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Kaldheim Championship Day Two Highlights

March 27, 2021
Corbin Hosler

More than 200 players turned out for the Kaldheim Championship, with a renewed Historic format and a diverse Standard metagame awaiting them. Fifteen rounds of intense competition later, we had our Top 8 that will return on Sunday to battle it out for the title.

Here's how we got there on Day Two of the Kaldheim Championship.

The Fate of the Undefeated

When Day One ended, we were left with two undefeated players. Andrew Cuneo and Arne Huschenbeth both finished 7-0, which put them into the pole position on Saturday morning. Reaching 12 wins would automatically grant a player a Top 8 berth, and each needed just five wins on Day 2 to get there.

Cuneo was feeling so good he was downright musical as the day began.

Both made Top 8, but it didn't come easy. The two squared off in the opening round and it was Huschenbeth who emerged as the last undefeated.

But then things began to break down. Huschenbeth struggled in a close match against Javier Dominguez in Round 9, and went on to drop a decisive match to Shahar Shenhar in Round 11. That put his back up against the wall, and in the final round he faced off again with Dominguez for a guaranteed Top 8 berth.

Cuneo faced his own struggles, losing two in a row to start Day Two before rallying with wins over Antonio Del Moral Leon and Keisuke Sato. He battled through the losses and was able to defeat Riku Kumagai in the final round to earn his Top 8 spot.

The Top 8 is Set

Three players – Shahar Shenhar, Shota Yasooka and Arne Huschenbeth – qualified directly for the Top 8 by reaching 12 wins. The other five players would come from a glut of 11-4 finishers, and in the end only five of the nine players with that record would advance to the double-elimination Standard Top 8 bracket.

The full Top 8:

It set up an absolutely star-studded Top 8 with more accolades than we can list, but it includes three World Championships, Player of the Year titles, current (and presumably future) Hall of Famers, and several players riding a hot streak of Top Finishes.

That's three Sultai Ultimatum decks, two Temur Adventure decks, and then Dimir Rogues, Gruul Food and Mono-Red Aggro. That's largely reflective of the Standard metagame entering the event, with the most popular deck leading the Top 8 pack but with plenty of competition.

Landing just outside the Top 8 on tiebreakers were Márcio Carvalho, Austin Bursavich, Evan Kaplan, and João Moreira—part of a cluster of 11-4 finishers in the final dash to Top 8 at the end.

Of the Top 8 decks, it's Noriyuki Mori's Gruul Food list that's the most interesting. While most players are going over the top with Emergent Ultimatum or Fae of Wishes, Mori went in an entirely different direction.

Gilded Goose Wicked Wolf Feasting Troll King Trail of Crumbs

The Food engine from Throne of Eldraine has been format-defining since its arrival, and there are many similarities between Mori's Standard deck and the Jund Food Sacrifice deck that he brought for Historic.

Backing up the full Food engine with generically powerful cards like Elder Gargaroth and The Great Henge, Mori's deck was an unexpected advancement to the elimination rounds. He'll have his work cut out for him tomorrow to knock off Standard's most powerful lists.

World Champion Leads the Way

Shahar Shenhar made Magic history when he was crowned the back-to-back Magic World Champion in 2013 and 2014, amassing a ridiculous five tournament titles over a six-year span. He took a small break from winning so much Magic before coming back with a Top Finish at Mythic Championship III in 2019.

Shahar Shenhar

Shenhar was absolutely dominant this weekend. He finished Standard a perfect 7-0 and perhaps more importantly was a flawless 5-0 against the other Top 8 competitors. He'll enter Sunday as the top seed and is feeling confident.

Shenhar's Standard deck served him well, but it was the Abzan Midrange targeted to the Historic metagame his team brought that carried him through the final rounds. Nicknamed "Gabzan," after its designer (and Hall of Famer and MPL member) Gabriel Nassif, it positioned itself well against the other decks in the field with varied answers. That allowed Shenhar to lean on cards like Kaya, Orzhov Usurper and Necromentia, originally conceived to beat Jund Sacrifice, to serve key roles in a late match against Dominguez. He even won what his team dubbed an "impossible" matchup against Andrew Cuneo's Dimir Control deck.

Playing Magic All Night Long

One of the realities of remote tournaments is the time zone differential, meaning that mornings in Europe are the dead of night in the United States, and players located in Asia face an even tougher road with tournaments that are played in the middle of the night—and well into the following morning.

That makes the accomplishments of Shota Yasooka, Noriyuki Mori, and Riku Kumagai all the more impressive. It was 10 a.m. local time in Japan when the Swiss rounds ended Sunday for these three, but each were able to overcome the fatigue to play their way into the Top 8.

Shota Yasooka

Noriyuki Mori

Riku Kumagai

Best of the Rest

The Saturday sprint to Top 8 is among the most intense and exciting stretches of a tournament, and there's always excellent moments to add to the mix.

We'd be remiss if we didn't include the pure joy experienced by Cedric Phillips as he leveled up his analytical tools.

We've spent much of the weekend talking about Emergent Ultimatum, and for good reason. The difficult-to-cast bomb had players across both Standard and Historic interested in winning with it, and it almost always yielded exciting moments followed shortly by a victory.

Looking Ahead

There was much gained and lost at the Kaldheim Championship; the tournament results will have an impact on league standings in the Magic Pro League and the Rivals League, as league players earned up to four points in their year-long races to determine where each participant slots into end-of-year Gauntlet tournaments—or faces relegation out of their league.

There still plenty of league play left to go this year, but first there's the matter of the Top 8. Players will return at 9 a.m. PT for a double-elimination Standard bracket that will end with writing a new saga for the winner of the Kaldheim Championship!

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