The remaining rounds of the Magic Online Championship swiss rounds led to some major swings in what many expected to be the outcome.
The Draft Rounds
At the start of Saturday, all eyes were on the 2015-16 Draft Master Márcio Carvalho, who finished on top of the field on Friday, but ended up traversing rough waters in Day Two's Booster Draft, ending up between rock and a hard place while cobbling together a green-white strategy to the best of his abilities. The deck ultimately led him down a very rare 0-3 for the No. 1 ranked player, putting him in a bit of a bind headed into Standard.
Meanwhile, Ryosuke Urase continued to compete among the best, earning a 2-1 to cement himself at 7-3 by the end of the draft rounds, using a black-green deck with some splashes like Quicksmith Rebel. Lukas Blohon, one of yesterday's 5-2 players, also earned a 2-1, today with a red-green deck with a very light splash in blue for Leave in the Dust.
Joining those players is Josh Utter-Leyton, who might have ended Day One at 4-3 but found himself tied for first after 3-0ing his draft. Utter-Leyton navigated the draft rounds with a solid red-white deck featuring Sram, Senior Edificer and Smuggler's Copter.
With three players at 7-3, and five others at 6-4, the Standard matches would prove to be critical to see who would make it through to Sunday.
The Final Four
After having been to these tournaments for the previous three years, the typical ebb and flow of the weekend usually led to a roller coaster of conversational levels. On Friday, players were a bit more casual between rounds, talking about matches, predictions, and more as the crew of sixteen developed a camaraderie.
In the final four Constructed rounds of Swiss, this has consistently reversed. Players become more focused on the final matches, as every win can make or break an opportunity at a Top 4 berth and potentially thousands of dollars. In Round 12, the silence in the room was so still that you could hear the breathing and movements of the mouse from each competitor, with nothing to break the tension sans the occasional sigh of relief or of frustration.
While it's all fun and games for a while, there are some matches that have far more gravity than others, and the last remaining rounds of Swiss in a multi-day event is where the script flips. This year proved no different.
The first to emerge from the last four rounds as one of the top contenders was Ryosuke Urase, besting Lukas Blohon in Round 12 to be the sole player by the end of the round. Urase's performance showed that while he may have lacked Pro Tour experience like many of his fellow competitors, he possessed plenty of experience through his online matches. As the results highlighted this weekend, Urase was plenty good enough to compete with some of the best.
To Urase, the competition this weekend has not phased him. In an on-camera interview during the day, he dived into that point further. "As one of my friends reminded me before I came, it doesn't matter who you're playing against," Urase said. "Grizzly Bear is always 2/2. Lightning Bolt always does 3 damage. No matter what you're playing against, there's always a chance you can win if you always play good Magic, and that's what I've been trying to do all weekend."
In the same round, DEX Army representatives Marcio Carvalho and Thiago Saporito clashed, leaving Saporito in the dust as Carvalho advanced his chances at a Top 4 following a fumbled series of draft rounds. Carvalho would go on to face Josh Utter-Leyton in Round 13, succumbing to the former player of the year in two games.
However, even Urase wasn't safe, and found himself in a similar standing to others, with two competitors just behind him in record.
Headed into Round 14, the following players looked like virtual locks for the Top 4 at 9-4:
And two were at 8-5:
The pairings, based on many competitors previously playing each other, broke down interestingly, putting all in a position where nobody was safe unless they sat at 10-4 by the end of the Swiss, making the final round of Day Two a sweat for those in contention. 9-4 was no longer a guarantee.
Urase was the first done of the 9-4s, falling to 9-5 in his match against Ben Weitz. While Urase's tiebreakers were good, there were no guarantees, and the loss put the fresh face in a precarious spot. The second 9-4 to finish was Josh Utter-Leyton, also succumbing in his match against Thiago Saporito. He joined Urase at 9-5, also sweating the standings for the last round of Swiss.
As the round continued, the two remaining matches were also the ones that would decide the fates of everyone waiting with bated breath on how the results would shake up the standings. One of those matches you can watch in its entirety, between 9-4 Lukas Blohon and 8-5 Anssi Alkio.
Blohon's Four-Color Copy Cat ultimately assembled many Felidar Guardians with Saheeli Rai, giving him the match 2-1 against Alkio and ensuring he would be the first seed going into the Top 4. Márcio Carvalho, meanwhile, lost against Piotr Glogowski in his match, falling to 8-6 and giving the two players at 9-5 a reason to exhale with relief.
Meanwhile, six players sat at 8-6. One would make it through to Sunday, and another one would finish in a heartbreaking 9th place. As the Top 4 was announced live, six waited to see if they would get through.
Despite a rough second day, Carvalho's solid Day One performance gave him the boost he needed when faced with a six-way tie, propelling him into the Top 4.
Left to Right: Josh Utter-Leyton, Ryosuke Urase, Lukas Blohon, Márcio Carvalho
One of these four players will be crowned the Magic Online champion, and will win the $25,000 first place prize, the guaranteed Platinum status in the Pro Tour Players Club, and the invitations to the 2017 Magic World Championship as well as next year's Magic Online Championship that come with it.