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Magic World Championship XXVIII Day Two Highlights

October 30, 2022
Corbin Hosler

As Day Two dawned on Magic World Championship XXVIII, it was clear we were in for a wild day of action. Competitors were back to battle for their place in the Top 4 through six rounds of Explorer, the third format for the weekend and one left wide open by the small field. With nerves, matchups, and math to manage, the Saturday sprint to elimination rounds provided all the drama that only a World Championship can provide, and it didn't disappoint.

We also thought we knew what the road to the Top 4 might look like. A pair of the youngest players in the tournament in Julian Wellman and Nathan Steuer had outpaced the field on Friday, and early in Day Two it looked like they might cruise into Sunday. But as the early rounds faded into the afternoon, so too did the leaders of the field. As we entered the final rounds of Explorer, everything was still on the table and no one had locked the 11 wins for a Top 4 berth.

The scrum of players battling it out for win-and-ins was a joy to watch. When the dust settled, one leader had managed to squeak into the Top 4 of Magic World Championship XXVIII.

Eli Kassis

Jakub Tóth

Karl Sarap

Nathan Steuer

From Explorer to the Top 4

The unique challenge presented by the World Championship was that players must have a mastery of three separate formats to do well: Dominaria United Draft, Standard, and Explorer, a more recent addition to formats on MTG Arena (that's every Pioneer legal card there).. And no matter how well players did in Draft and Standard on Day One, it would all be for naught if they couldn't bring see it through with performance in Explorer.

A diverse field offered up incredible games all day, including what was almost certainly of the match of the day in Round 11, as Jakub Tóth and his team's well-positioned Mono-Blue Spirits deck tore through a field of powerful-but-sometimes-clunky decks like Greasefang, Okiba Boss and Transmogrify-into-Titan of Industry (or Hornet Queen) combos.

Backed up by creatures that could poke in early damage (and be boosted by Supreme Phantom), the Spirits deck backed up its aggressive starts with Curious Obsession and a host of countermagic to keep the other decks off balance. Between Rattlechains, Mausoleum Wanderer and the countermagic the mono-blue deck could play at instant speed and choose between deploying creatures or interacting with the stack. They even put Leyline of Combustion in the sideboard, unable to cast it in the main deck at all, for the anticipated Witch's Oven and Cauldron Familiar sacrifice decks.

It was a brilliant, effective plan that propelled its five pilots to strong finishes.

503650 Supreme Phantom Rattlechains Lofty Denial 540898

"We really liked the deck. Greasefang was our best matchup," explained Kassis, who finished as the only undefeated 6-0 Explorer player. "During our testing we played five matches between the two decks, and then switched sides for five more; Spirits won them all. That helped us feel more comfortable with it."

It was clear that the field was ready for Abzan Greasefang. In addition to Kassis, Jakub Tóth also punched his Top 4 ticket with a "spirited" run on Saturday, his final victory coming over Jim Davis in an incredibly intricate Spirits mirror in Round 14. Supreme Phantom is great; all four of them is even better and in an absolute heartbreaker for Davis he ended up one creature short.

Tóth's incredible run had at least one fan ready for more to come.

The next player to lock up their spot was Sarap. One of the best underdog stories this year, his win-and-in for Worlds would come against none other than the defending World Championship himself: Yuta Takahashi. The Japanese titan put together a strong second-half run of his own to move into Top 4 contention, and found himself on the verge of the back-to-back opportunity, but Sarap and his army of "Temur Rhinos" (Transmogrify into Titan of Industry, then choose to make a 4/4 Rhino token) knocked off the previously undefeated-on-Day Two Takahashi to secure the second Top Finish of his career and the biggest finish for him to date.

That left one spot to fill, and as the field flattened throughout the day it was a tossup where things would land. And with Kassis having already locked his spot, Steuer had a clean win-and-in. But he fell to a turn-zero Leyline of Combustion in the final round, leaving him to sweat tiebreakers as all waited for the final spot to fill.

And in the span of just a few minutes, the wunderkind who dominated online play this year went from the depths of defeat to the heights of making the final rounds of a World Championship.

With that, the Top 4 of Magic World Championship XXVIII was set!

Looking Ahead

If the first two days of the World Championship were all about fighting through a myriad of unique challenges across multiple formats, the final day is all about mastery of Standard. With three Esper Midrange decks and Steuer's Grixis Midrange flavor, the games are sure to feature lots of critical decisions and plenty of Raffine, Scheming Seers.

Steuer will have a chance against Kassis to avenge his Round 14 loss: they'll meet in the first round tomorrow in a Grixis-Esper matchup. Meanwhile, Tóth and Sarap will battle in the Esper mirror. It's a double-elimination format, affording all four players ample opportunity to advance to the best-of-three-matches Title Match.

You can watch the broadcast live at beginning at 10:20 a.m. PT and will close when we have crowned the 2022 Magic World Champion!

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