This last weekend we got to witness a truly special event — the World Championship. The production value fell off a cliff from when Paulo won a couple of years ago, but that is to be expected in the age of Covid. Instead of hoisting a trophy while being littered with confetti, Yuta Takahashi was alone at home, weeping in joy over a lifelong dream to join the ranks of those before him. No teammates were there to congratulate him. While I couldn’t help but be overjoyed for Yuta, I felt a little bad for him, too. Not only did he miss out on all the aforementioned things, but he is also missing out on looking forward to all the great experiences that come after winning a huge tournament and title.
Grand Prix Detroit 2015 is one of my favorite tournaments I can recall playing. It was a team Limited GP I played with Paulo and Jesse Hampton. We had an incredible start and flamed out at the end. I remember it so well because I had just won the player of the year title, won a MOCS qualifier, my daughters had just been born, and I was looking forward to Worlds. The victory lap is always nice, but looking forward to a future where you build on your success and prove yourself all over again is nice, too. I feel bad that Yuta won’t have that event to sign autographs and take pictures.
As far as Worlds preparation, I was not qualified but two close friends of mine were. While I didn’t test in the traditional sense with Paulo and Sam, I did lend a hand in the Limited department. Sam did a lot of drafts, and despite testing with Sam for as long as I’ve been qualified for the Pro Tour, we rarely see eye to eye on our Limited approach. Sam is quite an underrated Limited player with a high success rate, but he tends to put his foot on the gas when I put mine on the pedal. This time wasn’t much different. We agreed on a lot but disagreed on some things.
It’s not the best picture, but this is what we put together and discussed at our Limited meeting. One thing I miss about Pro Magic is Limited meetings. This is a tier list from left to right according to where cards were valued from a pick-one-pack-one perspective to the point we believed it to be relevant. While I disagree with some of the placement on cards (specifically G/W gold cards and some white cards), this is the list both Paulo and Sam were using in their heads to determine value. Sam and Paulo went 5-1 overall with both drafting BW, which is an archetype I like a lot if you’re going to be in white (I prefer it to UW, in fact).
What we saw at Worlds was what I’d define as very scrappy decks. Players were bobbing and weaving, finding colors, and not letting value slide too late. I thought Paulo did a tremendous job navigating his draft, given I was a little nervous for him because he skimped on reps for draft. He did less hate drafting than I’d have liked, but his draft was covered, and he did an excellent YouTube video about his draft.
I was disappointed with how Limited was covered. Watching Paulo and Seth’s draft was fascinating, but I would have loved to see more drafts to piece together where cards fell and/or a more in-depth discussion about each player’s deck and the decks’ specifics. This would probably require a lot more prep time for the commentators, and they’re already stretched thin so additional commentators who focus on Limited would have helped. WotC has shown countless times they don’t want to put the effort into Limited coverage that would be needed for it to thrive. It’s disappointing to me as someone who would not have taken Magic as seriously as I have without high level competitive Limited. There are many people who play Magic with a strong or exclusive focus on Limited that want to be part of competitive play. I hope WotC realizes how much people are craving Limited and adds some to the upcoming “Pro Tour Like” events. I’m not holding my breath, though.
On to Standard
I played very little before the event, but once I saw Lier, Disciple of the Drowned in The Pantheon’s deck, I was excited to give it a go. I put together the deck on Magic Online and played my first league against four U/R Epiphany decks. I was pretty sure the deck, while good, was just too bad in the mirror. I expect to see this deck fall out of favor over coming weeks as it’s far too big of a dog against mirrors that can interact with the stack. It’s possible Lier fits somewhere in a U/R Version but having Divide By Zero and other countermagic is too important in mirrors. Ondrej Strasky’s deck was the best deck in the event as it was fairly clean, and every competitor in the event said stuff like, “I like my match-up against everyone but Ondrej.” If I were to play the Arena Open this week, I’d tweak Ondre’s deck a little and bring it to battle.
Paulo and Sam’s Mono Green deck looked awful. The cards were underpowered, the deck didn’t start until turn two, and it was a mono-colored deck I often saw have mana issues with either too many tap lands or because of Faceless Haven. Sam and Paulo are both excellent at choosing decks, so I’m sure I’m only seeing a small window of the deck’s capabilities. It is true that a lot of players said Mono Green and U/R were the strongest decks, and they both defined the metagame. If so, I’d think that U/R had a lot more tools to catch up and find a plan against Mono Green than vice versa. My guess is that Sam and Paulo could have used an extra hand or two for testing and simply didn’t have one because of the small field.
Depraz’s deck looked a lot better and played cards that were better at giving a mana advantage. It’s no surprise to me he had the best finish for an aggro deck, but his deck is a full tier below the good Epiphany decks.
Do I think Alrund’s Epiphany needs to be banned?
I could see either way being fine. I’d prefer to wait until the next set is out, but it would be reasonable if they pulled the trigger. It’s clearly the best thing to be doing at the moment, but it doesn’t seem too over the top for Standard’s power level compared to past decks. I believe the Epiphany deck will improve with new cards and that every other deck will gain more ground. If Epiphany is banned, there’s a good chance an Izzet Deck will still be the best deck in the format. You have Expressive Iteration, Goldspan Dragon, and Smoldering Egg that were all impressive cards this weekend, even in the absence of Epiphany. Izzet is so deep at the moment that I hope other colors can catch up.
This tournament was great. There were a lot of things I’d change, but with Covid restrictions for gathering in person, the one thing that made this event stand out was the players. Yuta’s emotional response to his wins after an unbelievable 7-0 in Standard to clinch a top four slot and again after winning the title World Champion will be scenes we play back in our heads and on social media for years to come. Sadly things are changing with the direction of OP. There’s less desire to try and be the best because there’s less incentive to do so. I fear that will create less memorable moments and less passion in a game that has a high inclination to passion. I couldn’t have been happier for Yuta when the event ended, but I was certainly sad for everyone else.