The Top 4 of this year's Magic Online Championship featured two former Magic Online Champions, a Pro Tour winner, and a new face to the Sunday stage who turned his success online through a favorable Magic Online Championship Series Open event into more than he could have ever expected. The Top 4 for this event was an interesting departure from best-of-five: It was best two-out-of-three matches. That meant players would play matches featuring best two-of-three until one player had won two matches in the series to advance.
The matches fell in a way that pitted newcomer versus Pro Tour winner, as Niklas Dahlquist and Steve Rubin clashed in the first semifinals in a series showcasing the Jund mirror and all its intricacies. On the other half the bracket, two former Magic Online Champions clashed to see who would keep the dream alive of being the first two-time Magic Online Champion, as Dmitriy Butakov’s Bogles went up against Lar Dam’s Grixis Control.
The first match shown for the day went long, as attrition battles tend to do, with Steve Rubin starting each match a game up against Niklas Dahlquist.
When Rubin pulled out the first match in three games, it appeared after some unfortunate mulligans from Dahlquist that he would be quickly out in the second game of the second match. Dancing around Dark Confidant and within burn range led to some tense draw steps in the second game of Match 2, but ultimately Dahlquist was able to bring the second match to a decider before succumbing to a draw.
It was there that Dark Confidant did its job a little too well, leaving Dahlquist at the mercy of his own 2/1 creature.
The two-match series went a little over two hours in length, showcasing the back-and-forth action of the Jund mirror and how long the games tend to go.
The second series in the semifinals, however, did not last nearly that long.
Lars Dam knew that his shot at advancing was slim to none against Dmitriy Butakov, whose decision to play Bogles put him in an extremely favorable spot all weekend given the metagame. Grixis Control was one of those decks that Bogles was slated to be good against, and Butakov demonstrated why in four very quick games to lock up his spot in the finals.
To Butakov’s favor, he knew that his matchup in the finals would be good regardless, given his deck’s favorability over Jund thanks to Leyline of Sanctity specifically. For Rubin, he knew that Lars Dam would have been his preferred opponent, but the fight against Butakov wasn’t impossible.
And Rubin showed exactly that, proving why he’s a Pro Tour champion, taking Game 1 in a close race. Butakov, not to be deterred, fought back in Game 2, facing a frightening race against Rubin. However, a timely aura ensured that the first match would go to three games.
However, when no Leyline was at the ready in the third game, Rubin’s deck went to word, ripping apart Butakov’s options and leaving him on the back foot for the entirety of the game until the Jund player’s monsters closed out Match #1.
Of course, Match #2 featured far less action than the first.
Butakov’s first game in the second match was less than fifteen seconds in length, and the second one didn’t last long either. While Butakov lost the auras on his Slippery Bogle to a Maelstrom Pulse, a timely Daybreak Coronet combined with Rancor put Butakov firmly back in the driver’s seat to even the series one match apiece.
And in matching with the performance of Butakov all weekend, the Bogles player showed why he was already a Magic Online Champion before.
After a commanding steal of Game 1, the second game went exactly as it was written up. Butakov had the necessary Leyline of Sanctity protection, knew what could get Rubin back into the game, and never let go of his lead.
For Butakov, the win cements his legacy in competitive Magic as one of the game’s greats, and the Platinum status awarded with his win along with the $40,000 is more than he could have hoped for.
Dmitriy Butakov will return to the Pro Tour, and he’ll be back and competing at next year’s Magic Online Championship. For now, he reigns as the Magic player of the weekend, becoming the first ever two-time Magic Online Champion.