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 2020 Season Grand Finals Day One Highlights

October 09, 2020
Corbin Hosler

The 2020 Partial Season concludes this weekend. Magic's return to Zendikar reacquainted us with former Standard staple Lotus Cobra, and all the hijinx that follow it. Cobra and other Zendikar Rising standouts aren't the stars of the final tournament: 32 amazing players battling through the 2020 Season Grand Finals are where all the lights are pointed now.

As players battled through a Standard field dominated and shaped by Omnath, Locus of Creation, one rose to the top: Autumn Burchett won Mythic Championship 1 in 2019, and they were back on top today as they cleaved through the field to finish Day One with a perfect 6-0 record, just two wins away from clinching a Top 8 slot.

Here's a look at all the excitement from Day One of the 2020 Season Grand Finals.

Cobra or Clover?

That one question succinctly sums up the Standard metagame at the Grand Finals. Players had pegged Omnath, Locus of Creation as the top threat entering the weekend, and the biggest metagame question this weekend was how players chose to cast their legendary Elementals.

Lotus Cobra Lucky Clover Omnath, Locus of Creation

Consensus entering the tournament was that Omnath Adventures–which combined Omnath with the power of Lucky Clover and Adventure spells like Bonecrusher Giant or Fae of Wishes–was the best deck against the field, while the Lotus Cobra-powered Omnath Ramp deck had the edge in the head-to-head matchup.

The result was what many expected. Omnath lived up to its billing as seven players brought Omnath to both Standard and Historic, and four of them finished 4-2 or better. The ability to curve Lotus Cobra into Omnath has proven to be one of the best starts possible, turning the 2/1 into a must-answer in order to slow down the oncoming Omnath onslaught.

But Omnath wasn't the only route to success. Seth Manfield is in second place after Day One by going, literally, Rogue.

The unique deck leaned toward the control end of the aggro-control spectrum. Both Soaring Thought-Thief and Thieves' Guild Enforcer did the hard work for Manfield: He used Drown in the Loch as countermagic to prevent Omnath from ever resolving, milling opponents to also unlock Into the Story as an efficient haymaker.

Soaring Thought-Thief Thieves' Guild Enforcer Into the Story

"I had a feeling there would be a lot of Omanth, but in testing I felt like the Dimir decks had a slight edge there," explained Manfield, who tested primarily with Ivan Floch for the tournament. "The combination of cheap creatures, countermagic, and card draw to go over the top later in the game couples nicely with the mill the creatures provide. My innovation was adding Lurrus and cutting some of the expensive creatures you see in most builds."

Burchett Leads the Way

Any discussion on Standard must include Burchett, who "believed in the 'Cleave" and was rewarded for their testing and skill with their undefeated Day One run.

"I wasn't super happy with either Omnath deck, and I was nervous to play either because Adventures felt like a huge underdog to Ramp in our testing, but Omnath Ramp can be targeted with non-Omnath decks pretty effectively," they explained. "But at the 11th hour, the day decks were due, Emma [Handy] and I discovered Gruul had really good records against the Omnath decks in the previous weekend's events, so we decided 12 hours before decklist submission to play some games with it. We were destroying Ramp and felt slightly ahead against Adventures, so we stayed up for most of the night jamming games as Emma figured how to tune the deck and I gave her feedback on her ideas. This would be a less good deck in an open metagame, but with Omnath at the top the deck is quite good."

Burchett earned the headlines but, when you add their results to their testing partners Luis Salvatto and Emma Handy also playing the deck, Gruul Adventures makes a case as the best deck in this field by earning a combined 8-1 overall, 5-1 against Omnath decks.

A Check-In with Historic

We watched Historic one month ago at the Mythic Invitational, which left the format far from settled. Goblins was by far the most-represented deck but ultimately fell short against Jund Sacrifice and its array of Mayhem Devil, Cauldron Familiar, and Witch's Oven.

Mayhem Devil Cauldron Familiar Witch's Oven

Things have changed with Zendikar Rising. Omnath Ramp was the most popular Historic deck at the Grand Finals, Jund Sacrifice came in second, and just one player registered Goblins.

One of the highlights of the Historic metagame was the Four-Color Midrange that a powerhouse testing team brought to the event.

The deck looks similar to the Sultai build Manfield took to victory at the Mythic Invitational, but with one major change: the addition of Yasharn, Implacable Earth. With the Elemental Boar–or "turbo pig" as it's been dubbed–preventing opponents from sacrificing permanents, the Jund Sacrifice deck is simply unable to function. Four-Color Midrange is tailored against Sacrifice decks but struggles against Omnath, Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas explained.

"We initially wanted to sideboard it," he said. "But it's a decent card on its own, and we wanted more chances to just lock out what we thought would be one of the most popular decks."

While adding Yasharn may have been a subtle change, there was nothing lighthanded about the introduction of the "Neostorm" deck. It's a combo sight to behold:

  • Sea Gate Stormcaller starts off the chain by copying Neoform as the next instant or sorcery.
  • Neoform copies grab Dualcaster Mages to keep copying the original Neoform still on the stack.
  • Glasspool Mimics then get pulled out.
  • Finally, Tuktuk Rubblefort ends the chain, granting haste and enabling a lethal attack.

If you think that sounds like something Ken Yukuhiro would play, you'd be right.

Looking Ahead to Top 8

Day Two will kick off Saturday with three more rounds of Standard followed by the final three rounds in Historic. It's a race as players who reach eight match wins first lock up their spots in Sunday's Top 8, and every win counts as the field narrows throughout the day.


Seth Manfield

Austin Bursavich

Burchett has a huge edge to earn their way into Top 8 with their 6-0 record, and at 5-1 both Manfield and Austin Bursavich only need to pick up three more wins to clinch. There are no guarantees with this skilled field as nearly the entire field still has a chance at the Top 8 when we return for Day Two.

Watch the action live beginning again at 9 a.m. PDT on!

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