The Innistrad Championship is about a beginning—a wonderful beginning to an epic story.
But stories, along with all their twists and turns, need endings. And so, although this is about a beginning, it's also about endings: two of them.
The first ending has already happened. Twenty-four hours after the "YATTA!" heard around the world, Yuta Takahashi of Japan became our new Magic World Champion, completing an astonishing run of Standard dominance that saw him undefeated in the format through his Magic World Championship XXVII run.
The second ending is yet to come, and all we know so far is that Yuta Takahashi will once again have his part to play. That ending is Magic World Championship XXVIII in 2022. Our flagship event will feature 32 players from around the globe, and as the 2021-22 season progresses, we'll discover the 31 more names looking to create their own "Faerie" tale ending. Those 31 names could be members of the MPL or Rivals League. They could be Magic Online Showcase Champions, or MTG Arena Qualifier Weekend heroes.
They could be you.
And that epic journey begins here with the Innistrad Championship.
You can discover all the ins and outs of World Championship Qualifier Points, but the first step is playing in one of the three Championship events. The field for the Innistrad Championship is set, but how can you be on the start line for the Neon Dynasty and New Capenna Championships, coming in 2022?
The field for each of our Championship events come from one of five broad groups:
The Leagues – whether it's the 24 members of the Magic Pro League, or the 48 in the Rivals League, these 72 will be invited to the three Championship events this season.
Past Performance – Whether they have one standout performance, or have been battling in the League trenches, these are high level players familiar to those following the top tiers of competitive play, and include a fair share of Pro Tour and Mythic Champions.
Chances are these groups aren't you. But the next three groups? Well, they certainly could be!
Magic Online – Showcase Open, Showcase Leaderboard, Championship Qualifier, Championship Super Qualifier... lots of names that all amount to your chance to be at the Neon Dynasty Championship. As we'll see, competition is fierce, with the Innistrad Championship crew from Magic Online headlined by French Hall of Famer Guillaume Wafo-Tapa.
Premier Series – From the SCG Tour to the Czech-Solvak Series and the Venus and Mercury League (VML), this is a chance for players of all stripes from around the world to put together a winning run that ends with a seat in the World Championship ring.
MTG Arena – This is the big one, with roughly 40% of the field reached the Innistrad Championship through the heat of Qualifier Weekends. From first timers looking to show they've got what it takes, through to Hall of Famers determined to show they never lost it, there's an avalanche of talent waiting to throw down when the Championship gets under way.
Whichever group you come from, everyone starts on equal footing Friday morning, with our first format of the weekend, Historic, getting the competitors started with three rounds. Four rounds of Standard follow, and four is the magic number—any kind of positive record (4-3 or better) is enough to advance players to Day Two.
There, eight more rounds await the survivors with the morning once again featuring Historic (Rounds 8-11), with Standard down the home stretch (Rounds 12-15). On Day Two, twelve is the desired number because twelve match wins guarantees you a seat on Sunday for the Top 8. It's likely that only one or two players will reach that milestone ahead of a final round on Saturday that is always tense, dramatic, and full of surprises.
Whether they dominated at 12-0 or squeezed their way in with a tiebreaker nod, eight players return on Sunday for the eponymous Top 8. Want a reason to get your front row seat right at the start? How about this:
- The winners of the four matches at the start of Sunday are going to the World Championship this season.
Yep, that's four World Championship qualifier matches right out of the gate on Sunday. As part of the double elimination bracket, those winners will be looking to win two more matches to win the Upper Bracket and await the survivor of the slugfest that is the Lower Bracket in the Championship match. But whatever happens from then on, those four winners know that their seat at World Championship XXVIII is booked.
"But wait," as Marshall Sutcliffe would doubtless say, "there's more."
There aren't four seats at the World Championship available on Sunday. There are six. And those last two go to the winners of the first round of Lower Bracket play. Even if they can't make it all the way to the Championship match, those two winners will know that World Championship XXVIII is in their future. That's one hell of a consolation prize—and a yawning chasm between that and the two players on Sunday who lose twice, and leave with "just" a stack of World Championship Qualifier Points, cash prizes, and prestige. Sunday rarely sees so many games with so much on the line.
So, who might we see battling for those six World Championship slots, while you're busy plotting your own path to the main event?
The MPL – In the MPL, Ondřej Stráský was the standout. He dominated League play, and then dominated the Swiss rounds of the World Championship, before falling short on the final day of the season. It's a measure of his dominance that the next three in the standings are all Hall of Famers—Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Gabriel Nassif, and Seth Manfield. Da Rosa and Manfield are both former World Champions, and there are three more in the MPL—Javier Dominguez, Kai Budde, and of course Yuta Takahashi.
Rivals League – Over in the Rivals League, it was Eli Kassis and Stanislav Cifka leading the way in the 2020-21 season, with Matt Sperling always right in the mix foreshadowing his excellent World Championship performance. This season, Rivals is home to many household names—the likes of Autumn Burchett, Reid Duke, William Jensen, Martin Jůza, Raphaël Lévy, Andrea Mengucci, Brad Nelson, Luis Scott-Vargas, Shota Yasooka, and Ken Yukuhiro. Truly, the Rivals League brings astonishing experience and depth of talent to the field.
Past Performance – This group is where you'll find Zendikar Rising Champion Brad Barclay of Scotland; Pro Tour Magic Origins 2015 Champion Joel Larsson of Sweden; Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Champion Greg Orange, the mighty "Citrus Assassin;" Pro Tour Aether Revolt Champion Lucas Esper of Brazil; and US Hall of Famer Ben Stark, Champion of Pro Tour Paris in 2011 with the incredible Caw-Blade deck.
Magic Online – That French Hall of Famer I mentioned earlier? The "Patron Saint of Control" Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Champion of Pro Tour Yokohama 2007. From a similar vintage comes former Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler of Germany, while Kyle Rose was a Pro Tour Champion in the 1990s at Pro Tour London 1999—an event, I should add, that your correspondent co-led at 1-0! But, of course, this being Magic Online, it's often about the "names behind the names," those online handles you come up against time and time again when it's crunch time. So, when you hear names like Duchow, or Inoue, or Prosek, or Techarattanaprasert, just remember that there's very likely an online beast lurking.
MTG Arena – Almost 100 players begin their Championship journey thanks to MTG Arena performances. Already fully at home behind mouse and screen, they'll be looking to take no prisoners and ignore the reputations of their opponents. While there are plenty of players in this group who are climbing the ladder (as many of them do each month), some already have heavyweight careers behind them. For Innistrad, they include three Hall of Famers—Willy Edel of Brazil, Frank Karsten of the Netherlands, and Kenji Tsumura of Japan. After many years of meeting each other at far-flung destinations, these representatives of three continents will meet virtually to do battle, continuing their storied careers just as others begin theirs.
So, that "YATTA!" moment, when Yuta Takahashi screamed through the tears in a private moment that we were all privileged to share? Approximately, it means, "It's done!" or "I did it!", but those small words can't convey the enormity of the emotion that went into them. That's because, whether it's from the Leagues, or from past performance, or a regional series, or Magic Online, or on MTG Arena, every single player coming to the Innistrad Championship has already had a "YATTA!" moment—and now they're seeking another.
Join Maria Bartholdi and the crew for live coverage of all three days over at twitch.tv/magic. We'll bring you a Champion. We'll bring you six qualifier matches for seats at the World Championship. And we'll show you why you should be here next time, as the story of this season begins. And where it ends?
Maybe that's up to you.