At the ExCeL London by the River Thames, 515 players convened for the start of Mythic Championship II. With $500,000 in prizes on the line, a brand new draft format to kick off the day, and the debut of a mulligan rule with the potential to shake things up, the event hall hummed with excitement.
Hall of Famer Olivier Ruel Leads the Field as the Only 8-0 Player
Olivier Ruel is in the Hall of Fame for a reason. With 5 Mythic Championship Top 8s and 28 Grand Prix Top 8s to his name and over $300,000 lifetime winnings, his resume is very impressive indeed.
But he had done most of his winning in the previous decade. In fact, he had not even played most of the Mythic Championships recently. "I've been getting married, becoming a dad, getting a job, and studies, and we bought a house," he explained.
Yet today, he showed that when he shows up, he can still play Magic with the best of them. He was the only player to reach the pristine 8-0 record, and he went undefeated in Modern with Esper Control. His Jace, the Mind Sculptor / Terminus deck had the lightest possible black splash for Surgical Extraction, Nihil Spellbomb, and Unmoored Ego, but these cards proved essential. He used all three graveyard hate spells to dismantle Felix Innauer's Dredge deck in his Round 8 feature match to advance to 8-0.
Also undefeated is Fernando David Gonzalez, from Argentina, who finished the day at 7-0-1. He has three Grand Prix Top 8s, and most recently finished in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Los Angeles, another Modern event where he piloted Dredge. Despite that success, he chose Hardened Scales for the Mythic Championship this weekend, proving that he has Modern prowess no matter what the deck.
Enter War of the Spark
Mythic Championship II marks the debut of Magic's newest set, War of the Spark, and it was thrilling to watch the best players in the world get their hands on a set unlike any other before it. With Planeswalkers at Uncommon and Rare, they were all over the battlefield.
Players went all-out in crafting their decks with Planeswalkers, even if they only have a single ability. Yuuya Watanabe, for example, played three copies of Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage in a 3-0 draft deck that was nothing short of a masterpiece.
Planeswalkers weren't the only avenue to explore, as War of the Spark marks the return of Proliferate, a mechanic centered around counters of all kinds, from +1/+1 to loyalty. MPL member Ben Stark drafted a blue-green proliferate-centric deck on Day 1.
In War of the Spark, we've finally found Fblthp. Oliver Tiu, in fact, found Fblthp a number of times during the Day 1 draft. He ended up with three copies of the legendary homunculus in an unusual blue-black deck. Like Watanabe, Tiu also ended up with three Planeswalkers in his list, through they were three unique ones.
Modern favors one-drops, but in Limited they're a much less popular inclusion. But why put Planeswalkers in your deck when you can 3-0 with a big ... pack? herd? posse? ... of cats! Andrew Tenjum did just that, drafting five copies of Charmed Stray, the one-drop cat that likes as many friends as it can get.
Still other players took the mana fixing in the set as an invitation to draft and cast every great card that came their way, like Kasper Nielsen. His four-color deck had a potent mix of removal, high-powered Planeswalkers, and a few very impressive creatures to boot, and took him to a 3-0 draft record.
Day 2 of Mythic Championship II kicks off with another draft, where players will have even more opportunities to explore the powerful cards and synergies of War of the Spark Limited. Don't miss it!
Magic Pro League Players in Day 2
Twenty-five members of the MPL advanced to Day 2, including Brian Braun-Duin, Yuuya Watanabe, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, and Alexander Hayne leading the pack at 7-1. Javier Dominguez and Seth Manfield will also join the fray after a 6-2 Day 1, as will 5-2-1 player John Rolf.
There's a cluster of players at 5-3: Reid Duke, Martin Jůza, Grzegorz Kowalski, Ken Yukuhiro, Brad Nelson, Shahar Shenhar, Matt Nass, Piotr Głogowski, Christian Hauck, Shota Yasooka, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Lee Shi Tian. Finally, squeaking in at 4-4 are Andrea Mengucci, Ben Stark, Luis Salvatto, Márcio Carvalho, and Andrew Cuneo.
Modern was Defined by Turn-3 Karn Liberated
The Modern rounds kicked off with Tron as the most popular deck, at 14.6% of the field. This was a larger share than we had seen at recent Grand Prix tournaments, and there is a clear reason for this: Mythic Championship II is testing the so-called London mulligan rule. Under this rule, if you mulligan for the Nth time, you draw 7 cards and put N cards on the bottom. This benefits decks that require specific combinations of cards, and it specifically boosts the consistency at which Tron can assemble Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Power Plant.
The metagame as a whole looked diverse as always, with a wide variety of archetypes represented. In the feature match area, we've seen pretty much everything, ranging from Humans to Izzet Phoenix to Eldrazi. In Round 4, even Prime Speaker Vannifar made an appearance.
Graveyard Hate Doing Work
Surgical Extraction was the most-played card among the Modern decklists of all competitors: 569 copies total, split between 199 main deck and 370 sideboard. It can halt the powerful Dredge deck (as Olivier Ruel showed in his Round 8 feature match), combine with Field of Ruin to take out all copies of an Urza land (which is how Shaheen Soorani beat Martin Juza in their Round 6 feature match), or even give +4/+0 to your own Crackling Drake when you Extract yourself.
But Surgical Extraction wasn't the only graveyard hate card that had an impact today. Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void, for example, also saw a bunch of play, sometimes even in the main deck. Jean-Emmanuel Depraz included three copies of Rest in Peace in the main of his W/U Control deck, and he memorably used it to dismantle Matthew Costa's Izzet Phoenix deck in Game 1 of their Round 5 feature match.
One reason why he and several other players could afford to put a card traditionally seen as a sideboard card in his main deck was the combination of the London mulligan rule and the open decklist policy that was in place at the Mythic Championship. Thanks to the open decklist policy, implemented to allow the Cardboard.Live plugin to improve your Twitch viewing experience, players knew what their opponents were playing before the match started. As a result, you would know whether that Rest in Peace in their Game 1 opening hand would be useless or game-breaking. And thanks to the London mulligan rule, players could find game-breaking cards more consistently if they wanted.
And that's it for Day 1 here at Mythic Championship II! Join us tomorrow at twitch.tv/Magic as players battle their way to the Top 8.