Round 5: Josh McClain (Green-White Devotion) VS. Shota Yasooka (Blue-Black Control)

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

By Tobi Henke

Going by previous accomplishments, Josh McClain was clearly the underdog in this match, but the comparison was hardly fair. The American's career had only taken off two years ago with a finals appearance at Grand Prix Miami, and since then, McClain had claimed a title at Grand Prix Detroit as well as another Top 8. It is not a bad resume by any means.

However, it is dwarfed by Shota Yasooka's stats. The Japanese pro boasts a whopping 18 Grand Prix Top 8s, including one win, with a Pro Tour victory to boot, out of the last nine years.

In the tournament so far, both players were on equal footing, both having aced their three draft rounds and the first of their Standard matches. Only one would continue in that same vein, though. Would it be McClain who had brought Green-White Devotion, or Yasooka, famous for his deckbuilding, who was running an updated version of Blue-Black Control?

Traditionally, the control deck had always been in deep trouble if the Devotion player managed to stick a Mastery of the Unseen, but while that still held true, Yasooka's version of the deck now had access to Silumgar's Scorn to prevent just that.

Platinum pro Josh McClain goes up against legendary deckbuilder Shota Yasooka.

The Games

McClain was already off to a bad start into the match before any cards had been played, losing the die roll and then going to six cards. Yasooka playing first also meant the Japanese player had two blue mana available when McClain began his second turn and deliberated his play. He had Mastery of the Unseen and Sylvan Caryatid available. However, as he told me after the match, he didn't want to have his most important card fall victim to Silumgar's Scorn if Yasooka didn't have a Dragon.

In the end, it didn't matter. When he cast the enchantment on turn three, Yasooka had Silumgar's Scorn as well as Dragonlord Silumgar in hand to go with it. McClain's next play of Whisperwood Elemental was immediately dispatched with Hero's Downfall, but the following Polukranos, World Eater stuck around a bit longer.

McClain tries to make the best of a rough situation.

But only for a little bit. At the end of that turn, Yasooka stocked up on answers with Jace's Ingenuity, then wiped the board via Crux of Fate. With the loss of two mana creatures, McClain was reduced to three lands on the battlefield, with Dromoka's Command and more Whisperwood Elementals in hand. He never recovered and never even got to five lands. Soon, he was facing Dragonlord Silumgar and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and began his extensive sideboarding.

Yasooka made some adjustments to his deck, while McClain switched out a whole bunch of cards for Deathmist Raptor, Fleecemane Lion, Valorous Stance, and Den Protector. He later explained his plan. "After sideboarding, the plan in this matchup is to put some early pressure on them, forcing them to react, which then opens up a window to stick one of the bigger threats."

McClain opened with Fleecemane Lion and Sylvan Caryatid, threatening a monstrous activation by turn four. Yasooka weighed his options and shot the Lion down on his turn rather than wait for McClain to untap and play a land. This gave McClain an opportunity to cast something unhindered by countermagic, just as he had planned.

Known for his blue deckbuilding skills, Yasooka unsurprising came prepared with Blue-Black Control.

Unfortunately, he didn't have another land and could only muster a lackluster Courser of Kruphix. Next, Yasooka's Thoughtseize took Valorous Stance out of a hand which also included Deathmist Raptor and two Whisperwood Elementals, and then Ultimate Price got rid of Courser of Kruphix.

Regardless, McClain managed to establish a board presence with another Fleecemane Lion and Deathmist Raptor, though he didn't make much progress as his creatures got entangled by Icefall Regent. McClain continued to summon creatures, but Yasooka announced it was Ugin time again and that, as has already been established, was a very bad time for McClain.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon again wiped the board, then proceeded to eat a couple of McClain's reinforcements, and it eventually won the game alongside another Icefall Regent.

McClain – Yasooka 2

"The matchup is definitely better than this," McClain told me after it was all over. "Especially after sideboarding. And Mastery of the Unseen is always huge. A lot depends on the exact configuration of the opponent's deck, of course, but just look at that situation in the second game where he was forced to main-phase-kill that Fleecemane Lion. If I untap and cast Whisperwood Elemental then, I can keep him on the back foot for a while."

Alas, McClain could not because he didn't have a fourth land.

Josh McClain's Green-White Devotion

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Shota Yasooka's Blue-Black Control

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