68 players. $750,000 in prizes. Throne of Eldraine on MTG Arena, and the title of Mythic Champion on the line. When it's all said and done, we'll have one player write their fairy tale ending.
Welcome to Mythic Championship V.
The 32 Magic Pro League players, along with 36 challengers, converged on Long Beach, California this weekend, bringing with them the best Standard had to offer. We played seven rounds today, and the Top 24 finishers—along with MPL Core Split winners Seth Manfield, Lee Shi Tian, Carlos Romao and Ben Stark—will return Saturday for the second day of competition. It was an explosive opening to the tournament, as players came armed with aggressive decks (Embercleave and all), hordes of Zombies, and all the Food (tokens) you could ever eat.
Here are the stories that stood out to us from Day One.
Kvartek's Ascent Continues
Talk about a breakout season. After years of struggling to break through, Chris Kvartek began 2019 determined to sharpen his game and, more importantly, his mindset. The hard work paid off when he made the Top 8 of Mythic Championship II in London earlier this year, and a second deep run at Mythic Championship VI in Barcelona—a near-miss on a second Top 8 appearance—cemented his credentials as one of the best up-and-coming players in the game.
He may have saved his best for this weekend.
Kvartek qualified for Mythic Championship V via the Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend, and he wasted no time earning more wins in the tournament here. He put together a blistering start in Long Beach, defeating defending Arena champion Matias Leveratto in the kickoff feature match. An exciting comeback in the opening round was just the beginning as Kvartek was among the first to punch his ticket to Day Two—alongside MPL player Jean Emmanuel-Depraz—with a perfect 5-0 run.
And he did it his own way with a unique build of Simic Food that cut Hydroid Krasis, widely seen as one of the best cards in the format but one that Kvartek correctly recognized was poorly positioned against the Mythic Championship field.
Eldraine Hits the Scene
The world of Eldraine is all about fairy tales that fight back, and none has a bigger bite than the badder-than-big-and-bad Wicked Wolf.
Wicked Wolf was one of the most underrated cards in Throne of Eldraine, but it's had a huge impact at the Mythic Championship as part of the Simic Food deck that took Kvartek and others to Day Two. Everyone knew about Golos, Tireless Pilgrim; Field of the Dead; and Oko, Thief of Crowns coming into the weekend, but time and again it was the Wolf that won critical games throughout the tournament. As the hungry beast had a steady supply of Food (courtesy of Oko and Gilded Goose), it could tangle with any creature in the format.
Throne of Eldraine quickly established itself as a powerhouse set, and cards like Once Upon a Time were ubiquitous across a variety of decks. But perhaps the most unexpected breakout card of the weekend was Embercleave, which Ken Yukuhiro used to great effect in his Mardu Knights brew that provided some of the tournament's most exciting moments.
It was enough to carry Yukuhiro into Day Two, where he'll attempt to leverage some Dinosaurs with flaming swords to a Top 8 finish.
Depraz Leads the Way with Golos
Of course, the Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead "combo" was public enemy number one heading into the tournament and the deck largely lived up to the hype. Leading the way was MPL member Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, who ran off a perfect 5-0 start with the deck to grab his spot in Day Two early.
But as powerful as the deck may be, it's not without its weaknesses. Just ask Ondřej Stráský.
Nelson and the Juggernaut, Again
One of the best rivalries you may not have expected has begun to develop among two of the game's best. Living legend Kai Budde, the German Juggernaut himself who may be the best competitor to ever play the game, has seemingly had only one roadblock in his storied career.
That would be Brad Nelson, considered by many to be the best Standard player in the world at any given time. Both players made the Top 4 of Mythic Championship III back in July, and for the second time in as many tries—the first coming in 2010 at Pro Tour Amsterdam—Nelson proved to be Kai kryptonite: He defeated him in matches twice in that Top 4.
That set up Friday's rematch here at Mythic Championship V. This time, Budde finally exacted some revenge.
Lost this round to @kaibudde.— Brad Nelson (@fffreakmtg) October 18, 2019
..I know, I know.
Neither player made it to Day Two this time around, but were still treated to plenty of the always-fun roommate duo of Nelson-Brian Braun-Duin this weekend.
Budde and Nelson weren't the only pair of familiar opponents to match up this weekend.
The classic travel 22h for an event to get paired round1 against local friend who happens to be the opponent I faced the most on my DCI history. GL @lucaparroz_— Lucas Berthoud (@bertuuuu) October 18, 2019
Looking Ahead to Day Two
Ahead of the tournament, four MPL members—Lee Shi Tian, Seth Manfield, Carlos Romão and Ben Stark—won their league divisions to earn their spot in Day Two, and they'll be joined by the Top 24 finishers from Day One. Records and tiebreakers start fresh, and we'll play seven rounds to determine a Top 8 for Sunday play.
That field will include fan favorite and Team Solo Mid member Kenji "NumottheNummy" Egashira, who was so excited by taking down his final round win-and-in that he invaded the caster lounge to demand some well-earned high-fives.
That's a wrap on Day One. 28 amazing players return tomorrow for battle for the Mythic Championship V Top 8. Play begins again at 9 a.m. PDT/12 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. UTC Saturday at twitch.tv/magic.