More than 500 players were on hand to participate in Mythic Championship II in London along the Thames river, and after two drafts and 10 more grueling rounds of Modern we came to Sunday with a Top 8 in place. It was a perfect snapshot into the Modern metagame after the implementation of the "London Mulligan," with Humans, Tron, Izzet Phoenix, TitanShift and Affinity (with Experiment Frenzy) cracking the Top 8.
Here are the highlights that stood out to us from the weekend.
Modern Meets Mulligans, London-Style
The "London mulligan" being tested at the Mythic Championship dominated a lot of the discussion coming into the weekend. Under this rule, if you mulligan for the Nth time, you draw 7 cards and put N cards on the bottom. How the new rule would affect deck choice and mulligan decisions was a talking point among the community coming in, so how did the numbers play out?
Nguyen Conquers His Demons
Thien Nguyen was the story of the swiss rounds. The longtime Modern player and Valakut aficionado went 14-1 before drawing into the Top 8 of the Mythic Championship, and his play in that span dazzled viewers who may not have heard his name before.
But this tournament wasn't the first time Thien Nguyen has found success at the highest levels of play. He previously found himself atop the standings late in Day 1 at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, but a rough Day 2 saw him tumble from the top.
The experience weighed on Nguyen, but given an opportunity to play his beloved TitanShift - he estimates he's played more than 10,000 games with the deck - at the Mythic Championship, this weekend he overcame those bad memories and dominated the tournament en route to the Top 8.
The quarterfinal match between Thien Nguyen and Matt Sperling was neck-and-neck from the start, and was the only quarterfinal to go to a fifth game. Nguyen knew his TitanShift deck forward and backward, and he had a few key tools in the fight against Sperling, who played Affinity.
One of Nguyen's tools was Engineered Explosives, which had the potential to clear Sperling's board of threats in game five. It was on the battlefield, ready to fire on Nguyen's next turn ... except a second copy of Cranial Plating for Sperling saw to it that Nguyen never got another turn.
MPL player Alexander Hayne, on Tron, was pulling ahead in his quarterfinal match again Chris Kvartek, on Humans, when a Damping Sphere from Kvartek threatened to slow his momentum. It turns out, though, that when your lands tap for just one mana, you're still allowed to tap seven of them to cast Karn Liberated. Turns out, Karn is an impressive card even when Tron players have to be fair with their lands like the rest of us.
Adrian Zhu was facing down a daunting board packed with Humans poised for a lethal attack in his quarterfinal against MPL player Brian Braun-Duin. With a World Breaker and a land in hand, and Tron assembled on the battlefield, Zhu had only a handful of cards he could draw to survive the next turn of the game.
Zhu drew Oblivion Stone, wiping out Braun-Duin's board in one fell swoop, and setting up a game win that would eventually lead to a quarterfinal victory.
Tron Meets Its End
Matt Sperling was off to a fast start against Adrian Zhu in the semifinals, with his Affinity deck pressuring Zhu with both Poison and traditional damage. Zhu had an Oblivion Stone to clear Sperling's board, but Affinity's pesky creature lands still had the potential to finish Zhu off in a couple of turns.
It was a lightning fast #MythicChampionshipII semifinal match between @sickofit and Adrian Zhu, full of topdecks, perfect Affinity opening hands, and lots of lands getting in for damage. pic.twitter.com/vmi7kUoAAO— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) April 28, 2019
An Arcbound Ravager off the top of Sperling's dec put away any chance of Zhu making a comeback and secured Sperling his first win of the semifinal.
On the other side of the bracket, Eli Loveman was also facing off against Tron, and while he didn't have lands that could convert into creatures to defend against Oblivion Stone and Ugin, he could just make it so that Alexander Hayne's most powerful cards were stuck in his hand.
Our #MythicChampionshipII semifinals conclude as @blackshirtman defeats @InsayneHayne 3-1! Loveman advances to the finals, where he and his Humans will face @sickofit on Affinity.— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) April 28, 2019
Catch the conclusion at https://t.co/GF4H5s6srS! pic.twitter.com/8u7RVfAwrj
With the power of Meddling Mage (and sometimes a Phantasmal Image pretending to be a Meddling Mage), Loveman narrowed Hayne's outs one by one until there were none left, eventually taking the semifinal match in four games.
Loveman Becomes a Mythic Champion
Magic is incredible at delivering unexpected moments and unlikely winners. And few were more unlikely than Loveman, a 25-year-old competitor from southern California who had never even threatened a Mythic Championship Top 8 in his four previous tries.
But it was meant to be this weekend, as he tooks his Humans deck (when asked what abilities he would have if he were a planeswalker, he responded with the rules text of Thalia's Lieutenant) but struggled to a 5-3 start on the first day. Good enough to advance, but far from the type of record that typically ends in a Top 8 appearance.
But nothing could stop Loveman. He rattled off a perfect 8-0 record on Saturday to advance to the elimination rounds, and then methodically worked his way through a stacked Top 8 gauntlet, first beating reigning World Champion Javier Dominguez before breezing past another Magic Pro League member in Alexander Hayne.
That set up a finals against Matt Sperling (making his third Mythic Championship Top 8), and again Loveman took it in four, running his Sunday record to an incredible 8-3 and earning the trophy and title of Mythic Champion along the way.