Six rounds of Theros Beyond Death draft. Ten rounds of Pioneer. Two days and a multitude of exiled libraries later, we have the Top 8 of the first-ever Players Tour in the Americas. If Brussels and Nagoya last week were the breakout for Inverter of Truth decks, this weekend belonged fully to Underworld Breach, which put two players into the Top 8 and was the most successful deck by far.
Of course, the Pioneer metagame was only part of the story here in Phoenix. Here's what stood out to us from Day 2 of the tournament.
The Sunday Stage is Set
Phoenix brought us a star-studded Top 8 featuring PT winners, Hall of Famers and several examples of players breaking through after years of work. Here are the eight players who will be back on Sunday to compete for the trophy and the title.
- Tommy Ashton (Bant Spirits)
- William "Huey" Jensen (Lotus Breach)
- Jacob Wilson (Sultai Delirium)
- Zachary Kiihne (Mono-Red Aggro)
- Corey Burkhart (Dimir Inverter)
- Austin Bursavich (White-Blue Control)
- Allen Wu (Lotus Breach)
- Pete Ingram (Dimir Inverter)
Congrats to the Top 8 at #PTPhoenix!— Magic Esports ✈️ #MTGWorlds (@MagicEsports) February 9, 2020
We'll have live coverage of the entire Top 8 tomorrow, beginning at 9 a.m. on https://t.co/we35sjwRQE! pic.twitter.com/2kOlNSH42E
Jensen is the most accomplished of the bunch, having won the World Championship 2017 and a longtime member of the Hall of Fame. But there's plenty of other worthy storylines from the Top 8, including the second straight major Top 8 appearance for Bursavich. Ashton, Kiihne, Burkhart and Ingram are making their first Top Finish, while Allen Wu – who led wire to wire this weekend – will look to add a second PT trophy to his mantle alongside the one from his team win at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.
Pioneer a Showcase of Diversity
As for the Pioneer format, a balanced Top 8 reflects a tournament that had a clear best deck – Lotus Breach was far and away the most successful – but also one that could reward tight play and strong sideboarding plans. Ingram won a large tournament last weekend with his build of Dimir Inverter, and he rode that same deck all the way to the Top 8. Meanwhile, both the aggressive and controlling ends of the spectrum are covered, with Kiihne on Mono-Red and Bursavich on White-Blue Control.
I am very, very damn pleased with myself. I have told myself I'd satisfied never top 8ing a PT bc I've already earned the esteem of the people I admire and love. But this is a nice chunk of change and a bunch of invites and actual people cheering, so ship it #PTPhoenix— Tommy Ashton (@stainerson) February 9, 2020
You can find all the Top 8 lists here.
Further down the standings, there was plenty to like. One favorite that made a deep run in the tournament was the Orzhov Midrange masterpiece that belonged to Raja Sulaiman. He came up just short of the Top 8, but his list proved that Pioneer is still a format where playing fair can pay off.
Theros Takes Off in Phoenix
The Top 8 may be played out with Pioneer, but the road to the Top 8 includes six rounds of Draft. It's a PT tradition, and with Theros Beyond Death recently hitting the scene, savvy players were rewarded for arriving well-prepared for the format.
It certainly paid off for Allen Wu and William "Huey" Jensen, who used perfect 6-0 draft performances to propel their run to the Top 8. The format has received nearly universal praise from competitors this weekend, and it will again take center stage next week when the 16 contenders at the World Championship draft the format one more time.
The draft rounds featured plenty of complicated board stalls and tricky combat scenarios, including this wild finish by Jensen.
Choose Your Champion... Carefully
With the World Championship right around the corner next week, Magic players are being asked to choose their champion from among the 16 competitors. It's an opportunity for viewers to show their support for their favorite pros and earn rewards on MTG Arena while they're at it, but it also can turn out to be a bit of a loaded question.
Just ask commentator Riley Knight.
Next up: the Top 8 on Sunday. Will it be Allen Wu adding yet another title to his collection? Huey Jensen continuing to build on his Hall of Fame career? Or will one of the underdogs rise up to leave their own mark on the first Players Tour in North America?
There's one way to find out – tune in Sunday when coverage kicks off at 9 a.m. local time at Twitch.tv/Magic.