Jon Stern is largely credited with the rise of Canadian Magic over the last few years. Team Face to Face games has rallied around him. Stern has a lot of Grand Prix success with five Top 8s including a pair of wins, but a Pro Tour Top 8 has continued to elude him. In the sixth round of Draft here at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, Jon Stern is playing for an undefeated record in the Limited portion of the tournament. The new World Championship invite system works such that the player that accrues the most match points in Limited over the course of the season gets a seat at the World Championship as Limited Master. There's a lot on the line for both players, but Stern has a lofty goal ahead of him.
His opponent, fellow Canadian Ricky Chin, is competing in his first Pro Tour. Chin is having an exceptional tournament thus far, especially considering his first premier play event was as recent as 2014.
Both players discussed their records thus far as they shuffled. Chin started off 1-2 yesterday, but was able to put together a 5-0 through the Standard rounds before picking up another pair of wins this morning. Stern's untarnished Limited record didn't seem to faze Chin, who seemed very confident with his deck.
Two Canadians face off to maintain momentum as the tournament heads into the Constructed rounds.
In the first game, Chin got things started quickly with Salvage Drone and immediately started to ingest cards from the top of Stern's library. Mist Intruder came next and Stern didn't have a play on the second turn either. Then came Fathom Feeder, and it was clear that Chin had assembled a beautiful Blue-Black ingest strategy.
Chin's Murk Strider bounced Stern's four-drop and allowed him to continuing ingesting huge numbers of cards. At this point, it became clear that Chin would be able to process as much as he would want to.
Stern had Touch of the Void to get Fathom Feeder off the table, but Chin broke the game wide open with Blight Herder, making three Eldrazi Scions and allowing him to freely attack Stern without having to worry about the consequences.
Grove Rumbler rumbled in after Stern played another land, and Stern used Natural Connection when Chin went for the double block with Blight Herder and an Eldrazi Scion to trample over for 2 damage. Another Grove Rumbler came down and threatened some serious damage. Despite Chin's exceptional start, it seemed like Stern might be able to steal the game.
Stern wasn't necessarily happy with how the draft turned out, but he's been on a roll regardless.
Chin had one last trick up his sleeve when he used Rush of Ice to tap down one of Stern's blockers and attack for lethal damage and, just like that, they were on to Game 2.
Both players confidently kept their hands at the start of the second game, but you wouldn't know it based on the pace of the game.
Chin's premier play experience has been rather limited, but nonetheless he has found himself on the Pro Tour after only a few attempts.
Plated Crusher, a card whose stock has risen wildly over the course of this weekend, came down for Stern and he continued passing the turn. His board grew with Snapping Gnarlid, but Stern was running low on cards and Chin was still working with a hand full of power.
Another Incubator Drone for Chin gave Stern the opening he was looking for when he drew a land on the following turn to trigger landfall with his other four creatures.
Only one game from a 6-0 Draft record, Jon Stern was ready. He carefully started working through his sideboard to find the perfect configuration of 40 cards to match up against what he had seen from Chin in the previous games.
Stern exhaled strongly. "Your deck seems pretty good."
"Yours too," Chin replied.
Stern wasn't convinced. "Yeah, I guess," he responded. "I was worried about this draft. I started black after taking Wasteland Strangler. Then I moved off it because it didn't seem open. Then I wheeled a Sludge Crawler and went back in."
Chin shrugged. "Well, green was pretty open."
"Green's always open, but that doesn't necessarily help your deck," laughed Stern.
Chin had a turn one Salvage Drone again and immediately started ingesting cards. Stern didn't have a play for the first few turns of the game and could only Natural Connection once he got to his third land.
Chin continued passing with mana open and it seemed like Stern would need to be playing around countermagic to a certain degree.
Stern was able to stick a Belligerent Whiptail, but it would soon be massively outclassed by Chin.
Ulamog's Despoiler came down and got the action started as a whopping 9/9 for Chin and it seemed unlikely that Stern's deck had anything capable of dealing with it.
When Rush of Ice tapped down Stern's Tajuru Beastmaster, it seemed like Chin would be winning the game over the course of the next few turns. Sure, Stern could chump block for a bit, but could it matter?
Creatures continued to trade and Chin had what seemed like an endless stream of Skyline Cascade to keep Stern's Tajuru Beastmaster tapped. Stern was able to trade off Belligerent Whiptail and Plated Crusher for Ulamog's Despoiler, but he was still very behind.
Sludge Crawler was left when the dust settled and Stern's Ruin Processor was countered, but it still managed to gain him 5 life. A few more guys came down for Stern and, despite being at a precarious life total for many turns, it looked like he may have turned the corner. Stern needed to close the game quickly before he would need to face down a flier from the other side, though.
It all came down to one fateful turn. Stern's Valakut Predator, Tajuru Beastmaster, and Grove Rumbler came into the red zone. Blighted Woodland got sacrificed for what seemed like it could have been lethal damage, but Chin had Scour from Existence and was able to swing back for lethal damage of his own with Sludge Crawler.
Chin 2 – Stern 1
Jon Stern almost made it out of the Limited rounds with an undefeated record, but his country mate was able to steal the final win.