The Sunday stage was new territory for both of these players. Chih-Hsiang Chang brought a Red Deck Wins deck and took it to a 12-4 finish in the Swiss. That was good enough to make him the first player from Taiwan to make it to the Top 8. McDaniel, left, and Chang were making their Pro Tour Top 8 debuts in Los Angeles.
Chris McDaniel has earned the nickname "Star Wars Kid" early in his Magic career. His success this weekend was an example of how mastery of one deck can pay off in a format where so few people have experience. He piloted his Blue-Green Mind's Desire deck to a third-place finish in the Swiss but now he will have to try to overcome Pyrostatic Pillar in a best-of-five matchup to advance to the semifinals.
Chang went second and laid a Grim Lavamancer. On McDaniel's second turn, he had a Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Chang just passed on his second turn as the Sakura-Tribe Elder held back the Lavamancer. Chris used the opportunity to play a Rampant Growth and build up to four mana. During Chris's end step Chang fetched a Sacred Foundry and used Lightning Helix to deal the first opponent-afflicted damage of the game, aiming the Helix directly at Chris.
Chang then took down one of Chris's Islands with Pillage. He must have felt his best chance to win was by denying Chris the mana to be able to go off. Chris didn't appear worried as his Sakura-Tribe Elder continued to hang out on the table to stop Grim Lavamancer.
Chris played a fourth land and cast Heartbeat of Spring and then passed the turn. With his life still at 17, it would take a lot of burn to finish him off. Chang killed the Sakura-Tribe Elder with a Frostling. Chris fetched an Island but Chang had a second Pillage to leave Chris with one Island and three Forests.
Grim Lavamancer knocked Chris down to 16. Chris just passed on his turn. Either he wasn't worried or he had no more business spells. Chris played an Island and once again did nothing. Now Chang threw two Chars to put Chris at 7. A Slith Firewalker came across but Chris used a Moment's Peace to stay at 7.
Chris cast a second Heartbeat of Spring, followed by a Cunning Wish. Chang responded with Grim Lavamancer, Lava Dart and Barbarian Ring to place Chris at 2. Finally, Chris fetched a Fact or Fiction. The Fact revealed Mind's Desire, Gifts Ungiven, two Sakura-Tribe Elders and a Forest.
Chang split the piles, Gifts Ungiven with the Sakura-Tribe Elders or Minds Desire/Forest. Chris took the pile with the Gifts. With the three mana floating, he played an Early Harvest followed by a Gifts Ungiven.
Since Chris was on just 2 life the Lavamancer was still a real threat. Even if Chris managed a huge Brain Freeze, Chang would be able to untap and use the Lavamancer during the upkeep to kill Chris. He would need to remove the Lavamancer from the board along with the combo kill.
Gifts Ungiven revealed Fact or Fiction, Revive, Mind's Desire and Nostalgic Dreams. Chang let Chris have the Fact or Fiction and a Mind's Desire. Chris cast a Fact or Fiction, which Change split as Cunning Wish or Heartbeat of Spring, Early Harvest, and double Forest.
Chris took the bigger pile. He cast a third Heartbeat of Spring, two Sakura-Tribe Elders, and then Early Harvest to untap all of his lands. He recast a Moment's Peace out of his graveyard to get the Storm count up to 13 for his Mind's Desire.
The Mind's Desire revealed another Mind's Desire along with a Deep Analysis for the instant kill. But would Chris worry about a second Lava Dart? There was already one in Chang's graveyard.
Chris played a Gifts Ungiven for Brain Freeze, Gifts Ungiven and two land. Chang gave him the land but that would allow Chris to Nostalgic Dreams for five returning Cunning Wish, Brain Freeze, two Nostalgic Dreams and Early Harvest.
Chang didn't know how to stack Brain Freeze. Instead he let all of the Brain Freeze copies resolve before trying to Lava Dart. If he would have only let some of the copies resolve, Chris wouldn't have been able to respond with a Cunning Wish for Words of Wisdom although he could have gotten a Memory Lapse in any case.
Instead, Words of Wisdom in response to the Lava Dart killed Chang and ended Game 1.
McDaniel 1, Chang 0
Chang led with a second-turn Pyrostatic Pillar. Chris had a Rampant Growth but that knocked his life total to 18. Chang went down to 18 to play out a Grim Lavamancer. He also played a Blinkmoth Nexus for additional beats. Chris played a Revive (down to 16) to bring back the Rampant Growth. Chang did two damage to both players with a Magma Jet. He left both cards on top. The first was a Pillage to hit Chris's only Island. Chris took one from the Lavamancer and two more from his own Rampant Growth, going down to 11.
Chang bounced back with a bounty of burn.
Chang sacrificed a Wooded Foothills for his fourth land. The Nexus animated and attacked for one. Chris was stuck on three land and was visibly upset. After a good deal of thought, Chris passed the turn. Grim Lavamancer knocked him to 8.
Chang drew a Bloodstained Mire to fuel his Lavamancer and threw a Char at Chris. Chris drew a card and conceded. The damage output from Chang was too great.
Chris 1, Chang 1
After Chris laid a land, Chang wasted no time in throwing a Firebolt to the head. Chris played a Sakura-Tribe Elder and sacrificed it while Chang did nothing on his second turn. Chris sacrificed the Sakura-Tribe Elder and played a land to get four into play. During Chris's end step he was hit with a Magma Jet. Once again Chang left both cards on top.
In response to a Pillage on his lone Island, Chris played a Gifts Ungiven for Nostalgic Dreams, Heartbeat of Spring, Nostalgic Dream and Island. Chang decided to give Chris Heartbeat of Spring and an Island.
Chris played the Island, the Heartbeat of Spring and a Nostalgic Dreams for three, returning Nostalgic Dreams, Gifts Ungiven and an Island. He was tapped out after this and passed the turn.
Chang had eight mana available, thanks to the Heartbeat of Spring. He wasted no time in swinging with a Slith Firewalker and hitting two of Chris's lands with land destruction spells.
During Chang's next upkeep he cast a Magma Jet to put Chris at 13. Once again he kept both cards. The first was a Disenchant that was aimed right at the Heartbeat of Spring.
Chris responded with a Gifts Ungiven for Heartbeat of Spring, Fact or Fiction, Rampant Growth and a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Chang gave him both mana cards. Chris also cast a Moment's Peace before the Disenchant resolved.
Chris played both the Sakura-Tribe Elder and the Rampant Growth to build himself back up to six lands on the table. Well, it was six lands after a Barbarian Ring cleared the Sakura-Tribe Elder and let the Slith Firewalker build up to a 3/3. Chang then played a Grim Lavamancer.
Chris was still at 11 life but it was getting close to the time where he would need to go off. Chris discarded his hand to a Nostalgic Dreams to retrieve a Gifts Ungiven and a Heartbeat of Spring (his hand was Early Harvest, land).
Chang hit for three with the Slith to put Chris on 8. Chris used the newly fetched Gifts to give Chang the choice between Nostalgic Dreams, Revive, Cunning Wish and Mind's Desire. Chang decided to give Chris Mind's Desire and Cunning Wish.
Chris played down a Heartbeat of Spring and cast a Cunning Wish for Early Harvest. He then played the Early Harvest, untapping all six of his lands. A Mind's Desire here would be only for a measly four cards. He went all-in as he cast a Moment's Peace to drive the storm count up to four. That plus the Desire would reveal five cards. He would need a strong set of cards for five.
Chang could feel the win closing in as he gave a hearty chuckle. The second card revealed was a Gifts Ungiven and the fourth card was an Early Harvest to give Chris a chance. The other three cards were all land. Gifts Ungiven fetched Mind's Desire, Cunning Wish, Fact or Fiction, and Gifts Ungiven. Chang gave Chris the Gifts Ungiven and a Cunning Wish.
Chris cast Gifts Ungiven again. This time he went for Mind's Desire, Nostalgic DreamsCunning Wish, and Deep Analysis. Chang chose for the Cunning Wish and Deep Analysis to be put into Chris's hand.
Chris targeted Chang with a Deep Analysis and responded with a Cunning Wish for Brain Freeze, then he Cunning Wished for a second Brain Freeze. Chang didn't have enough library left or enough damage potential and conceded.
Chris 2, Chang 1
McDaniel's Desire deck required plenty of math to track mana and storm.
So far the player who had played first won every game of the match. Chang began this game with a Sacred Foundry, with a Genju of the Spires on it. The next turn he placed out Pyrostatic Pillar. Chris took two when he placed out a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Chang missed his third land drop and managed to only play a Grim Lavamancer and a Frostling.
Chris played out a second Sakura-Tribe Elder, dropping to 16. Chang still didn't find land with his next turn and could only send his Frostling into the fray. Chang cupped his hands over his mouth in frustration from his poor land draw.
Chris went up to four mana when he sacrificed a Sakura-Tribe Elder. He didn't have a land to play, but with four mana open, a blue card-drawing spell couldn't be far behind. On Chang's turn the Sakura-Tribe Elder traded with a Frostling.
Chang finally had a third land and Pillaged an Island. Chris responded with a Gifts Ungiven. Chang gave him Nostalgic Dreams, Revive and placed Naturalize and Island into the graveyard.
Chris used Nostalgic Dreams to return 3 cards, Naturalize, Sakura-Tribe Elder and Island while taking 2, 13. He dropped to 11 from replaying the Sakura-Tribe Elder.
Chang used Molten Rain to destroy the returned Island and Chris sacrificed his Sakura-Tribe Elder to fetch another Island.
Chris cast a Heartbeat of Spring and an Early Harvest to begin his turn. He then used Naturalize to destroy Pyrostatic Pillar. Chris floated a lot of mana and cast a second Early Harvest. With all of that mana floating, Chris cast a Mind's Desire for five. Once again Chris would need to rely on his deck to help him out.
The Desire showed three Fact or Fictions, a Rampant Growth, and an Island. The first Fact or Fiction effectively ended the game when it revealed a Mind's Desire. Chris now just needed to build up an even higher storm count before ending the game with the Deep Analysis and Brain Freeze combo, and the path to the semifinals was set for McDaniel.
Chris McDaniel 3, Chih-Hsiang Chang 1