It all came down to this.
An easy line to write, but rarely is it more true than it was the evening as France's Jean-Emmanuel Depraz and Japan's Yuta Takahashi met in the Title Match of Magic World Championship XXVII. The moment was the culmination of three days of play from the sixteen top finishers in the world for the 2020-21 season. Three rounds of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Draft, seven rounds of Standard, and a Top 4 elimination bracket had all led to this: a three-match set to crown the next Magic World Champion.
Takahashi completed the dream every competitive player thought about but rarely lived: He dropped the first three rounds of the tournament with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Draft, and was faced with the prospect of having to not lose a single match if he wanted to guarantee himself a spot in the Top 4.
Which, of course, is exactly what he did.
Takahashi ran off a 7-0 Standard record with Izzet Dragons to make the Top 4, and then had just kept on winning on Day Three to appear in the World Championship Title Match. For the longtime Japanese pro synonymous with his beloved Faeries archetype and instant-speed spells, this was a fourth Top Finish but would be his first win—and he had a little bit of Magic history to help him along.
Takahashi was dominant in Standard, but Depraz's path to the Title Match was built on grinding away.
He also had fought back from an early-tournament deficit, and it was a great sign for the new Standard that the two players meeting the finals were both bringing unexpected decks no one else had. Like Takahashi, Depraz was looking to dance with Dragons as his Temur Treasures deck leaned heavily on
Compared to Takahashi's legendary 20 year career, Depraz seemed more of a newcomer to the professional scene but he, too, packed experience. While he's not loud or boisterous, the French competitor's play had spoken for itself. He made his professional debut with a Grand Prix win in Warsaw in 2017 and within a year had made the Top 8 of a Pro Tour and won the World Magic Cup with Team France—which cemented him among a rare few in the world.
From there he made two more Top Finishes and rose through the ranks of league play, culminating with this Top 4 appearance and a chance to stake his claim to the top trophy after two previous finalist finishes.
The Title Match
Depraz considered himself the underdog heading into the match, and knew he would need quick starts to give himself a chance to knock out Takahashi. And in the opening game, that's exactly what he did, knocking Takahashi down to 5 life while growing a giant Wolf token thanks to
But Takahashi had Dragons, too. His
The game had played out pretty much exactly how Takahashi wanted it to, but the second one went opposite.Aided by being on the draw and a fast
That sent things into the decider in the first match of the best-of-three. Going quickly, was what Depraz's deck was built to do, and the combination of
But going quickly comes with its risks, and double-faced lands come with their upsides.
That set the tone for the game, as Depraz's aggression slowed to a crawl and Takahashi advanced to the midgame with a healthy life total of 17. That gave him the time to dig through his deck to find double Dragons to finish things off in a hurry.
Takahashi now stood just one match away from the World Champion title, and he opened the next set with what he called the best two-drop in the entire format:
All throughout his undefeated Standard run it had served as both the removal to stabilize the board and the evasive win condition to end the game—the perfect control card, reminiscent of
But the perfect start does not always translate into the perfect finish, and Takahashi struggled to make his land drops over the following turns. That allowed the
Depraz had fought his way through the bottom half of the bracket, and he wasn't going down quietly now. He resolved an early
That clever trap cleared the way for Takahashi to untap and take command of the board, providing the pivotal swing on his way to winning the game and evening the match at one game apiece.
Once again, we were off to a Game 3. For Depraz, it was a must-win to stay in. For Takahashi, it was his first serve at the title.
Things started slowly, as Takahashi used a
But once again Takahashi's lands came to his rescue:
That found removal and cleared the way for the critical turning point: Depraz was out of gas and it was Takahashi's turn to play big threats. The Dragons began dropping, and a few swings from
With that, Takahashi's championship dream had come true. He delivered an historic World Championship performance, and he etched his name into Magic history with an unforgettable Magic World Championship XXVII victory.
Congratulations to Yuta Takahashi, Magic World Champion XXVII!