The Strixhaven Championship began with 250 players battling it out over both Standard and Historic, and 15 Swiss rounds and a double-elimination Top 8 bracket later, the finals were finally set: Sam Pardee vs. John Girardot.
It was a great conclusion to an epic tournament that heavily featured the much-changed Historic format, and it led to a stacked Top 8 that included Hall of Famers along with Pro Tour regulars and several newcomers. After Jeskai Turns proved beyond a doubt that it was the deck of the tournament, knocking out the three players not taking extra turns, there was one final mirror match between Pardee and Girardot to decide a champion.
Making his first Top Finish, Girardot was trying to complete a phenomenal run. It came as no surprise to anyone who followed his dominant MTG Arena career, and had previously just missed a Top Finish at Mythic Championship VII in 2019. Now he was trying to even things with Pardee, who had avenged his own Swiss loss by beating Girardot in the upper bracket finals. The French challenger had fought his way out of the bottom bracket to force the rematch.
Pardee was making his fourth career Top Finish, and he's long been seen among the best tournament grinders in the United States. His Grand Prix success is synonymous with friends and teammates Mass Nass and Jacob Wilson as they put in dominant performances at Team Limited events years ago. With three previous Top Finishes under his belt and many years of high-stakes tournament experience, Pardee was a favorite of longtime competitive Magic fans.
Both players put on a show with Jeskai Turns throughout the Top 8, and the fireworks were getting even brighter in the championship match.
Pardee fired the first salvo. Despite staring down a battlefield of lethal attackers in the first game, he resolved the most important card in the matchup: the legendary Dragon Velomachus Lorehold. Along with
But Girardot fought back to even things up after sideboarding, which led to a decisive third game to determine who held the upper hand in the championship.
In a format defined by game breaking bombs and huge spells, it was the unlikeliest of moves that tipped the balance of the Game 3. Pardee attacked with his 5/5 Zombie Army token from
But there was one thing he didn’t play around: the
Girardot had played with his back against the wall already, with a loss to Pardee earlier during the day in the upper bracket finals before fighting his way back from the elimination bracket. Now he would have to win two matches back-to-back to keep Pardee from claiming the title.
Pardee opened the second match looking at a
Girardot was down, but he wasn’t out. He was much more aggressive with a better hand and stronger threats in the second game, and was able to pull ahead on both cards and the board when he resolved a massive
That put Pardee to the test, who responded by casting a
Pardee was ahead, but he still had another game to take if he was going to close things out. In the decider, both players traded resources in the early turns, but it was Pardee who resolved the first
But that Mastery lacked a
And did he ever. He cast
Just like that, Sam Pardee completed his Top 8 run to win the Strixhaven Championship.