5 Lessons from the World Championship

The Result

Las Vegas—referred to by Team Coverage Captain Rich Hagon as “Sin Collector City”—played host to the World Championship last weekend, where 24 of the world’s most powerful wizards were slated to do battle in an ultimate test of supremacy. Across both Standard and Dominaria Limited, players duked it out in their quest for glory and a cool $100,000, but a strong current of controversy ran alongside this event with one player suffering a disqualification and one player refusing to play in protest.

The weekend also saw the Team Series Final take place between the Ultimate Guard Pro Team and Hareruya Latin. This event was also the first opportunity for Guilds of Ravnica cards to be showcased on the world stage. Ultimate Guard, whose testing process for the event was noted for its rigor, dispatched Hareruya Latin across two three-match sets, and became the second-ever Team Series Champions!

The Top 4 of the World Championship saw Hall-of-Famer Ben Stark and two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar bow out in the semis, leading to a Black-Red Aggro mirror held between Grzegorz Kowalski and last year’s runner-up, Javier Dominguez. After a grueling five games, Dominguez avenged his defeat in Boston last year to emerge victorious as this year’s World Champion!

The Moments

The raw emotion of Javier Dominguez after claiming the title, going one better than last year:

Unparalleled insight into the strategic genius of one of the game’s greats:

Marcio Carvalho doesn’t play the shame land after getting Spell Pierced:

Bonus: Shameless self-promotion on my part—I slammed this Knight token into play, excited to see my girl Aryel getting it done on the big stage:

The Deck

Ken Yukuhiro had to blaze his own trail this weekend, and brought some real heat with a list that caught many off-guard. Slither Blade was a much-maligned card during its time in Limited thanks to the deck that spawned around it, and the Japanese superstar looked to harness the power of the 1/2 in a mono-blue deck that also made the most of Tempest Djinn.

Mono-Blue Tempest Djinn

Ken Yukuhiro

This deck has been sneaking around the traps for awhile, but it was incredible to see it perform so strongly on the world stage. Slither Blade into Curious Obsession was a one-two punch that left opponents reeling, and the surprising amount of interaction in blue helped this deck to play an effective aggro-control game throughout the weekend.

A mix of counterspells, board interaction, and post-board flexibility made this deck difficult to properly pin down, and Yukuhiro had enormous success with the list throughout the weekend—up until his unplanned departure from the tournament in round fourteen. And that rather neatly brings us to the aberrant extra section to this week’s article.

The Controversies

The beginning of the tournament was heavily overshadowed by Gerry Thompson’s abrupt withdrawal early Friday morning. Thompson used the opportunity to broadcast a list of grievances about the state of professional Magic, and his message was widely picked up as the tournament began without him there. Irrespective of your view on the individual points Thompson raised, there’s no doubt at all that his message gained enormous traction and will doubtlessly dominate the discourse surrounding professional Magic in the future.

To bookend the controversy caused by Thompson at the beginning of the tournament, the last round of Swiss saw Ken Yukuhiro disqualified after failing to call a judge in time after drawing a sideboard card in game 1. Yukuhiro offered an immediate and forthright apology on Twitter after being disqualified for the tournament, accepting responsibility for his actions and acknowledging their consequences.

Both issues sparked what could be diplomatically referred to as enlivened discussion. The Magic community took to social media to make their voices heard, with perspectives across the entire spectrum being shared with some vehemence. These perspectives were everything from constructive to banal, but everyone who discussed the issues in good faith had the common goal of making Magic the best game it can be.

The Takeaway

With Standard rotation upon us, and with Dominaria Limited well and truly behind us, there wasn’t too much to take away from the tournament in terms of relevant and actionable strategy for deck lists, card choice, drafting strategy, and the like. Seeing the very best deck played by the very best players offered an opportunity to hone in on specifically-mastered skills these players demonstrated, but that’s a little less obvious than sifting through sweet new decks or watching a stupendous Draft come together.

On the other hand, the debut of Guilds of Ravnica as a Limited format seemed to strike a resonant chord with players and viewers alike, almost all of whom are excited to travel to one of Magic’s most beloved locations. Izzet is a strong frontrunner for best guild, while Golgari lags behind and was actively avoided by the players. Indeed, William Jensen splashed both blue and red in his “Golgari” deck in order to ensure it was up to snuff.

I generally don’t like to offer personal opinions on heavy and important issues, and I’m not going to do it here. But one important takeaway for me this weekend when dealing with the weekend’s controversies was the importance of empathy when discussing or debating issues with other people. While it was encouraging to see constructive and solutions-oriented discussion of the issues raised by Thompson’s protest, this wasn’t universally the case. The barrage of thoughtless, needless, and reactionary attacks—many of them ad hominem—cast a pall over what should be seen as an opportunity for growth for all concerned.

This all may sound enormously sanctimonious, and I apologize if it does, as that’s not the vibe I’m going for. I do feel, however, that too many people lost sight of the common ground on all sides of this issue. Everyone involved wants the best possible outcome for the game of Magic, and while this is a highly emotive issue, it’s important to maintain respect for everyone involved. I’ll put my soap box away and resume the mindless silly nonsense you’ve come to expect from me, but please—remember to be excellent to each other.


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