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Innistrad Championship Day Two Highlights

December 05, 2021
Corbin Hosler

Day Two of the Innistrad Championship began with players who finished 4-3 or better on Day One still competing. It started with plenty of time left to separate the best from the rest, especially as players battled to determine what would reign supreme in the reinvigorated Historic format with its host of deck options.

From the 252 players began the tournament and 15 rounds of play we were left with our Top 8: represented in half by the dominant Japanese team of the weekend, including the reigning World Champion, with top competitors and rising stars rounding out the balance. These eight players will return with the Historic format showdowns for the title and seats at the World Championship on the line.

  • Christian Hauck (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Toru Saito (Golgari Food)
  • Yuuki Ichikawa (Golgari Food)
  • Zachary Kiihne (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Simon Görtzen (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Yuta Takahashi (Izzet Phoenix)
  • Riku Kumagai (Golgari Food)
  • Yo Akaike (Jeskai Creativity)

Here's how we got there.

Japan Dominates

The top tier of Magic competition has always been home to what many would consider testing "superteams." From the historically dominant groups in the ‘90s to the more recent success of groups like the Czech House, competitive Magic goes through stretches where one group is so dominant in staying ahead of the metagame that they put multiple members into Top 8 contention.

One testing squad for the Innistrad Championship did better than that, with four making it through to Top 8.

Toru Saito

Yuuki Ichikawa

Yuta Takahashi

Riku Kumagai

It recalled some of the dominant teams of the past from the region, and in particular the Golgari Food deck most of the team piloted in Historic was one of the best-performing decks across the entire format.

A familiar deck making use of new additions in Ravenous Squirrel, Deadly Dispute and The Meathook Massacre, the ultra-focused Golgari Food decks attacked the format on multiple angles, combing enough control elements to survive against aggressive decks while putting together a value engine that no other deck can match given enough time.

Cauldron Familiar Witch's Oven Trail of Crumbs 522287 534886

But it was Standard where the team was most dominant down the stretch, with their Izzet Epiphany deck living up the pre-tournament hype, tricked out with a list full of one- and two-ofs for the mirror and more. It was the most powerful deck coming into the tournament, and the team showed match after match in the final rounds that expertly playing the best version of the best deck was better this weekend than trying to reinvent the Standard wheel.

Hauck Goes Wire-to-Wire

The German Rivals League member kicked off his tournament with a perfect 7-0 run on Day One, which surprised even himself.

Christian Hauck

That run continued on Saturday, as Hauck won the battle of undefeated players and emerged as the sole leader.

Rather than count with a bunch of cantripping blue spells, Hauck opted for a much more straightforward route: his Selesnya Humans deck was one of the most popular in Historic and he opted to be the beatdown in Standard with Mono-Green Aggro.

Day Two didn't go quite as well as Day One did, and Hauck hit a midday skid to slow down his pace, but he did win enough to lock up the first spot in the Top 8 and the top overall seed with his second career Top Finish.

All According to Plan

One of the major storylines heading into this weekend was where Historic would end up after months out of the spotlight. With some notable losses including Memory Lapse and a host of new sets added to MTG Arena, the fan-favorite format was considered wide open and ripe for disruption.

The field seemed ready for it when no deck was more than about 15% of the field heading into Round 1. The diversity of the field was deep, but as the dust settled it was clear that trusting in the format's historically powerful cards was the best strategy: classic archetypes in Izzet Phoenix and Cauldron Familiar Food led the way. Though the tournament was mixed-format, the Historic Top 8 features four Phoenix decks and three Food decks.

Not every deck was among the popular picks: there were plenty of old favorites finding success, and surprise decks breaking out deep into the tournament. Yo Akaike and their Jeskai Creativity combo deck proved that.

Standard played out as those in-the-know expected, with the field dominated by the trio of Izzet Epiphany, Mono-White Aggro and Mono-Green Aggro. That gave way to a set of top tables dominated almost wholly by blue decks: Izzet Epiphany accounted for six of decks among the Top 8, with Hauck's Mono-Green Aggro and Simon Görtzen's Mono-Black Zombies breaking the mold.

While it was a good day for Alrund's Epiphany as expected, it was also a good day for Champion of the Perished, at least in the hands of Görtzen. The Pro Tour champion spent many years in the coverage booth before dipping his toes back into competitive play before diving full-on into the Rivals League, Görtzen put on a show for viewers while locking up his third career Top Finish.

Looking Ahead

There are two major things on the line when players return to compete in the Innistrad Championship Top 8. First, of course, is the matter of settling the winner of the Innistrad Championship. There's a beautiful trophy to win, but we'll also be looking ahead to Magic World Championship XXVIII in 2022.

The top six finishers at this tournament—anyone who picks up a win in Sunday's double-elimination Top 8—secure their invitation at the most prestigious tournament in the game. Takahashi is already qualified as the defending champion, and if he wins a match it creates an at-large invitation come the end of the season.

There's plenty on the line when coverage resumes at December 5 at 9 a.m. PST, live at

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