Lee Shi Tian
"Looking at my decklist, I see," Sajgalik noticed. "What do you think?"
"No new cards! No fun," Lee chided as he perused the list. "Pro Tour Return to Ravnica!"
"Are you playing the Return to Ravnica ones?" one of the judges asked from the sidelines?
"So boring," laughed Lee!
"Wait...Where are your Return to Ravnica cards?" Sajgalik accused.
"Izzet Charm," Lee beamed pointing to the Izzet pin on his hoodie!
By virtue of being the higher seed, Lee won the right to choose to play. Lee was forced to re-sleeve his deck before the Quarterfinals, leaving him a bit behind the other players and with a deck that looked twice the size of Sajgalik's.
"Wow, did you double sleeve that?!" Sajgalik asked him.
"No, these are just new sleeves. I don't understand it," he laughed in response.
"Well, play or draw?" Sakgalik asked him.
"Play! Come on, no one draws in this format," he derisively responded.
Both players had to mulligan their opening hands, carefully pile shuffling their decks before presenting them again. For the second go around, Lee considered with a stern look on his face before deciding to keep his hand. Sajgalik prolonged the opening even more by going back for five.
"I'm trying to get a few more lands in my opening hand than one," he weakly laughed.
The other matches had finished their first games before these players made their opening plays.
As Sajgalik shuffled his deck in an attempt to get a reasonable hand, the two players discussed their common ties to England, where Sajgalik lives and Lee was an exchange student.
"It was great; I had a lot of fun while I was there. The week before I was supposed to go back home, I won Grand Prix Birmingham. That was a good day," Lee beamed.
"Yeah, I Top 32'd that tournament. It was a pretty good day for me, too."
Despite a good shuffle from both players, Sajgalik was still dissatisfied with his hand yet again, going down to four cards.
"I think game 1 is in my favor," Lee said, trying to console Sajgalik that his mulligans weren't hurting him as much in this game as they could in the others.
"Hah, it certainly is now," Sajgalik burst out with a laugh! "You don't know my record in mulligans to four, though. I have never been defeated in a feature match where I had to mulligan to four..."
Sajgalik quickly kept his four card hand, remarking that it was still the best hand he'd drawn yet. The first few turns passed with both players simply playing lands and passing the turn. Sajgalik tried to make a Geist of Saint Traft on the third turn, but a Remand was going to force him to try again on the following turn. Rather than try, he simply passed the turn back to Lee with four lands available, including a Tectonic Edge, and four cards in hand. When Lee played his fifth land and passed the turn to Sajgalik, the English player used the opportunity to set a Restoration Angel on the table. Once again, Lee had Remand, this time off of a Snapcaster Mage, and the board remained clear. With Lee down to one untapped land, Sajgalik used the opportunity to stick his 3/4 flier.
Lee drew his card and put his forehead in his hand, thinking deeply about which play to make. He held six cards and was a couple of lands from being able to safely Scapeshift combo Sajgalik out. He played his sixth and used a Search for Tomorrow to grab the seventh. He was almost ready to try and end things. With enough mana available to cast Cryptic Command, Lee ended his turn.
Now Sajgalik had to think. Lee was representing both Cryptic Command and a chance to go off on the following turn. He simply drew his card and passed the turn, leaving his Tectonic Edge and other lands untapped. He only had two blue sources, so Command was not an option. Lee drew his card and began to fuss with his lands. A fairly simple turn, Lee just played a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and passed his turn. At the end of Lee's turn, Sajgalic made a Snapcaster Mage with no targets to simply get another attacker into play and used his Tectonic Edge to blow up the Valakut on Lee's side.
"Hmm..maybe," Lee said nonchalantly.
Sajgalik attacked with his Mage, dropping Lee to 18, played another Tectonic Edge, and passed the turn. At the end of the turn, Lee aimed a Cryptic Command to tap Sajgalik's creatures and bounce his Mutavault. Sajgalik thought for a while about what to do, slowing the pace of play. Both players had been pausing quite a bit in a match that was already well behind the others, prompting the judges to continually prompt them to play. Eventually, Sajgalik used the land for mana before returning it, using the mana afterward to cast a Vendilion Clique. Lee had the Remand, and he now had Sajgalik tapped out. On his turn, he attacked with his Snapcaster, dropping Sajgalik to 17, before casting Scapeshift. Sajgalik made him go through the motions, pulling out six Mountains and a Valakut, dealing 18 to Sajgalik to finish him off.
Eduardo Sajgalik 0, Lee Shi Tian 1
Sajgalik's wonderful luck continued, as he had to mulligan his opening hand, and Lee didn't think too long before once again joining him. By this point, there was one game win the books and an astounding five mulligans between both players.
"Maybe we'll get to start at least one game with seven cards apiece," Sajgalik joked, clearly taking his unfortunate circumstance in stride. His second hand was good enough that it warranted an ecstatic thumbs-up. Lee kept his hand after much consideration at well. At least things were improving.
Sajgalik opened with a Celestial Colonnade while Lee opened with a Misty Rainforest into an untapped Breeding Pool, allowing him to suspend a Search for Tomorrow. He suspended two more copies on the following turn, giving him a potentially huge leg up in the mana department. Sajgalik hindered his development some by casting a Mana Leak to stop the first one from resolving, but that trick wouldn't work as well when the next two came up on the following turn. At the end of Sjgalik's turn, Lee played one of the innovative cards in his decklist, Telling Time, to set things up for his next turn.
Sajgalik had something in store to see what Lee had arranged, however, using a Vendilion Clique after Lee's draw to spy on his hand. He saw a hand of Snapcaster Mage, Izzet Charm, and Scapeshift. He wasted little time in writing the cards down and choosing to wash away the eponymous Scapeshift. Lee drew to replace it and then searched out a pair of lands from his deck.
Sajgalik was a bit behind in this game. He hadn't yet drawn a fourth land, leaving him pressed to defend himself against Lee. With a sever mana advantage, Lee would be able to cast a Scapeshift and protect it before too long. Sajgalik attacked, drawing the Izzet Charm from Lee's hand. With the Clique dead, Sajgalik replaced it with a Snapcaster Mage, unable to wait to take advantage of the triggered ability due to both mana issues and the fact that Lee was threatening a combo as soon as he hit a Scapeshift.
Sajgalik began to attack with the 2/1. Lee tried to drop one of his own in to deal with Sajglaik's Mage, but he was stopped by Spell Snare. With his incredible mana advantage, Lee pressed back, using Cryptic Command to counter the Snare and draw a card. After letting that resolve, Sajgalik used a second Spell Snare to ensure that the Mage never saw play. Lee dropped to 11, a victim of his own lands.
An eighth land hit play and Lee went for a Scapeshift. Sajgalik had two cards in hand and three mana available. He was still at 20, so he decided to use Tectonic Edge to kill a Stomping Grounds, reducing the number of lands Lee could Scapeshift out to seven. He grabbed six Mountains and a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Lee sent all of the damage at Sajgalik, dropping him to 2 and leaving the Mage intact. Sajgalik grabbed Lee's graveyard to count the Mountains he had used. Satisfied, he played a Geist of Saint Traft and passed the turn. That was the last chance Sajgalik would have, as Lee had a Mountain from his deck to send things to game 3.
Eduardo Sajgalik 0, Lee Shi Tian 2
This Quarterfinals match had been plagued by problems, from the many mulligans to the mana issues that had prevented Sajgalik from properly defending himself in the last one. Lee had also been fairly lucky that he had managed to find a second Scapeshift in time after having his first one removed with the Vendilion Clique in game 2. Apart from the combo, Scapeshift decks can only really deal damage in small bits, relying heavily on the powerful sorcery to win the game, and against Sajgalik's white-blue deck, which doesn't take as much land damage as many others, the deck doesn't get as much leeway to combo early as it does against other decks.
For the third game, there were surprisingly no mulligans, with both players somehow finding seven cards they liked. Lee began with a first-turn Serum Visions, keeping both cards from the scry on the top of his deck. On his second turn, he had a Stomping Ground come into play untapped, signaling a Remand or Izzet Charm. Because of this, Sajgalik made no effort to play a spell on his turn, simply adding a land and passing the turn. The same situation occurred on the following turn, but this time, when Sajgalik passed his turn this time, Lee went for a Telling Time. Sajgalik thought about doing something before simply allowing it to happen. After Lee had set things up, Sajgalik used a Vendilion Clique to spy on the plan, using it while he had Lee tapped out. The Clique revealed a hand with two Remands, Snapcaster Mage, Search for Tomorrow, Vendilion Clique, Volcanic Fallout, and a Stomping Ground. Sajgalik removed the Volcanic Fallout and let Lee take his turn.
Lee returned the favor with a Vendilion Clique of his own. Two Spell Snares, Mana Leak, Snapcaster Mage, and an Arid Mesa. Lee was perfectly fine with the cards in Sajgalik's hand, choosing to remove nothing. On his turn, Sajgalik used his Tectonic Edge to destroy Lee's Breeding Pool. Knowing that Lee had only one more land in his hand, Sajgalik tried to keep Lee off of Cryptic Command mana, delaying the turn when he would combo out. With things delayed some, Sajgalik decided to put a threat on the table, a Kitchen Finks. The Finks are a great threat against Valakut due to their lifegain as well as their function as an attacker. Each extra Mountain needed by the Valakut player is one more turn gained. Lee tried to Remand, but a Spell Snare kept him from stopping the ouphe.
Lee began to build his mana. His Search for Tomorrow came off of suspend, fetching him and Island. He also used a Snapcaster Mage to replay it, netting a third Island. Sajgalik still kept his mana under assault, however, using a second Tectonic Edge to destroy a Stomping Ground, keeping Lee on only one green source. Rather than face eventual death to the Finks, Lee decided to trade his Mage for the Finks, fully aware that it would persist and gain Sajgalik an additional two life. The Finks kept attacking, dropping Lee down in increments of 2.
With Lee at 8, Sajgalik tried to end the game, playing a Snapcaster Mage. Lee tried to use a Remand to stop it, but a second Snapcaster threatened to Spell Snare the Remand. This would also give Sajgalik a third creature to go along with his Mutavault, lethal with Lee at 8. Sajgalik let them both resolve, spelling doom on the following turn. With Sajgalik on one untapped land, Lee used Beast Within on one of his lands to get a blocker and stay alive. Sajgalik attacked Lee down to two and then aimed a third Tectonic Edge at Lee's Breeding Pool.
"Three Edge... nice," Lee commented, knowing that the land had been instrumental in Sajgalik's game plan.
With one more attack, Sajgalik had come back from two games down to take the third, keeping his chances of advancing alive.
Eduardo Sajgalik 1, Lee Shi Tian 2
"These games really do come down to how many [Tectonic] Edges you draw. Last game you drew three," Lee observed between games.
"I did also get to draw seven cards that game," Sajgalik countered, not wishing to have his large number of mulligans so far this match end up forgotten.
Surprisingly, both players yet again kept their openers. Lee began with a Halimar Depths, using it to set up his next draws. He followed that with a Sakura-Tribe Elder, which Sajgalik was unable to stop due to his first land being a Celestial Colonnade. After that, Lee just began to attack. Sajgalik made a Geist of Saint Traft, which Lee let resolve. At the end of Sajgalik's turn, Lee took a peek under the hood with a Vendilion Clique. What he saw drew a long pause. Three Restoration Angels, Negate, Sword of Feast and Famine, and Mana Leak were a good enough hand that Lee remarked under his breath about Sajgalik's "nice draw". After deliberating to the point that a judge forced him to act, Lee took the Sword of Feast and Famine.
The reason soon became apparent, as Lee attacked with his Clique and added an Obstinate Baloth to his team. He'd gone aggro, and he was bringing a big fighter to bear. Sajgalik found a fourth land, but his Seachrome Coast came into play tapped. There would be no Restoration Angel chain this turn. Lee attacked with his team, dropping Sajgalik to 9. When Sajgalik tried to cast a Snapcaster Mage to fight back, Lee used a Cryptic Command to counter it and return the Celestial Colonnade to his hand, trying to pin Sajgalik to three lands once more. Unfortunately for him, Sajgalik drew his card, snapped an Island into play with a smile, and sent his Geist over. Lee blocked the Geist with his Elder and sacrificed it, taking 4 from the Angel token. After combat, Sajgalik used a Restoration Angel to untap the Geist, ready for the follow-up attack from Sajgalik.
And attack he did, sending in both his Clique and the Baloth, undeterred. The Angel blocked the Clique and the Baloth dropped Sajgalik to 5. With five lands in play, Lee pushed things up further with a pair of Search for Tomorrows. With two cards in hand, Sajgalik began to wonder about what the next turn held in store. Seven lands was lethal should Lee resolve a Scapeshift. Knowing that Sajgalik still had a Mana Leak in hand, Lee could at least afford to pay for the first one with his seven lands. Sajgalik thought for a minute about his decisions, again prompting Head Judge Jason Lemahieu to prompt him to play. With his back against the wall, Sajgalik attacked, dropping Lee to 9.
Now it was Lee's turn to think. He managed to decide to attack with his Baloth before the judges broke out their cattle prods, forcing Sajgalik to go to 1, though he was forcefully unhappy about it, worried that Lee might have Volcanic Fallout. Once he realized that he didn't, he became visibly relieved. Heavily visibly relieved, breathing so deeply you'd have thought he just finished a marathon. After combat, play resumed its glacial pace. At the end of Lee's turn, Sajgalik slowly dropped a Snapcaster Mage into play, hands shaking.
Lee's face showed a mixture of concern and curiosity. In response to the Snapcaster, Lee tapped two mana and simply sat there staring at Sajgalik's board. At this point, the Head Judge stepped in to inform the players that the pace of play was unacceptable, and any future comments from the judges would be accompanied by penalties. With the warning out of the way, Lee set about casting and resolving his Telling Time. In pieces. One card went straight to the bottom of the deck. The other two sat in a sort of limbo for 30-45 seconds before the Head Judge stepped in to issue the first warning for slow play, informing Lee that he would be given a game loss should the pace of play continue to be so slow.
Clearly rattled, Lee cast a Snapcaster Mage. That resolved, but even still it was lethal. A Vendilion Clique from Lee met the Mana Leak remaining in Sajgalik's hand. With that, the amount of damage on the table was lethal, and Lee conceded the game.
Eduardo Sagjalik 2, Lee Shi Tian 2
Lee was clearly rattled by the decision to issue him a slow play warning and the looming possibility of a game loss should the syrupy pace of play continue. After making an appeal for the Head Judge to watch Sajgalik for the same slow pace of play, Lee tried to calm himself down and mentally prepare himself for a difficult final game.
Sagjalik had battled back from a two-game deficit with remarkable poise, especially considering that both wins came out of precarious situations. He was definitely nervous playing on this stage, as his hands shook with each play. However he still maintained focus, making the correct plays as needed. He would be tested on the draw now, just as he was in the previous game. If he was able to draw enough disruption, he might be able to steal this match back away from Lee and advance to the Semifinals.
Lee presented his deck and gave himself a trio of Saito-esque slaps to focus himself. He was far more enthusiastic about his keeps from any of the previous games, possibly indicating a very good hand. He opened with a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and a Steam Vents, untapped. Lee made his first play at the end of Sajgalik's third turn, using an Izzet Charm (new card!) to draw two cards and discard two Repeals. A Misty Rainforest got him a basic Island, possibly indicating a pair of two mana counterspells in his hand. When he found a Flooded Grove on his turn, he found himself with access to Cryptic Command.
Sajgalik tried to land a Kitchen Finks on his turn, but it met an immediate Remand from Lee. Sajgalik had a Mana Leak, and he chose to cast it despite Lee having three mana. With the card still in his hand, he attempted to retract his play, but Lee made sure that the judge held him to his intended play. After an appeal, where Sajgalik contended that he had not announced a target, the Head Judge revealed that the tournament ruling is that if there is no announced target of a clearly cast spell, the spell must target the top spell on the stack. Thus the Mana Leak was paid for and the Remand resolved.
With the minor break over, Lee drew his card and suspended a Search for Tomorrow, leaving up mana for Cryptic Command. When Sajgalik tried to cast a Geist of Saint Traft, Lee targeted it with Remand. Sajgalik countered with Spell Snare, and the Geist hit play. Sajgalik passed the turn with a pair of lands available.
Lee did very little on his turn, merely using a Halimar Depths to set up his next draws. Sajgalik took advantage of the opportunity to begin to close out the game. His Geist and Angel attacked, but a Snapcaster Mage came down to defend, targeting the Repeal in his graveyard. Lee blocked the Geist and used the Repeal to effectively kill the Angel, clearly a good exchange for Lee. With the way semi-clear (Lee only had two lands untapped), Sajgalik flashed in an Aven Mindcensor, limiting the effectiveness of both Scapeshift and the Search for Tomorrow that was about to unsuspend. Lee tried to kill the Aven with an Izzet Charm, but Sajgalik had a Negate. To force it through, Lee used Cryptic Command to counter the Negate and draw a card.
Free to search his library, Lee resolved the Search for Tomorrow and grabbed himself an Island. On his turn, Sajgalik used a Kitchen Finks to drive himself up to 22, forcing Lee to have eight Mountains, or another Valakut, to kill him. Lee played defensively with a Sakura-Tribe Elder, giving him some temporary defense from the Finks, as well as providing him access to an eighth land. Sajgalik, meanwhile, had seven lands of his own. With access to that much mana, Sajgalik tried to force down the powerful Sword of Feast and Famine, which would allow his Finks to both attack past the Elder and give him a decisive advantage. Lee confirmed that Sajgalik had only two cards left in his hand before allowing it to hit play. When Sagalik tried to equip it, and Electrolyze killed it, preventing bad things from happening for at least one more turn.
Lee sacrificed his now useless Elder, going up to eight lands. Sagjalik was tapped out, and Lee was soon going to be in worlds of trouble. Lee untapped and drew his card. For three mana, a Beast Within turned the offensive Sword into a Beast token, which a Snapcaster Mage killed with a Repeal. Lee was on four cards in hand to Sajgalik's soon-to-be three. This was an interesting dance of control, with Sajgalik trying to find the balance between control and aggression to avoid dying to a fastball Scapeshit. On the other side, Lee was trying to stay alive and draw out as many threats and counters from Sajgalik as possible, clearing the way for his combo.
Sajgalik made a Geist of Saint Traft, which made it into play safely. Lee had no play for his turn, simply passing the turn back. Sajgalik used the end of Lee's turn to activate the one Tectonic Edge he had drawn this game to destroy the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, on Lee's side. Sajgalik attacked. This forced Lee to play a Vendilion Clique to block the Geist, keeping him in a reasonable spot once more. The ability targeted Sajgalik, washing away his last card in hand: Cryptic Command. The Angel struck true, dropping Lee to 13. At the end of the turn, Lee aimed an Electolyze at Sajgalik, dropping him to 21, making a Scapeshift one land from lethal. Lee had an Izzet Charm to filter through his deck, drawing two cards and discarding two Mountains before playing a second Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. He looked to be setting up or the next turn.
Sajgalik used a Celestial Colonnade to attack Lee down to 9. With one card in hand, things looked on the ropes for Sajgalik. A Snapcaster Mage brought back an Electrolyze, dropping Sagjalik to 19, while a Scalding Tarn dropped Sagjalik to a now-lethal 18. It was all according to plan, though, as Sagjalik's last card in hand was a Vendilion Clique, revealing two Cryptic Commands and a Remand, no Scapeshift, while Lee was tapped out. He obviously left the trio in Lee's hand, not willing to have one of them miraculously turn into a Scapeshift.
He slowly peeled the top card of his deck. No Scapeshift. All he could do was attack for 2 and pass the turn. Sajgalik drew his card and attacked with his Clique, opting not to animate his Colonnade. Interestingly, Lee chose to bounce the Clique and draw a card rather than simply tapping it. This would allow Sajgalik to recast it and wash away a Scapeshift if Lee had drawn it. When he tried, Lee did have the Cryptic Command to counter it and draw a card. When Sajgalik revealed his last card to be a Snapcaster Mage, it looked like the Cryptic would be countered, and Sajgalik would be able to resolve his Vendilion Clique.
And then, for some reason, after a Mana Leak countered the Cryptic, Sajgalik passed the turn. Without using the triggered ability from the Clique. The judge paused them during Lee's draw step, but let them continue after a beat.
Lee had done it: he had the Scapeshift. He cast it, sacrificing six lands and fetching enough Mountains to finish Sajgalik off. With the triggers on the stack, the Head Judge came over for a little conference with the players about the possibility that Lee had improperly tapped his lands to cast the pair of Cryptic Commands on the previous turn. After a consultation with the table judge and both players, it was determined that even if he had (which I firmly remember him doing), he clearly had enough to properly afford it, thus the play stands. At one point during the discussion, there was an almost imperceptible "Oh..." from Sajagalik as his gaze dropped to the Clique in play. From my perspective, it seemed as though he had just realized that both players had somehow missed that trigger. In any case, the triggers resolved and Sajgalik ended up on the wrong end of eighteen damage, giving the final game of the match to Lee.
After the match, I asked Sajgalik about the Vendilion Clique, and he admitted that he had simply forgotten it in the commotion of that last turn.
"I'm not sure. I certainly remembered it on the next turn, but by then there was nothing the judge could do about it. It may have been because of the counter war, but in any case, I missed it."
Lee Shi Tian defeats Eduardo Sajgalik 3-2 and advances to the Semifinals!