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Insider Picks at the Kaldheim Championship

March 19, 2021
Rich Hagon

The Kaldheim Championship draws ever closer—just one week away. Now it's time to get our prognostications in order with our coverage squad of seers including:

  • Play-by-play commentators Marshall Sutcliffe, Eilidh Lonie, and Haiyue Yu
  • Expert roles chaired by Paul Cheon and Mani Davoudi
  • The news desk team of Maria Bartholdi, Cedric Phillips, and Riley Knight

Plus, behind the scenes across social and text coverage—who have had their eyes on every League Weekend and Championship so far this season—are veteran reporters Corbin Hosler and Meghan Wolff.

To start our look ahead, we began by asking for their player to watch across both Leagues and among Challengers—everyone outside the leagues who qualified for the event. Here's what our coverage team came up with:

Coverage MPL Rivals Challenger
Paul Gabriel Nassif Luis Scott-Vargas Christoffer Larsen
Marshall Carlos Romão Ben Stark Willy Edel
Eilidh Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Eli Kassis Willy Edel
Mani Martin Jůza Yuta Takahashi Arne Huschenbeth
Haiyue Ken Yukuhiro Chris Botelho Nicholas Price
Maria Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Stanislav Cifka Willy Edel
Cedric Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Eli Kassis Brad Barclay
Riley Andrea Mengucci Luis Scott-Vargas Brad Barclay
Corbin Martin Jůza Luca Magni Brad Barclay
Meghan Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Eli Kassis David Inglis

For the MPL picks, it's no surprise that reigning World Champion Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa leads the way, perhaps best summed up one way.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Cedric: "I'm trying to imagine PVDDR losing multiple matches in a tournament. I'm having extreme difficulty completing this task."

Among Rivals, the only players with multiple picks were Luis Scott-Vargas and Eli Kassis. However, since one of those LSV picks comes from Paul "best friend of LSV" Cheon, let's focus on Rivals League leader Kassis.

Eli Kassis

Eilidh: "His deck and card choices for [each] Kaldheim League Weekend were spot on."

Meghan: "He's always been a solid deck builder, and he's been testing with a great set of players, too."

Cedric: "Though he leads the Rivals League with 31 points, he isn't talked about in the same way others are in Rivals. That changes this weekend."

As for the largest group of competitors, the Challengers, our group sees two headliners—Magic Hall of Famer Willy Edel and Scottish standout Bradley Barclay fresh off his Zendikar Rising Championship win.

Corbin summed up what Barclay offers: "The Iceshark has been a pillar of his Scottish community for two decades, and the world finally properly met him when he won the Zendikar Rising Championship. I can't wait to see how he follows that up as the defending champ."

But there was plenty to say for picking Edel, too.

Willy Edel

Maria: "Willy Edel has made the Top 8 of four Pro Tours—need I say more?"

Marshall: "The feisty Brazilian Hall of Famer qualified via an Inside Esports Open on MTG Arena, and he's here to show these internet kids that he's in the business of winning matches of Magic, and baby, business is a-boomin'."

Which, I think, means that Edel is doing well at the moment. But our "pick three players" was just a warmup for our outstanding opinionators before the big one: their pick for the one player who they know will make the Top 8.

Coverage One to Top 8
Paul Gabriel Nassif
Marshall Ben Stark
Eilidh Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Mani Martin Jůza
Haiyue Chris Botelho
Maria Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Cedric Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Riley Brad Barclay
Corbin Martin Jůza
Meghan Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

A pick for Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa isn't exactly going rogue, but the reasons are compelling.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Maria: "I made the mistake of not picking Paulo to win Worlds last year, and I've regretted it every day since. So I'm picking Paulo this time! Staying on top of the leaderboard for the MPL is not easy, no matter how good of a player you are. You've got to play amazing opponents round after round, pick the right deck each weekend, and, oh yeah, win most of your games. His success in the league so far really is stunning, and I am optimistic he can turn it into a good showing here."

Eilidh: "He's a genius and quite possibly the greatest Magic player of all time. How can you not pick him?"

There are, however, some less obvious picks to consider. Both Mani and Corbin went for Martin Jůza. That might not sound like an outlandish prediction given he's a Magic Hall of Famer, until you consider his recent 0–11 record at the February Kaldheim League Weekend.

Martin Jůza

Mani: "Martin's success at the professional level has often come when he's trusted his intuition and made deck choices that suit his strengths/understanding of the format. With the current state of both Standard and Historic, these are qualities that can be heavily rewarded, and I'm looking forward to a memorable zero-to-hero performance from Jůza at the Kaldheim Championship."

Perhaps the boldest prediction comes from our newest commentator.

Chris Botelho

Haiyue: "My pick is Chris Botelho to make Top 8. He is a player that is generally one step ahead of the metagame and is willing to think laterally and explore unconventional solutions to problems. His technical play is also of a high level. Finally, his relaxed attitude is his strength—he can see the humour in situations (like when he won GP Portland with a Nine Lives deck using a kitten playmat and kitten life pad), and he's always willing to learn and adapt."

It's worth noting that Chris was active on social media, begging for Harmless Offering to be revealed as part of Historic Anthology IV, and he was rather pleased to get his wish. Maybe the cat's going to get the cream once again . . .

For fans of Constructed Magic, there's something for everyone at the Kaldheim Championship. Corbin can't wait for Standard to start off each day and decide the winner on Sunday:

Corbin: "We saw in the February Kaldheim League Weekend that the metagame was still clearly sorting itself out, and with a much larger pool of competitors, I'm really excited to see how things have evolved over the past month."

He wasn't alone in looking forward to the Standard action.

Eilidh: "I'm loving Standard right now. The decks are varied, enjoyable to watch and play, so I hope this event's meta remains as diverse as the Kaldheim League Weekend's."

Meanwhile, here are Paul and Cedric explaining why they're looking forward to the Historic rounds on Friday and Saturday:

Paul: "The banning of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath should give rise to a few other strategies in the format, and I'm excited to see how the metagame has shaken up as a result."

Cedric: "With the banning of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath along with the addition of Kaldheim, Historic is my answer. I don't think we really have any idea what the Historic metagame looks like right now with Sultai/Four-Color Midrange, previously Historic's best deck, losing its most powerful tool. That alone should make things interesting, and that's before we even consider the additions of Kaldheim. Sign me up!"

Maria, meanwhile, had this unexpected contribution:

Maria: "I am a big fan of Historic. I have a favorite deck, and I bet you can guess which one."

All That Glitters

Maria isn't alone in having a favorite deck. We asked our crew what deck they were most hoping to see make a splash.

Mani: "I'd love to see if a Death's Shadow deck of some kind can exist in this Historic metagame. The archetype felt close before, and getting actual, factual Death's Shadow in Historic Anthology IV is a big step in the right direction."

Death's Shadow

Marshall: "I'm really curious to see if White-Blue Control in Historic has a fighting chance to solidify itself as part of the now more amenable metagame. It has won tournaments but has failed to become a go-to deck in the format. With such powerful tools at its disposal and the absence of a certain Elder Giant, maybe now is the time?"


Maria: "Obviously I'm going to say White-Black Auras here. I love the list played by Greg Kowalski at a League Weekend a couple months back. It has lots of super-fun and powerful tools to dismantle your opponent's hand, protect your creatures, and draw cards. Kaya's Ghostform is a revelation. I've started a religion around it."

Kaya's Ghostform

How about Standard?

Riley: "Izzet Flash is a deck that has been flirting with top-tier results without ever quite securing them, and I'm convinced it's just because the perfect build hasn't been discovered. You want a playset of Goldspan Dragon and efficient cards like Shark Typhoon and Bonecrusher Giant—but the support suite of counterspells and removal is still in flux. The correct balance threatens to shred the right metagame."

Bonecrusher Giant Shark Typhoon

Haiyue: "I would love to see a Transmogrify deck in Standard. I'm currently working on a Transmogrify/Koma/Yorion combo/control deck, and I want to see others explore this powerful but neglected space!"


Kaldheim, of course, is the new addition to both formats. Which cards from the latest expansion does our team hope to see getting the job done?

Coverage Kaldheim Card to See
Paul Doomskar
Marshall Path to the World Tree
Eilidh Tibalt's Trickery
Mani Alrund's Epiphany
Haiyue Alrund's Epiphany and Esika's Chariot
Maria Reidane, God of the Worthy
Cedric Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Riley Binding the Old Gods
Corbin Valki, God of Lies
Meghan Alrund's Epiphany

Next, it's wildcard time. Predicting that good players will beat other good players and that good decks will face other good decks in two good formats can only take us so far. The real juice is here: what's the boldest prediction for this tournament?

Haiyue: "Someone will attack into Jaspera Sentinel forgetting it has Reach."

Meghan: "A player will take three turns in a row!"

Mani: "I think we will see five unique archetypes in the Top 8 of this tournament."

Marshall: "I think that three Challengers will Top 8 this event, which is kind of a lot when you look at the list of MPL and Rivals players in the field. Go, Challengers!"

So far, so reasonable. Next, a couple of intriguing suggestions.

Corbin: "It's been almost a decade since he first appeared, but we'll see Tibalt in the Top 8!"

Riley: "Someone will cast an Emergent Ultimatum and pick three cards with a total mana value of seven or less."

Now, a little bit of wish fulfilment.

Maria: "Someone will win a game with a giant, flying Kor Spiritdancer that is bigger than Emrakul."

Cedric: "Mono-White Aggro will be the best-performing deck in Kaldheim Standard. You can take that to the bank, cash the check, and go buy the nicest Snow-Covered Plains in all the land."

One caster decided to go deep—and very specific.

Paul: "Historic Prediction: Somebody will put two copies of Klothys, God of Destiny into play off a Collected Company. Both copies of Klothys will come into play to double pump a pair of Pelt Collectors, then the Klothys that dies via legendary rule will trigger the Pelty boys a third time for exactly lethal damage."

Pelt Collector Klothys, God of Destiny

But there's always somewhere deeper to go when you ask for a wildcard.

Eilidh: "One of the casters or players will turn into a cat."

Our wildcard prediction, incidentally, is that one of the casters or players will not turn into a cat.

But we saved the biggest one for last, the one we know you can't live without, the one that will linger long in the memory—in honor of Kaldheim, what's the most "metal" card in Magic?

Coverage Most Metal Card
Paul Axelrod Gunnarson
Marshall Thraximundar
Eilidh Tezzeret, Master of Metal
Mani Darksteel Relic
Haiyue Iron Maiden
Maria Meddling Mage
Cedric Egon, God of Death (Metal)
Riley Goldvein Pick
Corbin Liquimetal Coating
Meghan Nexus of Fate

We'll leave it to you to work out how some of these answers got past the checks of our team, but here's how our top three responded.

Maria: "The correct answer here is Meddling Mage, right? For two reasons. One of those reasons is pun-based."

Marshall: "Dude, Thraximundar rules. I'll never forget the first time I saw them play live. Good times man, good times."

Haiyue: "Iron Maiden, obviously."

Haiyue may be making her first appearance commentating a Set Championship, but she's clearly already won this particular conversation.

Join Haiyue and all the rest of the gang for the awesome Magic at the Kaldheim Championship, broadcasting live March 26–28 at!

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