Neon Dynasty Championship Day Two Highlights

Posted in NEWS on March 13, 2022

By Corbin Hosler and Adam Styborski

The first day of the Neon Dynasty Championship featured the debut of the Alchemy format at the highest level of play, and Day One served as a celebration of a new format that saw players bringing new decks to battle it out for position.

On Day Two that focus turned to the players fighting it out for the Top 8. There, the Alchemy rounds that led the day rewarded those who had best mastered the unexplored format. Four players finished a perfect 7-0 in Alchemy rounds, and in the final stretch the field whittled itself down with a sprint through Historic.

Well, except for Jim Davis.

Jim Davis

The prolific content creator and tournament grinder picked up right where he left on Friday, and turned in a perfect match run to finish the day early at 12-0 and first lock up his Top 8 berth. The undefeated run was reminiscent of past dominant performances including the 12-0 Swiss run by Ondřej Stráský at the Magic World Championship XXVII or Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas' famous 16-0 run at Pro Tour San Diego a decade ago.

The American was joined in the Top 8 by Sunday mainstay Jean-Emmanuel Depraz. The French superstar was the only player who earned their spot early, and he did so by going his own way. In a field that was full of superteams and large playtesting groups, Depraz worked on his own to prepare for the Alchemy and Historic split-field tournament.

That resulted in an Alchemy brew built around Hinata, Dawn-Crowned and a Historic Azorius Affinity brew that only one other player brought. All in all, it added up to 12 victories, a spot in the Top 8, and a fifth career Top Finish for Depraz.

(Click to Watch)

The rest of the Top 8 was decided by a final-round scrum that saw things shake out with an incredible 11 players tied at 11-4, meaning six would miss the cut. Here's the complete Top 8, who will return on Sunday morning for a double-elimination bracket played out in Alchemy that will determine the winner of the Neon Dynasty Championship and send six players to the Magic World Championship.

  • Jim Davis (Grixis Midrange)
  • Jean-Emmanuel Depraz (Jeskai Hinata)
  • Brent Vos (Orzhov Venture)
  • Yudai Miyano (Esper Clerics)
  • Jonny Guttman (Mono-White Aggro)
  • Zach Dunn (Mardu Midrange)
  • Zhi Yimin (Mardu Midrange)
  • Eli Kassis (Orzhov Venture)

Here's how we got there.

Jim's Big Day

The most direct path to the Top 8 of a Championship is to rattle off 12 wins in a row. It's certainly not the easiest path, but making that streak nets the fastest way to lock up a slot in the Sunday playoff.

Jim Davis

Pro Tour grinder-turned-SCG Invitational winner-turned content creator-turned-Championship competitor Jim Davis completed the run to earn 12 straight wins across Friday and Saturday.

(Click to Watch)

"I've played a lot of Pro Tours in the late 2000s, and despite a few Top 32s and cash finishes, I never had that breakthrough performance that got me on the train and eventually just stepped away from Magic," he said. As the SCG Tour emerged as a premier series of play in the United States, Davis returned and found his footing, battling through to become a SCG Invitational winner in 2011.

While competition and it's opportunities changes through the years, Davis built from his competitive focus into a powerful streamer, sharing his love—and skill—for the game through his Twitch channel and online content. Now, through competitive MTG Arena play he's back again on top at one of the most prestigious events in the game.

"It feels pretty damn good to finally get one even if I've mostly moved on from competitive play and into content creation."

"Practice makes perfect" is the kind of adage that doesn't always apply, but Davis and his constant content work for Magic meant he was prepared when his opportunity came again. And with his first Top 8 now locked, he can set his eyes on taking the next step.

(Click to Watch)

(Click to Watch)

Top 7 + Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

Unless you've been skipping out on watching one of the best Magic being played these days, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz making, or just being in constant contention for, Top 8 comes as little surprise.

The French player was an emergent force during his breakout year of 2017, beginning with winning Grand Prix Warsaw then finishing in 7th at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. From there he's maintained an incredible level of performance:

  • Winning 2018 World Magic Cup as team captain
  • Top 8, Mythic Champion III in 2019
  • Finalist, Mythic Championship V in 2019
  • Finalist, Players Tour Online 2 in 2020
  • Top 8, MPL Gauntlet in 2021
  • Finalist, Magic World Championship XXVII in 2021

Along the way, Depraz earned accolades from opponents as a measured and thoughtful competitor, always pushing and tuning some of the best decks seen in tournaments. This weekend, no one had Azorius Affinity on their mind but Depraz's success firmly puts it into Historic's roster decks to watch:

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz - Azorius Affinity

Download Arena Decklist

While it's been some time since he raised the trophy at Grand Prix Warsaw, his impressive consistency at competition's highest levels, against the fellow greatest players in the world, means it's just a matter of time until claims a title again.

The Neon Dynasty Championship is his fifth Top Finish so far, and perhaps where he finally claims it all.

All About Alchemy

It's a rare occasion to witness the debut of an entirely new format in Magic, but that's exactly what we got to do at the Neon Dynasty Championship as more than 200 players did their best to break Alchemy and try to predict what other teams might brew up with access to new and rebalanced digital-only cards to throw into the Magic mix.

(Click to Watch)

In the end, Alchemy at the Neon Dynasty Championship was best summed up by this: there were 11 different decks played by the top 13 finishers in the tournament. The much-hyped Naya Runes deck underperformed vastly, as much of the field found out that Mono-White Aggro performed strongly against Runeforge Champion. The classic aggressive strategy was the most successful on Day One, but as the field narrowed on Saturday it was Mardu Midrange and Orzhov Venture that rose to the top ahead of Mono-White.

Orzhov Venture is a perfect example of an Alchemy-enabled deck, with Triumphant Adventurer and Precipitous Drop giving the deck the power to send both Ma Noah and Eli Kassis to perfect 7-0 Alchemy finishes.

"I lost very few games and no matches," Kassis explained bluntly. "The team really killed it with the design and I would run it back for sure."

Eli Kassis - Orzhov Venture

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (2)
2 The Wandering Emperor
Sorcery (3)
3 Duress
Other (17)
4 Citystalker Connoisseur 4 A-Triumphant Adventurer 4 A-Precipitous Drop 4 Forsaken Crossroads 1 A-Dungeon Descent
60 Cards

The other 7-0 Alchemy players were Davis, who ran the table with Grixis Midrange featuring a playset of Kaito Shizuki, and Shota Yasooka's innovative Izzet Mill deck, which took the tournament by surprise—and storm—in typical Yasooka style and took him to a perfect Alchemy run and a near-Top 8 finish.

(Click to Watch)

Shota Yasooka - Izzet Mill

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Sights and Sounds of the Championship

With a hugely diverse Alchemy metagame and a Top 8 that features both familiar faces and a set of new faces from the digital-first generation of Magic competitors, we also saw some innovation in the now-familiar Historic format. Jonny Guttman has been the force behind much of the metagame innovation on MTG Arena over the last few years, and now he has earned himself a chance to make his mark as a Top 8 competitor as well as a deckbuilder.

"The Top 8 means that I get to play for a spot in the world championship," he reflected. "I would daydream what I would do if I won my win and in or what I would say in my interview. Now it's all a reality and it still hasn't really sunk in that I Top 8'd a Championship and beat three of the greatest players of all time. It makes it more surreal."

Jonny Guttman

The deck innovation started with the new-look Rakdos Sacrifice that Yudai Miyano took the Top 8. It's centered around Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty additions Oni-Cult Anvil and Experimental Synthesizer, adding another potent engine to a deck already leaning on the combo endboss of Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven.

  • Oni-Cult Anvil
  • Experimental Synthesizer
  • Cauldron Familiar
  • Witch's Oven

Yudai Miyano - Esper Clerics

Download Arena Decklist

Another new card making waves was Light-Paws, Emperor's Voice, which has given the Auras deck a new tool to dump enchantments onto and one that leads to unique deckbuilding decisions. Farewell and March of Otherworldly Light gave control decks new tools to work with that helped deal with the prevalence of Witch's Ovens and Trail of Crumbs, while Jean-Emmanuell Depraz surprised everyone with Azorius Affinity. And, of course, the regular dose of Arclight Phoenix.

(Click to Watch)

But it was Alchemy that stole the show on Saturday - that is, at least until Maria Bartholdi, Corey Baumeister and Riley Knight took the stage.

(Click to Watch)

Looking Ahead

With two days of competition behind us, all eyes turn to the Top 8 playoff and the battle for the six available seats at Magic World Championship XXVIII.