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

By Corbin Hosler

By definition, it doesn't get much more stressful than the semifinals of a Pro Tour. Besides the finals of a Pro Tour and maybe the Player of the Year tiebreaker match being Brad Nelson and Guilluame Matignon in 2011, there's nothing that can top the drama. There's so much on the line that it's easy for players to tighten up in the pressure of the moment and the tension is palpable as half a dozen people surround the table to spectate a match of Magic that tends of thousands more are watching live across the world.

But there's another side to the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, and it's one that didn't escape No. 8 Shaun McLaren or his semifinal opponent Mike Sigrist.

"You're always so happy, like I am," Sigrist commented as the two waited for the match to begin.

"We're in the Top 4 of a Pro Tour, how can you not be happy?" McLaren replied rhetorically.

While both players were happy to have come this far, the tournament wasn't over yet and both had their eyes on the trophy.

Exactly, Shaun. Of course, the winner here would be even happier when they advanced to the finals.

The Games

The first turning point of the game came when Sigrist cast Thoughtseize on McLaren and revealed a hand of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Stoke the Flames, Dig Through Time and a pair of lands. Sarkhan hit the graveyard and the way seemed clear for Sigrist to begin developing his board.

That is, until Goblin Rabblemaster came off the top of the deck and immediately began building an army alongside McLaren's Seeker of the Way. Stoke the Flames cleared away Sigrist's Rakshasa Deathdealer and the Rabblemaster traded with Anafenza, the Foremost, leaving the board mostly clear and both players low on cards.

But McLaren's final card was one of the defining cards of the weekend, an instant that saw play in a variety of archetypes across the entire spectrum: Dig Through Time.

McLaren's Jeskai deck is capable of digging for the appropriate cards when running low on action.

The newly-ubiquitous delve spell found McLaren exactly what he needed; in this case Mantis Rider and Jeskai Charm. When Sigrist played a Sorin, Solemn Visitor and then cast Thoughtseize to fall to 7 life, the Jeskai Charm teamed up with the remaining goblins and a freshly-drawn Magma Jet to finish off Sigrist.

McLaren 1 - Sigrist 0

If there's any weakness in Jeskai Wins, it's that the deck lacks true card advantage outside of Dig Through Time, and Planeswalkers can be especially tricky to defeat. Disdainful Stroke is the perfect answer out of the sideboard, and McLaren found one to prevent Sigrist's Sorin from visiting the battlefield.

Of course, the Canadian probably didn't expect Sigrist to immediately have a follow-up copy of the Planeswalker, and the second Sorin was able to survive a turn before falling to a burn spell.

But the beauty of Planeswalkers is that they usually leave something behind when they leave the battlefield, and in this case that was a flying vampire token that began to chip away at McLaren's life total. McLaren had several spells to stall Sigrist's other creatures, but the Vampire kept pinging away two life points at a time.

Sigrist take on Abzan takes a dramatically different approach from outlasting the competition.

McLaren, flush with lands but little else, finally conceded the game when Anafenza began attacking alongside the token, and the pair was off to the decider.

McLaren 1 - Sigrist 1

The winner here would go on to meet Ari Lax for the title of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir champion, and McLaren's Jeskai deck would be on the play in the decider, a key point against Sigrist's aggressive game-plan.

If that was a point in McLaren's favor, his mulligan to six cards was a step in the other direction. He quickly found himself on the back foot against the Abzan build. A Lightning Strike took out a turn 2 Fleecemane Lion, but all McLaren could muster was a Seeker of the Way as he struggled to find a third land. Sigrist's Bile Blight took care of the Seeker, and his follow-up Sorin, Solemn Visitor meant that it was now-or-never for McLaren to find a way to claw back into the game after he was forced to use a Lightning Strike on the token.

On this day, it was now.

McLaren found a Plains waiting for him on top of his deck, which unlocked his hand and allowed Goblin Rabblemaster to put pressure on the Sorin, which fell on the next turn as a second Rabblemaster joined the field and stared down a Siege Rhino.

Now that he could cast the spells in his hand, the lack of lands became a benefit rather than a hindrance. When the entire goblin army crashed in a turn later, a backbreaking Jeskai Charm granted McLaren's creatures +1/+1 and lifelink, dropping Sigrist to just 3 life. One attack step later and it was over, sending McLaren to the finals with a chance to stay undefeated in Pro Tour Top 8s after his victory at Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia.

Shaun McLaren defeats Mike Sigrist 2-1 and advances to the Finals!

Shaun McLaren – Jeskai Wins Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir

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Mike Sigrist – Abzan Aggro Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir

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