MPL Week 3: Time Running Out for Some

Posted in Competitive Gaming on May 23, 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.

As we close in on the midpoint of the Spark Split, the storylines in the MPL are bubbling along nicely. Here's a few to set the scene for Week 3:

Time Unraveling, Part 1

Time may be linear, but it doesn't always move at the same pace, depending on which MPL Division you're watching. It's Week 3 for everyone, but Pearl, Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby are reaching different points in their story arc. Here's the checklist:

  • Pearl is most advanced. By the end of Week 3, both double-match weeks will have been completed, and all eight players will have played five of their seven matches within the split. After Saturday's broadcast, we'll have an excellent idea who is looking to lock up the division and claim the free pass to Day Two of Mythic Championship III in Las Vegas next month.
  • Sapphire has a little catching up to do now that Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa is back from vacation around Italy, as he plays a make-up match from last week against Mike Sigrist. Then there's a regular set of four Week 3 matches across the division. Damo da Rosa, incidentally, is the only undefeated player in Sapphire, but even with a win over Sigrist, he'll find getting to 4-0 a tough prospect—Piotr Glogowski, Mythic Invitational Finalist, lies in wait for his second match of the week.
Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa faces off against Mike Sigrist and Piotr Glogowski in a big Week 3.
  • Emerald will also complete their fourth round of matches this week. This is the most separated division, with three 3-0 players and three 0-3s. Dropping to 0-4 will almost certainly eliminate you from contention, but there's still a lot of matches left to decide who's getting that precious Mythic Championship straight-to-Day-Two prize.
  • And finally, there's Ruby. In a lot of ways, this Division is just getting going. Reid Duke and Lucas Esper Berthoud are the only players with three matches complete so far (both 2-1), while William Jensen (2-0), Ken Yukuhiro (1-1), Ben Stark (0-2), and Carlos Romao (0-2) are only two matches into their split. Then, of course, there are the two newcomers to the MPL, Jessica Estephan, and Janne "Savjz" Mikkonen. They'll be embarking on their first MPL matches next week, and we'll have more on them both then.

The Big Match

Last week, we mentioned that Martin Juza had a very tough three-match open to his MPL season. Well, here we are seven days later, with Martin having successfully defeated Matthew Nass, Alexander Hayne, and Shota Yasooka, beating them all with Mono-Red Aggro. Now he faces Brad Nelson in a tremendous 3-0 vs. 3-0 clash.

Nelson opened his campaign on Azorius Aggro, but, like almost everyone else who played that archetype in Week One, he defected in Week Two. Unlike his erstwhile Azorius colleagues, however, Nelson moved to Bant Nexus, with which he defeated Christian Hauck and Shota Yasooka. This week Nelson is shaking it up again with a Selesnya Tokens deck. As for Juza? He's running back Mono-Red Aggro for the fourth match in a row, with four very hungry Goblin Chainwhirlers looking to ruin Nelson's tokens plan.

More Top Matches

The other perfect record in the Emerald Division belongs to Seth Manfield, who will put that record on the line against 2018 World Championship Finalist Grzegorz Kowalski, who currently sits at 2-1.

3-0 versus 2-1 is also the story of the two big matches in the Pearl Division. Last week on the show, we watched both Andrew Cuneo and Eric Froehlich advance to 3-0. Their 2-1 opponents this week are Brian Braun-Duin for Cuneo, and reigning World Champion Javier Dominguez for Froehlich.

Cuneo is running back his Week 2 choice of Bant Midrange, while Efro is switching from Bant Midrange to Sultai Dreadhorde. Dominguez also switched over to a four-color Dreadhorde build, and BBD is sticking with Esper Midrange for the third week in a row. Versions of the Command the Dreadhorde deck mark the biggest metagame shift for Week 3—Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Alexander Hayne are also running it—so that'll be a key metagame angle to follow this week.

Time Unraveling, Part 2

The clear winner for Best Card in the MPL as the Spark Split reaches the midpoint is Teferi, Time Raveler. It really isn't close—lots of people are playing the card, and winning with the card.

So, here's a few things about the current No. 1 card in the League:

  • Three mana is a really exciting price point for a planeswalker. Naturally occurring on turn 3, TTR (as we'll call him) is available on turn 2 for decks running Llanowar Elves.
  • With Blue decks relying less on traditional counter magic, there's no need for the play pattern of leaving three mana open on turn 3. Just cast TTR, and move on with your day. Oh, having activated him first, of course.
  • Typically, TTR goes from 4 loyalty, hitting the battlefield to 1 loyalty moments later. There's usually something already out there that's worth bouncing, even in the early game. Later on, "usually" becomes "almost always."
  • Importantly, the card being bounced back to hand is frequently something the opponent has invested in. Creatures like Jadelight Ranger may well have power and toughness enhanced by the time TTR comes down to send them packing.
  • But the -3 ability is also useful on your own permanents. We've seen plenty of Oath of Kaya being returned, only to get recast for another 3 points of damage.
  • It might seem as if that's most of what TTR can do, but a lot of games see him sitting in play, gradually ticking up one at a time, before turning the -3 ability back on.
  • What's more, that +1 ability creates some real added value with something like Thought Erasure. Normally a clunky sorcery, Thought Erasure can now be cast once an opponent has drawn the card for their turn, but still during their draw step. That's more cards you get to see, and potentially take, and less opportunity for your opponents to mess with your game plan. And, as we said, it's one step closer to another bounce spell.

All that, and we haven't even mentioned the static ability. But then, nobody ever remembers those, right?

Best Top 8 Ever?

Here's a little behind-the-scenes coverage secret: at every Tabletop Mythic Championship, usually somewhere around Round 13 or 14, we spend a bit of time trying to work out what the best possible Top 8 might be. "Best" isn't just about past results—the best Sundays mean recognizable names, players from multiple regions, a classic underdog story, some real old-school Hall of Famers, and more. So how would this lineup fare as a Mythic Championship Top 8:

  • Luis Salvatto, Argentina – Reigning Player of the Year
  • Shahar Shenhar, Israel – Two-time World Champion
  • Lee Shi Tian, Hong Kong – Hall of Famer
  • Marcio Carvalho, Portugal– Six Mythic Championship Top 8s
  • Christian Hauck, Germany – Top 8, Pro Tour Ixalan
  • Matthew Nass, USA – King of Combo, and Top 8, Pro Tour Kaladesh
  • Shota Yasooka, Japan – Hall of Famer, multiple Pro Tour winner, former Player of the Year
  • Ben Stark, USA – Hall of Famer, one of the best Limited players of all time

Pretty good, right? And guess what? Their collective record in the MPL so far is 0-23. That's zero wins, and twenty-three losses. And that's because the MPL is a ferociously tough environment. Every loss has to go somewhere, and right now, many of them belong with this stellar group. Next split, there'll be other Hall of Famers, Players of the Year, and Mythic Champions desperate to secure a win. The MPL really isn't like anything we've seen before.

The Japanese in Week Three

For Week Three, Ken Yukuhiro, Shota Yasooka, and Rei Sato have all clearly put their collective heads together and arrived at the same archetype. Here's what they are running:

Golgari Midrange – MPL Spark Split Week 3

Download Arena Decklist

(Subtle note: Yasooka is running one more Swamp and one fewer Forest . . . because, well, he's Shota.)

This means we're seeing some cards in action that we haven't seen much of so far in the MPL. After a week off, we see the return of the 7/6 Carnage Tyrant, looking to mock opponents who have left mana open for counter magic. We'll certainly see Casualties of War, but will we see the clean sweep, claiming an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, a land, and a planeswalker, all in one go? Ravenous Chupacabra makes its first appearance in MPL Weekly play. And, fingers crossed, we may get to see what happens when Massacre Girl turns up on a board jam-packed with creatures. Oh, I really hope we see that . . .

And so, as always, there's a lot to look forward to. Will anyone survive this pivotal week undefeated? Join us at 12 p.m. PT, 3 p.m. ET, and 7 p.m. UTC on Saturday for another episode of MPL Weekly.

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