Posted in PRO TOUR KHANS OF TARKIR - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 13, 2014

By Ray “blisterguy” Walkinshaw

If you were to name players who have had exceptional careers over a relatively short period of time, you can't look past these two. 16Th-ranked Lee Shi Tian won a Grand Prix in 2008, and Top 8'd another, but truly came into his own with a Top 8 at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in 2012, and another at Pro Tour Born of the Gods earlier this year.

Oh what? That's not a short enough time frame for you? Well then consider the man sitting across from Lee this morning: 8th-ranked Shaun McLaren has had two Grand Prix Top 8s this year, and he won Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Like Lee, McLaren's in his second Pro Tour Top 8 this year, as is fellow Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir competitor Ivan Floch. Something, something, skill-game, I don't think anyone needs convincing on that front these days.

Both Lee and McLaren have faced each other already this weekend, and playing the same decks, too. Lee's version of the Jeskai Ascendancy Combo differs somewhat from many around the hall this weekend, which Lee attributes to the mana base more than his choice in spells, something he worked on with the Magic community in Hong Kong.

Lee and McLaren did this dance once before in the event. McLaren was hoping that their previous match's results would repeat in the Quarterfinals.

McLaren's Jeskai Wins deck is a little slower than some of the others we've seen this weekend, too, featuring only a single Seeker of the Way instead of the full four. This means the likelihood of McLaren trying to race Lee is somewhat less, and he is much more likely to take the controlling route, as he did in the swiss rounds to beat Lee in Games 2 and 3 of the match after being buried in a flurry of spells in Game 1.

The Games

Having finished in a higher place at the end of Round 16, McLaren chose to play first and kept his opening hand, while Lee threw his back.

Lee confided in me last night that he did not feel this was a good match-up for him. He would need to win Game 1 so that he could hope to get lucky in one of the sideboarded games once McLaren had transformed his deck into an Anti-Jeskai Ascendency Combo killing machine. Lee starting the match with a mulligan tilted the odds just that little bit further in McLaren's favor.

16th-ranked Lee Shi Tian can tell when he has an uphill battle ahead of him.

Sure enough, Lee failed to land a turn two mana creature, while McLaren's third turn Mantis Rider was right where it should be, all up in Lee's grill. Between Lee's Yavimaya Coast and a couple of fetch lands, the Mantis Rider had Lee under 10 life before he could play anything more than a Kiora's Follower. When McLaren summoned a second Mantis Rider, Lee attempted to Dig Though Time, but could only nod and swipe up his cards.

Lee 0 – McLaren 1

As I'm sure you have already noticed, Lee's sideboard affords him the opportunity to sideboard away from the Jeskai Ascendency combo and into more of a Temur creature deck, which helps him avoid practically losing on the spot to Anger of the Gods. Lee sideboarded the following:

4 Dragon Mantle
4 Retraction Helix
3 Tormenting Voice
2 Twinflame
2 Briber's Purse

4 Savage Knuckleblade
2 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Swan Song
3 Lightning Strike
3 Arc Lightning

To give you an idea of what Lee's up against, here's how McLaren sideboarded:

4 Goblin Rabblemaster
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
2 Banishing Light
1 Lightning Strike
1 Stoke the Flames

1 Phyrexian Revoker
3 Dissolve
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Negate
2 Erase

Game 2 began a little better for Lee, who played Commune with the Gods to find a Kiora's Follower, and followed that up with a turn four Polukranos, World Eater. However, Lee probably would have been better off had Polukranos's nickname been "Mantis Eater," because McLaren played two Mantis Riders in quick succession and a Stoke the Flames on the Follower.

haun McLaren knows he's favored in this match.

Being stuck nowhere near the seven mana needed, Polukranos was all like "boss, I couldn't possibly," and McLaren was soon flying over to finish the match in his favor for a second time this weekend.

"Ugh, too many Mantis Riders," Lee lamented as he picked up his cards, but he shared a huge grin with McLaren anyway as he wished him good luck in the Semifinals.

Shaun McLaren defeats Lee Shi Tian 2-1 and advances to the Semifinals!

Lee Shi Tian - Jeskai Ascendancy Combo Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir

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Shaun McLaren – Jeskai Wins Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir

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