AWESOME! Yes so awesome that it deserved an underline, capitals, and to be bolded up. The action and the matches that we saw, the storylines that unfolded, and the turnaround days that certain decks had was truly something inspired. I am going to kick this off with saying, if you didn’t see Round 16 Game 3 Lee Shi Tian and his Ascendency deck vs Spencer Garnier on his Abzan Midrange deck then you haven’t seen nail biting magic. In the most EPIC ending to a game that I have ever seen and on 1 life in Game 3 Lee Shi Tian manages a nail biting set of draws, putting a combo of Tormenting Voice and Dig Through Time together to find the pieces he needed and go off.
My blood was pumping the entire last turn and trust me you have never seen a celebration like that of Lee Shi Tian!!!!!
The start of the day brought us another 3 rounds of draft and another set of various pros telling us how to draft this set in a completely different way and another set of out there decks just taking everyone to the park. There is no consensus among the best players in the World on how to draft this set, they prioritize some cards over others, and some say a card is great, others say it is bad. I’ve never in my life seen such a varied format as Khans of Tarkir for limited.
With that said I am going to just give you the best piece of advice and take away that we had from this weekend … draft what comes to you and play what you like. Simple as that and Khans allows you to do just that.
Five more rounds of constructed was something I thought was going to start to narrow the format for us and let us know what was what, but the reality is that did not happen. After just doing a quick look at the Top 11 players we are looking at 11 completely different decks and no real idea of what the meta game will look like.
Here are some quick takeaways from Day 2:
– The Green Ramp decks are nowhere to be seen in the Top 8, or even the Top 12! People came to the Pro Tour with the thought of beating that deck at the forefront of their mind and they accomplished just that. The deck couldn’t stand up to the speed of aggro, the efficient combo decks, and the one for one removal in the format. The 3rd best player in the world Reid Duke who had built the deck that about half of Channel Fireball was running and was by far considered the top ramp deck, finished 56th! (which is a very respectable finish).
– The token decks that were the buzz of Day One were decimated on Day Two and instead replaced by token producing 10th overall finished RW Heroic which proved that it could throw up wins as quickly as the Ascendancy Combo could and had a very good show dominating round 16, but a 3% gap in tie breakers kept it out of the Top 8.
– UB Control survived managing a 5th and 11th place finish … however those finishes were by the 5th and 2nd ranked players in the World and I am utterly convinced that unless you are among the top 25 players in the world then you shouldn’t be running UB Control.
– But ESPER control could be for you as the Citrus Assassin Greg Orange piloted to another Top 16 finish with a 9th overall finish, held back by for the 2nd PT in a row losing the Control vs Control match to Ivan Floch!
– Mardu was nowhere to be seen nor heard from near the Top 8 even with FOUR different builds of Walkers, Aggro, Midrange, and Control running around. It seems the Mardu Clan falls just short of the cut right now and might need to do some work to figure out how to improve.
– The Sultai were another clan that fell short, however they were extremely under represented at the Pro Tour and I still firmly believe there is something outside of reanimator there for the Sultai to attempt and they do have one of the better control deck options at the end of the day.
So are main takeaways from Day 2 is that standard even after the top 8 today is still 100% wide open and we are going to be in for some great magic. Let’s take a quick look at the Top 8 that is going on today.
(1) Shaun McClaren vs (8) Lee Shi Tian
Lee Shi Tian only barely squeaked into the Top 8 with a last amazing nail biting win. People are calling this the first match of Jeskai vs Jeskai, but I tend to disagree with that. McClaren, is running the Jeskai Wins deck while Lee Shi Tian is running Jeska Ascendency Combo, which in essence is a Temur Deck splashing for Ascendency as the only white card in the deck. Lee Shi Tian’s Ascendency deck is fast and can round off some quick wins, but McClaren is running a much heavier burn version of the Wins deck with only 9 creatures and two walkers in the board. The scary part for Shi Tian will have to be the MAIN DECK Anger of the Gods that McClaren is running which provides answers to even the Sylvan Caryatid.
Lee Shi is running the transformational sideboard that gives access to Knuckleblade and Courser, but against a deck as fast as McClaren that isn’t going to get him there and he is going to need to rely on the combo to get the job done. If this turns out to be the case then the playset of Anger, the Dissolves, the Erase, Negates, and Banishing lights out of sideboard for McClaren are going to ruin Lee Shi’s day and unless he god draws, I doubt we see this combo get going.
(2) Ari Lax vs (7) Yuuywa Watanabe
I won’t lie that I am hoping that one of these two players are the one that actually WINS the Pro Tour. Lax was a breath of fresh air to listen to during the live stream and he just tells it how it is. He feels that his Abzan Midrange deck is very well positioned to take on the Jeskai decks and he runs a much heavier planeswalker version to make life very difficult. Watanabe might have one of the best stories of the Pro Tour. He finished Day 1 8-0 and then his Day 2 began to fall apart as he started off the day going 2-4 leaving himself at 10-4 and knowing that he had to fire off two wins to get in. The stress was evident on his face but he managed to pull through, fire off two big wins and make the Top 8 in a very impressive recovery story.
Yuuywa also runs a very creature heavy Jeskai list with 15, going with both Rabblemaster AND Brimaz, King of Oreskos in the main deck. Yuuywa also chose not to run Dig Through Time (the MVP of the Tournament by far) and instead chose to bring some tricks to the table in God’s Willing which COULD prove to be a massive difference maker. Yuuywa also clearly came with a sideboard tailor made to take on Midrange decks and this will likely be the best of the opening matches, I expect Yuuywa has shaken off the stress of earlier matches and will end up moving onto the Top 4.
(3) Thiago Saporito vs (6) Ondrej Strasky
Once again we have the higher ranked Abzan Midrange going toe to toe with the lower ranked Ondrej Strasky … and once again we see two very different builds. Saporito comes in with a more creature heavy midrange deck including the full sweep of Wingmate Roc and arguably a much better set of control spells. The mainboard Whip of Erebos has also proven to throw some opponents off. The interesting part is that Saporito doesn’t run mainboard Thoughseize and outside of End Hostilities his sideboard game might not be as good here.
Strasky on the other hand has to be very happy with this match up as it is the matchup that he won to secure his spot in the Top 8. Strasky brings an even heavier creature version of the deck also choosing to not run Dig Through Time, however for Strasky the surprise stand out is the playset of Hushwing Gryff’s which turn off the abilities of both Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc. Strasky also chose to not run Sarkhan and comes hard with two Stormbreath Dragon’s which provide problems for the Roc and also avoid Abzan Charm thanks to being protected from white and the 3 Ashcloud Phoenix are insanely hard to deal with and provide more aerial threats. With Prognostic Sphinx, Disdainful Stroke, and Suspension Field also in the board I predict a very bad day for Saporito and another win for Jeskai Wins.
(4) Mike Sigrist vs (5) Ivan Floch
If there was any match that Sigrist didn’t want to pull it was probably Floch. Sigrist’s biggest loss on the day came against Owen Turtenwald also running UB Control, which is what Ivan Floch is running to the surprise of absolutely nobody. The big difference here is game one Prognostic Sphinx is the finisher which is a much slower clock than Pearl Lake Ancient which could provide Sigrist more time to find answers. If Floch is over run, he does of Pearl Lake in the sideboard as well as Clever Imposter and Returned Phalanx to provide extra creatures.
Sigrist is running a deck very few people had on their radar (though I do stand proud to be one of them) in Abzan Aggro. Fleecemane Lion, Rakshasa Deathdealer, Heir of the Wilds, Anafenze, the Foremost, Herald of Torment, and Siege Rhino provide a very assertive board presence and the only truly dead card in the mainboard of the deck is Ulcerate. Whip of Erebos will probably be a huge card here and the fact that Floch isn’t running the Vault sweeper allows Sigrist the freedom to put much more pressure on the board. In the end the reality is if Sigrist can get even ONE Fleecemane Lion monsterous then the game is over for Floch and a deck that is widely able to dodge Disdainful Stroke could turn out to be huge. I don’t see a repeat for Floch at this Pro Tour.
So yes, I suppose I just picked the three Jeskai Wins deck and the Abzan Aggro deck to make it to the Top 4 and maybe I like me some aggro fun time. Either way we are in for some great magic, hope you enjoy at twitch.tv/magic!
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