4 Lessons from U.S. Nationals

The Result

Another Nationals weekend saw wizards around the world congregate for the privilege of representing their country at the 2017 World Magic Cup. We watched Japan and then England pull together their teams in previous weekends—but this week some of the greatest and most celebrated names in global Magic converged in Richmond, Virginia, to compete in U.S. Nationals.

Ultimately, we saw Gerry Thompson succumb to Oliver Tomajko in the finals. These two will join Mr. Magic himself, Reid Duke, in Nice. Both Duke and Thompson have established resumes and results that speak for themselves—and young Tomajko looks to be on a similar trajectory. He’s been winning major tournaments since he was 14, and cleaned up this tournament with his Blue-Black Azcanta Control list.

The U.S. team will hotly contest the WMC in December, and are certainly among the most powerful sorcerers in attendance. But they’ll have to go up against not only the all-star Japanese lineup established last month, but also the hard-hitting heavyweights in the newly-minted Brazilian team.


Brazil’s Magic Godfather, Willy Edel, is talking a big game about these boys—but make no mistake, they’ll be ready to rumble in December. With teams like these, this year’s WMC is set to be a barnstormer!

The Moment

It must have been a weird weekend in the booth for Reid Duke. After locking up the captaincy, he himself had to call many of the games that ultimately led to his team being assembled. You can see the obvious pleasure on the face of Mr. Magic, however, when fellow great bloke Gerry Thompson won his semifinal and secured his place on the U.S. national team.

These two men are among the greatest ambassadors for the game on the planet. Duke has long since established an impeccable reputation for sportsmanship, fair play, and positivity. Thompson is the kind of guy that you wish you were mates with as soon as you meet him. If you’re not fully familiar with the Pro Tour Amonkhet Champion, the recent and incredibly forthright Enter the Battlefield episode about him will change that.

Any way you slice it, National Champion Oliver Tomajko will be in excellent company in Nice. Speaking of the young master, Tomajko had quite the pack passed to him during his featured Draft on Day 2. After first-picking a Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle, Tomajko picked up the next pack to discover two Jace, Cunning Castaways—somehow, Jace went ultimate in the booster itself!

In a move that made foil-hunters around the world burn with a rage that outshone the sun, Tomajko picked the non-foil copy. But hey—he’s the National Champion, so he must be doing something right.

The Deck

After the rather insular and narrow field of decks that took to the stage last week at the World Championship, it was good to see a level of diversity return to Standard this weekend. Energy decks continue to evolve, with Sultai challenging the reign of Temur, and Search for Azcanta decks continue to put up numbers with Approach of the Second Sun in addition to The Scarab God. But it’s Anointed Procession that’s getting everyone talking—the new token decks have fallen right out of the Hype Tree, hitting every branch on the way down.

Abzan Tokens

Drew Bates, Top 8 at U.S. Nationals 2017

EFro already broke this archetype down last week, but when comparing these lists you can see this deck is by no means “solved.” We’re not talking about minute metagame machinations here, either—these new token strategies are raw and at least somewhat unrefined. While Temur Energy lists offer you a few flexible slots to play around with, the core of the deck remains set in stone. With Anointed Procession decks, new technology and exciting experimentation means the deck changes from week to week.

One such experimentation that is already making waves is an Esper version of this strategy. This deck also got the EFro writeup, and shows that there’s a lot of meat on the Anointed Procession bone. The Scarab God, Hostage Taker, even Champion of Wits… yes please, and don’t forget the Negates out of the board! Keep a close eye on Anointed Procession as we move forward, my friends. This card is going nowhere but up.

The Takeaway

The return of Nationals has been welcomed by the Magic community around the world as an important event on the calendar for national communities to come together and compete in a tournament unlike any other. As with September’s Nationals tournaments, the response to a mixed-format structure was very positive—people love playing Limited alongside Constructed.

As for the formats themselves, Ixalan continues to be a tricky format to wrap your head around. We saw ridiculous 4-color Draft decks battling hard on camera, in addition to the Christian Calcano Swashbuckling special. It seems that the heaving seas of Ixalan Limited are beginning to calm as we get a better handle on the format, however. After seeing the differing approaches taken on camera, you might want to check out what Brian has to say about Ixalan draft– advice like his is invaluable in crushing your next FNM.

When it comes to Standard, the three-deck metagame that dominated Worlds has been blown to pieces over this follow-up weekend. There’s plenty of room for strategies to grow and develop from here on out, and the continued emergence of Anointed Procession decks show us that Standard is waiting to be broken like Ralph’s heart when he was at Krusty’s TV show. People are experimenting with Esper Tokens, and even Mardu Vehicles refuses to quit!

Next week we’re off to Phoenix for the final tournament before Pro Tour Ixalan—all the best and brightest will be out and about to get in the final reps before Albuquerque. I’ll see you then to wrap up everything from Arizona!


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