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Players Tour Online 4 Day One Highlights

June 21, 2020
Corbin Hosler

As we entered the second weekend of Players Tour Online events, we thought that it might be a repeat of last weekend where Temur Reclamation dominated and won both events. And while the metagame is still filled with flying sharks, there was plenty of to be excited about after the first day of competition in Players Tour Online 4.

Here are the stories.

The Metagame Evolves

After a dominant showing by the Wilderness Reclamation deck last week, it was an open question whether the format would evolve to knock off the top deck, or if Temur Reclamation would simply run roughshod over Standard for a second week.

It will of course take the rest of the weekend to find that answer, but early indications are that the tales of Temur Reclamation's invincibility may have been overblown. Temur Reclamation started the tournament with 26% of the Day One Metagame, but only two of the twelve players who started the tournament 7-1 or better were playing the deck.

The biggest gainer was Bant Ramp, which put together a positive win rate against Temur Reclamation decks last week and comprised much more of the Day One. It was, in a surprise, the most-played archetype in Players Tour Online 3 despite falling well short of Temur Reclamation in Players Tour Online 4. Here's how the entire field broke down.

Archetype Count % Metagame
Temur Reclamation  84 26.40%
Bant Ramp  53 16.70%
Rakdos Knights  17 5.30%
Sultai Ramp  15 4.70%
Jund Sacrifice  14 4.40%
Bant Flash  12 3.80%
Mono-Green Stompy  12 3.80%
Mono-Red Aggro  11 3.50%
Azorius Control  10 3.10%
Other 90 28.30%
Total 318 100.00%

But the biggest success stories came from further down the field. And it was the completely unexpected Orzhov Yorion deck that took Hall of Famer William "Huey" Jensen to a Day Two finish. The deck marks the return of Doom Foretold to competitive Standard, and it "combos" with Treacherous Blessing to create a draw engine. Add in a helping of other strong permanents as well as the utility of Kaya, Orzhov Usurper, and you have a strong control deck. Add in Yorion, Sky Nomad to flicker all those permanents in and out of play, and you have a deck that's breaking wide open a previously established Standard.

We traced down the origin of the deck, and it's quite a story. Jensen picked up the deck from Brad Nelson, Seth Manfield, Ben Stark and Eric Froehlich, who had decided he wasn't interested in playing Temur Reclamation this weekend even if it was the best deck.

"I'm someone who always looks for something different and will scour every part of the Internet for ideas," he explained.

He found that inspiration with a deck from a Magic Online league, and took it from there. He tweaked the deck and combined it with his own ideas. He began working on the deck with Nelson, and they brought in Manfield and Stark as the clock ticked down to the decklist submission deadline. Did they have something special?

"I don't take ladder testing to mean a lot, but some of the results were staggering," Froehlich said. "With a decent sample size, we were approaching 100% win rates against Bant Ramp, Mardu Knights and Rakdos Sacrifice, which are three of the top decks in the metagame. We were beating Sultai Ramp handily and winning against Jund Sacrifice. The Temur Reclamation matchup we were solidly winning, posting a win rate over 70% in the sample I had, but it didn't feel as good as the results. People were unprepared for what I was doing and likely making a lot of play and sideboarding mistakes. After some targeted testing against members of the group, it felt close enough to even, so it seemed like this was still the right choice for this weekend."

The choice paid off.

That's already a great Players Tour story, but it turns out there's one more layer to peel back.

That would be Jan-Moritz Merkel, the winner of Pro Tour Kobe in 2006. Magic history has a way of always finding ways to be relevant.

Venerated Loxodon is Back

But Orzhov Yorion wasn't the only new deck to break out. Or, in the case of Mono-White Aggro that took Jonathan Sukenik to a 6-3 finish, the return of a deck not seen since rotation removed Adanto Vanguard and Benalish Marshal from consideration. But in a deck designed by Magic Pro League member Chris Kvartek, Venerated Loxodon has been seen in Standard once again. While Kvartek may have narrowly missed Day Two, Sukenik will play on with the throwback brew.

"My testing partner Robert Lee and I came to the point where we couldn't find anything that consistently beat Temur Reclamation and Bant Ramp," Kvartek explained. "As a joke because we were so bored of grinding the Bant Ramp vs. Temur Reclamation matchup, we made this Mono-White Aggro deck with the thought that dodging all the maindeck Aether Gusts and Mystical Disputes flying around would be fantastic. While good against most aggro decks, most of Bant Ramp and Temur Reclamation's early game wasn't suited to beat a turn-three Venerated Loxodon. After a 10-0 run on the Mythic ladder and after having beaten Temur Reclamation and Bant Ramp multiple times, we were locked in.

"Brutally fast aggression that is difficult to answer was what I found to be one of the best ways to combat the two best decks, and I think that Mono-White Aggro accomplishes that nicely."

Crowded Field at the Top

With more than 300 players competing and many of the best players in the world doing battle, it was always going to be tough to even advance to Sunday competition, much less make the leaderboard after nine rounds of play. But with Day One in the books, seven players finished at 8-1.

Thomas Hendriks led the way, starting off the tournament a perfect 8-0 before falling to Magic Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif in the final round. Hendriks did so with a quirky build of his own, a Bant Flash deck that dipped into white for access to the powerful Dovin's Veto.

Joining those two are top were Vincent Pinet, Sergio Preto, Maxime Launay, Tomasz Sodomirski and Akira Asahara. The decks broke down like so:

  • Temur Reclamation (two copies)
  • Bant Flash
  • Mono-Red Aggro
  • Bant Ramp
  • Mardu Knights
  • Azorius Control

That means things are wide open when 151 players return to battle it out on Sunday for their shot at the Top 8.

Clip of the Day

Ashley Muñoz Preyeses, or Ashlizzlle as she's known on Twitch, is a dedicated Rakdos Sacrifice player. When she qualified for the Players Tour and her beloved deck was in a competitive position, it was the obvious choice. And it paid off in some thrilling moments like this.

And those moments turned into a Day 2 qualification and a possible Top 8 berth still on the line.

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