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Challenger Gauntlet Top 12 Player Profiles and Decklists

August 08, 2021
Corbin Hosler

There were 24 competitors when the Challenger Gauntlet began, but after 12 rounds of play (six Historic, six Standard), just 12 players move on to Sunday.

Sam Pardee, Noriyuke Mori, Matti Kuisma and Arne Huschenbeth enter as the top 4 seeds, with a win-and-in match for a spot at the World Championship for them. All 12 players returning on Sunday have qualified for the Rivals League, and that leaves two more World Championship seats for the rest of the competitors.

Sam Pardee

Pardee is a longtime competitor at the pro level, and his excellent year continues. He won the Strixhaven Championship just two months ago and now has his sights set on the World Championship with a top-four finish in the Swiss.

Noriyuke Mori

Mori made the Gauntlet after a Top 8 finish at the Kaldheim Championship, where he lost to eventual champion (and fellow Sunday qualifier) Arne Huschenbeth. Mori paced the field after Day One and converted that into a Top 4 finish.

Matti Kuisma

Part of the testing team that took the tournament by storm, Kuisma broke out of the pack with a perfect Historic run on Saturday, good enough to send him to the third seed just tiebreakers ahead of teammate Arne Huschenbeth.

Arne Huschenbeth

It took an epic Top 4 tiebreaker, but the Kaldheim Championship winner has finally put together a season to pay off the years of hard work. Huschenbeth edged out Gavin Thompson in game three of match three in the tiebreaker to earn his spot in the Top 4.

Gavin Thompson

Thompson started Day Two in the thick of the group and was just 5-4 after nine rounds, but he put together a perfect 3-0 Standard run to close out the Swiss, making his way into the Top 12 and forcing a playoff for the fourth seed, where he lost to Huschenbeth.

Sam Rolph

Rolph went his own way in Historic, and his decision to be one of just two players piloting Rakdos Arcanist paid off with a 4-2 performance in the format that powered him into the Top 12 and a guaranteed berth in the Rivals League.

Logan Nettles

One of the favorites entering the event, Nettles didn’t disappoint. At home playing online events, the well-known Magic Online endboss Nettles played steadily enough to rally to a 7-5 record and Top 12 berth.

Ian Birrell

Birrell was one of the most successful Historic players of the weekend, going 5-1 with his Selesnya Company deck that he alone brought to the tournament. He'll have to swap to Standard for the Top 12, but he’s got a chance thanks to his Historic performance.

João Moreira

Moreira made it to the Gauntlet on the back of a strong performance at the Kaldheim Championship, and he arrived armed with a pair of classic decks: the most popular Historic deck in the field in Jeskai Control, and the Dimir Rogues archetype that has floated around Standard for the past year. It was Rogues that carried him over the hump to the Top 12.

Jan-Moritz Merkel

A Challenger Gauntlet competitor but no stranger to high-level Magic play, Merkel will now be a member of the Rivals League next season and has his eyes on more. He went 4-2 in Standard with Naya Adventures, which he’ll turn to for a run at the World Championship.

David Inglis

The other player forced into a tiebreaker match for the Top 12, it took two additional matches for Inglis to punch his ticket to the Top 12 and the Rivals League, and when he did it made his testing team of himself, Kuisma, Huschenbeth and Rolph a perfect 4-for-4 in Top 12 finishes.

Keisuke Sato

It was a near-disastrous start to the tournament for Sato, who went just 1-5 in Historic. But he rallied to go 5-1 in Standard and won another pair of matches in the tiebreaker match that advanced him to the Top 12.

The 12 players will return at 9 a.m. PST on Sunday to determine who will earn the four qualifications to the Magic World Championship, with complete coverage at

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