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2019 Magic Online Championship Day One Highlights

November 14, 2020
Adam Styborski

24 started. 24 players remain. $250,000 awaits. The 2019 Magic Online Championship is an event like few others, and the formats are unlike nearly everything else we've seen this year. Whether you're fan of wild draft decks from a Vintage Cube or incredible Modern play, Day One had something for everyone.

An Incredible Cube Draft

Magic Online's Vintage Cube is a format beloved by the Magic community and streamers around the world. A format packed with many of the game's greatest cards and the potential for amazing plays cemented itself as beloved format. Taking center stage for the first three rounds of the event, the excitement for Vintage Cube was well-placed.

And it all started off with the bang.

You can't get much better than Black Lotus to start, even if you leave the caster booth unimpressed with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn only on the third turn.

But it wasn't Tiu that took home the draft triphy.

Logan Nettles marched to a 3-0 start on the day, after defeating Tiu in the second round, being thorough against every opponent he faced.

Outrageous plays and intricate strategy are just part of the allure of Vintage Cube Draft. It's also home to a draft strategy that's both a Magic meme and everything the format represents: Storm.

Storm decks are built to plays as many spells as possible before ending with a spell featuring the storm mechanic, which copies that final spell for the total number of spells casts so far that turn. Brain Freeze is one of the go-to Storm win conditions, and Mind's Desire can be as well—which compounds if it hits a spell with storm too.

But thanks to the Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in Toni Ramis Pascual's deck, blowing through both of those paths to winning left Daniel Garcia-Rosas in a tough position. Even the booth was delighted to have found a way to get a win after doing everything a Storm deck is supposed to do to win.

While Garcia-Rosas won the game, he lost the match as Ramis Pascual joined Michael Jacob and Nettles as a draft pod victor.

If you want to see the Draft decks, check out every Day One Vintage Cube decklist.

Modern Mayhem

Let's start with the easy bit: there are a ton of Modern archetypes at the Magic Online Championship.

Archetype Count
Omnath Control 4
Oops! All Spells 2
Rakdos Death's Shadow 2
Selesnya Heliod Company 2
Temur Control 2
Temur Scapeshift 2
Ad Nauseam 1
Amulet Titan 1
Bant Spirits 1
Boros Burn 1
Eldrazi Tron 1
Five-Color Humans 1
Jund 1
Jund Death's Shadow 1
Mono-Green Tron 1
Mono-Red Burn 1
Total 24

24 players. 16 decks. It was a wide-open format featuring familiar faces, updated takes, and perhaps the most exciting play of the day.

Oops! All Spells is exactly what it sounds like: a deck filled with spells, though Zendikar Rising's dual-faced land cards (see Turntimber Symbiosis and friends) cheekily cut around that. Since each card in the deck isn't a land by how the rules view them, landing Balustrade Spy simply empties the entire library into the graveyard. All sorts of cards and triggers that care about that happening, which is what in turn wins the game on the spot.

As Christoffer Larsen demonstrated on a not-so-impossibly early second turn.

Elsewhere, popular and venerable Modern archetypes saw the latest sets also refresh what was possible. Death's Shadow decks long appreciated the power of sacrificing life—easy to do with fetch lands finding shock lands to deal Lightning Bolts of damage to yourself just setting up mana—for powering up an incredibly efficient creature.

Scourge of the Skyclaves

Zendikar Rising added Scourge of the Skyclaves, which added some redundancy to the deck that pays off as damage is dealt to the opponent too. Longtime commentator Cedric Phillips broke down how far—and how incredibly—Modern has evolved over the years.

The impact of newer sets on Modern came to a head in the sixth round as two leaders toward the top of standings—Olivier Tiu and Michael Jacob—faced off with two incredibly powerful decks.

Jacob used Heliod, Sun-Crowned to either gain as much life as he wanted with Spike Feeder, as each +1/+1 counter removed to gain life triggers Heliod to replace it, or instead grant lifelink to Walking Ballista, which means every +1/+1 counter removed to deal damage triggers Heliod to replace it. With Collected Company to round out setting up the engine, the latter combo is straightforward but the former lends itself to tabletop Magic.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned Spike Feeder Walking Ballista Collected Company

You can't shortcut through each trigger of a loop digitally, which puts that side of the combo at odds with Jacob's limited time to play.

Tiu was not playing any arbitrarily unbounded kind of combos. His Omnath Control deck adopted powerful advances from recent sets, specifically Omnath, Locus of Creation from Zendikar Rising and Mystic Sanctuary from Throne of Eldraine. Instead of going big, Tiu focused on powerful answers that worked in concert together, including one way to defy the odds against an arbitrarily large amount of life by using Cryptic Command to bounce Mystic Sanctuary, which then could be replayed to put the Command on top of the library where he'd draw it again—never running out of cards and thereby forcing a deck to actually deal damage to win against him.

Omnath, Locus of Creation Mystic Sanctuary

And thanks to Mystic Sanctuary having the Island subtype, caster Patrick Sullivan noted how the same cards that fix mana for a four-color control deck also find those marginal ways to win.

What followed was a long match that nearly exhausted both players' game clocks, and led to a conclusion of Tiu winning even as both he and Jacob seemed to play by rules favoring how the life gain side of the combo worked in tabletop Magic—until he did not.

Ultimately, Jacob netted the win that round as the following statement from the head judge explained.

Before the start of the Magic Online Championship, Michael Jacob requested a ruling regarding a combo in his deck that, in tabletop Magic, has a shortcut that would allow him to gain an arbitrarily large amount of life. The ruling was that while that is the case in tabletop, this event is played on Magic Online which has no support for such loops.

In Round 6, Jacob made an explicit agreement with his opponent, Oliver Tiu. Tiu agreed to treat Jacob's life total as an arbitrarily large amount after the loop had been established and would not attack with creatures to win through damage. This agreement, when brought to the attention of the Head Judge, was pointed out as not enforceable by tournament rules.

Near the end of the Game 3, after the combo was demonstrated and then removed from the battlefield, Tiu elected to attack with creatures to win through damage. Upon reflection of the match, Tiu requested to retroactively concede to Jacob. Given the exceptional nature of the situation the Head Judge agreed to accept Tiu's concession.

The Wrap

Day One ended after with Round 7 and two co-leaders in standings: Matti Kuisma and Michael Jacob. With Friday in the books, all 24 players continue their march toward $250,000 in prizes on Saturday with three more rounds of Vintage Cube Draft and a switch to four rounds of the Pioneer format. Watch who makes the Top 4 live then!

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