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Players Tour Finals Day One Highlights

July 26, 2020
Corbin Hosler

Nearly six months of tournaments led to the Players Tour Finals, where 145 players showed up to battle it out on MTG Arena for the title and invitation to the 2020 Season Grand Finals. It was a Standard format dominated by Wilderness Reclamation decks, and the event kicked off with a giant target on its back from a field of pros very motivated to knock it off its perch.

Prinz Dominates Day One

By the end of Day One there was only one undefeated player: Kristof Prinz, connected via his home in Hannover, Germany at a little past 2 a.m. his local time, became the only player to finish with a 7-0 record.

Kristof Prinz, Undefeated on Day One

Like more than 50% of the field, Prinz was playing a Wilderness Reclamation deck. Unlike most of the other Reclamation players, though, Prinz wasn't afraid to get just a little bit greedy. He stretched the mana base to four colors so he could add white and have access to Teferi, Time Raveler and Dovin's Veto, and it paid off as five of his seven matches came against Temur Reclamation where those cards shine

Lurking just behind him were plenty of notable names. Pro Tour 25th Anniversary winner Allen Wu lost to Prinz in the last round, and next to him at 6-1 were Magic Pro League members Seth Manfield and Piotr Głogowski.

But the day belonged to Prinz, who finally made his mark after a series of 12-4 finishes as he kept searching for his breakthrough.

"I like competing in high-level Magic tournaments and challenging myself, and today I was able to beat Reid Duke and Seth Manfield," Prinz gushed after his win over Wu. "I'm gunning for the qualification to the Grand Finals, but it's 2 a.m. in Germany and two hours past my bedtime!"

How Did Players Attack the Temur Reclamation Metagame?

The Players Tour Finals boasts one of the strongest tournament fields this year. Just 145 players qualified, and in a metagame where Temur Reclamation was known to be the best deck the gaming began long before Round 1. Would players pilot the most powerful deck, or take a risk and play something that traded weaker matchups across the board for a perceived position of strength against Wilderness Reclamation?

The answer became clear quickly: More than half the field arrived with a Reclamation variant, most of which looked something like either Prinz's or Wu's deck.

"I think Teferi is pretty sick in the mirror, and I was expecting a bunch of it; I was correct in that department," Prinz explained. "Plus you get Dovin's Veto, which is very important at stopping them when they have something like turn five Wilderness Reclamation plus Mystical Dispute backup."

Prinz was right about more than just the expected metagame. The Four-Color Reclamation list he played had the highest conversion rate of any deck in the tournament, with an astounding 73% of Four-Color Reclamation pilots advancing to Day Two.

Elsewhere, players turned to aggressive strategies to combat the ramp metagame. Mono-Green has been the go-to aggro choice for weeks, but the introduction of Core Set 2021 has turned that on its head. In addition to Mono-Green, Mono-White Aggro put half of its eight pilots into Day Two, while Riku Kumagai went 6-1 with Mono-Black Aggro.

MPL member Ken Yukuhiro did what he always seems to do: make a deep run with a rogue deck. This time it was a deck is officially labeled as Esper Midrange, but it may as well be called "every card that Temur Reclamation players never want to see." Yukuhiro has all the hits, from Teferi, Time Raveler, to Rotting Regisaur to dodge plenty of removal, to maindeck Mystical Dispute and Aether Gust. The deck even features Kunoros, Hound of Athreos to stop graveyards cold.

"I started building a deck with two cards that were strong against the Reclamation decks: Teferi and Rotting Regisaur," he explained. "I played it on MTG Arena and wasn't beaten by the Reclamation deck. I shared it with Shota Yasooka, Shintaro Ishimura and Kenta Harane. They were all interested in the deck and we practiced it with Team Musashi."

Yukuhiro wasn't the only competitor to find success thinking outside the box. Bolun Zhang advanced to Day Two with Four-Color Planeswalkers, with a number of exciting moments along the way.

"I hate to play non-interactive decks in the mirror, like ramp or Mono-White," Zhang explained. "I've been playing this deck since War of the Spark and Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils are very strong against Temur, so I decided to choose my favorite deck this weekend."

The Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God didn't hurt, either.

"I love Nicol Bolas insanely. I'm in Bolas's clutches," he joked. "I think it's 50-50 against Temur Reclamation, depending on whether I can use discard to help Teferi resolve. It used to be an even better matchup, but after they got Shark Typhoon it's no longer as easy."

Longtime player and streamer Michael Jacob also excelled with an unexpected deck. He was the only player to (virtually) sleeve up Winota, Joiner of Forces, and he took what is perhaps the tournament's oddest-looking decklist–all in service of maximizing a Winota attack step–to a 6-1 finish.

Sights and Sounds of the Tournament

Of course, the tournament is more than just the decks and the standings. It's the casters and the cameras and the moments. The Players Tour Finals did not disappoint in that regard.

Take, for example, Cedric Phillips making coverage history with his first on-air sneeze.

Or a few new viewers.

We got an update on the "journey" to the Players Tour Finals undertaken by MPL players Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin.

But nothing topped Mike Sigrist literally flexing on friend and fellow competitor Reid Duke during their match.

That was all just Day One. 74 competitors return Sunday to compete for their shot at the Top 8 of the Players Tour Finals.

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