livier Ruel was the heavy underdog in this match-up by his own account. His unwieldy deck needed time to unfold and he might not have it against Chuen Hwa Tan's speedy black-white concoction. This was the French player's fifteenth trip to the Top 8 of a high level event in individual competition. He had yet to win the whole she-bang and was hoping to change that up today despite the odds.
Chuen Hwa Tan had been defying the odds all weekend. Despite never making a Top 8 before this young Malaysian had just dispatched Masashi Oiso in the semis and was gunning for the Pro Tour veteran from France. A Top 16 appearance at a previous Grand Prix conspired to keep Tan from doubling up on the Amateur prize money.
Tan led off with a Pteron Ghost while Ruel had a Leaden Myr. Tan came back over the top with a Dross Golem. Ruel's third turn saw him Molten Rain Tan's one Plains. Tan had another and cast Vulshok Gauntlets prompting the Frenchman to mutter in his native tongue.
Krark-Clan Grunt bided time for Ruel while he looked for a second green to cast the creatures in his hand. Tan bashed for eight when he equipped his Ghost with the Gauntlets. He was out of land though and Ruel could not figure out what to do with his Reap and Sow. Smooth his mana or rough up Tan's. He played eeenie-meenie-minie-moe and came up with a second Forest for himself. He flung his Grunt into the red zone and sat back hoping for something good to happen--he was on seven.
Tan chose to leave his ghost tapped and simply attacked for three with the Golem. He had three mana open and passed the turn back to Ruel. Olivier tried Detonate on the Dross Golem but Tan had Razor Barrier. Tan swung in for three more and played a Drill Skimmer.
Olivier was holding Grab the Reins but he could not figure out a way to make it work to his advantage with the Pteron Ghost at the ready and the Frenchman down to a single point of life. A quick confab with the table judge confirmed that the interactions weren't going to work to his advantage and Olivier scooped up his cards much to the visible relief of the nervous, young player from Malaysia.
Ruel - 0 Tan - 1
Ruel sided in a Serum Tank, Goblin Charbelcher, and Lifespark Spellbomb for his two Molten Rains and Reap and Sow. Ruel kept a hand with Charbelcher and shared a laugh with his brother who was watching on the sidelines.
Tan played a turn two Gold Myr while Ruel had the Serum Tank on turn three. Tan played a Clockwork Condor and Ruel played to the crowd, "What is your life at? Twenty?" He cast a confident Goblin Charbelcher and passed the turn. He took three in the air and Tan added a Skyhunter Cub and Vulshok Gauntlets. Ruel had an Atog and pleaded with his opponent, "You could look impressed."
Tan put the Gauntlets on his Myr and attacked with everyone. Ruel activated the Charbelcher and shot down the equipped Myr. He fell to thirteen. Atog got in for a ferocious one point.
Tan attacked with his Cub and the Charbelcher missed it--Ruel took two. Tan fortified with Soldier Replica and Ruel drew a card EOT. He passed the turn with no play and Tan moved the Gauntlets over to the Cub on his next turn. Ruel responded with Charbelcher and nailed it for eight points when he flipped over four cards and Mountain. Tan played Transfixer and Ruel drew another card EOT.
Ruel played Fangren Hunter and still had three mana up to activate either his Serum tank or his Belcher. Tan moved his Gauntlets to the Condor and Ruel let that resolve. He fell to six on the attack. Ruel tried to hit the Auriok EOT but missed.
Ruel sent in the Fangren Hunter for four next turn--Tan missed a chance to tap something with his Transfixer and Ruel tried to suppress a tell tale grin. Tan cast Blinding Beam and tapped both of Ruel's guys. He attacked for two and the Frenchman belched the Transfixer dead. He drew another card EOT.
Olivier killed the Replica on his turn with the Belcher, "I knew there was no land." Tan just passed the turn. Ruel untapped and attacked with his two men. He cast Stand Together and gave them both +2/+2. Tan cast Awe Strike on the Fangren Hunter and the overall effect of the exercise put Tan up to eighteen and made Ruel mutter in French.
Tan had nothing on his next turn. Ruel drew a card and shot the Malaysian for four with his artifact. He played a Hybrid and attacked with everyone. Ruel took Tan down to three and passed the turn. Tan played a Pteron Ghost and moved his Gauntlets but Ruel killed him EOT with the Belcher.
Ruel shook his head and laughed at himself as he found an Unforge in his board and exchanged it for the Lifespark Spellbomb. The French player was on a world tour that included stops in Madrid and Kobe. He was planning on heading to Sendai for two weeks. The goal of his travels was to keep pace in the end of year payout for the player of the year race. He was tired and wanted to go home, "If I win this I may just go back to France."
Tan led off with the Grimclaw Bats and earned nervous good-bye wave from Ruel. His third turn saw an attack for one and the appearance of Dross Golem and Disciple of the Vault. Ruel tried to look as affable as possible and asked his opponent nicely, "Oh yeah! Did you want to split?"
He took eight on the next turn and Tan played a Leonin Elder. "I don't even know what I could top deck here." Ruel played a Goblin War Wagon and tried to look confident.
Tan played a Soldier Replica and attacked with everyone. The effect of the Replica killed the blocking Wagon and left the Frenchman wit literally no card he could draw that would save him next turn. He got in one final defiant attack and graciously extended his hand to the jubilant young Malaysian player.
Final Result: Chuen Hwa Tan - 2 Olivier Ruel -1
Congratulations to Chuen Hwa Tan the Grand Prix Hong Kong Champion!
Chuen Hwa Tan
Grand Prix Hong Kong 2004 Top 8
Grand Prix Hong Kong 2004 Top 8