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2020 Season Grand Finals Day Two Highlights

October 10, 2020
Corbin Hosler

The 2020 Partial Season comes to a close this weekend. 32 players came to battle across Standard and Historic at the 2020 Season Grand Finals. The result was a thrilling 12 rounds of play, innovations in both formats, and more Omnath, Locus of Creation triggers than we could count. It's left us with a final eight competitors who will return Sunday for a double-elimination Top 8 bracket.

When we entered play Saturday morning, it was Mythic Championship I winner Autumn Burchett who paced the field with a perfect 6-0 record, while Seth Manfield and Austin Bursavich were just behind at 5-1. It was a relaxed Saturday for the trio, who all locked up their Top 8 spots early before the other five spots were filled after a final round melee of four matches for just five slots.

These are the highlights from Day Two of the Season Grand Finals.

An Incredible Top 8

The 2020 Season Grand Finals is a unique event in that it brought some of the game's most storied competitors together with talented new faces for a tournament in which even a handful of losses didn't eliminate someone from Top 8 contention. That produced some fascinating matchups over the course of the weekend as competitors rallied on Day Two, creating a Top 8 that's got something for everyone watching along from home.

There's Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif, making his 14th career Top Finish. He now trails all-time greats Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Jon Finkel by just three Top 8s for most all-time. There's his longtime friend and fellow Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy making his second Top Finish this year after going 13 years since his last. There's Autumn Burchett and Emma Handy, friends and testing partners who shocked the field with their Gruul Adventures deck and delivered on their skill with a duo Top 8. There's Aaron Gertler, MTG Arena standout and Dreamhack Open Anaheim winner who is donating half of his winnings to charity. There's the breakthrough success Brazilian star in Patrick Fernandes, as well as one of the hottest players of past year with Austin Bursavich. Finally, there's Seth Manfield, another Hall of Famer and one who is fresh off winning the Mythic Invitational and looks to claim the first back-to-back premier event trophies in years.

Not bad, right?

You can read more about the Grand Finals Top 8, and catch all of their decklists here.

Handy and Gertler Break Through

One of the best moments of the tournament was seeing Emma Handy's reaction to earning her first Top Finish. It was an especially sweet moment for the Rivals League member after missing the Top 8 of the Mythic Invitational last month on tiebreakers.

This time she left no doubt, defeating the indomitable Ken Yukuhiro in the final round, rocking out the whole way.

It's been a dream tournament so far for Handy, who said it was especially sweet to make the Top 8 alongside longtime friend Burchett. The fact that they did so by going their own way in Standard made it even better, while also offering players a path toward beating the omnipresent Omnath decks. The team crushed Omnath-based Standard decks throughout the tournament.

Handy wasn't the only player to make their first Top Finish this weekend, though Gertler is no stranger to the Sunday stage or winning tournaments on MTG Arena. He's played the most MTG Arena games of anyone in the field, and fittingly won Dreamhack Open Anaheim earlier this year. As he continues his push into the professional scene with this Top 8, he's playing more than just himself: he plans to donate half of his winnings to the charity GiveWell.

"I love Magic, and it's been a passion of mine since I was very young; this makes it feel like every one of those 13,705 Arena games taught me something," he said, laughing. "But that's a big deal. It all meant something in the end. I don't feel like I'm anywhere near the best player in this field and I've only been playing really seriously for a few years, so making the Top 8 and having a chance to help others means a lot."

Bursavich's Hot Streak Continues

Austin Bursavich has been on fire over the past year. He made the Top 8 of Mythic Championship VI in Richmond in late 2019, and followed that up with another Top Finish at Players Tour Phoenix. A Top 16 finish at the Players Tour Finals brought him to the Grand Finals, and he delivered again with his third Top 8 in the past 12 months.

It's an incredible run for any competitor. His renewed focus on preparation has translated into results, with a big helping hand from his testing team that included Grand Finals competitors Gertler, Allen Wu, and David Steinberg.

"I don't think a ton changed except that I started preparing a little better," Bursavich explained. "I don't get to play much Magic outside of the few weeks leading up to the big tournaments, and I really went all-in for these events. After I made Top 8 in Richmond ... I joined Team 5%. Allen Wu has been one person with me for every event since then, and he has certainly helped me tremendously. We both have similar styles and approaches to the game, but we work hard and hold each other accountable, and we seem to always end up in a great spot going into every tournament."

Omnath Rising and Gruul Smashing

Omnath, Locus of Creation

There's no doubt that the card of the weekend was Omnath, Locus of Creation. In both Standard and Historic, players flocked to ramp decks that could power out Omnath on turn three and then make multiple land drops to snowball out of control. Whether they leaned on Lucky Clover in Adventures deck shells or Lotus Cobra and Genesis Ultimatum in Ramp, Omnath shaped the deck decisions of every player in the field.

It also put five Standard decks into the Top 8, which means that Manfield, Burchett, and Handy are the three competitors who will try to dethrone the Elemental when play kicks off on Sunday morning.

There's reason to believe they can do it too. All three found success in the Standard rounds, with Burchett and Handy's Gruul Adventures deck taking the field by surprise and sending two of its three pilots to the Top 8.

Manfield went rogue for this tournament, and plans that Rogues will hand him his second trophy in as many months. The Hall of Famer mixed the best of Dimir Rogues and Dimir Mill, and built a list tailor-made to put pressure on Omnath decks by preventing their namesake threat from ever resolving.

Will Omnath rule Standard? Will Gruul smash its way to victory? Was going Rogue the right call? Sunday's of double-elimination Top 8 is where we find out.

Watch with the world, beginning at 9 a.m. PDT on!

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