Semifinals: Paul Jackson (Green-red Devotion) vs. (20) Mike Sigrist (Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact)

Posted in Event Coverage on August 3, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

Very few people thought we'd be in the position we're in right now. With a win in this match, twentieth-ranked Mike Sigrist will unseat first-ranked and new Pro Tour Hall of Fame member elect, Eric Froehlich as both the Player of the Year, and the captain of America's World Magic Cup team. Heck, Sigrist didn't expect it himself. "I was sweating Gold a month ago," he said.

Now locked for not just Gold and Platinum, and the Top 8 of Pro Tour Magic Origins, he was one win away from two other coveted achievements in Magic. It was a surreal whirlwind.

The Perth-based Paul Jackson must have been feeling just as unmoored. With a win here he clinches his first Platinum. For the last few Pro Tours he had traveled together with New Zealand's twenty-fourth-ranked Jason Chung, and they were putting up similar results until Chung finished in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir and since clinched the first Platinum status for his country. Now Jackson has the opportunity to match his continent-mate. It promised a year of Magic traveling.

Chung cheered on Jackson, while the kiwi sported his "I [heart] Taylor Swift" t-shirt and light-up wristbands, both obtained from the Swift concert last night in Vancouver.

The match-up, both players agreed, was in the Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact deck's favor. But that didn't stop Paul Jackson and his Green-red Devotion deck from taking down Stephen Berrios in the quarterfinals. All it took was some solid plays, and some decent draws.

Both players had big things ahead of them with a win. For Paul Jackson, it was Platinum in the Pro Tour Players Club. For Mike Sigrist, it was the 2014-15 Player of the Year title.

After they shuffled the cards up, Sigrist made one last appeal to Jackson. "C'mon now, who do you want to win? Me or EFro?" They two smiled, and were soon down to playing.

The Games

Mike Sigrist kept a speculative six-card hand to open the match. As many have said, the biggest problem with his Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact deck is how variant-laden it can be. This was exactly how Paul Jackson was able to get through the quarterfinals, as his opponent's hands just didn't line up well against Jackson's.

However, Sigirst's first draw netted him a Hangarback Walker, which added a lot of power to the otherwise unspectacular keep. That along with the Phyrexian Revoker could stifle Jackson's early development.

Jackson started with his regular mana producers—passing his second turn with three in play. Because two of them were Elvish Mystics, Sigrist's Revoker operated as a two-mana-denial strategy. This could be key.

But as always, Jackson had more ways to get mana. Both Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Courser of Kruphix pushed things forward for Jackson, albeit slightly slower than usual. He was staving off Sigrist's assaults, until the American's draws gave him the power he was looking for.

Jackson powers out whatever mana he can, as his only game-plan in this match-up is to cast his big spells as soon as possible.

Though the Hangarback Walker died early, its two progeny and the Revoker were trading around two freshly drawn Ghostfire Blades, attacking Jackson at his weakest angle: the air. He started taking giant chunks out of Jackson's life total. And with the Australian comparatively strapped for mana, there wasn't much he could do in return.

Sigrist was handless, but it didn't seem to matter. He was ahead in life 20-11 and in control of the board. His mana-hungry opponent was now constrained to six, and it would only take two more turns to take the first game.

Jackson was trying to figure out a game plan, but it would be tough. His own Courser was also not helping his morale. Being able to see your next unhelpful draw on the top of your library at all times can be disconcerting. His library was revealing nothing to stop or oppose Sigrist.

But Sigrist worried, and rightfully so, that Jackson might drop a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and use Polukranos, World Eater to wipe all his work away. And Jackson was busy trying to calculate how to make all that potential mana work in his favor.

The next turns took almost as long has the rest of the game. Each player ruthlessly calculated potential damage and potential mana. It was mesmerizing; Sigrist kept moving his hands off and on cards, picking them up and putting them down, touching in front of them and behind them, and almost laying his last card onto the table before picking it back up. You were almost able to actually see his brain working through everything.

Sigrist's deck provides a relentless air assault.

In the end the game came down to damage. Sigirst had it in the air, and Jackson had no way to stop him.

With that win, Sigrist was one away from becoming player of the year. Oh, and Pro Tour Magic Origins finalist to boot.

After a completely silent sideboarding and shuffling session, each player said "All Right" and vigorously shook their hands. "Good luck" they wished each other, and got into it once again.

"How many Ensoul Artifacts are in there?" Jackson wondered aloud as he had to mulligan for the second time, going down to five cards. Jackson was looking for the fastest hand he could muster, fearing the hyper aggressive start from Sigrist—usually involving the two-mana enchantment.

"Two." Sigrist said, and nothing more. Perhaps Jackson took it as a joke, but Sigrist wasn't kidding. His six-card grip had two of ultra-aggressive enchantment. If they aren't disturbed, the game would end in short order.

You could already see the resign on Jackson's face as he kept his five-card hand, saddled with one land. This match-up was all uphill in the first place, let alone beginning down a game and down two cards.

The game was a brutal as you might imagine. The fourth turn was the best one for Sigrist—two Ensoul Artifacts on two different artifacts plus a Hangarback Walker. Sigrist would not relent. Sigrist would not yield. He could taste the finals coming. He could taste the Player of the Year and the World Magic Cup captainship. He might not have expected to be in this position, but now that he's here, he's going to reach out and grab everything with open arms.

He swung in for the last time, earning his victory, and his place in Magic history.

Mike Sigrist defeats Paul Jackson 2-0 and advances to the finals…

…and with that win, congratulations to Mike Sigrist, the 2014-15 Player of the Year!

Paul Jackson's Green-red Devotion - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

Mike Sigrist's Blue-Red Ensoul Artifact - Pro Tour Magic Origins

Download Arena Decklist

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