kuo, he lives in Taipei and I don't see him as often. Many players asked me who I was rooting for, but I honestly couldn't answer that question. Yung Ming is a very good player as well, even though he is lesser-known and I believe he is simply waiting for his time to shine. May the best man win, I guess!"
Huang Yung Ming (left) and Huang Hao-Shan (right), "two-quarters" of the Chinese Taipei World Magic Cup 2016 Team.
When the dust settled, it was Yung Ming who emerged victorious with Green-White Tokens, making it his second appearance at the World Magic Cup. With two Huangs already on the team, things are looking good for Chinese Taipei indeed.
To further prove that he was no fluke, Yung Ming has been hovering near the top of the standings all weekend. Going into Round 13, he was seated at Table 2 and playing a win-and-in match against Chan Sze Hang, a dedicated grinder from Hong Kong and also one of Lee Shi Tian's good friends.
Coincidentally, Chan was the one to hand Hao-Shan his third loss, and it would be sweet if Yung Ming could take revenge for him.
Regardless of the outcome, it looks like both Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong will have representation in the Top 8 this weekend. Time to go check on the other tables!