More than 200 players began the Kaldheim Championship hoping to advance through 15 rounds combined of Standard and Historic to make it to the Top 8. After a reinvigorated Historic format and a battle across established Standard decks, we have our final eight competitors:
Congratulations to the Top 8 competitors! These eight will return at 9 a.m. PT Sunday to duke it out through a double-elimination Standard format bracket to be crowned the victor of the Kaldheim Championship.
A control mastermind with over 20 years of professional play under his belt, Andrew Cuneo entered the Kaldheim Championship on a rough streak of league play in the Magic Pro League. At the bottom of the MPL standings, Cuneo would need to make Top 8 to earn 4 points and begin his march back out of relegation during Strixhaven League Weekends.
Armed with a powerful Dimir Control deck built to attack two of the most-played Historic decks this weekend, and backed up Standard's strongest deck in Sultai Ultimatum, Cuneo earned his Top 8 slot, career fifth Top Finish, and a chance to claim a trophy on his comeback tour in 2021.
The 2018 Magic World Champion, and the face of
Arne Huschenbeth enjoyed an extremely successful run in years past at the Grand Prix level, but took another major step forward in his career by notching his second Top Finish at the Kaldheim Championship. It was a return to the Sunday showdown the German sought after his Top 8 at Players Tour Online 4 in 2020. Now he'll seek to better his semifinals exit there. He made his way to the Top 8 largely on the back of the breakout Orzhov Auras Historic deck he piloted to a fantastic 7-1 record in addition to a Day One undefeated run.
Grzegorz Kowalski's loss in the Finals of the 2018 Magic World Championship was nothing to sneeze at: He had proven he was among the best players in the world. After snapping his Top Finish cold streak with a fourth-place finish at the 2020 Mythic Invitational, it's clear Kowalski is back to form as he works to climb out of relegation from the Magic Rivals League.
Kowalski didn't shock anyone with his deck choices: he came with the most-popular archetype in both formats, but his expert play with both Jund Food and Sultai Ultimatum sets him apart from the field and culminated in his third career Top Finish.
Kumagai put himself on the international map with a runner-up finish at the Players Tour Finals last year, but he's far from new to success at high-level Magic. He won Grand Prix Tokyo in 2016, and won another Grand Prix title at Nagoya in 2019 before his Players Tour run.
After joining the Rivals League to start the 2020-21 season, Kumagai's ascent continued and holds an excellent position in the upper half of league standings. At the Kaldheim Championship, he's the sole Mono-Red Aggro player in the Top 8, and he'll be the beatdown in every Sunday match he plays, which is exactly the kind of plan that took him to his finalist before.
Noriyuki Mori is the only player in the Top 8 who is making their first Top Finish of their career. It's an incredible accomplishment for the up-and-coming Japanese competitor, now locked for the 2020-21 season Challenger Gauntlet. His goal is to qualify for the Magic Pro League and win the World Championship, and while that may seem lofty he proved this weekend that he has what it takes to compete with the best in the world—and the right to battle in even more prestigious events.
Mori has been playing any online event he can find over the past few months, and has been a frequent innovator in the Standard scene. He showed why at the Kaldheim Championship, as he piloted a unique Gruul Food list to an excellent 6-1 finish on his run to the Top 8. And with the Top 8 playoff using the format, this rising challenger is an excellent position to win even higher accolades on Sunday.
The first player to lock-in their Top 8 slot, MPL player Shahar Shenhar was on fire all weekend. The two-time (and back-to-back) former World Champion has been amassing top finishes again in recent years, and he put on a clinic at the Kaldheim Championship.
He showed off the power of both of the decks his testing team came prepared with: an Abzan Midrange Historic build nicknamed "Gabzan" (after designer Gabriel Nassif) build to battle popular Sacrifice decks, and Temur Adventures in Standard which overwhelmed opponents by getting ahead quickly and protecting it with countermagic. As Shenhar's fifth career Top Finish he enters as the top seed, and in his previous four appearances, he advanced to at least the semifinals every time—an incredible feat of skill rare among such prolific competitors.
There isn't much to say about one of Japan's legendary Hall of Fame members that hasn't been said before, but he won't be speaking up for himself. Shota Yasooka earned an incredible ninth Top Finish at the Kaldheim Championship, maintaining through his iconic stoic look as he battled with arguably each format's best decks: Sultai Ultimatum in Standard and Jund Food (Sacrifice) in Historic.
Like many of his fellow MPL members in the Top 8, Yasooka started Friday toward the bottom of the 2020-21 season standings, looking to a Top 8 breakthrough to build momentum heading into the Strixhaven League Weekends. He still has his work cut out for him to stay ahead of potential Rivals League relegation.