Posted in PRO TOUR KHANS OF TARKIR - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 12, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

Due to the nature of logistics at the Pro Tour, the Feature Match area usually lags behind the main tournament for a few minutes. This usually results in the players having a few minutes to casually chat while waiting for the go-ahead to begin. It's not uncommon for there to be joking and laughing heard around the stage in the minutes before the round begins.

But this is Round 14 of the Pro Tour, and a berth in the Top 8 is on the line. And the table was silent as Pro Tour Born of the Gods Top 8 competitor Christian Seibold sat down across the table from eighth-ranked Shaun McLaren, who just so happened to win that Pro Tour.

The tension of late-round Pro Tour matches is palpable, and it's no surprise that banter winds down as Day 2 does the same (well, maybe Ari Lax is the exception). McLaren entered the match at 11-2, and a win here would very likely be enough to make his way to the Top 8. At 10-3, Seibold wasn't in as good of a spot but was still very much in contention.

McLaren sat down with the format's most popular deck this weekend: Jeskai Wins. The versatile deck can answer anything else in the format, by switching from a control role to an aggressive route with Mantis Rider and Goblin Rabblemaster to a burn strategy with Lightning Strike, Magma Jet and Stoke the Flames.

Seibold arrived to battle with one of the format's more unexplored decks: Sidisi Whip. Utilizing its namesakes Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Whip of Erebos, the deck focuses on "milling" itself with cards like Satyr Wayfinder and the legendary shaman herself. That allows it to both make hordes of Zombie tokens and set up goodies like Hornet Queen to whip back into play. In a format that largely plays cards that trade one-for-one outside of Dig Through Time, it's a strategy that attacks from an unpredictable and often-uncontrollable angle.

The two Pro Tour Born of the Gods Top 8 competitors had to battle, both fighting to secure a second Pro Tour Top 8 to add to their resume.

Of course, the Jeskai deck wouldn't be the most-played in the room if it wasn't able to control the unpredictable.

The Games

McLaren won the roll and opted to play first, while Seibold had to mulligan down to six cards and then kept a hand with nothing but a Swamp for mana, though he did have a Satyr Wayfinder to dig. With a shot at seeing two cards before missing a land drop, it's an understandable keep from his side of the table since more often than not he would be able to make it work.

This was not one of those times. Failing to find a second land and facing down a Mantis Rider, Seibold decided to concede the game rather than discard and reveal any more information about his deck.

McLaren 1 – Seibold 0

The first game wasn't how anyone wants their match of Magic to go, but Seibold's decision of picking up his cards early did have one benefit: McLaren had no idea what he was playing against. When the pair went to their sideboards, Seibold did so with a significant advantage.

It was an advantage that would pay off, as McLaren played the next game with the cards he would sideboard in against the control decks rather than the cards he desperately needed against the army of zombies Seibold was able to produce thanks to a pair of Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.

Seibold's deck attacks players from a very different angle than many expect in this Standard format.

McLaren did fight back, landing a Goblin Rabblemaster to begin making his own token squad, but a Hero's Downfall took out the goblin leader before it got very far. A Whip of Erebos followed for Seibold, and a reborn Hornet Queen (you never can kill those pesky insects), provided him the insurance he needed against the Ætherspouts McLaren was representing on the fateful attack step of the game. It was a nice play by Seibold to navigate all the possibilities even though McLaren appeared dead on board. The Canadian didn't even have the spell in his deck, and he scooped up his cards when Seibold turned the brood sideways.

McLaren 1 – Seibold 1

In case you're wondering, Seibold's gambit paid off perfectly in the second game, as McLaren lost the game with useless counterspells in his hand. But the jig was now up, and both players would be playing the third and final game with full information, which meant that McLaren now had access to Erase for some of Seibold's key cards.

A turn 2 Sylvan Caryatid was a strong start for Seibold, and while it slowed the bleeding from the Goblin Rabblemaster that was deployed the next turn, it wasn't enough to stop it as Seibold dug for removal.

McLaren's deck is efficient, and it gets even better once he knows what to sideboard in.

He didn't find it, though the Whip of Erebos he cast would grant him the lifelink to survive if he could find a creature with power to stare down the growing goblin force. He found exactly that the next turn in Courser of Kruphix, and he gladly took a point of damage from his Llanowar Wastes to cast the Centaur, falling to 7 life in the process. It failed to find a land on top, but it did offer him the tools to survive at least one more turn.

At least, he thought it would. McLaren calmly untapped and pointed a Jeskai Charm and Lightning Strike at Seibold to deal him lethal damage without having to risk an attack step.

"That was a nice draw," Seibold said dejectedly as he shook McLaren's hand and left the table.

McLaren 2 – Seibold 1

Shaun McLaren – Jeskai Wins

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Christian Seibold - Sidisi Whip

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