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The Stakes Grow at the New Capenna Championship

May 09, 2022
Rich Hagon

Take your seats.

That applies both to you, the viewers, and to the players at the New Capenna Championship, coming to you for three straight days of outstanding gaming May 20–22. This is the final qualifying weekend of the season, which means the full line up for Magic World Championship XXVIII will be determined as we award our champion the next trophy. How will it all unfold?

The First Thirteen

Thirteen of the 32 seats for Magic World Championship XXVIII are already locked.

The first is with defending Champion Yuuta Takahashi of Japan. That storied country added another chapter of success at the Innistrad Championship. They were led by Yuuki Ichikawa, with Riku Kumagai, Toru Saito, and Yo Akaike making a powerful quintet going to Worlds. Joining them from that event are a former Pro Tour Champion in Germany's Simon Goertzen, and Zachary Kiihne, the first American to claim an invite.

Next up was the Neon Dynasty Championship. Here, Eli Kassis turned Rivals League dominance into Championship success, defeating Zach Dunn in the all-US Final. Yudai Miyano became the sixth Japanese player to qualify for the next World Championship, while new countries added to the roster were France (Jean-Emmanuel Depraz), Canada (Jonny Guttman), and China (Zhi Yimin).

The New Capenna Six

As with our previous two Championship events, the Top 6 finishing players in the tournament earn seats at Magic World Championship XXVIII. 228 players will open things on Friday morning at the New Capenna Championship with three rounds of Standard, before switching to Historic for rounds 4–7. Goal number one is to reach four match wins. Fail to do that, and your tournament is over on Day 1. For those who do, eight more rounds await on Saturday. Once again, Standard sets the scene with rounds 8–11, while Historic showcases the drive to Top 8 in rounds 12–15.

Twelve wins—as soon as you earn them—is enough to guarantee you a place in the Sunday Top 8. The previous Championships this season suggest that only one or two players will climb that mountain ahead of a tumultuous final round on Saturday evening, where the rest of the Top 8 is determined. Many players in the thick of the race will be looking for tiebreak help, with 11–4 the record most likely to lead to ecstasy or heartbreak.

From there, the elite eight return for double elimination Standard action on Sunday. Win a match on Sunday, and that's a seat at Magic World Championship XXVIII secured. With that huge accomplishment banked, it's a battle to claim a seat in the title match. For the unlucky two without a Top 8 record, losing both their Upper Quarterfinal and Lower Round 1 matches means it's back to consulting WCQP season standings to see if they make it to the big one.

In the commentary booth, we have Eilidh Lonie and Corey Baumeister together again, with Marshall Sutcliffe and Paul Cheon sitting virtually side by side, as they have been so many times before. These four outstanding broadcasters will bring you all the in-game twists and turns as the Championship plays out. Leading our Coverage of the New Capenna Championship at the virtual news desk will be Maria Bartholdi. With so many storylines unfolding, Maria will keep everything Streets of New Capenna in order. Who's in trouble? Who's out? Who can make Top 8 this round? Maria has you covered.

The League Five

Right next to Maria on screen will be Cedric Phillips, our resident expert at the news desk. He'll be walking you through all the decks in both Standard and Historic, and for this show, he'll be bringing you all the stories from the MPL and Rivals Leagues. At the end of the weekend, the Top 5 from the 72 League players on season standings earn a seat at the World Championship. How might this play out? As the Championship begins, who are the five players starting out with a World Championship seat to defend?

Shota Yasooka

Shintaro Ishimura

Japan—Already a strong presence as a country at Magic World Championship XXVIII, Japan can claim Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka and Shintaro Ishimura, who was part of the famous 'Caw-Blade' Pro Tour Paris Top 8 in 2011.

Reid Duke

Logan Nettles

The Cousins—Reid Duke is a Magic Hall of Famer and one of the most popular players in the game. He's also a Magic Online Champion, which is the battlefield where his cousin Logan Nettles has been one of the most dominant players for many years. "Cousins" may be just a coincidence, but their thoughtfulness, thirst for information, metagaming excellence, and passion for the game are not. It's no surprise to see either of them in great shape coming into the weekend.

Ondřej Stráský

Redemption—When you're as brilliant as Ondřej Stráský, it's hard to talk about "redemption" with a straight face. After all, he has five top finishes across most of a decade of sustained success with a trophy to show for it. But there's no denying that Magic World Championship XXVII was "the one that got away" as Stráský dominated a stellar field through the Swiss rounds, accumulating a perfect 10–0 record before losing twice on Sunday to ultimately finish 4th. Whether you call it redemption or just plain unfinished business, Stráský wants this.

With five League seats available, Yasooka is on 66 points, 6 points (or just two match wins) above the cut line for Worlds. Nettles is on 63 points, while Ishimura, Duke, and Stráský each have 60 points. As the weekend begins, those 60 points represent the qualifying line for the World Championship.

Who might come past the five in possession to claim a seat for themselves? Here are some names to conjure with.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Kai Budde

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Kai Budde are two of the three greatest players ever. Both have 57 points, just three back of the qualifying line. Both are Hall of Famers. Both are former World Champions. Both would be fantastic additions to the field.

Arne Huschenbeth

Luis Scott-Vargas

In a crowded field (six players on 57 points, five on 54 points), Arne Huschenbeth and Luis Scott-Vargas will need deep runs at the New Capenna Championship, since they're back on 51 points. Both are profoundly capable. Huschenbeth has consistently improved year on year, converting Grand Prix Top 8s to Championship top finishes, culminating in his win at the Kaldheim Championship. Scott-Vargas, meanwhile, has spent fifteen years at the top of the game, with top finishes coming with metronomic consistency. He's as wily a competitor now as when he was winning US Nationals in 2007 and Pro Tour Berlin in 2008.

As you'd expect, with every player in the Leagues playing in the New Capenna Championship, the permutations are practically endless. Indeed, almost any League player can, theoretically, claim a World Championship set. I'll be back later in the week to delve into those possibilities. (This is a code for "Rich will bring you the nerd-iest, statistic-iest, math-iest article of the year. You have been warned.")

The Challenger Eight

At the news desk, our reporter Riley Knight will be keeping track of the Challenger race for seats at Magic World Championship XXVIII. At the end of the season, not only are there more Challenger seats available (eight) than for the Leagues (five), trying to work out what might happen is even more convoluted. Here's what we know.

Yuma Koizumi

Greg Orange

Co-leaders Yuma Koizumi and Greg Orange (60 points) are in great shape. They need match wins, of course, but maybe not that many. Also in with a great chance at a World Championship seat are Simon Nielsen and Tristan Wylde-LaRue, both on 57 points.

Simon Nielsen

Tristan Wylde-LaRue

They occupy four of the eight seats coming into the event, and there's every chance they'll still be there by the end.

Next up are the other four players in possession. Their situation isn't so great.

Alexander Rosdahl

Camillo Lukesch

Andrey Zhilin

Oscar Franco

None of Camillo Lukesch (57), Alexander Rosdahl (54), Oscar Franco (54), and Andrey Zhilin (51) are qualified for the New Capenna Championship, so their end-of-season points totals are locked. Rosdahl, Franco, and Zhilin look certain to be overhauled. Lukesch, meanwhile, could face an almighty sweat, since, despite not playing, he can still afford to be passed by up to four players during the event and retain a Magic World Championship XXVIII seat. His dream probably fades during Day Two, but nobody is going to be looking at the last few rounds of matches quite like Lukesch.

Jim Davis

Nathan Steuer

Jim Davis is the first in line to take one of those vulnerable seats. He took the maximum 49 points when romping perfectly through the Swiss rounds at the Neon Dynasty Championship, before mirroring Stráský's World Championship with a 0–2 turnaround on Sunday in the elimination rounds. Next up are two players who had to fight to reach the New Capenna starting line. Nathan Steuer is just a single point behind Davis, with former Team World Champion Nico Bohny also coming through the online gauntlet to start the event three points back of Steuer on 45.

Nico Bohny

With a six-point gap to the rest of the field, everyone below Bohny knows that only a strong multi-day performance will suffice. Basically, these players need to be in the mix for the Top 8 deep into Saturday. Three players who certainly have the career numbers to say they can do that are Shuhei Nakamura, Kenji Tsumura, and Matt Nass. The two Japanese players, both on 33 points, are Hall of Famers. For a period in the mid-2000s, they were arguably the two best active players in the world, with a dozen top finishes between them.

Matt Nass

Kenji Tsumura

Shuhei Nakamura

Nass is a five-time Grand Prix Champion, and he will be taking part from one of the more unusual tournament venues. "His home" doesn't sound especially unique, but Nass won't be the only one. Nass lives with roommates Sam Pardee of the MPL, and Carolyn Kavanagh, who locked up a starting berth with her win in season seven of the Venus and Mercury League. That's a third title in the series for Kavanagh, meaning a very busy household come tournament time. I hope their internet connection can stand the strain . . .

Whether it's a place in the Top 8; seats at the World Championship; or qualifying to do it all again next season—we'll see the Top 16 Challengers who don't make it to Magic World Championship XXVIII at the major events again—there's so much to fight for across three days and two brilliant formats. We hope that your internet connection can stand the strain, because we're going to be bringing you close to 30 hours of high-stakes Magic: The Gathering.

Whoever you're rooting for, make sure you join Maria and the team for all the action from the New Capenna Championship. Take your seats—and let's find out who runs these streets.

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