Launching into MPL Weekly Play

Posted in Competitive Gaming on May 10, 2019

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

Magic is a game of Firsts, and a game of New. That applies to the game itself, the evolution of high-level competitive play, and to all the wonderful worlds of playing in both paper and digital formats. It applies to our own experience of the game—our first signed card, our first Friday Night Magic Top 8, our first homebrew deck, and dozens more milestones along our own Magic journey. Over the past 22 years, I've witnessed so many of the great Firsts, and so much of the beautiful New that the game continues to deliver. But, as we stand on the brink of the start of the Magic Pro League, it's hard to think of a First and a New that has so much potential to transform the Magic landscape.

Four Divisions, 32 players, Best-of-Three Traditional Standard; a fabulous MTG Arena in which to see it all unfold—let's get started!

In 2019, the first year of MPL play will see three distinct Splits of five weeks, during which each player will face all seven of their Division opponents in round-robin play. In each of the first four weeks, two Divisions will have double-match fixtures (meaning they face two opponents that week) before all four Divisions play their final matches in week five. At stake, a hugely coveted pass to the second day of competition at a forthcoming Arena Mythic Championship. For the Spark Split starting this week, that's Mythic Championship III in June. Plus, with each match win, players earn Mythic Points toward a coveted invitation to the World Championship. Make no mistake, this is not exhibition play. So let's dive into what's on the schedule for Week 1!

In the Pearl Division, two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar takes on another World Champion in Brian Braun-Duin in the signature clash of the round. Speaking of World Champions, Javier Dominguez faces Andrew Cuneo, while John Rolf will be wanting a fast start against Hall of Famer Eric Froehlich. I'm looking forward to Player of the Year Luis Salvatto against another Hall of Famer, Lee Shi Tian. I fully expect to see at least one of these two near the top of the standings come the end of the split.

The Sapphire Division is the first of our double-match Divisions this week. Mythic Championship I Champion Autumn Burchett kicks off their campaign against the least-known of the Japanese players, Rei Sato. The Japanese man will then face another player with Cleveland success, Márcio Carvalho, who must be among the favorites in the group. The flagship match here, though, is undoubtedly the Mythic Invitational Final rematch between Andrea Mengucci and Piotr Głogowski. Now that is the kind of match the MPL was created for!

We'll also see double-match play in the Ruby Division. I'm especially interested to see how the Brazilian pair of Carlos Romão and Lucas Esper Berthoud fare against a roster of Hall of Fame standouts and classy deck builders. Berthoud opens against yet another Top 8 player from Cleveland in Reid Duke, while there's an all-Hall clash between Ben Stark and William Jensen. We then get one of the prime clashes of the whole split in Week 1: Reid Duke vs. William Jensen. Fantastic friends, fantastic players—but only one winner.

Pick of the matches in the Emerald Division this week looks to be former World Champion Seth Manfield against Alexander Hayne, fresh from the Canadian's second top finish when reaching the Top 8 of MC II in London. Manfield looks absolutely built for a competition like this, with an uncanny ability to predict the metagame, while Hayne is a real "inside the MPL" tip for the top; so many of the players he's facing rate him super highly.

We also get our first set of MPL decklists. In a field heavy on aggro and slight modifications to pre-War of the Spark Standard decks, standing out from the crowd are builds from Grzegorz Kowalski and Ken Yukuhiro. Kowalski's Dimir Control deck brings with it no shortage of cards from War of the Spark: Enter the God-Eternals, God-Eternal Kefnet, and multiple planeswalkers from the new set are in his main deck. Yukuhiro, already carrying the reputation as one of the MPL's most creative deck builders, came in with unique take on Bant Aggro. It not only plays some of the most powerful Bant cards, but it also focuses on counters synergies to fully unlock the proliferate potential of Huatli's Raptor. Turn-one Pelt Collector into turn-two Huatli's Raptor is a very big game!

Grzegorz Kowalski's Dimir Control – MPL Week 1

Download Arena Decklist

Ken Yukuhiro's Bant Aggro – MPL Week 1

Download Arena Decklist

And so, the latest New and the latest First are finally here. Whether you're rooting for a storied Hall of Famer, a multiple-time World Champion, a surprising deck builder, a plucky underdog, or the players from your own region, there's outstanding talent and outstanding decks on display each and every week in the MPL. Join us on at 12 p.m. PT on Saturday for all the action from Week 1.

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