Nearly 500 players, ten rounds of Standard, six rounds of Draft, and a loaded Top 8 field at Mythic Championship I in Cleveland. For Autumn Burchett and Yoshihiko Ikawa, it would end with a championship and a trophy.
Their path couldn't have been more difficult. Advancing to the Top 8—much less the finals—is something that even the best players in the world know is a rare occurrence, and for these two that meant knocking off two titans of the game in the semis: Reid Duke and Luis Scott-Vargas, respectively.
Beyond a doubt, either would be a worthy Champion. Burchett demonstrated their mastery all weekend with the breakout Mono-Blue Tempo deck that won games with small, evasive creatures backed up by countermagic and Curious Obsession, and their tight play had secured them this opportunity. Ikawa made his way through the Top 8 with an Esper Control deck that few were confident enough to bring to Cleveland, but one that had served him perfectly to this point. Rumors of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria's demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
The Mono-Blue Tempo deck Burchett piloted was capable of explosive starts, but even going first it was a struggle for Burchett out of the gates. A difficult decision on a first-turn Opt led to just a third-turn Tempest Djinn, which was immediately brought low by Cast Down.
But although Ikawa's deck would undoubtedly own the late game, he had to get there first. And while Burchett's start may have been slow, that only meant they had plenty of countermagic when a creature finally did stick. That's exactly what happened on the next turn, as Spell Pierce and then Negate protected a Pteramander that soon picked up a Curious Obsession.
Autumn Burchett piloted Mono-Blue Tempo all the way to the finals.
Ikawa tried to fight back with Thought Erasure to clear the way, but when he saw Burchett's hand of Tempest Djinn, Spell Pierce, and a pair of Wizard's Retorts, all he could do was laugh as he realized just how far behind he had fallen in the game.
Transforming Search for Azcanta was a start, but with Burchett drawing cards every turn from their Curious Obsession, things went from bad to worse for the Japanese pro as his Vraska's Contempt was met with Dive Down. With that, Ikawa had seen enough and picked up his cards to move to the second game.
Down a quick game, Ikawa was relieved to play first in the next one, and he couldn't slide Curious Obsession into the graveyard quickly enough after casting Thought Erasure. With nothing to obsess over, things slowed down for the mono-blue deck, though Burchett was still providing steady pressure with Siren Stormtamer and a flashed-in Merfolk Trickster.
But Ikawa was ready. Cry of the Carnarium—protected by his own Negate for Burchett's Wizard's Retort—cleared the board of smaller creatures, while a pair of follow-up spot removal spells took out the two Tempest Djinn that had looked like a dangerous follow-up for Burchett. As Burchett failed to find more action, Ikawa started generating cards with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. It took just a few more turns of that before the two-time English National Champion had seen enough and picked up their cards to move to the sideboarded games knotted at one win apiece.
The third game played out perfectly according to plan for Ikawa. Sideboard plans, that is. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper showed up right on time to exile Burchett's one-drop, and a few turns later Teferi, Hero of Dominaria followed. With Burchett out of creatures, their options were limited and the counterspells the next several draws revealed were too little, too late.
Just like that, Ikawa had fought back from losing the first game and now found himself just one win away from capturing the title.
But it's never easy at this level, and Burchett roared back immediately, landing a Merfolk Trickster in Ikawa's end step and then protecting it from removal repeatedly. First Cry of the Carnarium was made useless with Dive Down. Then Hostage Taker ran into Essence Capture. Mortify was thwarted by Siren Stormtamer, and finally a second Mortify ran into a Negate.
All the while, Burchett played to hold up the most interaction possible, and Thought Erasure from Ikawa revealed a hand of even more countermagic for Burchett. Unfortunately for them, that countermagic came in the form of Essence Capture, which couldn't protect the Trickster from a third Mortify.
Yoshihiko Ikawa fought hard to even the series at 1-1.
With both boards now empty, it was a race to find board presence—and actually resolve it. Burchett did so first, with a lowly Mist-Cloaked Herald surviving to attack and fuel Chart a Course. Ikawa was down to 6 life; he needed a big turn and he needed it now. He led with a decoy spell, hoping to bait a counter from Burchett. That's exactly what happened, as they countered it and possibility opened the door for Ikawa to resolve the spell he really wanted: The Eldest Reborn he tapped out for.
Eldest Reborn, meet Spell Pierce.
It was a devastating counter, and it will be a moment Burchett will remember for the rest of their career. That swung the game solidly to their favor, and a turn later it was on to the fifth and deciding game.
But first, Burchett needed their hat.
"I told Aaron Barich I would wear this hate if it went to Game 5, so that's what I'm doing," they explained to a good-humored Ikawa.
The first crucial moment came on turn four, when Ikawa opted to cast Chemister's Insight on end step rather than attempt a removal spell on an especially curious Pteramander. Armed with more resources, Ikawa untapped and attempted to remove it, only to be met with the first of a string of countermagic from Burchett. On and on the cycle continued. Burchett would attack and draw a card. Ikawa would attempt to remove the creature. Burchett would counter it. Rinse and repeat.
With his life total dwindling, Ikawa untapped for what could be his last turn. Down but not out, he cast Kaya's Wrath. Counter. He tapped out for the card that won him Game 3, the card that could win him the Mythic Championship: Kaya, Orzhov Usurper.
One more Spell Pierce, and Autumn Burchett became the winner of 2019 Mythic Championship I in Cleveland.
For viewers, the Mythic Championship ends with the final game. But for winners, there's one more thing they've been doing for the last fifteen years—an interview with Brian David-Marshall, who himself was retiring from coverage after this event. It's a moment neither of them—and none of us—will ever forget.
Congratulations to Autumn Burchett, 2019 Mythic Championship I Champion!