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Insider Picks for Magic World Championship XXVII

October 01, 2021
Rich Hagon

It's time again to talk to those in the know ahead of the pinnacle event of the 2020–21 season: Magic World Championship XXVII. At the virtual news desk, our coverage of the event is anchored by Maria Bartholdi along with Mani Davoudi digging in to the decklists and Riley Knight bringing us all the backstage news and views. Corey Baumeister will also be on hand to give us chapter and verse on our Friday draft coverage and go in depth with Standard deck techs. Meanwhile, in the booth, Eilidh Lonie will be joined by Cedric Phillips, and Marshall Sutcliffe and Paul Cheon complete our line-up.


Behind the scenes, coverage reporters Corbin Hosler and Meghan Wolff, plus content manager Adam Styborski and community manager Athena Froehlich, will be bringing the stories and glory to life on Magic.gg and across social media.

Why such a stacked team on hand for one weekend? Have you seen the field of who's playing for the title of World Champion?


These outstanding sixteen players will complete three rounds of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Draft followed by two rounds of Standard on Friday, and then five more rounds of Standard on Saturday. That's where the chapter closes for twelve, leaving only the Top 4 to battle it out in Standard on the final day of the season as we discover our new World Champion.

The Top for Top 4

Making it to Sunday is the first hurdle of the weekend, and everyone has to cut through the best of the best to make it. So, who do our casters think will still be standing once we reach Sunday?

Player Votes
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa 7
Seth Manfield 4
Gabriel Nassif 4
Stanislav Cifka 3
Jean-Emmanuel Depraz 2
Jan Merkel 2
Yuta Takahashi 2
Rei Sato 2
Ondřej Stráský 2
Arne Huschenbeth 1
Eli Kassis 1
Noriyuki Mori 1
Sam Pardee 1
Yoshihiko Ikawa 0
Keisuke Sato 0
Matthew Sperling 0

There's a clear "big three"–Damo da Rosa, Manfield, and Nassif are each Hall of Famer members, and the first two have already won a World Championship. Easy enough—but it's the rest that makes this event so much more compelling.

Yuta Takahashi


Yuta Takahashi "is one of my favorite players of all time, which might be a strange thing to read," Cedric said. "See, no one loves Bitterblossom more than he does. And, if you've met me, no one loves Bitterblossom less than I do. So why is Takahashi one of my favorites? Because he's so darn good at playing the tempo-style decks that Bitterblossom excels in, which is the exact type of deck I'm terrible at playing. I enjoy watching people do what I can't, and few do it better than Takahashi does. Fingers crossed he's found a good one."

Eli Kassis


"I have watched Eli Kassis play Magic and prepare for events over the course of the last few years and there are very few people who put in the work that he does," Corey shared. "He puts in every ounce of free time he has (which isn't much with a new baby) and dedicates it to the game. Whether it be for League Weekend, an SCG event, or something as small as a $1k event, he puts in the work to maximize his chances to succeed."

Other players can be summed succinctly.

Arne Huschenbeth


"Excellent player, excellent deck choices, now part of a powerful team," Mani said. "I think everything is lining up for Arne to go far."

Drafting Heroes

The path to World Championship glory begins with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Draft Friday morning. With just a few weeks of prep, players—and casters—have a first feel for the format. What archetypes are they excited to see on camera?

The archetype I'm having the most fun figuring out is four- and five-color good stuff," Cedric explained, "based around prioritizing Path to the Festival, Dawnhart Rejuvenator, and Evolving Wilds to make the mana work. I'm hoping someone in this event has figured out the optimal way to draft this strategy and cleans up as a result.

Path to the Festival Dawnhart Rejuvenator Evolving Wilds

Riley is interested in fewer colors and more flying with White-Blue Disturb. "I started playing Magic during the original Innistrad block and always enjoyed the flashback mechanic, whether it was on Think Twice or Snapcaster Mage or even Feeling of Dread," he explained. "Disturb, which is basically a weird flashback for creatures, seems like a really sweet way to get extra value from your cards, especially with the new twist on Faithless Looting, Faithful Mending."

Faithful Mending

But there's a juggernaut in the room to talk about—a big, rotting, shambling juggernaut.

"Blue-Black Zombies have been so much fun to play in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt," Eilidh said. "I really like decayed, as it's a sure-fire way to trigger abilities that care about creatures dying. Plus, the death animation makes my little Aristocrat's heart happy!"

Organ Hoarder Siege Zombie

With two tables of eight, we know that three rounds of Draft will give us two co-leaders at 3–0, and two names came up repeatedly. Four of our eight casters named Seth Manfield as the most likely perfect Limited performer.

Seth Manfield


Corey revealed Manfield's route to success by putting Limited first—literally:

"He is one of the best drafters I have ever had the great joy of testing with," Corey said, "Seth's approach when it comes to a split format tournament is always the same, and I think it is really smart! He likes to focus on Limited until about a week before decklists are due, and then he will switch. Constructed formats change and shift so much that he recognizes that he will get much more value out of his Constructed testing if he waits for stuff to settle down. Plus, he knows his Constructed game is strong enough that if he gets a strong deck in his hands even with a week of testing, it will be plenty of time to master it. So with those reasons in place, he really focuses on Limited, and his results have shown that over the course of his career."

But there's another player on the minds of multiple casters.

Matt Sperling


Both Riley and Paul picked Sperling as a 3–0 leader, with Paul explaining that "Matt has had tremendous success in Limited events especially team events alongside Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl, and David Williams. Matt has a deep understanding of the intricacies of drafting and should be one of the frontrunners to 3–0 the Draft portion of the event."

New Standard. Who's This?

When Draft is done, it's Standard all the way—and what a Standard it's shaping up to be. What's in a fresh format that will get our casters fired up?

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"Storm the Festival is a really sweet card that harkens back to a card I love in Collected Company," Mani gushed. "It would be awesome to see it show up on the World Championship field."

Reckless Stormseeker

"This might sound weird, but I'm excited to see if an aggressive, Werewolf-y deck can make an impact," Marshall said. "I normally enjoy the type of decks we've had at the top of the heap, but I'm ready for someone to come out and smash some face. Reckless Stormseeker? Yes, please."

534781 Delver of Secrets

"New cards are always exciting, even more so as they have brought rotation with them! I would absolutely love to see a mono-white deck dominate with cards like Intrepid Adversary," Eilidh said, "or an Izzet Delver deck do its thing on the biggest stage of them all. And even though I'm more of a Vampire person, the Red-Green Werewolves deck is pretty cool, too! There's just so much to look forward to!"

With Manfield and Sperling as potential Limited front runners, who do our casters pick out as especially strong in the Constructed rounds?

Arne Huschenbeth


"Look, after watching Arne Huschenbeth win the Kaldheim Championship with Dimir Rogues, I became a believer," Cedric said. "But what most don't know is that he went 10–0 in Standard during Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. It's clear to me that Huschenbeth is a fantastic Constructed player when he's locked in, and there's no better time to be locked in than the Magic World Championship."

Eli Kassis


Marshall has seen more League Play than most, and he made a case to respect—and watch—the top Rivals League player. Eli Kassis "proved in league play that he's consistently excellent, and he makes thoughtful metage decisions without getting too crazy," Marshall said. "That's right where you want to be."

Stanislav Cifka


But if there's one player who experiments with—then perfects—a new deck for a tournament playoff that pays off, history is on the side of Stanislav Cifka as Corey explained. "He has broken formats wide open so many times in the past that you can't really put it past him to do it again," he said. "If he does find 'the deck' again, I would expect him to be able to run the tables just like he did for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with his innovative Second Sunrise deck that took the tournament by Storm. (Pun intended.)"

It's Always a Day for the Underdog

We're guaranteed outstanding gameplay across three rounds of Draft, seven rounds of Standard, plus an epic final day of the season with the Top 4 on Sunday. But if you're a fan of the underdog, if there really is one in this field, who should you be rooting for?

For this, the overwhelming view of casters focused on one player: Noriyuki Mori.

Noriyuki Mori


"Noriyuki Mori has put on exceptional performances when he's cropped up recently, and I'd love to see more of the same success from him at the World Championship," Riley said. "He's unbelievably dedicated and quite innovative, so I'd love to see him pull something special from thin air for this tournament."

Eilidh agreed. "If he brings anything akin to his Izzet Control deck, it could be a very good World Championship weekend for him indeed!"

Maria was impressed by the more than 25,000 games in MTG Arena under the belt of the emerging star from Japan, but it's the short period of time he built his skill up that grabbed Mani's attention. "To be part of this field after just starting to play in 2019 is unfathomable. Seeing him hold his own in this field would be an incredibly impressive feat that I look forward to seeing."

Perhaps Marshall best summed the dream to see Mori rise to the top.

"In a world where formats are solved in a week and nobody brews their own decks, Mori came out of nowhere with his own deck to qualify for this tournament," he said. "It's a lot to ask of a relative newcomer to handle Limited and this field, but if you watched the same movies growing up that I did, then Mori's the hero you need."


How many of the "big three" will make it to Sunday? Who will ace their draft pods? Which decks will dominate the new Standard, and who will pilot them to victory? Join the coverage team for all the action and #FindYourChampion as the top players battle at Magic World Championship XXVII, live October 8–10 at twitch.tv/magic!

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