When talking about Pro Tour preparation, the discussion and utilization of teams often enters the conversation. The last Pro Tour was a fine example of this, where Shahar Shenhar's move to ChannelFireball's Pantheon team was big news, along with Patrick Chapin's shift to Team Ultra PRO.
Then there's Shaun McLaren, two-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor and Pro Tour Born of the Gods champion. McLaren has become famous for being a lone-wolf, showing up to tournaments relying primarily on Magic Online and his own wits to prepare for tournaments. The lone-wolf approach has worked out very well for him in the last two seasons, as he's attending his second consecutive World Championship event and nearly won another Pro Tour in the last season with his finals appearance at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.
2015 World Championship Competitor Shaun McLaren
For McLaren, Magic has been a constant element of curiosity and fun even from a very early age.
"I still remember opening my first booster," McLaren fondly recalled. "It was Ice Age, and I had just finished shopping with my parents and was sitting in the car in the parking lot with an Ice Age booster they had got for me. I remember looking through the pack and being fascinated with Phantasmal Mount. The picture, the text, the fresh cardboard smell, everything. I had no idea what the heck was going on with these cards—and to be fair I still have no idea just exactly what Phantasmal Mount does—but I wanted to find out."
"Ever since then, you would find me sprawled out on carpets, bringing cards to school to play against friends, with my dad, or brother, or trying to teach my mom to play unsuccessfully. Eventually I took a break from Magic, but later in my teen years I discovered my old dragon deck and got right back into Magic the same way: playing on the carpet floor of a friend's house. The rest is history, although I don't play on the floor as much since then."
McLaren, when he returned to the game in his teen years, began to explore the competitive side of the game more, where his first Pro Tour Qualifier proved fruitful.
"My first was Pro Tour Prague in 2006," McLaren recollected. "I was lucky enough to win one of the first PTQs I'd played in, which was amazing and a huge confidence booster in future PTQs."
"The Pro Tour was something else entirely. The scale and uniqueness of the event was incredible. The Pro Tour was in a gigantic stadium. I was obviously very nervous and ended up with a mediocre deck from my first draft featuring 2 Storm Herds. Yes, I cast Storm Herd, and yes, it was incredible. I actually 3-0'd that draft—completely beyond my expectations—and then ended up with what I thought was a great deck in the second draft featuring two Lightning Helix and a Skeletal Vampire. Of course, you know where the story goes from there. I 0-3'd the second draft. It was a great learning experience and an incredible trip, though, as I came over to Europe with my brother. It especially taught me not to put too much weight in what you expect to happen. Just go with the flow and enjoy what you have."
McLaren has certainly gone with the flow in the last few years, continuing his own testing and continuing to put up results. As one of the few players in the 2015 World Championship working on their own, will McLaren find success as the lone wolf?
The 2015 Magic: The Gathering World Championship takes place in Seattle, Washington, during PAX Prime on August 27, 28, and 30. To learn more about this year's competitors, head over to the 2015 World Championship Competitors page, and check back every weekday leading up to the World Championship for new profiles on each of this year's competitors.