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The Championship Match of the Kaldheim Championship

March 29, 2021
Corbin Hosler

It was a long road to the final matches of the Kaldheim Championship. As the Top 8 advanced to its conclusion and the sun was long since set in Europe, it was Arne Huschenbeth and Grzegorz Kowalski still battling it out for the title of champion.

Arne Huschenbeth

Grzegorz Kowalski

Kowalski has been one of the top players in the world. He finished as the runner-up to Javier Dominguez at the 2018 World Championship, competing in both the Magic Pro League and Rivals League from their beginning. He was making his third Top Finish, and not long after his top four finish in the 2020 Mythic Invitational. He was piloting the Standard format's most popular deck in Sultai Ultimatum, and had fought his way back up through the lower bracket, overcoming both opponents and technical issues along the way. Now, he found himself in the finals of a major tournament for the second time.

On the other side of the virtual table sat the German fireball that was Huschenbeth. He dominated the Kaldheim Championship field all weekend. His technical play was on display as he got off to a perfect 8-0 start before falling to Javier Dominguez, the same player he then beat in the Top 8 to earn his spot in the championship match. He was the lone Dimir Rogues pilot in the Top 8, but his tricky and mana-efficient deck had the ability to apply pressure to Sultai Ultimatum while also packing Drown in the Loch and Mystical Dispute to counter its most dangerous cards.

The Games

The matchup was a classic Magic struggle: power vs. finesse. Huschenbeth's Rogues deck thrived on mana efficiency and synergy, while Kowalski's relied on the power of its bombs like Alrund's Epiphany or Kiora Bests the Sea God or Valki, God of Lies, or at least two of those three off an Emergent Ultimatum.

Alrund's Epiphany Kiora Bests the Sea God Valki, God of Lies Emergent Ultimatum

But that power comes with a tradeoff, and the Sultai deck is forced to spend its first few turns playing lands tapped or casting ramp spells to get ahead on mana. That opened a window for strategies such as the Rogues deck, and in the first match Huschenbeth put on a perfect show of what the deck is capable of. He began to mill Kowalski with Merfolk Windrobber and Soaring Thought-Thief while Kowalski ramped, and by the time the Polish pro was ready to cast his game-ending spells, Huschenbeth was ready with Drown in the Loch to counter Kowalski's must-resolve Shadows' Verdict and win the first game.

Merfolk Windrobber Soaring Thought-Thief Thieves' Guild Enforcer Drown in the Loch

The second game was a devastating reminder of just how efficient Rogues can be. Through just two turns, Huschenbeth cast two Thieves' Guild Enforcers and used Mystical Dispute to refute an Omen of the Sea from Kowalski. When an eighth card found its way into Kowalski's graveyard a turn later, those Enforcers represented six power. Along with a follow-up Skyclave Shade, it was simply too fast of a start for Kowalski to overcome.

Just like that, Huschenbeth found himself just one match win away from the championship title.

The second match started off much better for Kowalski. Huschenbeth had an early Thieves' Guild Enforcer, but Valki, God of Lies exiled a Ruin Crab and gave Kowalski a chance to keep his graveyard neat and tidy against the Rogues.

But fate smiled on Huschenbeth, and a Thieves' Guild Enforcer off the top his deck upended the battlefield positions, adding a second threat to the board and unlocking a discounted Into the Story from Huschenbeth's hand.

From there, Huschenbeth had the gas to keep up with Kowalski, and while the Rivals League player was able to get to Emergent Ultimatum mana, he was unable to resolve anything through the Disdainful Stroke and Drown in the Loch Huschenbeth found. As he found more protection, even Huschenbeth could only shake his head at how cleanly his deck was running roughshod over the dangerous Sultai deck in the championship.

It certainly seemed like Huschenbeth's tournament to lose. He was the last remaining undefeated player in the Swiss, and had advanced to this point without dropping a match in the Top 8. Could he finish it off with a perfect 4-0 to clinch the title?

If he could, it wouldn't be made easy.

Kowalski led with Duress while Huschenbeth deployed a Skyclave Shade and began to attack. From there, Kowalski traded his removal with Huschenbenth's additional threats, and eventually he stabilized behind an Esika's Chariot. With the Skyclave Shade having traded hits with Yorion, Sky Nomad, life totals stood at 7 for Huschenbeth and just 4 for Kowalski. Huschenbeth was ahead on cards, but behind on time after a Shadows' Verdict for Kowalski cleared everything but the Yorion, which bashed the German down to just 3 life.

Skyclave Shade Esika's Chariot Shadows' Verdict Yorion, Sky Nomad

But this was Huschenbeth's tournament to lose, and losing wasn't something he had done much of throughout weekend. He was able to reload with Soaring Thought-Thief off the top of his deck along with the resilient Skyclave Shade, and he knocked Kowalski down to 2 life. The Polish pro had one draw step left to find an answer.

With that, Arne Huschenbeth completed the run, shocking the Magic world and himself in the process. Congratulations to the winner of the Kaldheim Championship!

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