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What We Learned: Players Tour Phoenix

February 12, 2020
Adam Styborski

The third Players Tour of 2020 has wrapped: Congratulations to Corey Burkhart to taking home the Players Tour Phoenix trophy with Grixis Control Dimir Inverter. He joined Joel Larsson at Players Tour Brussels and Kenta Harane at Players Tour Nagoya to complete the trio of winners from the trio of events.


With the third Players Tour complete we can look back at the final takeaways and begin looking forward to the Players Tour Finals this April.

MPL and Rivals are Definitely Still Here

Both the finals in Brussels and Nagoya featured a member of the MPL, and Phoenix didn't disappoint either. William "Huey" Jensen earned his eighth Top Finish—and 24 Player Points—over the weekend as the sole MPL player to make the Phoenix Top 8 and as the finalist. Brussels featured two MPL players while Nagoya had a staggering three make the Top 8, but that doesn't mean Phoenix wasn't important to other players. New-to-the-MPL and headed to Hawaii Chris Kvartek netted 12 Player Points, while Reid Duke and Brad Nelson picked up 8 Player Points each.

The Rivals were out in force as well:

  • Mike Sigrist notching entry to the Players Tour Finals and a cool 15 Player Points.
  • Matthew Nass, Sebastian Pozzo, and Luis Scott-Vargas each picked up 12 Player Points.
  • Jessica Estephan and Ben Stark added 8 for their seasons.
  • Eric Froehlich and Eli Kassis both earned 5 Player Points
  • Finally, Kenji Egashira notched 3 Players Points.

The next biggest wave of points will come for MPL and Rivals at Mythic Invitational Ikoria and the Mythic Points it offers.

The Metagame was Breached

In Brussels and Nagoya, the decks of the weekend were Dimir Inverter, Bant Spirits, and the amazing Ken Yukuhiro special of Sram Auras. With just days between events the metagame managed to evolve further, and Phoenix was dominated by Lotus Breach.



With more players prepared for (and playing) Dimir Inverter, and the ubiquity of that combo deck pushing out more traditional (Read: Slower) decks like Big Red and Mono-Black Aggro, it was the power of Lotus Field, Underworld Breach, and Fae of Wishes to pull out whatever piece of combo was needed from the sideboard that dominated top tables.



Jensen put on an absolute clinic throughout his Top 8 on Sunday—at least until Burkhart caught the better side of luck in the finals. But it was going to be a tough battle for Jensen regardless as Burkhart's build of Dimir Inverter reflected his penchant for playing control decks.



Packed with hand disruption (Thoughtseize and Thought Erasure), powerful card selection (Opt and Dig Through Time) and the trio of game-winning cards the deck is known for (Thassa's Oracle; Jace, Wielder of Mysteries; and Inverter of Truth) it wasn't that far off the beaten path for him.



The way Burkhart played it, he made use of his sideboard that could surgically attack Lotus Breach (Damping Sphere), aggressive decks (Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet), and even other control decks (Mystical Dispute and Pack Rat to get aggressive) to transform into the deck he needed in every matchup.




While Burkhart certainly wasn't in packing some of the most-played cards over the weekend, his skill and particular toolkit brought him back from the brink of falling on Day One to rattling off 10 straight match wins after his third loss to earn Top 8 and claim the trophy.


Outside of Burkhart and Jensen's standout performances, the overall Pioneer metagame was borne from the lessons of Brussels and Nagoya. Dimir Inverter took 24% of the Day Two metagame in Phoenix, followed by Lotus Breach as 15%, Bant Spirits at 12%, and Sultai Delirium at 11%.



In comparison to the spectacle and popularly of other decks, Sultai Delirium quietly earned its victories through all three events as well. Jacob Wilson was the latest to net a Top 8, but it was also Larsson's deck of choice in his Brussels victory. Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Satyr Wayfinder are a duo that delivers an incredible about of value—and aren't necessarily at the top of everyone's mind with Lotus Breach and Dimir Inverter stealing the show.

Pioneer has time to evolve again before the Pioneer Grand Prix at MagicFest Louisville in March—and the world will be watching

The Phoenix Sunshine

Need to catch up on everything else from Players Tour Phoenix? Here's the menu of everything you can enjoy. (Plus, find all the same handy information on metagames and breakdowns for Players Tour Brussels and Players Tour Nagoya in the last edition of What We Learned.)

Top 8 Brackets:



Metagame Breakdowns:

Top 8 Breakdown:

Top-Performing Pioneer Decklists:

All Pioneer Decklists (Sideboards Obfuscated):

Highlights from the Tournament:

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