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Innistrad Championship Day One Highlights

December 04, 2021
Corbin Hosler

It was just eight weeks ago that the Magic world came together for the pinnacle of competition, Magic World Championship XXVII. That tournament ended with Japan's Yuta Takahashi going on an unforgettable 10-0 run to earn the title after a 0-3 start.

Yuta Takahashi

Flash forward to today and Takahashi was among the leaders of the Innistrad Championship as the Day One played out. There were 252 players competing, and anyone who posted a record of 4-3 or better would advance to Day Two.

Two players ended Day One as the undefeated co-leaders: newcomer to the pro scene Tim MacSaveny joined Rivals League member Christian Hauck as the only 7-0 finishers in the field.

Here's how we got there.

A New Era of Historic

The Challenger Gauntlet was the last time we saw MTG Arena's Historic format at the highest levels of play, and much had changed in the time since. Memory Lapse left the format, loads of new cards and sets joiend, and Historic continued to be a "Wild West" of deck-brewing.

All of this led to a lot of attention on the Historic portion of the Innistrad Championship, which would kick off the event and bookend it as the format of choice in Day Three's Top 8 double-elimination gauntlet.

The result was an intense testing period in the weeks leading up the championship, as teams looked to innovate or refine decks in a wide-open format where no one knew what to expect. The final metagame numbers reflected that, with no deck comprising more than 16% of the field, and only three decks came in above 10%.

Historic features cards familiar across Magic formats, with top decks featuring favorites such as Collected Company, Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Faithless Looting, Arclight Phoenix, Torrential Gearhulk and Archmage's Charm.

Collected Company Heliod, Sun-Crowned Faithless Looting Arclight Phoenix Torrential Gearhulk Archmage's Charm

After the dust settled on three rounds of Historic, the top of the standings also looked familiar to fans of Pioneer and Modern.

Historic Decks Finishing 3-0

Archetype Count
Izzet Phoenix 8
Golgari Food 4
Heliod Company 4
Jeskai Control 3
Jund Food 2
Jeskai Creativity 2
Rakdos Arcanist 2
Selesnya Humans 2
Izzet Epiphany 1
Dimir Control 1
Five-Color Niv 1
Jund Company 1
Jund Citadel 1

The combination of Faithless Looting and Arclight Phoenix is still good. It carried eight of its 34 pilots to a 3-0 Historic start, followed at a distance by a pair of decks each taking advantage of new MTG Arena releases.

Golgari Food featured the "familiar" Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven duo alongside new additions with Ravenous Squirrel and The Meathook Massacre. Meanwhile, the Heliod, Sun-Crowned decks can "go infinite" with Heliod, a Soul Warden effect and Scurry Oak. The package is a strong midrange deck that can threaten a combo win at any time.

The Heliod list came courtesy of former World Champion Javier Dominguez, who handled the Historic portion of the testing while Nelson focused on Standard (when he wasn't busy filming deck techs with his brother and commentator Corey Baumeister).

Javier Dominguez

"The metagame was more or less as we expected," Dominguez explained of the deck's success on Day One. "We're a little ahead of [Selesnya] Humans and [Izzet] Phoenix, and behind the control decks."

There was something for everyone among the 3-0 Historic decks, but nothing came close to matching the classic Izzet Phoenix archetype, reinvigorated in Historic with Expressive Iteration, Dragon's Rage Channeler and Consider, plus the now-ubiquitous Unholy Heat.

Be sure to check out all of the Historic decklists as they will be back again to kick off Day Two, and how the decks floating near each other at the top of the standings fare in comparison will help set the stakes for the race to make Top 8.

It's Good To Be Green In Standard

Standard came down largely to a three-deck show: the ever-popular Izzet Epiphany and its namesake Alrund's Epiphany, Mono-White Aggro and its disruptive Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and the Mono-Green Aggro deck that went old-school stompy with Old-Growth Troll and similarly huge monsters.

No matter which deck players brought, matchups revolved around how each player navigated Galvanic Iterations, whether that meant casting them or defending against the format-defining Izzet spells deck.

It mattered so much that it had players comparing the deck to another famous blue-red combo that was once Standard—and Modern—legal.

But there's something to be said for just attacking with big green creatures, and that's exactly what carried Tim MacSaveny and Christian Hauck to perfect 7-0 records. MacSaveny faced Izzet Epiphany in all four Standard rounds on Friday, and came away a perfect 4-0, while Hauck defeated three blue decks on the day.

Tim MacSaveny

Christian Hauck

"I felt Mono-Green gave me the best shot at beating Izzet in Standard and while I'm still not sure about Selesnya Humans in Historic, the deck worked out like it should so far," Hauck explained. "Being 7-0 is definitely not what I was expecting, but I was playing very relaxed all day. Still, considering I won only one of the seven die rolls, I am still in disbelief that I actually ended 7-0."

The 7-0 runs left Hauck and MacSaveny with the clearest path to the Top 8: Just win five more matches on Day Two. For the longtime Magic player and Limited aficionado MacSaveny, who recently moved back to the U.S. after years abroad and is dipping his toes into the tournament scene, doing so well in a Constructed tournament came as not just a surprise but a shock, although not an unwelcome one.

"I qualified for the Strixhaven Championship by playing Kaldheim Sealed, and I qualified for this tournament playing Innistrad: Crimson Vow Sealed," MacSaveny explained. "I love Limited, but when you qualify for the big time you have to do just do the best you can manage."

His best was plenty good enough for his Day One run, and MacSaveny will now turn back to his Dimir Control Historic deck to continue again on Day Two.

"I watched Guillaume Wafo-Tapa play a Dimir Control list on his stream the day we had to submit lists, and I figured that it had a good enough matchup against Collected Company to try," MacSaveny explained. "I put in a lot of reps with the decks, but ... you should see my kids: they're flipping out that their dad is first place in the Pro Tour!"

While much of the Standard metagame played out as expected, there were still surprises. One notable one came from Hall of Famer Raphaël Lévy, who finished 6-1 while piloting an off-the-radar Mono-Black Control deck.

Standard makes up the back half of Day Two, determining who makes Top 8—and who returns for the Neon Dynasty Championship next year. You can find every player's Standard decklist to see exactly what they'll have to face.

Looking Ahead

Lurking just behind the pair of leaders are a host of big names, including world champions Yuta Takahashi, Shahar Shenhar, Kai Budde and William "Huey" Jensen all with 6-1 records.

Shahar Shenhar

William Jensen

Over 120 players will return for Day Two at 9 a.m. PST December 4 to play eight more rounds to determine who will advance to the Top 8, and one step closer to qualifying for the next World Championship.

You can watch the action live at!

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