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5th Place At The 2022 Magic World Championship!


This past weekend, I came in 5th place at the 28th annual Magic: the Gathering World Championship.

If you told me a year ago that I'd be opening an article with this sentence I probably would have dismissed you as "overly optimistic." Not that I don't have confidence in myself as a Magic player, but after well over a decade of playing competitive Magic on the Pro Tour and the SCG Tour, I knew that when I decided to make the shift to full-time content creation a few years back that I'd likely seen the last of my serious, high-level finishes. My focus these days is on making the most entertaining and enjoyable content possible, and this is not congruent with the stalwart focus and repetition required for high level play.

Then this happened.

I streamed a MTG Arena qualifier for the Kamigawa Neon Dynasty Set Championship and managed to secure the seven wins needed in front of a few thousand of my viewers. Awesome! But then I also ran super hot at the actual tournament (which was essentially an online Pro Tour) and went undefeated, which put me in decent standing to have a shot at qualifying for the World Championship. Again, I caught my breaks and snuck in, which then found me in Las Vegas at Magic 30 last weekend for the most prestigious and valuable event of the year. Lucky!

But before we get to the actual event, I need to talk a bit about preparation.

I had the absolute pleasure of working with some of the best Magic players in the world for this event to form "Three Dads And A Baby" (name unofficial). I've known Eli Kassis and Mike Sigrist for years (even teaming with Mike for a Pro Tour in 2006) and worked for them for the New Capenna Championship, and while Jakub Toth was an unknown quantity at first, the four of us quickly coalesced a group that included almost a dozen friends of the team to work on the event. (Shout outs are in order: Ondrej Strasky, Ivan Floch, Jake Mondello, Corey Baumeister, Brennan DeCandio, Mani Davoudi, Dan Jessup, Martin Juza, Sam Pardee, Alex Hanye, and Zach Allen).

It would be hard to call our team anything other than an outstanding success, which I'll get to as we go over the event.

The formats for Worlds were 3 rounds of Dominaria United Draft, 5 rounds of Standard, 6 rounds of Explorer, and then a cut to Top 4 which was double elimination Standard. With only 32 players, ten wins would lock you for Top 4, with nine wins probably relying on tiebreakers. I'm going to be going over each section of the tournament in succession, talking about our preparation and my results, as well as giving my thoughts on the decklists and sideboarding, so let's roll!

Dominaria United Draft - Record: 1-2

Dominaria United has proven to be a very challenging draft format, both in the drafting portion as well as the gameplay. Even after dozens of drafts, as well as working with some of the best Limited minds in the world, I still feel like I don't have a super solid grasp on the format at a high level. My decks are sometimes good, sometimes mediocre, and unlike other formats, I've struggled to figure out why. With only three rounds of Worlds being draft I spent by far the least amount of time preparing for this portion and things didn't go great.

Mossbeard Ancient
Extinguish the Light
Serra Paragon

I started with a Mossbeard Ancient out of a fairly unexciting pack, following it up with an Extinguish the Light out of a pack with a rare missing. Pack one would be almost entirely Blue, Red, and Green cards, so of course I was greeted with a Serra Paragon in pack two that I would need to pass. I picked up a Balmor, Battlemage Captain and Lightning Strike, as well as an Ivy, Gleeful Spelltheif in pack three, but all in all my deck was very underpowered and scrappy.

I lost a very close match to my teammate Jakub in the first round, got crushed by Greg Orange's rares and triple Magnigoth Sentries, and was lucky to pull out a win against Zack Dunn to avoid the dreaded 0-3 to start the event.

1-2 wasn't a great start, but I was very confident in both of our Constructed decks, so we moved on to Standard.

Draft Team Record: 5-7

Jim: 1-2

Jakub: 2-1

Eli: 2-1

Mike: 0-3

Standard - Esper Midrange - Record: 4-1

Well, that's a good recovery!

Our team spent a lot of time on Standard trying out various decks, from the midrange mess of Esper, Grixis, and Jund, to more esoteric stuff like various Legends decks, Mono Red, Five-Color, and more, but in the end, it was really hard to get away from the power of Esper curve-outs with the ability to go long and have a sideboard that can handle anything.

As such, much of our time was spent tuning the list, most importantly to try and find the best 2-drop beyond Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition and Tenacious Underdog. And we did it!

Ludevic, Necrogenius // Olag, Ludevic's Hubris

Ludevic, Necrogenius // Olag, Ludevic's Hubris was a card we were familiar with from trying various Legend and Slogark decks, but checked off basically every box we were looking for. As a 2/3 it was able to successfully block a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki token and survive Voltage Surge and the self-mill would occasionally hit a Tenacious Underdog or Dennick, Pious Apparition for some free value, but most importantly was how good of a hit it was off of Ao, the Dawn Sky.

Ao, the Dawn Sky was one of the best cards in the mirror and other midrange matchups, and an Ao death trigger that would reveal Ludevic would often mean you could untap and immediately make a copy of Ao and get right back to attacking. This wouldn't come up all the time, but with a high floor and the highest ceiling, Ludevic was the go-to.

Our record with the deck was very solid, putting most of us into day two with a fighting chance to make that coveted Top 4 slot.

Brief Sideboard Notes

Sideboarding for this deck is very flexible, as it depends drastically on how your opponent's deck is constructed.

Kaito Shizuki
Cut Down

There's a lot of variation between both Esper decklists as well as the other midrange decks, which means you will need to be dynamic from game to game. The short answer is to bring in Kaito Shizuki when you are on the play and Cut Down when you are on the draw, but the long answer involves how many clean answers they have to Ao, the Dawn Sky, how many copies of Unleash the Inferno they have (it may be worth cutting Wedding Announcement // Wedding Festivity), if their top end is Invoke Despair or a creature, and more.

Against the Blue tempo decks make sure to lower your curve as much as possible, and against more aggressive decks you can board in more removal and board out some 2-drops and play a more controlling game.

Standard Team Record: 15-5

Jim: 4-1

Jakub: 4-1

Eli: 3-2

Mike: 4-1

Explorer - Mono-Blue Spirits - Record: 4-2

While we were happy with but unenthused about our Standard deck, but we were actively excited about our Explorer deck. For the uninitiated, Explorer is "Pioneer Lite" on MTG Arena, meaning it's every card legal in Pioneer that is available on MTG Arena, with the goal of eventually lining up with Pioneer once all the cards are released.

Supreme Phantom
Curious Obsession
Lofty Denial

When Eli suggested the Mono-Blue Spirits deck, I laughed at him. "Let me fire up some Rakdos Midrange, with a million removal spells and four Thoughtseize, and we can get on to finding a real deck" I said.

Then he beat me. And then beat me again. And then beat me again. And then beat me again.

"Okay, well surely Rakdos Sacrifice, with a ton of cheap removal spells plus Mayhem Devil will end this charade" I said next, a little less confident.

And then he beat me. And beat me again. And beat me again. And at this point I was annoyed.

Make no mistake, Eli is extremely good at Magic and he wasn't winning every game/match, but the results were certainly there that Blue was putting up a good fight in what seemed to be its weak spot. Add this to the fact that Mono-Blue was already a heavy favorite against Greasefang decks as well as any Fires of Invention decks, and likely any weird rogue decks that showed up, and we were off to the races.

Leyline of Combustion

The nail in the coffin was the Leyline of Combustion tech for the Rakdos matchups. Even with Spirits winning more matches than it was losing in testing, we still weren't completely confident that this would hold up against the best players in the world. However, a turn zero Leyline of Combustion completely flipped the script of the matchup. Now each removal spell hurt our opponent as we became a Blue stompy deck, and Leyline also made Mayhem Devil actively a liability against us.

Thankfully, this was a situation where expectations met reality.

To say we crushed the Explorer portion of Worlds would be a gross understatement. Excluding mirror matches (which were both my losses, losing to Eli and Jakub), we went an unbelievable 17-3 in matches on day two, putting both Eli and Jakub in Top 4 and seeing me lose my win and in to Jakub to just fall short. Our metagame predictions were mostly on point and it felt like the only actively bad matchup we had in the room was the mirror.

Because Explorer is a much more polarized format and Mono-Blue Spirits is a much more polarized deck, I've got an actual sideboard guide here for you based on our notes from the event.

Sideboard Notes:

Rakdos Midrange:

Rakdos Sacrifice:


Temur Transmorgify:


There are definitely times you'll want to switch things up on the play vs on the draw and there are obviously more matchups, but this should get you started.

And of course, the best part...

Explorer Team Record: 17-7 (17-3 not including mirror matches)

Jim: 4-2 (lost to Eli and Jakub)

Jakub: 4-2 (lost to Eli)

Eli: 6-0

Mike: 3-3 (lost to Reid playing the mirror)

Hot damn!

When the dust settled on day two, these were the final standings:

While it stings a little to come so close, just missing our by a few percentage points on breakers, the silver lining was seeing two of my teammates both in Top 4 and on the play, giving them a great chance to take the whole thing down.

After cruising into the upper bracket, Eli would eventually be felled by young Nathen Steuer despite beating him in the last round of swiss, the first round of the upper bracket, and the first round of the finals bracket. Nathen would take the final two matches of the title match to claim the title of World Champion, and as much as I wanted Eli to win it would be hard not to be impressed with the 20-year-old.

Still, despite the mild disappointments, taking a team of four players into 32 of the best players in the world and coming out in 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 18th is a wild accomplishment that I will never forget. It was also quite the payday, as I walked away with around $25,000 after team splits making it my largest tournament cash ever. This was perhaps the most stressful tournament of my entire life, as despite how painful the round 14 loss to Jakub was, when it was over it felt like 30 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders.

Beyond the event itself, I got hang out with a ton of great folks, do an awesome Escape Room, eat some great food, play some poker, and of course have dinner with www.CoolStuffInc.com owner Jerry as well as a crew of great content creators! But most important of all was returning to my son, who wasn't even 14 days old yet when I left for the trip.

As it stands, I am currently qualified for the first Pro Tour of next year, as well as all three Regional Championships, but I'm also fully aware of the path I have chosen. I will prepare for and compete in these events to the best of my ability, but not at the expense of my usual content gig, and I will do the best that I can and make sure to enjoy the experience. If I get back to Worlds next year and get another shot? Awesome! But I already have so much to be thankful for, it's not something that I need (which is certainly much different than my early days on the Pro Tour).

Before I go today, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me over the many years, allowing me to have the most wonderful job that I could imagine, as well as comfortably support my growing family.

I am eternally grateful for everything that I have, so frankly a little something like tiebreakers could never bring me down. I love y'all.

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