Day Two of the Innistrad Championship began with players who finished 4-3 or better on Day One still competing. It started with plenty of time left to separate the best from the rest, especially as players battled to determine what would reign supreme in the reinvigorated Historic format with its host of deck options.
From the 252 players began the tournament and 15 rounds of play we were left with our Top 8: represented in half by the dominant Japanese team of the weekend, including the reigning World Champion, with top competitors and rising stars rounding out the balance. These eight players will return with the Historic format showdowns for the title and seats at the World Championship on the line.
- Christian Hauck (Izzet Phoenix)
- Toru Saito (Golgari Food)
- Yuuki Ichikawa (Golgari Food)
- Zachary Kiihne (Izzet Phoenix)
- Simon Görtzen (Izzet Phoenix)
- Yuta Takahashi (Izzet Phoenix)
- Riku Kumagai (Golgari Food)
- Yo Akaike (Jeskai Creativity)
Here's how we got there.
The top tier of Magic competition has always been home to what many would consider testing "superteams." From the historically dominant groups in the ‘90s to the more recent success of groups like the Czech House, competitive Magic goes through stretches where one group is so dominant in staying ahead of the metagame that they put multiple members into Top 8 contention.
One testing squad for the Innistrad Championship did better than that, with four making it through to Top 8.
It recalled some of the dominant teams of the past from the region, and in particular the Golgari Food deck most of the team piloted in Historic was one of the best-performing decks across the entire format.
A familiar deck making use of new additions in
But it was Standard where the team was most dominant down the stretch, with their Izzet Epiphany deck living up the pre-tournament hype, tricked out with a list full of one- and two-ofs for the mirror and more. It was the most powerful deck coming into the tournament, and the team showed match after match in the final rounds that expertly playing the best version of the best deck was better this weekend than trying to reinvent the Standard wheel.
Teamwork makes World Championship dreams work.— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) December 5, 2021
6 teammates are in contention for Top 8 going into the last round of the #INNChamps!
Yuta Takahashi, Yuuki Ichikawa, Riku Kumagai, Toru Saito, Yuma Koizumi, and Toru Kono. 🇯🇵 🏆 https://t.co/1zR1RBMd47 pic.twitter.com/ylznarZG04
Hauck Goes Wire-to-Wire
The German Rivals League member kicked off his tournament with a perfect 7-0 run on Day One, which surprised even himself.
That run continued on Saturday, as Hauck won the battle of undefeated players and emerged as the sole leader.
Rather than count with a bunch of cantripping blue spells, Hauck opted for a much more straightforward route: his Selesnya
Day Two didn't go quite as well as Day One did, and Hauck hit a midday skid to slow down his pace, but he did win enough to lock up the first spot in the Top 8 and the top overall seed with his second career Top Finish.
Top 8 💥#INNChamps— Christian Hauck (@ChrHauck) December 5, 2021
All According to Plan
One of the major storylines heading into this weekend was where Historic would end up after months out of the spotlight. With some notable losses including
The field seemed ready for it when no deck was more than about 15% of the field heading into Round 1. The diversity of the field was deep, but as the dust settled it was clear that trusting in the format's historically powerful cards was the best strategy: classic archetypes in Izzet Phoenix and
Not every deck was among the popular picks: there were plenty of old favorites finding success, and surprise decks breaking out deep into the tournament. Yo Akaike and their Jeskai Creativity combo deck proved that.
Standard played out as those in-the-know expected, with the field dominated by the trio of Izzet Epiphany, Mono-White Aggro and Mono-Green Aggro. That gave way to a set of top tables dominated almost wholly by blue decks: Izzet Epiphany accounted for six of decks among the Top 8, with Hauck's Mono-Green Aggro and Simon Görtzen's Mono-Black Zombies breaking the mold.
While it was a good day for
Went 7-1 today to make Top8 at #INNChamps! :D— Simon the 🧙 (@simongoertzen) December 5, 2021
Incredible job of my testing team @NikolasLabahn and @d0m89 for coming up with those decklists and boarding plans.
Izzet Phoenix with Delver (5-2)
Scrappy Zombies (7-1) https://t.co/1vyH0Y0n1s
There are two major things on the line when players return to compete in the Innistrad Championship Top 8. First, of course, is the matter of settling the winner of the Innistrad Championship. There's a beautiful trophy to win, but we'll also be looking ahead to Magic World Championship XXVIII in 2022.
The top six finishers at this tournament—anyone who picks up a win in Sunday's double-elimination Top 8—secure their invitation at the most prestigious tournament in the game. Takahashi is already qualified as the defending champion, and if he wins a match it creates an at-large invitation come the end of the season.
There's plenty on the line when coverage resumes at December 5 at 9 a.m. PST, live at twitch.tv/magic.