The Modern Master and Underdog

Posted in Event Coverage on August 27, 2015

By Chapman Sim

The two formats that all 24 of our competitors will be competing in today have relations to Modern. After three rounds of Modern Masters 2015 Edition Booster Draft, they will proceed to play four rounds of Modern Constructed.

When Modern was introduced in 2011, it was embraced with open arms. That led to the introduction of the inaugural Modern Pro Tour in Philadelphia, a tournament which Samuele Estratti won.

Samuele Estratti, Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011 Champion

Lee Shi Tian wasn't qualified for that one, but he did make the Top 8 of the next three, solidifying him as the best Modern player in the entire world in terms of Pro Tour results. Considering that only four Modern Pro Tours have taken place to date, this puts Lee at an astounding 75% Top 8 rate at Modern Pro Tours, or a 100% Top 8 rate in Modern Pro Tours he has played in, depending on how you want to look at it.

To crown him the Modern Master was hardly an understatement.

Lee Shi Tian, the Modern Master

"I'm generally better at high-powered Constructed formats," he said. "I'm a combo player at heart and this is why my win rate for Standard is terrible! There are more combo decks in Modern than in Standard. If not for Jeskai Ascendency, I don't think I will even have a fourth Pro Tour Top 8," Lee humbly professes.

We crunched the numbers and sure enough, Lee has only a 55.7% win rate at Standard this season, a percentage that is near the bottom of today's field. Nobody's perfect. Even Superman becomes a mortal in the face of kryptonite. Despite that, he makes up for his weakness with an excellent track record in Modern and Limited, formats that have him hovering around a 65% win rate, a percentage that is akin to even the most esteemed Hall of Famers.

Building upon the phenomenon that Lee is more proficient in high-powered formats, the same is true for Limited. Lee is betting that he will do better at Modern Masters 2015 Edition Booster Draft than Magic Origins Booster Draft.

Despite four staggering Pro Tour Top 8s in 20 appearances, he has an abysmal record at the World Championship. When you're playing against the best, in a tournament as elite as this one, every match is an utterly difficult obstacle.

A lesser-known tale that has become a bit of an inside joke among the MTGMintCard circle is the story Lee finishing at the bottom in the last two World Championships.

It is no secret that Tzu Ching Kuo and Lee Shi Tian are close friends. When Kuo attended the first World Championship in 2012—at that time named the Players Championship—he came in second last, managing only four wins out of twelve matches.

"I ridiculed Kuo and told him how terrible he was and I would definitely do better than him," Lee admitted.

Sandra Bullock once said, "I'm a true believer in karma. You get what you give, whether it's bad or good."

Apparently, it's true that what goes around comes around, and Lee learned this precious life lesson the hard way. When he secured the coveted spot in 2013, he resolved to come in better than Kuo, not only because fifteenth place is a lackluster result but also because he wanted to take a jab at the World Magic Cup 2012 Champion.

Just like Kuo, he had come in at exactly fifteenth place, clocking only 3 wins. That was one win less than Kuo, and Kuo wasn't about to let Lee forget about it. That wasn't the end of the unending nightmare. When Lee qualified again in 2014, the World Championship was increased from 16 players to 24 players.

Famous last words?

"With 8 additional players and a bigger field, I can't possibly come in last, right?"

How sorely wrong he was, when he finished at the bottom of the pack again. However, Lee hopes to turn that around with a victory over Shahar Shenhar in the first match.

"All eyes are on Shahar Shenhar to do his three-peat," Lee said. "Now that I've beat him, I feel a little better about my chances. Maybe finally I can turn it around the way Reid Duke did."

With that, I sent him off on his way, where he will be pitted against yet another World Champion, Yuuya Watanabe.

None of the victories will come easy for any of the competitors this weekend. As the adage goes, if it's not easy, it's probably worth doing. The World Championship is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.

Keep your eyes peeled as we witness the unraveling of all the action and crown yet another World Champion.

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