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Players Tour Finals Day Two Highlights

July 26, 2020
Corbin Hosler

There were 145 players who qualified for the Players Tour Finals, and just 74 returned on Sunday for Day Two and a shot at the Top 8. After fourteen rounds of Standard Constructed Swiss play on MTG Arena in what is one of the strongest tournament fields we've seen, we have the Top 8 competitors.

  • Patrick Fernandez (Temur Reclamation)
  • Michael Jacob (Mardu Winota)
  • Riku Kumagai (Mono-Black Aggro)
  • Christoffer Larsen (Jund Sacrifice)
  • Raphaël Lévy (Azorius Control)
  • Kristof Prinz (Four-Color Reclamation)
  • Ben Weitz (Four-Color Reclamation)
  • Allen Wu (Temur Reclamation)

Eight to Wait

However, competitors have to wait to face off and find a winner: the Top 8 won't be played until one week later on Saturday, August 1. In addition, the bracket isn't determined by the traditional seeding based on record, but will be randomly seeded with everyone learning the day before on Friday, July 31.

That delay and uncertainty is a change for players and fans alike, but for at least one competitor it's welcome.

"I tried some different decks for this tournament, but nothing worked and I didn't like any deck," admitted Magic Pro League member Raphaël Lévy. "So right before the decklists were due, I sent the bat signal to Gabe Nassif," a fellow French countryman and MPL player, "and he gave me this deck. I won 15 straight on MTG Arena, so I played it."

And, in a twist of fate from the pairings, it was Nassif against Lévy in Round 1 to start the weekend.

"I beat him 2-0, obviously," Lévy added without missing a beat. "But I was inexperienced with the deck, and I told myself I was going to have to level up as I went. There are some tournaments where one little mistake can ruin your entire tournaments, and then there are tournaments like this one where I didn't play well at all but everything went right. I'm going to use the time before the Top 8 to practice playing and sideboarding with the deck, and hopefully I'll play better next week."

The Top 8 is a mix of longtime pros—including Pro Tour 25th Anniversary winner Allen Wu and the Hall of Famer Lévy—and players making their first Top Finish. That includes Kristof Prinz, who stayed up past 3 a.m. to finish as the only undefeated player on Day One, as well as Ben Weitz, who made his first career Top Finish after posting an outsanding nine Grand Prix Top 8s since 2014.

It's also the first Top Finish for Michael Jacob since 2010. The longtime PT player and streamer won the team portion of the World Championship in 2008 playing an aggressive deck, then turned to a control deck for his Top 8 in 2010. He took aim at the slower decks this weekend, bringing an aggressive deck with a near-combo finish in Winota, Joiner of Forces.

"I went 0-5 with Bant Control and decided Growth Spiral wasn't for me," he explained. "Mono-color decks didn't look fun. Winota lets me beat down and still feel a thrill with spinning the wheel."

He attributes his skill and success to adapting established decks, and while it was off the radar that's exactly what he did for the Players Tour Finals. "I try to find an established deck and then modify cards from there. The solution ended up being to take out all the non-Winota red cards, because everyone was playing Aether Gust," he said. "That was the secret sauce, I guess. I was 7-0 against Reclamation in this tournament, and most of the games weren't close."

For Christoffer Larsen, the Top 8 is his second Top Finish in as many events after he made it to the semifinals of Players Tour Online 2 last month. And the Danish pro did it in style.

Reclamation vs. the World

This comes as no surprise, but Wilderness Reclamation decks were strong across the field. About 60% of players on Day Two had some form of the deck and the Top 8 reflected that, with two copies of the traditional Temur Reclamation deck as well as two copies of the four-color version splashing white for Teferi, Time Raveler and Dovin's Veto.

It sets up a rather straightforward storyline for the Top 8 playoff: will Wilderness Reclamation continue to reign supreme, or will one the other decks knock them off?

The other four decks could not be more different from each other. Lévy wielded a slow Azorius Control deck, while Christoffer Larsen had an even grinder Jund Sacrifice deck. Jacob had his Winota synergy and Riku Kumagai went all-in on aggro with Mono-Black.

The strength of Reclamation decks is clear, but they certainly have weaknesses as well. And with such disparate strategies taking aim at Wilderness Reclamation in the Top 8, it will be a tough test for the format's most popular deck to fend off all challengers.

The 2020 Season Grand Finals Field is Set

While the Top 8 of the Players Tour Finals is yet to be settled, there were other prizes that have been locked in. The Top 16 finishers are each half of the exclusive 2020 Season Grand Finals taking place later this year. In addition to the Players Tour Top 8, congratulations to the eight other players who will be competing for $250,000 in prizes:

  • Autumn Burchett
  • Austin Bursavich
  • Ivan Floch
  • Piotr Głogowski
  • Seth Manfield
  • Eetu Perttula
  • Sam Sherman
  • Alvaro Fernandez Torres
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