Skip to main content Download External Link Facebook Facebook Twitter Instagram Twitch Youtube Youtube Discord Left Arrow Right Arrow Search Lock Wreath icon-no-eye caret-down Add to Calendar download Arena copyText Info Close

Magic World Championship XXIX Finals Match

September 25, 2023
Corbin Hosler

The 2022–23 season all came down to this. Dozens of Regional Championships, three Pro Tours, and hours spent both drafting Wilds of Edraine and studying Standard led the 105 qualified competitors to Magic World Championship XXIX for a chance to showcase their game and claim the title of World Champion.

With 14 rounds of Standard on Friday and Saturday, the road to the Top 8 was grueling for everyone involved. And that was just the warmup to the stacked Top 8 bracket itself. But when the dust settled and tens of thousands of viewers arrived in to watch the final match of the World Championship there were just two players remaining, each ready to stand atop the Magic world.

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

One side sat Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, one of the most consistent players of the past five years. The French pro had been here before. Specifically, he was the runner-up at Magic World Championship XXVII in 2021, where he came up just short against Yuta Takahashi. With more Top FInishes to his name, this was another chance to claim the one Sunday accolate he's narrowly missed so far: the trophy.

Kazune Kosaka

On the other was Kazune Kosaka, making his first career Top Finish after a dreamlike run through the World Championship and the Pro Tour season in general. Kosaka qualified for the World Champs without making a Top 8 appearance in any of the three Pro Tours this season, thanks to his strong and steady performances across the board. It's been a long journey to here for the Saitama City native who first picked up Magic in 2007.

The decks were similar. Depraz was rocking Esper Legends, formerly a crutch of the format but one of the decks in the middle of the pack at the World Championship. But with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Skrelv, Defector Mite, Raffine, Scheming Seer and the rest of the most powerful legends in the color running around, Depraz could play reactively or proactively depending on the situation, and could certainly get under the slower, midrange build of Esper that Kosaka brought. But Kosaka's deck was stuffed to the gills with removal, the ability to go wide with Lord Skitter, Sewer King paired perfectly with Virtue of Loyalty.

The Games

The first game featured two key cards in both decks facing off. Depraz deployed both Skrelv, Defector Mite and Dennick, Pious Apparition to gum things up, while Kosaka cast Lord Skitter, Sewer King into Raffine, Scheming Seer.

Almost exactly the start each player was looking for. Depraz began to lightly pressure Kosaka's life total, but the Japanese player was going wide on the ground with rats and soon began pumping his team with Virtue of Loyalty.

Left with a hand of reactive cards and a board of creatures that were quickly falling behind the Virtue, Depraz drew one of his best cards for any situation: Sheodred, the Apocalypse. Hoping it had arrived in time, the French pro passed the turn and waited to see if Kosaka had an answer.

He did not. What he did have, however, was a growing army of Rat tokens quickly amassing +1/+1 counters. Even with the life buffer from Sheoldred, it was a good plan for Kosaka.

But Raffine has been a Standard standby since it was printed, and not just because it's an evasive creature. The ability to sculpt a hand with Raffine's ability is crucial to its success, and in this match it allowed Depraz to find a way around the swarm. Rats can't block, and Depraz was interested in attacking.

Up a game, this time it was Depraz's turn to lead with the threats. First came Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which can be a beating for the midrange Esper deck to play around. It was immediately followed by Raffine, one of the more difficult-to-beat curves made possible by the Esper Legends decks.

But Kosaka had clutch answers: a pair of Cut Down to cleanly answer both creatures. It gave him some room to breathe, and he took the opportunity to deploy a Raffine of his own. With the only creature in play, it looked as if he had found the stabilizer and was ready to progress his own board.

But the hits kept coming from Depraz. He continued his near-perfect curve out with Faerie Mastermind, then Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. That taxed Kosaka and left him without a viable offensive plan as Raffine stayed back on defense. Finally, Depraz seemed to miss a beat. He played a sixth land and passed the turn. If his hand was empty, this was Kosaka's chance to even the match.

But his hand was not empty.

Ertai Resurrected stonewalled Kosaka's next play, a Wedding Announcement, and that represented a corner turned: Depraz had a board to apply pressure, Kosaka did not. With the edge gained, Depraz didn't let off the gas.

Kosaka had only dropped a single game in the Top 8, but now he found himself down two games to none. And when the third game started with a mulligan to five, the challenge level stepped up another few notches.

But Kosaka wasn't going away easily. With Thalia and Lord Skitter his curve was strong for a mulligan, and he began to fill the board with Rats. Depraz was also rolling, with Skrelv hanging out untapped to protect Dennick, Pious Apparition and Raffine, Scheming Seer. Kosaka might be able to go wide with Rats, but Depraz still commanded all the options and card selection he could want.

That sent Kosaka on the offensive. He used Rat tokens to poke at Depraz's life total, but with Dennick providing lifegain and Raffine providing counters to make it bigger, the former World Championship runner-up had everything he needed to absorb the blows.

The status quo favored Depraz, so Kosaka tried to force some action by chump-attacking with his team. But successfully sniffing out Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, Depraz kept his key creatures out of harm's way by keeping them on the bench. Already ahead of resources and with his Raffine-fueled army outpacing Lord Skitter's Rats, the tension around the stage began to mount as Depraz took what would become the final turn of Magic World Championship XXIX.

Just like Javier Dominguez several years ago, a former World Championship finalist has returned to the largest stage the game has to offer and shown the Magic world that he is its World Champion.

Congratulations Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, Magic World Champion XXIX!

Share Article