Posted in 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP - COVERAGE on December 3, 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.

This was it. The final round in the tournament. Three slots in the Top 4 had already been decided, but four players were all still in the running for the fourth and final slot.

In this particular corner was fourth-ranked Shaun McLaren, captain of the Canadian National team and one of the few hopefuls that could still capture both crowns.

But to do so he had to get through Hall of Famer and nineteenth-ranked Patrick Chapin, who had already locked up a berth in the Top 4 and was now playing for seeding and to help block for his friend and teammate William Jensen.

It wasn't quite the highest of stakes—those would come Sunday—but it was certainly the level just below that. The medium highest stakes, if you will.

For Chapin, a win meant pole position on the Sunday stage. For McLaren, a win meant an outside chance at Top 4 if things went his way.

The Decks

"Is your deck literally just my deck from before, but with an extra Read the Bones?" Chapin mused as he read over McLaren's list. "Oh, you have a Duneblast and Nissa in the main. Sick. We do have different sideboards though. Your sideboard is sick against control though."

"Of course," McLaren joked. "What did you expect Worlds to be, all Whip decks?"

It was pretty much half Whip of Erebos decks, so McLaren's jest was well received, but his sideboard wouldn't get the chance to be "sick" in what was effectively a mirror match of midrange Abzan decks. A ream of rhinos and a course of Coursers was sure to follow as McLaren fought for his tournament life.

The Games

Chapin's jumped out to an early lead, landing both a Courser of Kruphix and a Thoughtseize before McLaren could make a play on the board, but in this back and forth mirror match, leads rarely last. He nabbed a Hero's Downfall from a hand that contained Courser of Kruphix, but was hit the following turn with a Hero's Downfall McLaren plucked from the top of his deck.

"Had it," McLaren joked.

"Fair," said Chapin, re-evaluating his plan. "Tough but fair."

This match was all about resources, and each player was having an easy time draining the others of them, but a tough time getting anything to stick or trump the other player.

Chapin made the first real advance in the game, getting McLaren to block Siege Rhino with Siege Rhino, then winning the battle with an Abzan Charm. When he followed up with a Brimaz, King of Oreskos, he looked to have the game locked up.

But then a certain "sick" card made an appearance, as McLaren managed to scry his lone Duneblast to the top of his library, resetting the board and leaving Chapin with no hand, no creatures and just the top of his deck for a friend...

Tough but fair!

...and a friend is exactly what he found waiting, as Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. Ajani found his BFF Elspeth, Sun's Champion and, Chapin, despite having his entire battlefield blasted with Abzan sand magic, was not only back in the game, but back in command of the game.

Chapin played a Courser of Kruphix, found a sixth land with it and dug up a Siege Rhino with Ajani. When the top of his deck revealed a second Rhino, McLaren decided he had seen enough.

"This is where things get interesting," Chapin mused.

"That wasn't interesting?" McLaren asked back.

It certainly was, but with different sideboards at play here, this mirror match became more of a "mirror" match once the extra fifteen cards were taken into consideration.

The difference in play was palpable right at the start, as the battlefield remained free while both players played out draw spells and kept scrying to shape the tops of their decks. It felt as if they were gathering their strength—and resources—for what was sure to be a drawn out battle.

McLaren leapt onto the battlefield first with a Siege Rhino, but lost it immediately to Abzan Charm. A second Rhino tipped the life totals far in McLaren's direction—24 to 11—but it soon met an Utter End.

McLaren's haymaker-fueled Abzan deck turned up some powerful cards throughout the match.

That was when McLaren presented a unique problem for a deck chock full of one-for-one removal, asking two questions that both needed to be answered in order for Chapin to have a shot.

Courser of Kruphix offered some life-gain to start, and a Hero's Downfall took Nissa out of the picture, but left behind the animated land—a land that would prove troublesome to the math involved in Chapin's survival.

At 7 life, the four damage would put Chapin in range of Siege Rhino that turn. However, McLaren had already played two Rhinos, and Chapin knew he had his own Rhino waiting on top of his deck. Blocking would give up his Courser and likely cost him a shot at winning the long game he knew he'd have to play. But the third Rhino would, of course, simply kill him.

"No blocks."

Chapin took the chance and wasn't punished by a Rhino, but did now have to deal with an Elspeth, Sun's Champion, the second Planeswalker to put the Hall of Famer to the test.

Siege Rhino gave Chapin some breathing room, but he was still under the gun and facing an increasingly hostile position. His hand contained a number of bomb spells—another Rhino, his own Elspeth, and a Sorin, Solemn Visitor—but he needed to find the time to deploy them.

Time he didn't have. Thoughtseize stripped the Rhino while Utter End from McLaren removed the 4/5 in play as well. That dropped Chapin to one and took out any options he might have had.

And with that, McLaren forced a final game to keep his chances live.

McLaren had battled back to continue to hold out hope for the Top 4, but a mulligan immediately put him behind in a match where every card counted. And when the players mirrored each other on their first four turns—lands, Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhinos apiece—every card became precious.

Ajani, Mentor to Heroes leapt to Chapin's defense, only to be brutally attacked by a Siege Rhino once Utter End utterly ended Chapin's defending Rhino. Two attacks removed Ajani from the picture and it seemed like McLaren had, at least temporarily, taken the lead.

But the back and forth continued. Chapin kept finding answers and drawing cards, McLaren kept finding threats and drawing cards. Sometimes, when things got really crazy, it was Chapin with the threat and McLaren with the answer.

Threats and answers, answers and card draw, and so it went as McLaren scratched and clawed to stay alive to fight for the title on Sunday. They were so evenly matched, their life totals even synched up at 15 midway through. The back and forth went on seemingly endlessly until McLaren finally, after a very long time, seemed to pull ahead with his second Nissa, Worldwaker.

"Another one?!" Chapin said, looking through McLaren's graveyard. "Geez, this guy."

Finally, with both players down to just a few creatures, fewer cards in hand, and what appeared to be fumes, McLaren was able to deal a large blow to Chapin's life total, knocking him down to just 5 life—the first single-digit life total in what seemed like hours.

Chapin found Duneblast—the card he had previously searched up with Liliana Vess—but when McLaren followed up with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, it was enough to push McLaren over the edge. A Siege Rhino later and McLaren was still live for the Top 4.

Chapin 1 – McLaren 2

McLaren had done his part, but so had Shahar Shenhar, also at 9-5. With better tiebreakers than McLaren, Shahar Shenhar was going to get the chance to defend his title while the Canadian would have to make do with a close call and a second chance during the World Magic Cup.

Shaun McLaren - Abzan Midrange

Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (3)
2 Read the Bones 1 Duneblast
Other (7)
4 Thoughseize 3 Elspeth Sun's Champion
60 Cards

Patrick Chapin Abzan Midrange

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (2)
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Sorcery (5)
4 Thoughtseize 1 Read the Bones
Other (7)
2 Brimax, King of Oreskos 1 Ajani, Mentor of Theros 2 Elspeth Sun's Champion 2 Coves of Koilos
60 Cards