Posted in PRO TOUR DRAGONS OF TARKIR on April 10, 2015

By Craig Jones

No.6 Shaun McLaren has been on a tear for the last year or so with a win at Pro Tour Born of the Gods being followed by a second place finish at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. This time, he's left behind his usual Jeskai colors and is instead running an Abzan control deck.

His opponent is Hall of Famer Makihito Mihara. Mihara burst onto the scene thanks to a World Championship win in 2006 with a Dragonstorm deck. Surprisingly, there were no dragons this time for Mihara however, as he's back to running green spells with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to power out even more powerful green spells.

No. 6 Ranked Player Shaun McLaren squared off with his fair deck against Hall of Famer Makihito Mihara, who aimed to do unfair things with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

The Games

Mihara won the dice roll and opted to go first. Both players kept their opening hands.

It was Mihara with the early action, as a Sylvan Caryatid allowed him to power out Polukranos, World Eater. McLaren's Hero's Downfall sent that packing, and when Mihara had no follow-up action on the following turn, McLaren took the opportunity to build up his hand with Read the Bones.

That was the last glimmer of light for McLaren in this game, as Mihara's deck overpowered him with pure, brute force.

Mihara had no action at five mana, but at six mana was able to fire off See the Unwritten. A Hornet Queen was waiting on top of his library and brought in four angry friends. On the next turn he placed a second land, which meant he was able to cast the second Hornet Queen in his hand.

McLaren had a lonely Siege Rhino on his side of his table. In normal circumstances, it's one of the strongest creatures in Standard. Not in this game. McLaren sent it in to attack and had to use Hero's Downfall to prevent a blocking hornet from killing it with deathtouch.

Mihara wasn't even done. He had Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and enough green devotion to ramp out first a Doomwake Giant, and then a See the Unwritten with ferocious turned on to put both a Polukranos and Voyaging Satyr into play.

The things Mihara's deck could do were anything but charming.

That was enough for McLaren, and it was time to go to the sideboards.

That was a classic example of one player playing moderately "fair" Magic being trampled into the dirt by a deck doing "unfair" things.

So why play the "fair" decks when you can play the "unfair" decks spitting out armies of flying deathtouch horrors?

The answer to that is consistency and reliability. Decks that push the power envelope do have draws where they flatten their opponent into dust. However, they're also capable of those draws where they fall apart in comedic fashion. What the player with the "fair" deck should do is try and nudge the "unfair" deck into imploding as much as possible.

McLaren did this in the second game by going after Mihara's mana.

He cast Drown in Sorrow on turn three, even though it only removed a single Elvish Mystic. This seemed to slow Mihara's deck down enough for McLaren to be able to bulk up his hand with first an Abzan Charm and then Read the Bones.

A Duress from McLaren revealed the reason for Mihara's lack of action. He was stuck on three lands with nothing in his hand costing less than four mana.

Mihara found a Courser of Kruphix, but that didn't help him right immediately as it revealed a slow "land" on top of his deck in the form of another Elvish Mystic. The next card was also not a land, but instead Polukranos, World Eater. McLaren kept Mihara pinned to three mana by using End Hostilities to wipe the Courser and freshly-summoned Elvish Mystic.

Mihara could only laugh as a second Courser found another slow "land" on top of his library, this time a Sylvan Caryatid. At this point he'd fallen too far behind as Elspeth, Sun's Champion had appeared for McLaren and was growing an army of soldiers.

McLaren, having earned two Pro Tour Top 8s in the last two years, knows a thing or two about locking down an opponent in tournament Magic.

A second End Hostilities kept Mihara pegged back and then Elspeth's ultimate ability was enough to end the game.

Courser isn't quite as impressive when no lands appear on the top of the library.

In the third game, Mihara got back in the driver's seat. Mihara going first was a significant advantage.

There must have been a nervous moment when a turn two Duress from McLaren revealed no land in Mihara's hand and a bunch of four mana spells.

Fortunately for Mihara, this time the land did come off the top of his library and Polukranos, World Eater entered play on turn three, thanks to his second-turn Voyaging Satyr. He followed that with Eidolon of Blossoms to find more land.

Being on the draw left McLaren a turn behind, and he couldn't quite wrest the advantage back. Drown in Sorrow took care of the Satyr and Eidolon, but then he was facing Nissa, Worldwaker, who began throwing 4/4 lands into the fray.

McLaren thought for a while in turn before running out Courser of Kruphix, perhaps trying to find a fifth land for End Hostilities on the next turn. Mihara just had him under too much pressure though. An attack with Polukranos and two 4/4 lands left him at 3 life, but a Whip of Erebos added further complications. McLaren needed to wipe the board, but even if he did so, he'd still be defenseless against the Whip bringing the Hydra right back into the fray. This left him with no option but to extend the hand.

McLaren 1 – Mihara 2

Shaun McLaren's Abzan Control

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Makihito Mihara's Green Devotion

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