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What We Learned: Players Tour Online

June 24, 2020
Adam Styborski

Back-to-back Top 8s. Breakthrough appearances. Reclamation domination. Two weekends of Players Tour events were the final steps toward the Players Tour Finals—live on beginning July 25—and the 2020 Season Grand Finals later this year.

Through four events and almost 1,000 players we learned a lot. Here's what you need to know.

Four New Players Tour Winners

Four new Players Tour champions earned their medals.

Elias Watsfeldt, Players Tour Online 1 Champion

Elias Watsfeldt, who burst into the spotlight when he earned qualification to the 2018 Magic World Championship through prowess at draft across Pro Tour events, claimed the first medallion of the weekend. It's no secret that skilled players find more success testing with each other, and his collaboration with Player Tour Brussels winner Joel Larsson helped fuel their focus on Temur Reclamation.

"I paired up with Joel Larsson and played some games with him, we arrived at similar conclusions about the power of Temur," Watsfeldt said. Of course, they didn't exactly share the same decklists for the event—to Larsson's regret.

Ryuji Murae, Players Tour Online 2 Champion

Ryuji Murae found his breakthrough event making Top 8—then winning—Players Tour 2. It was his first Sunday playoff since Grand Prix Nagoya in 2012, but his Temur Reclamation mirror face-off against MPL player Jean-Emmanuel Depraz was a legendary show of patience and skill.

And it stood out from the crowd. The entire Finals is a showdown of decisions worth watching.

Collaborating with his fellow Kusemono teammates to prepare, Murae was humble about his win. "Winning this event doesn't mean I'm the best player—there are a lot of pros better than me—and after this I'm just going to practice, practice, practice until I reach that level."

William Craddock, Players Tour Online 3 Champion

William Craddock competed in one of the last Players Tour Qualifiers at his local game store before COVID-19 changes, and admitted to not testing extensively ahead of the event. But as a lifelong fan of Magic who works for a local game store he knew that Ramp strategies would be popular—to battle Temur Reclamation—and that they had a weakness in Sacrifice decks.

While he felt he made many mistakes throughout the event, his clever choice to put Bant Ramp and Temur Reclamation into his deck's sights propelled him to victory. "I think the biggest difference between my sideboard and the few others I saw was mine was more transformational," Craddock said. "I had a full 14 cards to bring in against Temur Reclamation, which transformed my deck into aggressive beatdown [where] I just shaved all the attrition cards. Coupled with a good matchup versus Bant Ramp I felt I had most of the field covered."

The shiny new medal on its way to him makes that an understatement.

Akira Asahara, Players Tour Online 4 Champion

At the start of 2020, Akira Asahara's last Sunday appearance was at Grand Prix Hiroshima in 2011. His Top 8 at Players Tour Nagoya extended his career success now across three decades, but notching back-to-back Players Tour Top 8 appearances with a win at Players Tour Online 4 leapfrogged the longtime competitor into an elite category of the game's greats.

With two World Championship Top 8s and a Magic Online Championship Top 4 before this year, Asahara's five top finishes is a rare accomplishment to earn in the history of Magic Esports.

For his win at the Players Tour, Asahara leaned into the top deck of the four tournaments—Temur Reclamation—and put on a show with Nightpack Ambusher.

Four Big Weekends

Winning a Players Tour is the goal for any player, but there can only be one from each tournament. Many more players made their breakthroughs over the two weekends, adding to Magic history in the process.

Dominik and Simon Görtzen

Simon Görtzen, a previous winner, was joined in the Top 8 by his brother Dominik Görtzen—completing a dream the two competitors shared for years. "I had wanted to play a Pro Tour with my brother Dominik for years," Simon said. "This wasn't the in-person [event] we had hoped for, but a double Top 8 is more than we could have dreamed of. Super proud of Dominik and the work of our team!"

Dominik already looked forward to future collaboration, "This Top 8 means I get to play the Players Tour Finals together with Simon." he said.

Ally Warfield

Leaving a pile of "Casualties of Warfield" in her wake, Ally Warfield emerged as one of the highest-finishing Magic Rivals League players from the weekends. Her rising success through SCG Tour and Grand Prix events, and now the Players Tour, is testament to her skill and focus through the past two years.

"I never thought I would be anywhere I am in Magic today. I started playing competitive two years ago and never expected to qualify for a [Players Tour], let alone make the Top 8," Warfield said. "I definitely want to emphasize that you don't need to Top 8 a PT to be considered a good player, but this definitely feels like a huge level-up moment, and will maybe let me believe that I actually am a good Magic player. All that is to say, Top 8'ing a PT, even online, means the world to me."

Kevin Perez

Joining Warfield in her Top 8 was Kevin Perez, a player who wasn't invited to the Players Tour until one of the final Last Change Qualifiers offered online. Hailing from Guatemala, his Top 8 comes from hard work despite his limited opportunities to qualify locally.

Barriers removed with play through MTG Arena, Perez was jubilant even in the face of defeat to Warfield in their quarterfinal showdown.

Issac Egan

While the story of the Players Tour Online 3 metagame was defined by the emerging Orzhov Yorion deck and its success against Temur Reclamation, many players and teams came to more traditional solutions. Issac Egan, one of the best players in Australia, racked up a 13-0 match record before taking a loss. With previous near misses to Top 8—such as his 10th place finish at the 2010 Magic World Championship—Players Tour 3 was his breakthrough event.

Testing with friends, and playing a deck he enjoyed, made all the difference.

"A small team of Aussies prepared for the [Players Tour] together," Egan said. "I volunteered to start on Jund because I wanted to jam Bolas's Citadel. The team tested a variety of decks but I didn't move because Jund Sacrifice is heaps of fun, and I was winning a bunch."

Eventually, he notched a 48-21 record with Jund Sacrifice while testing. The rest became history.

Standout MPL and Rivals Competitors

Magic's best players were out in full force through the Players Tour Online weekends, earning many Top 8 slots as well as high-placing finishes.

Players Tour Online 1:

  • Rivals League players Simon Görtzen and Louis-Samuel Deltour each earned another Top 8 appearance
  • Martin Jůza was the best finishing MPL Player with a Top 16 finish

Players Tour Online 2:

  • MPL player Jean-Emmanuel Depraz added another finalist Top 8 finish
  • Rivals League players Allison Warfield and Eli Loveman—his second Top Finish in a year after missing Top 4 at Magic World Championship XXVI—joined Depraz in the Top 8
  • MPL and "Greatest Magic player of all time" Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa missed a record-setting 18th lifetime top finish by finishing in 10th place

Players Tour Online 3:

  • Rivals League player Ben Stark took the off-meta Orzhov Yorion deck to a Top 8 finish
  • MPL player Seth Manfield finished in Top 16 with the same deck as Stark
  • Rivals League invitee Yuta Takahashi missed Top 8 on tie breakers, finishing in 9th place

Players Tour Online 4:

  • MPL player Gabriel Nassif made it all the way to the finals, while Rivals League player Alexander Hayne joined him in the Top 8
  • MPL player Shota Yasooka earned a Top 16 finish

A Look Back and Look Forward

Players that earned 33 match points or more at each Players Tour event qualified for the Players Tour Finals, taking place July 25-26—with the Top 8 playoff on the following weekend on August 1. With $250,000 in prizes and invitation to the 2020 Season Grand Finals on the line, Magic Esports is back in full swing all summer long.

For more decklists, details, and dramatic moments from all four Players Tour Online events, check out the links below.

Players Tour Online 1

Players Tour Online 2

Players Tour Online 3

Players Tour Online 4

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