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
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
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.
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.
Made top 8 #KHMChamps going undefeated in standard with Temur and one loss in Historic with Anti-Jund Abzan Yorion. If I run as hot in the top 8 as I did so far, the trophy is mine 🙏🏼— Shahar Shenhar (@shaharshenhar) March 27, 2021
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
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.
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
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.
Finished the tournament 10-5 beating @death_snow GW aggro in the final round. Game 3 this was the gamestate on opponent's turn and I did not find an untapped land, but I eeeeeked out a win from 1 life anyway. Crazy. #KHMChamps pic.twitter.com/8VgDq5f8Xp— Matt Sperling (@sickofit) March 28, 2021
Niv Takith. Played against a lot of stuff I did not expect to in Historic this weekend, and Niv did OK against it all but wasn't quite good enough with a 4-4 record in historic to go with my 5-2 in STD to finish 9-6 for 1 extra point. #KHMChamps.— Michael Sigrist (@MSigrist83) March 28, 2021
And the final result is... 10-5! An incredible Muxus gave me the win against @Grotfang_ on Jund. 16th: two points and $2.5K, not too shabby! See you in two weeks for the next League Weekend :) #KHMChamps— Luca Magni (@LordofIronforge) March 28, 2021
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!