Globetrotting archmage and 6th Ranked player Lee Shi Tian brought most of Team MTGMintcard to Grand Prix Mexico for a weekend’s battling before they head north to the Pro Tour. He’s a hard man to miss in a crowd, sporting his trademark team jacket and supervillain grin. The past two years have cemented his place among the game’s elite, adding a pair of Pro Tour Top 8’s to go with his collection of GP Top 8’s, including a win at Birmingham in 2008. I spent the build period over his shoulder to watch him in action, then sat down with him to talk about the format in general, and this sealed build in particular.
“I think with Fate Reforged, the power level is lower. In Khans you had the clans, and the gold cards really rewarded you for playing them. The other thing is Manifest is so random, and usually just a blank. So yeah, I think it’s gone down.”
When I first approached him during his build, Lee was shaking his head at the cards spread out in front of him.
“Yeah the pool is not great. Not many strong gold cards. No real big bombs. No red lands so the mana is a little tough.”
Lee Shi Tian
His first tack was a sleek Boros build, heavy on the two-drops and looking to capitalize on the slower pace of Sealed. The all-stars of the build were a pair of Goblin Heelcutters, whose Dash ability can ruin an opponent’s defensive plans. Unfortunately, his overall creature quality was low, and the deck seemed to lack finishing power.
With a grimace cleaned the slate. This time he started from his lands – a six-pack of non-red duals. He started to lay out his pool’s most powerful cards and used that as a skeleton. The problem was that no one color wanted to be the backbone. It wound up looking like a slowish deck that would try to out-muscle the opposition. Time was running out, so I left Lee to finish submitting his deck before asking him about the build.
“Not having red lands was so bad. I couldn’t really splash, and playing Boros I had to run so many bad creatures. I decided I would just be the control deck, try to win games with big threats and removal.”
Just then, a wild Martin Jůza appeared. He had registered the pool that wound up in Lee’s hands. “So, you build red-blue right? Best red-blue deck ever?”
Lee shook his head, so Jůza took Lee’s sideboard and broke it down for him. “You’re basically a draft deck. All these two-drops and just attack, attack, attack. Use all your blue tricks. I would definitely play this deck.”
Lee looked it over. There were some things he didn’t like about it, but he couldn’t deny that it looked like a cohesive strategy. He started fiddling with the numbers. “These bad twos (Valley Dasher, Smoldering Efreet) these bad morphs (Auriok Tracker and Canyon Lurkers), I hate playing decks like this. I’m always worried you’ll get stopped early and then lose. Still, you get to play the Cunning Strikes, these good tricks. Yeah I never considered Izzet. I think Martin’s right. I’ll probably board into something like this.”