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November Zendikar Rising League Weekend Highlights

November 10, 2020
Adam Styborski

(Editor's Note: League Weekend correspondents Meghan Wolff and Corbin Hosler contributed to this report.)

The second League Weekend of the Zendikar Rising Split is in the books, and the leaderboard for the 2020-21 postseason stratified a bit more. With the Zendikar Rising Championship—and the next available points for MPL and Rivals League players—on the horizon, building on leads and catching up in standings was on everyone's minds.

This League Weekend standings leaders—Luis Scott-Vargas and Rei Sato—held on to their excellent positions, but it was players like Ken Yukuhiro and Shintaro Ishimura notching 8 and 9 wins respectively that shook the leaderboard the most. To understand how players earned their success and rocking the rankings we look to their choices of decks—beginning with the November Zendikar Rising League Weekend metagame.

The Adventures of Zendikar Rising Standard

After a wide range of Standard decks for the October Zendikar Rising League Weekend two weeks ago, consensus on the format was reached: It's time for Adventures.

With nearly half of both fields settling on Gruul Adventures, a smashing weekend was set up. Here's how the win rates shook out.

Archetype Count Record Win Rate
Temur Ramp 1 9 - 3 75.0%
Mono-Green Food 4 29 - 15 65.9%
Orzhov Doom Foretold 1 8 - 5 61.5%
Azorius Blink 1 7 - 5 58.3%
Esper Doom Foretold 14 75 - 68 52.4%
Mardu Doom Foretold 3 18 - 18 50.0%
Dimir Rogues 9 47 - 49 49.0%
Gruul Adventures 33 105 - 115 47.7%
Four-Color Cycling 1 5 - 8 38.5%
Izzet Control 1 4 - 7 36.4%
Jeskai Control 1 4 - 7 36.4%
Selesnya Blink 3 12 - 23 34.3%

(Frank Karsten contributed to this win rate analysis.)

With so many players on Gruul Adventures you'd expect a middle-of-the-road win rate. The story of the weekend came down to the players who predicted so much Gruul Adventures, particularly Doom Foretold decks.

Andrea Mengucci

Raphaël Lévy

MPL player Andrea Mengucci has been waiting for Esper Doom Foretold to have its weekend in the sun, and it finally paid off.

Yorion, Sky Nomad Doom Foretold

Similarly, MPL player Raphaël Lévy felt it was time for the deck to break out, though instead went with a Mardu version of the build.

"Two weeks ago, I was into [Azorius] Yorion, Sky Nomad but I really felt the deck was missing interactions on [the second turn]. That's why I added red for Omen of the Forge and it went relatively well," Lévy said. That choice brought him 7 wins out of 12 matches for the October League Weekend. Now, this League Weekend, "decks evolved and Jeskai was no longer good. I realized I only played blue for Omen of the Sea and black had so much more to offer."

"Gruul was also popular so I had to find a way to beat that. It's good versus Gruul, meh versus Rogues, good versus random control decks," he said. "Not so good versus Esper Doom Foretold with Dance of the Manse." The metagame call again worked out for Lévy as he picked up 6 wins from 11 matches for November.

But if you want to see a little more of it in action, the battle between MPL players Jean-Emmanuel Depraz and William Jensen shows why Dance of the Manse is so feared.

John Rolf

Chris Botelho

That drive to defeat Gruul—the right call for the November League Weekend—echoed across the Rivals League as well.

"I chose to play Esper Doom Foretold this weekend because I believe it has a strong Gruul matchup," John Rolf explained. "I expected Gruul to be the most popular deck and as it turns out, 7 [out of] 13 of my opponents are on it. ... Almost all Doom Foretold lists you'll see have 80 cards because of the immense power of having Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion. But in testing against Gruul, I frequently found that I did not have time to pay the three [mana] for it on my mainphase, so I opted for the traditional 60 cards for added consistency. This will help against Gruul and hurt elsewhere."

However, even with the right metagame call and unlike other Doom Foretold competitors, Rolf struggled in the November Zendikar Rising League Weekend and picked up just 4 wins.

Chris Botelho had brought Mardu Doom Foretold two weeks ago and found company in fellow players who also chose the white-black-red build of the deck. He has more work ahead of him to climb higher in the standings, but understanding the metagame is the first step for his continued success.

There was more to the metagame than just Doom Foretold of course, as MPL player Chris Kvartek brought an aggressive deck that wasn't using red.

"I was doing well with Food variants on ladder, but I ended up dismissing the deck initially because it felt underpowered. However, once I cut the bad cards like Wolfwillow Haven and Kogla, the Titan Ape and added good cards like Lovestruck Beast and The Great Henge, the deck began to feel way better," Kvartek said. "It was clear pretty early on that Food had a great Gruul and [Rakdos] matchup, but I was worried about Rogues and Yorion, Sky Nomad variants. After testing more and finding a good board plan—like 4 Questing Beast to punish Yorion's clunky draws and Treacherous Blessings—I was left to decide at the last minute whether I would play Food and hope there was a ton of Gruul, or play it safe and run the Gruul list that my team came up with."

"Ultimately I decided on the Food list because I did not anticipate people being ready for it because the cards that are traditionally good against Gruul are not great versus Food and it's pile of recursive Troll Kings." Kvartek made his call and picked up 7 wins in November, helping make up for his 3-win October performance though it wasn't enough to rally into a positive league record.

As it turns out, Embercleave is still excellent at winning games of Magic.

The Gruul Adventures plan is the same as it was before, albeit with the continued small adjustments players see for the evolving metagame. Some were contentious.

But others were quite clever, such as Rivals League player Mike Sigrist's choice to put Ox of Agonas front and center.

Matt Sperling noted how vital pacing the deck is, and where matching up against it can fall short.

So why, with all the knowledge that Gruul Adventures would still be a great deck and everyone would have time to metagame against it—it has weak points that can be exploited—would players still choose it so often?

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Hall of Famer and MPL Player Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had the answer.

"I think preparation is a bit different because the metagame you expect can be different. Normally tournaments have 400 people, so you expect a mix of things and if you're wrong it's never by that much," Damo da Rosa said. "You could predict a deck to be 9% of the field and it's going to be 12%, but that's not a meaningful difference. Here, you could predict a deck to be 15% of the field and it could end up being 0% or 35% depending on whether a team decides to play it or not."

"It's also a bit different because each person has their own [League Weekend] metagame," he continued. "I knew the 11 people I would be playing this weekend, but no one else is going to be playing the exact same 11 people so my metagame is not the same as anyone else's. This means that I could predict, for example, playing versus zero Esper Doom Foretold decks whereas some person could predict they play versus four copies… Then, to top it all off, there's Rivals and MPL which are sort of two different metagames as well. The Rivals players have a wider range of people they can play against since the league has twice as many people, so they need to account for a more open field."

Those differences in prediction and need contributed to why fewer players chose Dimir Rogues for the League Weekend, yet it still pulled in a respectable win rate. Still, the weekend was defined by the choice to go with—and play against—Gruul Adventures, and that meant we saw a lot of the edges of what makes it such a strong deck. For examples, with multiple angles to eke out card advantage it was a long road for decks like Dimir Rogues all weekend as Gruul Adventures could beat then at their own card draw game.

The Zendikar Rising Split Leaders

Strong players, unique metagame matchups, and testing between the best in the world added up to a tight point spread on the leaderboard.

Rei Sato

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Rei Sato and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa sit at the top of the standings after both League Weekends in the Zendikar Rising Split at 15 points apiece. Right behind the duo are three more greats with Reid Duke, Márcio Carvalho, and Gabriel Nassif at 14 points, followed by a scrum at 13 points--Ondřej Stráský, Raphaël Lévy, and many more.

In the top side of standings it's clear the season has a long way to go to stratify apart, but it's coming into focus who needs to make up ground in the next few League Weekends—but at least one is in good spirits about being toward the back of line.

With rescheduled matches between Brad Nelson and three more opponents—Seth Manfield, Martin Jůza, and Rei Sato—outstanding it's possible for Sato to step up into the definitive leader slot again—but major shifts won't be happening before the Zendikar Rising Championship at the start of December.

Meanwhile, the Rivals League followed a similar trend of players packed tightly together with just a handful of wins standing between those at the top.

Luis Scott-Vargas

Matt Sperling

Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas marched into the top slot at 18 points with another 9-win weekend, edging out Matt Sperling at 17 points who also won 9 November matches.

Bernardo Santos

Stanislav Cifka

Just behind the leaders, with 16 points each, remain Bernardo Santos and Stanislav Cifka—previous co-leaders with Scott-Vargas after the October run.

Like with MPL standings, the Rivals League breakdown is close: six players set at 15 points—including Mike Sigrist, Shintaro Ishimura after his 9-win run this month, and Kenji Egashira among others—followed by another five at 14 points.

Emma Handy

As one of those 14-point players, Emma Handy knows what the pressure to perform feels like even as she finds success in the upper half of standings among the game's greats.

Other players didn't crack the top of the leaderboard but made their rally in standings:

  • Both MPL players Piotr Głogowski and Chris Kvartek put in 7-win weekends.
  • Rivals player Shintaro Ishimura leapt up over a dozen in the standings with his 9-win performance.
  • Zachary Kiihne, Lucas Esper, and Matthieu Avignon also rose in Rivals standings netting 8 wins each.

Chris Kvartek

Shintaro Ishimura

Zachary Kiihne

The upcoming Zendikar Rising Championship is the next chance for players like Handy, Santos, Sato and more to capitalize on their early season success before the Kaldheim Split kicks off. Check out the updated League Standings and get ready to watch the Zendikar Rising Championship action broadcast live at December 4-6!

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