The World Championship.
Professional Magic hasn't always been the easiest to make sense of in the last decade. Pro Tours, Players' Tours, League Weekends, Arena Championships, the MPL... it can all be a bit confusing. However, one thing remains constant - nobody, not even non-Magic people, needs to ask what The World Championship is all about.
Being "the World Champion" of anything is a momentous accomplishment, proving you are at the pinnacle of your craft, and the Magic World Championship is no different. Despite it being a tiebreaker finish that left me right on the bubble of making the top 4 playoff rounds, coming in 5th place at the 2022 World Championship is a career highlight I won't soon forget.
And now we get to do it again!
Things are a bit different this year for the Magic World Championship, as there will be a larger field of about a hundred players rather than the small 32 player fields of the last few years, but this is shaping up to be an all timer. Wilds of Eldraine Standard and Wilds of Eldraine draft are the two formats of choice, with both being fresh and exciting and ready to take on the world's best.
So, if it's big event time, it also means it's prediction time! I once again have the honor of competing in the World Championship, and today I will be bringing you my five predictions for the event, being written from the Pro Tour testing house after a long day of practice!
(Editor's note: this article was written before any metagame breakdowns were posted.)
Prediction One: At Least Six Decks Will Be 5% Or More Of The Metagame
If you've been sour on Standard in the past few years, you're in for a treat.
The last major Standard event was Pro Tour March of the Machine, which was an exciting event but also one dominated by Rakdos decks and led to the banning of three cards in Standard, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, Reckoner Bankbuster, and Invoke Despair.
However, there hasn't really been any major Standard events since then bannings to flesh out the new format, and that combined with the very recently released Wilds of Eldraine has this being the freshest and most unexplored format we've seen at a high level event in a long time.
We've been testing now for almost two weeks and played well over a thousand games, and still haven't come to any sort of consensus about what the best deck or decks are in the format. As a team we are split and submitting the two decks we think give us chance to win the event (six players on Mono-White Aggro, four on Domain Ramp), but there were at least a half a dozen or more decks we seriously tried out or considered, as well as a few out there brews.
This is going to be a pretty wide open field, with no clear front runner and a large amount of potential variation. As such, I predict that there will be at least six decks with a 5% metagame share or more.
Prediction Two: There Will Be Zero Copies Of Dimir Faeries In Top 8
Coming into Wilds of Eldraine, the perceived "best deck" in Standard was a Dimir Midrange deck, similar in style to the Rakdos Midrange decks that were popular pre-Fable of the Mirror-Breaker ban but replacing Red with Blue as the support color.
As such, it seemed like a lot of the good new faerie spells like Spell Stutter and Ego Drain would join Faerie Mastermind and the new Sleep-Cursed Faerie to upgrade many of the concepts present in the Dimir Midrange deck. After all, Mana Leak and Thoughtseize both seem like excellent options for a Standard midrange deck.
However, testing quickly revealed the Dimir Faeries deck to be abysmal.
Much of the strength of a midrange deck is that the average card quality is so high. All of your cards are good and you're just playing a bunch of good removal and interaction alongside threats that are excellent on rate. However, the actual faerie cards themselves are both few and far between as well as below an acceptable rate to just play without synergy, and the spells you are getting are just marginal upgrades to already existing cards like Make Disappear and Duress that don't require any setup or bad creatures to make function.
I would be highly surprised if anyone who tested adequately wouldn't come to the same conclusion, which means Dimir Faeries should be almost non-existent factor in the Worlds metagame.
Prediction Three: Somebody Will Break Agatha's Soul Cauldron
We, mainly Sam Pardee and Eli Kassis, spent a ton of time trying to break one of the most interesting cards in Wilds of Eldraine, Agatha's Soul Cauldron.
We had a number of very exciting Agatha's Soul Cauldron decks based around Voldaren Thrillseeker which had very Arcbound Ravager-esque turn four kills and some crazy late game reach, but we just couldn't pull the whole package together. Less successful were various potential combo builds looking to utilize Sleep-Cursed Faerie alongside Kami of Whispered Hopes for infinite mana, but there were just too many moving parts.
However, there's just too much open ended power in the card to be ignored, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if one of the teams manages to get it right with a brand new breakout deck. I'm just sad it wasn't us!
Prediction Four: There Will Be At Least Six Copies Of Up the Beanstalk In Top Eight
The easiest home for Up the Beanstalk is in Domain Ramp, where it helps to provide card advantage against grindy decks with counterspells by letting you keep up on cards and be less reliant on resolving one big spell. Domain Ramp was already an extremely powerful deck, but was somewhat held in check by having the usual issues that ramp-based decks have against counterspells. However, when you draw an extra three to five cards across those longer games it is much more difficult for your opponent to one for one you to death and much more likely you'll get to resolve a haymaker.
My teammates Eli Kassis and Brent Vos would take this a step further, building a non-ramp control deck based around Up the Beanstalk as a card draw engine and playing a bunch of "expensive" control cards like March of Otherworldly Light, Leyline Binding, and Sunfall to maximize the card draw potential, with Chrome Host Seedshark providing redundancy in the "high mana value" department.
Only Eli was brave enough to register the deck, but it's clear that Up the Beanstalk is a very real card.
Prediction Five: The Finals Will Include At Least One Player From Team CFB & Friends Or Team Handshake
Perhaps the biggest storyline for the year on the Pro Tour has been the new upstarts in Team Handshake's dominance contrasted with the old guard on Team CFB & Friends.
Nathen Stueur has of course been the face of the team (as well as Magic) in the last year, being the reigning World Champion as well as a Pro Tour champion this year, but the whole team has had extremely impressive results all season.
Team Handshake members playing in Worlds:
- Nathen Steuer
- David Inglis
- Anthony Lee
- Karl Sarap
- Simon Nielson
- Javier Dominguez
- Stefan Schutz
- Matti Kuisma
On the opposite side of the coin is the old guard, Team CFB & Friends. Comprised of a laundry list of Hall of Famers and former Pro Tour champions (and me too I guess!), Team CFB & Friends is the most historically decorated team on tour and has players in it that have been playing Pro Magic for over 20 years.
Team CFB & Friends members playing in Worlds:
- Reid Duke
- Seth Mansfield
- Gab Nassif
- Jakob Toth
- Eli Kassis
- Brent Vos
- Jim Davis
- Sam Pardee
- Thoralf Severin
- Ondrej Strasky
It's felt like all the Pro Tours this year have been a battleground between the two teams, with each team winning a Pro Tour as well as putting up multiple top eights, so despite the large field of over 100 players it's very hard to imagine that the finals of Worlds will not include a player from either team. Ideally it will be both, which would be very exciting!
The Best Event Of The Year
This is going to be a phenomenal event.
Magic coverage has experienced a renaissance this year with the return of paper play, and if you haven't tuned in yet you're really missing out. As you are reading this day one should be live on twitch at www.twitch.tv/Magic and will be on all weekend.
Personally, I am qualified for the next two Pro Tours, but there's no guarantee that I'll be playing in Worlds again next year, or perhaps ever again based on my focus on content over competing at this point in my career. For now I'm going to enjoy the moment, do my best, and let the cards fall where they may.
Hopefully it goes well!