One Top 8

Shaun McLaren uses the video coverage of the Top 8 of Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia, Spain to go in depth over how he played his way to the trophy with U/W/R Control.

At Pro Tour Born of Gods, each Top 8 match was broadcast live in its entirety.

Not only did this provide a seamless viewing experience formulated for your pleasure, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to go over the games in detail since they ran uninterrupted.

U/W/R Control is a very tricky deck to play, as are most decks in Modern. It’s rare to have a flawless game, let alone an entire Top 8.

I’ll go over the mistakes I made and what I was thinking at the time as well as the feelings I had. Plenty of these mistakes I noticed immediately, and I’m sure I’ll pick up on some I completely missed. This will help me learn what I can improve upon in the future.

I usually find it a bit painful to rewatch games I played, but this is the perfect time to do it because it’s hard to feel too bad about a misplay when you won the dang tournament.

For how I made the Top 8 and information about the deck, feel free to head this way. Here’s my decklist for reference:

Sunday Morning

I wake up in Valencia on Sunday at 3:30 AM.

I feel good.

I imagine myself standing in the feature match area, shirt off, pecks out, with a mic and WrestleMania voice:

“I’m ready to crush! All I do is play hard and eat thumbtacks!

I’m gonna make your children’s children feel what I’m gonna do to ya! I’m gonna tell them a little faerie tale about you:

Goodnight, Ooze! Goodnight, Moon!

I’m gonna burst your Pod just like a Balloon!

I’m gonna play my fetch land and search out a Steam Vents untapped, and then I’m gonna Bolt myself in the face.

You’re going down! Ohhhhh yeaaaaah!”

A 4:00 AM pump up speech before Top 8 is not the best idea.

After I calm down, I lie in bed relaxing for a few more hours, sleeping on and off, and then make my way to the site.

There is a giant screen where the public can watch the games. We are battling in a sectioned off area behind it. The atmosphere is hushed.

Quarterfinal: Tim Rivera, U/W/R Twin

We resolve mulligans off camera before our match begins.

I strongly consider drawing first. Game 1 seems good for me, and I don’t want to do anything weird, so I go against my intuition and decide to play first. In hindsight, I should have drawn first.

My first hand is bad, and I mulligan while Tim keeps his seven. I’m feeling bad about playing first. As I’m shuffling, Tim notices that he accidentally drew eight cards, and the judge has him shuffle two random cards from his hand back in, effectively mulliganing him to six. We both keep, and our decks are given to judges for safe keeping until our match is ready to start.

Waiting is slightly annoying, and when they sit us down to play in the feature match area, we have to wait for five more minutes.

Tim is a friendly guy and throws out some chitchat. I just try to focus on relaxing and not thinking.

There would soon be plenty of time for that.

Game 1

Opening hand:

Celestial Colonnade Steam Vents Snapcaster Mage Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Path to Exile

A pretty bad hand since Lightning Bolt is inefficient. I want to be making land drops with Mana Leak and Cryptic Command backup.

Follow along my timestamps with the video:

0:38 – Tense.

0:43 – They tell us we can start, and it’s off to the races. It is incredibly quiet, and I can’t bring myself to break the silence by saying go. I just make a hand motion to pass the turn.

1:10 – I topdeck a much needed land. I shuffle my land into my hand before playing it so Tim doesn’t know I just drew it.

2:23 – I miss a land drop, and Deceiver Exarch comes down. I am not in any danger of dying because I have Path to Exile. By now the meta-stress is forgotten, and I’m more focused on the flow of the game.

3:50 – I topdeck my fourth land, and he plays Restoration Angel. I still am not in danger of dying immediately, but I am falling behind fast.

5:04 – Tim plays Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and goes for the kill with Restoration Angel. I’m able to Lightning Bolt the Kiki-Jiki and Path the Angel, and thanks to that exchange I’m in decent shape.

5:50 – I hesitate in what land to search up, wondering if I should get Sacred Foundry. I only have one red source and access to potentially multiple Lightning Bolt with Snapcaster Mage. I decide on Hallowed Fountain so that I’m able to cast Cryptic Command if I topdeck it.

7:00 – I have to Snapcaster Mage Path to Exile immediately or risk instantly dying to Splinter Twin / Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker plus Remand. I forget to Exile my Path for a second.

7:51 – He topdecks what appears to be the win, but I have my only out: Lightning Bolt.

8:37 – I attack, hoping to trade my Lightning Helix and Snapcaster Mage for Deceiver Exarch since I’m dead if he has two Splinter Twin / Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker within his hand and the top two cards of his deck after I Vendilion Cliqued him.

9:09 – I play Vendilion Clique main phase to play around Remand.

9:27 – I’m happy I get Path to Exiled here since I want lands more than my Vendilion Clique. I hope he doesn’t draw Splinter Twin.

9:56 – He semi-bricks by topdecking a Remand. I’m feeling good about my chances about not being dead.

10:45 – I topdeck a Path to Exile, which pretty much seals the deal for me.

11:17 – Once again I’m happy to get Path to Exiled. Tim doesn’t know it, but I have Lightning Helix, which makes racing almost impossible.

11:59 – I pass again, wondering if I should’ve Lightning Helixed his Snapcaster Mage on upkeep since it’s really bad for me if he draws Restoration Angel. But that would’ve left me dead to Remand plus Splinter Twin.

13:08 – I play my land tapped even though it’s likely I to cast Sphinx’s Revelation on his end step. I figure it will probably be Remanded if he has one and if not three cards is enough.

13:55 – I know I am able to just fire off max Sphinx’s Revelations end step since his only disruption is Remand. It’s actually good for me to get Remanded here since it could be more useful later and I already have a Path to Exile.

16:10 – I resolve Sphinx’s Revelation for three, knowing I can Flashback it with Snapcaster Mage and he should be out of Remand.

20:00 – I finally burn him out once he’s checkmated.

I sideboard in the following way.


Stony Silence Wear Logic Knot Crucible of Worlds Counterflux Relic of Progenitus Relic of Progenitus


Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Anger of the Gods Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt

It’s unfortunate they don’t show exact sideboarding since I’m not quite certain what I did each game. It would be excellent for the next Pro Tour to have a graphic pop up on the bottom of the screen during the games with how each player sideboarded.

Game 2

29:47 – The first interaction starts off with one of the best things that can happen for me: Cryptic Command countering Restoration Angel.

32:00 – Unfortunate combination of Path to Exile and Tectonic Edge on the same turn.

33:50 – I make my first big play mistake of the day when I Path to Exile his Deceiver Exarch in response to him cracking an Arid Mesa. I feel I played too conservatively here out of fear. He would have to have two counters and a combo piece for me to die the next turn since I’m still able to Path with Mana Leak backup even against Splinter Twin plus Dispel. I should have waited. Also, the only thing I had going for me was two copies of Mana Leak, so giving him extra land was bad. I don’t feel great about my chances at this point.

34:50 – Then Buehler immediately says I’m playing well. Thanks, Randy. ;)

38:00 – I topdeck Cryptic Command and win a huge counter war, getting value from both Mana Leaks, and suddenly I look to be in good shape if he doesn’t untap and kill me.

40:00 – I should have tapped Tectonic Edge to activate Celestial Colonnade since it’s doing nothing and signals I don’t have Cryptic Command.

41:00 – Restoration Angel blinking Wall of Omens into Deceiver Exarch and the combo times two is enough to get me since I drew a few too many lands.

After seeing Stony Silence sit there and do nothing (unless he had Spellskite in hand), I realize Threads of Disloyalty is a far superior card since stealing Spellskite is really good and swap them. Also, even if he did side Spellskite out, Threads could still potentially get value. It’s slightly riskier since he could disrupt it with Remand or draw both Skites or Restoration Angel blinking Skite in response to Threads.

Threads of Disloyalty was the unlikely Jenga piece holding the entire tower up; not only did I wiggle it, but I was almost fool enough to slide it out entirely.

Game 3

Opening hand:

Steam Vents Tectonic Edge Tectonic Edge Lightning Bolt Lightning Helix Electrolyze Logic Knot

A semi-risky hand since the burn is one of the weakest aspects left in my deck and I need to draw another blue. But if I do, I can cycle Electrolyze, and I’m unlikely to miss land drops since I have three.

49:05 – I immediately draw Hallowed Fountain.

49:50 – I like that Wall of Omens you got there.

52:30 – After a bunch of land drops, Tim plays Splinter Twin on Wall of Omens. I take a moment to think of the worst case scenario if I go for Threads of Disloyalty and can’t imagine much going wrong. I could have played Vendilion Clique in response just in case to see what’s up, but that gives me fewer options if he draws a card immediately off the Wall.

55:44 – I Threads of Disloyalty the Wall of Omens and hear the crowd gasp in the other room.

56:12 – Tidying up my new Wall I’ve named WALL-O. He looks so cute in his new outfit.

58:11 – I invite WALL-O’s friend Token over to play. For some reason none of the judges had a Wall of Omens token.

59:12 – I should’ve Lightning Helixed first here. I end up winning an important counter war that keeps him from getting a Splinter Twin on his Wall of Omens.

1:02:45 – I have Snapcaster Mage and Counterflux now, so the game is pretty unlosable.

1:04:08 – WALL-O and Token sleepover!

1:05:17 – Tap and untap Counterflux mana.

1:07:00 – More cards! And I eventually win.

Semifinal: Patrick Dickmann, RUG Twin

I was hoping to face Christian Seibold here, as not only did I think the Affinity matchup favorable but it would’ve also been easier on my increasingly exhausted brain.

Game 1

Opening hand:

Scalding Tarn Scalding Tarn Island Snapcaster Mage Snapcaster Mage Ajani Vengeant Path to Exile

Very decent hand for the matchup.

0:47 – Off to the races.

4:30 – He makes a seemingly risky play here since if I have two counters and Ajani Vengeant (which is very unlikely), it’s very good for me. The thing is that if I’m missing any part of it I don’t really pull ahead and if I’m missing two parts I’m behind.

4:45 – And Luis Scott-Vargas just said most of that.

8:43 – Go, Ajani Vengeant, go!

10:15 – Interesting that he Remands back his Snapcaster Mage to Serum Visions.

11:00 – He is comfortably ahead on cards, so it’s one of the very few times I actually shift gears into aggro mode.

18:20 – Aggro is the way.

22:17 – This game is really interesting.

22:43 – I’m basically feeling dead at this point since it’s really unlikely he’s whiffed after a ton of Serum Visions.

26:05 – He should not have Lightning Bolted my Snapcaster here. If he whiffs his next turn, it gives him the option of Remanding his Lightning Bolt to see more cards.

26:15 – I would’ve gotten away with it . . .

27:07 – I’m so sure he has nothing that I don’t even stop to consider Lightning Helix. I think it would’ve been a close play if I had the red to cast it three times since Cryptic Command or Snapcaster Mage or a third Remand halts that plan. It was just a matter of which he had more left of in his deck.

27:13 – I really want to attack with that Celestial Colonnade.

28:27 – “All the digs . . . “


Threads of Disloyalty Izzet Staticaster Logic Knot Porphyry Nodes Porphyry Nodes Relic of Progenitus Relic of Progenitus Stony Silence Counterflux Wear


Anger of the Gods Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Vendilion Clique Cryptic Command

Game 2

Opening hand:

Celestial Colonnade Path to Exile Path to Exile Relic of Progenitus Remand Snapcaster Mage Porphyry Nodes

37:15 – A risky hand, but it has all the cards that I want for the match. And they all happen to be cost two or less, so if I draw a land I should be fine.

38:10 – Two whiffs, but Porphyry Nodes keeps me in it.

40:00 – I slowly dig my way out of land screw thanks to him being light on threats.

43:00 – More land go.

48:33 – Holy cow his hand is good.

51:25 – Key turn. He decides to equip, which is good for me. I plan on losing the counter war and stealing his super Scavenging Ooze.

55:47 – Dickmann draws Deceiver Exarch, making it so he’s not motivated to bounce his Ooze with Cryptic Command, which is probably the right move but ends up probably winning me the game.

56:24 – Very clear “declare” and “all right.”

56:33 – It’s at the last second that I remember that my “Schwert aus Schmaus und Hunger” works weird when you don’t control it, and I can’t read it so I call a judge.

58:50 – I go to attack, and he holds me up. I kinda forgot but kinda remember him agreeing to the attack.

1:02:13 – Casting Cryptic at this point spells doom.

1:04:58 – Lightning Helix before he untaps seals the deal.

1:05:20 – Judge talking to me about how Sword of Feast and Famine works.

Game 3

1:16:30 – Dickmann mulligans to five and gets mana screwed for an unexciting game that just sees me gain more and more advantage slowly.

1:23:15 – Should have just played Timely Reinforcements here.

1:31:44 – This game went on much longer than I remember.

Final: Jacob Wilson, Melira Pod

Once again the matchup I don’t want to be against. U/R Twin is a good matchup, and I know Jacob is an excellent player and his Pod list has a high concentration of value cards.

Game 1

Opening hand:

Celestial Colonnade Steam Vents Scalding Tarn Sulfur Falls Arid Mesa Mana Leak Remand

My starting hand is good and one high impact card away from being the nuts. Being on the play is incredibly important since it allows me to Mana Leak a turn 2 Birthing Pod, Voice of Resurgence, or Kitchen Finks.

1:08 – Off to the Pod races.

1:40 – I decide to Remand the Wall of Roots, tripping him up and saving Mana Leak for a higher impact spell.

2:30 – Arid Mesa over Sulfur Falls. I have a land-heavy hand, and with all the cantrips thinning, the deck can actually become relevant quickly.

4:18 – I play another sac land to thin and rearrange my graveyard, giving Jacob a clue that I have Snapcaster Mage.

4:56 – I let Wall of Roots resolve since it does nothing and Scavenging Ooze since there are no creatures in the bin and I can Electrolyze it.

5:30 – I recheck his graveyard to make sure there are no creatures after I let Scavenging Ooze resolve.

6:36 – Jacob neglects to crack his land to remove my Mana Leak with Scavenging Ooze, which I’ll use later.

8:20 – I’m able to Snapcaster Mage and Mana Leak his Ranger of Eos, but I’m running out of counters.

9:30 – I rip a second Tectonic Edge and hold ctrl to take out his white. Jacob whiffs on land again.

10:30 – He blocks with his Wall when he should’ve just Abrupt Decayed my Snapcaster Mage. I’m able to kill it with the Electrolyze I drew.

11:41 – I pass, leaving Snapcaster Mage up instead of attacking with Celestial Colonnade with intention of casting it and Electrolyze end step if he does nothing to increase my clock and dig for good cards.

12:00 – Jacob whiffs on land a bunch more, and I Celestial Colonnade him out.

I don’t think I had the same deck configuration for any games this match, but the general guidelines are:

In (on the play):

Anger of the Gods Izzet Staticaster Logic Knot Porphyry Nodes Porphyry Nodes Stony Silence Stony Silence Threads of Disloyalty Relic of Progenitus

Out (on the play):

Vendilion Clique Spell Snare Remand Lightning Bolt Lightning Bolt Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Tectonic Edge Cryptic Command

In (on the draw):

Anger of the Gods Izzet Staticaster Porphyry Nodes Porphyry Nodes Stony Silence Stony Silence Threads of Disloyalty Relic of Progenitus

Out (on the draw):

Vendilion Clique Spell Snare Remand Remand Lightning Helix Lightning Helix Tectonic Edge Cryptic Command

Game 2

Opening hand:

Mana Leak Ajani Vengeant Sphinx's Revelation Hallowed Fountain Plains Tectonic Edge Porphyry Nodes

Sweet hand if I ever draw a red source.

20:50 – It’s off to the start of the game.

22:20 – I Mana Leak Obstinate Baloth, which is almost certainly a misplay. I should have let it resolve and then played Porphyry Nodes with Mana Leak backup. I think I was afraid of land and Voice sneaking past my Leak and overrunning me, but I should’ve gone for the Nodes play with the texture of my hand. I could’ve gotten max Nodes value, Mana Leaked his Ranger of Eos, and been in it.

26:30 – Here I should’ve said, “Can I choose a creature?” instead of just pointing. If he had said yes, it would’ve let me get the Noble Hierarch before he could Chord of Calling.

28:00 – I don’t draw a red source, leaving me drawing dead to his value, and I scoop.

Game 3

Opening hand:

Celestial Colonnade Celestial Colonnade Celestial Colonnade Mountain Tectonic Edge Cryptic Command Mana Leak

37:20 – Celestial Colonnade, go!

38:20 – I should’ve played my foil Celestial Colonnade just in case I drew my fourth Colonnade and accidentally played it.

44:25 – I think Celestial Colonnade chumping here is actually fine. My big draws are Cryptic Command, Anger of the Gods, and Sphinx’s Revelation. I’m preserving my life total, which actually becomes relevant if I draw an Anger or Rev because I’ll be guaranteed to take a hit from a humongous Scavenging Ooze. If I draw Rev, I basically gave up a card to gain five life. So I’m basically being mana efficient playing for a best case scenario by using my only resource: a buttload of Colonnades. There is no way I can win a race if I attack.

45:00 – Here I should’ve attacked with Celestial Colonnade and played Porphyry Nodes. The second Colonnade chump is just terrible, and I’m immediately punished the full amount by drawing a Cryptic I can’t cast anymore. At this point I’ve drawn runner, runner cards that punish me and can hear the crowd having a nice loud chuckle. Even though I know I just played poorly, I don’t feel bad. If one thing’s going right at this point, it’s definitely my attitude. I have a moment where I think I should feel embarrassed for making a big dumb misplay on the big stage, but for whatever reason I don’t. I actually even crack a grin.

48:00 – I decline to chump and take the onboard lethal since I can’t win unless he doesn’t see it.

Game 4

Opening hand:

Arid Mesa Plains Sulfur Falls Snapcaster Mage Ajani Vengeant Mana Leak Electrolyze

55:15 – Let’s go. I have the dream hand on the play.

56:25 – I Mana Leak his Wall of Roots, which happens to be the only card in his hand he can cast.

58:10 – I topdeck a crucial land to cast Ajani Vengeant.

59:52 – I decide to Snapcaster Mage Mana Leak, which seems like a very close decision. If it resolves and he Birthing Pods it away for Wall of Roots or Voice of Resurgence, I can lock down the Pod with Ajani Vengeant and play Porphyry Nodes. He could also get Spellskite, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have it in at this point after seeing all my Stony Silence.

I don’t have the stamina to think all this through and mostly just use the heuristic of playing it safe. I have been burned many times in the past by Birthing Pod players doing something tricky or unexpected and weaseling out a win.

1:02:54 – I consider Electrolyze with the Kitchen Finks life gain on the stack but decide it’s not worth it.

1:05:15 – Probably should have cracked my Arid Mesa for a Mountain before my Remand resolved to thin my library and still represent Cryptic Command.

1:06:10 – Here I know Jacob’s considering playing a Birds of Paradise and want him to, so while he’s paused I reach to crack my Arid Mesa like I’m in a hurry for him to pass the turn, trying to induce him into stopping me and playing the Birds. Jacob has none of it and passes.

1:09:24 – I draw Electrolyze, and the crowd goes “awwwooahhhh” very audibly. If I don’t cast Porphyry Nodes, he knows something’s up

I could have attacked with Celestial Colonnade for free here and then Electrolyzed, which was incredibly relevant, but I completely missed it. I could have also passed the turn with Electrolyze and Colonnade up and forced him to act first, and I can’t think of anything that punishes me for this play. I think I let the excitement get to me a little and fell into my standard of playing it safe.

1:13:15 – Make waaaaaay for Prince Ajani!

Prince Ajani! Fabulous Kitty! Ali Apawpaw!

Game 5

Opening hand:

Relic of Progenitus Snapcaster Mage Electrolyze Arid Mesa Arid Mesa Plains Tectonic Edge

Jacob mulligans to six. Not the greatest hand, but good if he doesn’t have Birthing Pod or floods out.

1:34:54 – I draw Mountain, and I’m immediately faced with the choice to play Relic of Progenitus or not.

1:35:50 – Thoughtseize into Voice of Resurgence has me thinking I’m dead.

1:37:38 –  But it turns out his remaining three cards are lands.

1:43:07 – Possibly a little hasty cracking Relic of Progenitus. I think it’s still correct in case I hit Ajani Vengeant, Cryptic Command, Sphinx’s Revelation, or Stony Silence (since I haven’t seen Jacob play Harmonic Sliver yet, though technically I should be able to reason he might have it in hand) since it essentially locks up the game.

1:44:19 – There is no reason to Tectonic Edge here. I can’t reasonably Mana Leak anything but Chord of Calling, which I should be able to do anyway and he shouldn’t have in hand at this point.

1:53:54 – I Snapcaster Mage Lightning Helix in response to his Voice of Resurgence. I probably should have played slower and just planned to Anger of the Gods his board.

1:56:01 – McLaren victory.

1:56:54 – The chance that he doesn’t block is slim, so I decide not to attack here. In retrospect, it’s possible he could have had Slaughter Pact or Dismember, which would have been annoying since I couldn’t Anger of the Gods after.

1:57:30 – Crowd gives a loud murmur of surprise when he draws Scavenging Ooze, and I assume he drew Reveillark. Little did I know . . .

1:58:40 – I draw Cryptic Command to essentially guarantee the win.

1:59:09 – I cast Threads of Disloyalty, and Jacob’s hands go to his head.

1:59:20 – I know I’ve got it won but am trying to keep it all inside.

2:02:18 – Getting to the point where you’ve won a Pro Tour is stressful. Just rewatching it all is stressful. Everything I’ve been holding in throughout the day bursts through the dam along with a flood of relief. I don’t even know what’s going on with me here. I think I’m shocked and exhausted.

2:02:08 – Izzet Staticaster MVP?

2:02:11 – Still had all these Cryptic Command. I showed it here to let Jacob/the audience know I wasn’t a dumdum for not attacking with my Celestial Colonnade.

2:02:31 – 40k smile.

2:02:39 – Victory stretch.

All in all, the event and Top 8 were well run. One improvement that needs to be made is a solution to the “we can hear the crowd’s reaction to every draw step” issue. The other big one would be to include a graphic that shows how players sideboarded.

If you feel I missed something or are wondering about something I did, just let me know!