Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 2, 2014

By Blake Rasmussen

Blake is the content manager for, making him the one you should email if you have thoughts on the website, good or less good (or not good). He's a longtime coverage reporter and hasn't turned down a game of Magic in any format ever.

Just about every player among the twenty-four in attendance this weekend is on some kind of track that could result—or already has resulted in—a Hall of Fame berth. You have to be that good to even get here, so it's rarely a stretch to imagine a possible future where any of the non-inducted players earns their lifetime invite.

Seventh-ranked William Jensen is already there, but it's not difficult to picture his Round 4 opponent and fourth-ranked player in the world Shaun McLaren (read his full profile here) one day joining him. McLaren has been on a tear like almost no other since winning Pro Tour Born of the Gods, where he proved himself a master of both Modern and the Jeskai clan. He's also a member of the Canadian national team this year, and results in one or both tournaments could go a long way toward catapulting him into a Hall of Fame-level stratosphere.

If anyone can claim a more impressive year than McLaren, Hall of Famer Jensen is certainly on the short list. His eight Grand Prix Top 8s last season set a record, and his invite to this tournament capped his return to the game started several years ago. (Read his full profile here.)

The Decks

So far this weekend, Jensen is storming in all formats, building a Storm list in Vintage Masters draft and following it up with Modern Storm/Pyromancer Ascension, an often forgotten combo deck in a post-Jeskai Ascendancy world.

McLaren meanwhile was playing—hold on, I'll give you one guess. Exactly one. Go ahead and Google McLaren. Or check out his win at Pro Tour Born of the Gods or his second place finish at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. One guess, that's all you get.

Did you say Jeskai? Good job! You win!

While Hall of Famer William Jensen went with the oft-forgotten Pyromancer Ascension deck, McLaren went with his standard go-to: Jeskai.

McLaren has become so known for playing similar decks in all formats, that it came as virtually no surprise when things got started...

The Games

"Oh, look at that," Jensen knowlingly smirked as McLaren dropped a first-turn Celestial Colonnade before revealing McLaren's hand with Gitaxian Probe.

The Probe revealed a variety of spells, most noticeably Spell Snare and a Snapcaster Mage, two cards that would be tricky for Jensen to play around.

Now with that information in tow, Jensen got busy filling his graveyard with one-mana cantrips, five in total by the third turn, and yet more in subsequent turns as Thoughtscours helped dig deeper and deeper, fueling a Treasure Cruise.

Meanwhile, McLaren played an 0/4 wall.

Still, Spell Snare was a heck of a card for Jensen to try to play around. Two of his key spells—Pyromancer's Ascension and Goblin Electromancer—cost exactly two mana, not to mention various rituals.

Jensen looks for his prime time to go off.

This is how the game went for a few turns. Jensen cast cantrips and shaped his hand while McLaren made small moves when possible to pressure Jensen's life total. A Lightning Helix there, a Snapcaster Mage there, and Jensen found himself under the gun, still having to play around that Spell Snare. Between the damage Jensen's own lands did to himself and the burn fired at him, Jensen found himself at 8 when he felt forced to go off.

McLaren, however, had an answer for both of Jensen's attempts at Pyretic Ritual, halting the attempt. With Jensen now at 6 life thanks to Shivan Reef, all it took was an attack with Snapcaster Mage and McLaren's trusty Celestial Colonnade to give the Canadian the first win of the match.

After a McLaren mulligan and some mana troubles, the second game all came down to Jensen dictating the pace and play as he saw fit, pulling the strings at every turn.

Early on, with McLaren struggling for mana, Jensen cast Gitaxian Probe, granting him perfect information. Gitaxian Probe revealed Dispel, Mana Leak, two Snapcaster Mages and a Dig through Time—plenty of disruption, to be sure, but with McLaren on only two mana, he could only deploy one piece per turn. He used the first on a Pyretic Ritual and the second on a Treasure Cruise—which Jensen saved with Dispel.

It's all about those small little edges when it comes to McLaren's strategy.

That script worked just as Jensen wanted it to. From there the current Hall of Famer chained a few spells and rituals together until he had a storm count of eight and four mana, casting Empty the Warrens for 18 Goblins. With no way to deal with 18 1/1s, McLaren was quick to move on to the deciding game.

Sometimes all it takes is one mistake, just a small mistake, in a series of strong plays, to end a game. And it was a small mistake that wasn't a mistake from a player who rarely makes many—and who seemed firmly in control—that dictated the end of this match. Follow all that? Let me explain.

But first let's start at the beginning.

McLaren's deck doesn't have many one drops, certainly not permanents, so Jensen was a little befuddled when McLaren started off with something that cost one mana—Relic of Progenitus.

"I was wondering what you were going to cast, I was intrigued," Jensen said. "But that makes sense."

The Relic was a proactive way to fight against Treasure Cruise and, if Jensen had it, Past in Flames. But McLaren decided to use it early, clearing out a medium-full graveyard (thanks to a Thought Scour) and giving himself a card in the process. Jensen would have to rebuild his graveyard again if he wanted to cruise any time soon.

Jensen attempted Pyromancer Ascention with Dispel backup, but a Spell Snare and Negate denied the namesake enchantment and seemed to set Jensen back. In fact, it seemed like enough of a blow that McLaren took the opportunity on his turn to cast Dig Through Time, filling his hand with disruption and ways to beat a large Empty the Warrens.

Jensen used the opportunity to fill his graveyard, take a Treasure Cruise, and cast a medium-sized Empty the Warrens for eight goblins—all of which were promptly swept up by Anger of the Gods.

Still, McLaren had minimal pressure, and Gitaxian Probe revealed exactly what Jensen had to work against—two Wear // Tear and a Dig Through Time. This let Jensen play sequences out in his head before making a move.

Still, the cards were not cooperating with the American, and he was doing most of the damage to himself in the form of Shivan Reef and Gitaxian Probe. McLaren hadn't done much, but he also didn't need to.

Eventually, it came down to Jensen realizing he needed to make a move or else face that pesky Celestial Colonnade finishing him off in just two hits. So he took a bit of a gamble, playing a second Past in Flames hoping it would get countered.

"I needed him to counter it and to then draw a Treasure Cruise. Effectively, I needed a land that turn," Jensen said.

But he actually had a land. That land, however, was a Misty Rainforest. A Misty Rainforest that had no targets left in his deck.

You see, Jensen had a window where he could go off if the Past in Flames actually did resolve and he had another land. However, because he was "95 percent" sure he had no more lands to search for, he tried to grab a counter out of McLaren with the typically frightening spell. But when McLaren didn't counter, Jensen took the chance that he might have a land left in his deck.

"We switched the lands around enough that I wasn't sure, but I was 95 percent sure I didn't," he said. "Still, I had to do something, and I thought maybe I made a mistake in counting my lands."

Without that land, McLaren was able to simply activate Colonnade and do some attacking. Coupled with an Electrolyze, he had just enough to finish Jensen off.

Jensen 1 – McLaren 2

William Jensen – Pyromancer Ascension

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Shaun McLaren – Jeskai

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