2020 Season Grand Finals Day 1 Coverage
Welcome to MTGA Zone’s Day 1 Coverage of the Grand Finals – the most elite tournament of the year. 32 best of the best Magic players have earned the right to participate in the event by placing 16th or higher either in Players Tour Finals or 2020 Mythic Invitational. Starting today, Oct 9 at 9 A.M PDT, and over the course of the weekend, they will battle for their share of $250,000 and the title of the 2020 Grand Finals champion.
Day One and Day Two consist of 6 Swiss rounds each, three of Standard followed by another three of Historic. Final standings at the end of Round 12 determine the Top 8. The eighth win makes any player qualify for the play-offs pre-emptively and automatically. The Top 8 playoff is double elimination and will feature exclusively Standard Constructed.
Day One: Standard and Historic Constructed
- 6 Swiss rounds, with records and match points carrying over to Day Two.
- Rounds 1-3: Historic Constructed
- Rounds 4-6: Standard Constructed
- All matches are a best two-out-of-three games.
- 30-minute timer for each player, each match.
Day Two: Standard and Historic Constructed
- 6 Swiss rounds, ending to a Top 8 cut.
- Rounds 7-9: Standard Constructed
- Rounds 10-12: Historic Constructed
- All matches are a best two-out-of-three games.
- 30-minute timer for each player, each match.
- Players that earn their eighth match win are advanced to Top 8 and do not compete in additional Swiss rounds.
Day Three: Top 8 Double-Elimination Playoff
- All matches are a best two-out-of-three games, except the Championship match which will be a best two-out-of-three matches.
- The player with the higher seed chooses the play/draw order for players at the beginning of each match, except in the Championship match in which case the upper bracket player may choose the play/draw order for all matches in the final series of the tournament.
Friday, October 9: 9 a.m. PDT / 6 p.m. CEST / 1 a.m. JST (October 10)
- Broadcast ends after Round 6.
Saturday, October 10: 9 a.m. PDT / 6 p.m. CEST / 1 a.m. JST (October 11)
- Broadcast ends after Round 12 and the Top 8 is announced.
Sunday, October 11: 9 a.m. PDT / 6 p.m. CEST / 1 a.m. JST (October 12)
- Broadcast ends after the Grand Finals Top 8 playoff is complete.
8 wins over the first two days is the magic number for making top 8 at this, the first dual-format tournament we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in a very long time, since the days of paper magic yore! We kick things off with three rounds of Historic, Arena’s most powerful format, before moving onto Standard.
Let’s check out the metagame:
Omnath Ramp may be the most popular deck, but you ain’t seen nothing yet! Just wait for the Standard %s, because they sure are crazy… Historic keeps up some semblance of a metagame, with many different challengers employing different strategies ready to do battle, but can they defeat the 4-Colour Catastrophe himself in a format he hasn’t yet provably conquered? Let’s find out!
Brad brings a pretty stock Jund Sacrifice list, mostly 4-ofs the usual suspects, against Ken Yukuhiro’s deadly combo deck, which has been heralded as 2020’s Splinter Twin and is a two-card combo capable of winning on turn 4 consistently, with the combination of Sea Gate Stormcaller + Neoform. Even commentator and arguably greatest player of all time, PVDDR states that if he were playing the tournament, he would choose the Neostorm deck if he knew what everyone else was playing!
Brad’s early Dreadhorde Butcher runs into an Aether Gust then trades with a Dualcaster Mage, leaving Brad low on early pressure. Notably, many of Brad’s cards are pretty weak in this Game 1, meant to disrupt creature decks and mostly useless in this combo matchup. Still, Ken burns through a bunch of cantrips but has a rough time finding the Neoform he needs to win.
Ken Pact of Negations a topdeck Witch’s Oven from Brad, and continues to hide behind his Walls of Blossoms, trying his utmost to buy himself more draw steps. He takes 1 per turn from the Cauldron Familiar rather than give Brad cards from Midnight Reaper. Finally, on 3 life and facing a lethal Dreadhorde Butcher if it ever died, Ken finally finds the Neoform and kills Brad on the spot, having waited the entire game for it.
Midnight Reaper and Claim the Firstborn are immediately thrown out of Brad’s deck, being awful in this matchup, while Ken trims on Pact of Negations and one of his Careless Celebrant combo pieces in a matchup where he doesn’t really care what his opponent is doing.
Brad has the exact same start as last time, in t1 Cauldron Familiar t2 Dreadhorde Butcher, which gets stopped by a Wall of Blossoms yet again. Brad casts a turn 3 Collected Company off Phyrexian Tower… and whiffs completely, finding precisely zero creatures! His second finds Mayhem Devil + Woe Strider, much more reasonable, and Ken is still having a rough time finding the combo.
Ken and Brad start to play a waiting game, with Ken relying on his backup plan, gaining life off a card you won’t see in Standard again: Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, and buying time with Nightpack Ambusher, but doesn’t find the Neoform he needs to close things up. Still, Nelson has a rough time killing Ken through the masses of Uro lifegain and the wall of removal, showing off Neostorm’s resilience and ability to fight a fair game.
Brad still finds himself unable to leverage enough pressure to overcome Uro, while Ken draws a truly colossal number of cards. Brad’s board gets swept away a couple of times by Anger of the Gods, and he’s left reduced to chumping Uro with Cauldron Familiar every turn, which isn’t the most exciting of lines. Finally, having drawn something like 7 cards and gained 21 life off Uro, Ken finds the Neoform, sweeps the board to prevent Brad from disrupting his creatures, and kills Brad on the spot.
The Neostorm Combo deck takes it 2-0, with Jund Sacrifice completely unable to put enough pressure on to stop it, but in much messier fashion than anticipated, playing some slow grindy games in which Ken had to painstakingly assemble the combo. Still, the matchup looked pretty one-sided nonetheless.
Luis Scott-Vargas vs Luis Salvatto: Four-Colour Midrange vs Omnath Control
LSV is on what is effectively a Sultai Midrange deck splashing Yasharn, Implacable Earth, a powerful hate piece against Jund Sacrifice and Neoform Combo, and Luis Salvatto is on Public Enemy Number One.
LSV blasts away a full three Lotus Cobras with Extinction Event and Eliminate, and manages to stick his most important card in the matchup in Nissa, Who Shakes the World. While he can’t defeat Salvatto’s long game, he certainly can use Nissa’s colossal mana advantage to win a more short-term game. LSV is able to apply colossal pressure with a bunch of Hydroid Krases, and Salvatto’s Hail Mary Genesis Ultimatum only finds him two Uros, not nearly enough to save him.
Salvatto is able to sneak in a turn 2 Lotus Cobra on the play, going right underneath LSV’s Essence Scatters. LSV’s stacked hand answers all Salvatto’s cards, but he has no pressure, and is vulnerable to Salvatto’s better topdecks. Still, LSV starts to amass a commanding position with Salvatto unable to answer his escaped Uro and forming a wall of counter-magic.
While Salvatto would need several great topdecks in a row to get out of this spot, he instead floods out and dies to Uro rapidly.
LSV takes two games in commanding fashion, countering and removing all the Omnath Ramp cards and leaving Salvatto with only dust and tears!
Round Two: Seth Manfield vs Luis Scott-Vargas
Seth and LSV switch roles for this tournament, with Luis playing Jund Sacrifice at the Historic Mythic Invitational, and Seth winning that tournament with a very similar list to Luis’s deck this tournament, just one colour fewer! Yasharn, Implacable Earth is the standout card in this matchup, being extremely bad news for the Jund Sacrifice deck as soon as it enters play, and the CFB Pros literally built their list to defeat this deck, so it would be surprising if LSV were not favored here.
LSV has a pretty awful start, mulling to 6, starting slow and flooding out.
Seth goes for a CoCo in response to LSV’s Uro, finds two Mayhem Devils and immediately ends the game with the Woe Strider-Devil interaction!
Seth brings in almost his entire sideboard, even Redcap Melee to answer Yasharn (a pretty awkward answer!) and leads with double Thoughtseize, tearing a Nissa and Extinction Event out of LSV’s hand. Using the space that buys him, Seth is able to continously deploy Dreadhorde Butchers and other threats into LSV’s removal. Claim the Firstborn enables some big hits with Luis’s own Hydroid Krases
In the end, Seth just chips LSV down to zero with all his drain, while LSV isn’t really able to assemble anything through the wall of discard. He takes out Yasharn with Redcap Melee and 2-for-1s himself to push through the last few points!
Seth subverts anticipations totally, crushing his opponent 2-0 in a matchup LSV constructed his deck to beat!
Luca Magni vs Michael Jacob: Azorius Control vs Neostorm Combo
Michael Jacob’s deck falls prey to Magni’s maindeck Grafdigger’s Cage, a card that is strong against much of the field and totally stops the combo while in play, forcing Jacob to use Fae of Wishes’ Adventure mode, Granted, to search up a Blast Zone as an answer. Magni uses the time this buys him to land his most powerful card, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and starts to run away with the game immediately. Magni uses a second Granted cast to tutor up a Neoform for the combo, but by this point Magni’s hand is stacked, with a full three copies of Absorb at the ready. From there, a 4/4 Shark quickly finishes the game, as Jacob is eventually forced to play into the countermagic and dies.
Magni brings in even more counter-magic, boards up to four Cages, and leaves in some Wraths of God to prevent Jacob from winning with his sideboard beatdown plan (which is a real threat to a traditional Control deck like this one!).
Magni starts with a land-light hand on the draw, which puts him in a little danger, but he has counterspells for all sorts of things at the ready to make up for that. Jacob starts to cast creatures to try to win the game on a different axis, but that quickly gets stopped by Essence Scatters and he starts to take some 2/2 Shark beats. From there, the Sharks mount up and Jacob is unable to find the combo before he dies to the flying pressure, with no Uros available like in Ken Yukuhiro’s list.
Luca Magni takes an easy 2-0 in a matchup that is traditionally fantastic for the control side, built to prey on the combo deck with counterspells aplenty!
Sam Sherman vs Raphael Levy: Four-color Midrange Mirror
Levy wins game 1 in a grindy 17-minute slug fest!
Both players lead with early Nissas in a matchup dominated by that card, with backup copies even available should the first die! Levy gets the first double mana turn, but Nissa converting lands into 3/3s starts to take its toll – he starts to run out of lands totally, and is left with precious few Green sources in play. Both players start to fall low on resources, in this constant battle to take the opposing planeswalkers off the board, and each starts to aggressively cantrip to make land drops.
Levy finally makes it to land no.5 to deploy the sixth Nissa of the game, and this one actually manages to stick for a while and produce him a massive mana advantage. This grindy attrition-based game continues, but Levy establishes a firm lead. Still, though he is able to Escape the first Uro, it immediately meets an Extinction Event and Sherman is able to bring out his own. Levy is finally able to leverage this mana advantage into the biggest threat of the entire matchup, a hardcast Shark Typhoon, which is very tough for the deck to answer, but Sherman keeps up with bigger and bigger Krases.
Levy starts to flood out, his Typhoon not at its best as a result. In a rather disappointing end to a long game, a few bad draws from Levy lets Sherman capitalise and take his Nissa off the board. From there, he easily takes it with a 12/12 Shark token, having wrathed away all Levy’s poor baby Sharks.
Going into the decider, both players had less than 8 minutes remaining on the clock, so the pace of actions and the quick aggressive start were the things to look out for.
Raphael Levy resolved Nissa on turn four after ramping into it with Uro; Sherman followed with the Nissa of his own just a turn after – but the tempo initiative was already on the side of the Frenchman.
Round 3 (Historic)
The final Historic round of day 1 puts head-to-head two masters of the game – Gabriel Nassif and Ken Yukuhiro. The Japanese player chose the so-called Neostorm combo build – probably the craziest deck of the tournament. Four-Color Midrange, however, is probably the toughest matchup you can think of in the current meta – running disruption, counterspells and Yasharn to prevent combo deck to ever achieve anything.
Game 1: Two Thoughseizes in the starting hand of Nassif led to a snap keep by the Frenchman – the hand disruption is key when combating combo strategies akin to Neostorm.As a result, Yukuhiro lost his Neoform copy and did nothing but cycle through the deck in search of new combo pieces for a few turns.
Meanwhile, Nassif got to work on his Uro’s, though his purely reactive hand didn’t help in advancing his gameplan too much. Yukuhiro’s Aether Gusts and Abrades copied with Dualcaster Mages kept resetting all the work Nassif did to enable Uro, all the while churning through his own library with Valakut Awakening.
Eventually, Ken did find Sea Gate Stromcaller in tandem with Neoform and developed three Dualcaster Mages along with Combat Celebrant and Tuktuk Rubblefort, and Nassif wasn’t able to stop the two-turn lethal even holding an Eliminate in his hand.
Game 2: During sideboarding, Yukuhiro added diversity to his deck, which was pretty linear in the pre-boarded game. This time Nightpack Ambushers and Brazen Borrowers were called upon to add Neoform Combo deck an almost Temur Flash dimension.
In the second game, Nassif resolved an early Yasharn, Implacable Earth, and Ken answered with Ambusher to even out the board state. Pact of Negation helped Yukuhiro protect his wolf, but forced a tap-out – the Frenchman then had a green light to develop Nissa, Narset, and Hydroid Krasis which slowly but inevitably overwhelmed what Yukuhiro had going for him. And with Yasharn in play, the Japanese player had no possibility to go off with his combo.
Game 3: An early Thoughtseize from Nassif allowed him to get rid of Ken’s first Nighpack Ambusher – however, Yukuhiro managed to draw another copy on the very next turn and sneak it past the Frenchman. Gabriel answered with a big Uro + Thoughtseize play while his opponent was tapped out thanks to the Pact of Negation trigger.
This set him up well for the rest of the game – the only concern was only in that Nassif had just 3 minutes left on the chess clock. However, big Shark Typhoon token provided a swift clock in the air – wolf tokens did little for Ken to help against that. Yukuhiro did draw his two-card combo, but Nassif had the final Essence Scatter to deal with Sea Gate Stormcaller for the win.
Round 4 (Standard)
The Standard portion of the Swiss finally kicks off in Round 4, and in the feature match area Seth Manfield attempts to defend his unbeaten run of the tournament. He is the only player to bring Dimir Rogues this weekend; Patrick Fernandes is, on the contrary, chose to play the frontrunner of the Standard format – Omnath Adventures.
On paper, this matchup doesn’t look too comfortable for Rogues. They can’t ever let Omanth player resolve Lucky Clover or Edgewall Innkeeper. Once any of those engines are in place for Adventures deck, it can easily run away with the game.
Game 1: Manfield developed two Vantress Gargoyles that sat there waiting to go face as soon as Seth mills enough cards. Fernandes acknowledged the threat these fliers presented and was comfortable offering a trade down with Omnath even.
Drown in the Loch protected Manfield’s threats and also dealt with opposing engines timely. Fernandes had access to a ton of mana, Lucky Clover, and Edgewall Innkeeper but struggled to deal with Gargoyles as Manfield put him to three life.
Brazen Borrower draw bought Fernandes more time, but at that point Seth still had the ability to either bury his opponent with card advantage from Into the Story. It was the Fae of Wishes on the next turn that decided the game – copied by Lucky Clover, it tutored for Primal Fight and Stern Dismissal and allowed Adventures to pull off a surprising lethal.
Game 2: Manfield started with an awkward hand with two Lofty Denials but no fliers to make it into effectively a hard counterspell. As a result of Seth’s slow build-up, Fernandes had plenty of time to develop his mana, not feeling any kind of board pressure, unlike in the last game.
However, soon Manfield managed to find his Rogue synergy – Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief worked in tandem to close out the game as Dimir held mana up for a variety of available counters and removals.
Game 3: Acting on the draw is a heavy tax for Dimir Rogues – not being able to use 2-mana counters and Agonizing Remorses to fight Adventures’ early threats is crucial. Dancing around Seth’s countermagic, Fernandes was able to resolve a turn-4 Omnath and pushed a heavy amount of face damage with it – however, Manfield denied any value from Escape to the Wilds and Edgewall Innkeeper with more countermagic.
Drown in the Loch dealt with Omnath, and Fernandes found himself starved out of resources for a while. However, Manfield lacked cards in the opponent’s graveyard to cheapen the cost of Into the Story and got stuck with two 7-mana draw spells. It was a crucial Fabled Passage sacrifice trigger on the side of Fernandes that suddenly opened up the window for Seth’s Into the Story’s and helped him pull very far ahead on cards.
Round 5 (Standard)
The only two players that are yet to drop a match today are pitted against each other to detemine the sole leader of the Swiss. What will make many viewers happy is that neither of them is playing Omnath deck in the Standard portion (though, to be fair, Autumn did secure their three wins in Historic with an Omnath Ramp build).
Dimir Rogues versus Gruul Adventures is an unpredictable matchup – and it is unlikely these pros even tested for it that extensively. Pure skill and the ability to adapt on the fly come to the forefront here!
Game 1: Manfield got to the board first – Vantress Gargoyle and Soaring Thought-Thief presented a clear path to victory for Dimir deck. Autumn’s start was a bit slow as they had to play around counterspells – the Scavenging Ooze on turn 4 was the first creature they managed to resolve.
The plan on the part of Burchett was to shut down Gargoyle by exiling their own library with Ooze’s ability. However, Adventures also were pressured to race, which prompted a somewhat reckless attack of the Scavenging Ooze into Manfield’s Thieves’ Guild Enforcer – the game was soon over after that small misstep.
Game 2: After sideboard, the player adjusted their decks to the machup meaningfully – Autumn had three Chinweb Arachnir’s in their 15, which is an excellent answer to both mill an fliers. Manfield cut on the Vantress Gargoyles, which do fall easy prey to Gruul’s Gemrazer threat.
Burchett fully took advantage of being on the play in the matchup – Edgewall Innkeeper into Bonecrusher Giant into Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate provided an overwhelming start against Seth’s hand state that was desperately lacking answers. The planeswalker started a snowball and soon prompted Dimir into concession.
Game 3: Autumn had to mull to six – and even after that they weren’t too happy with the keep. Meanwhile, Seth had it all in his 7-card hand – early Rogues, Drown in the Loch’s, Eliminate’s… With this amount of agency Manfield was well-set to just be patient and slowly wage the resources war.
Ironically, Seth had answers to everything, but not to the turn 5 The Great Henge – Burchett didn’t have enough cards in their library for Drown in the Loch to work. This crucial artifact gave Autumn an ability to go long against Dimir with all the card draw – when every creature cantrips, counterspells can’t really keep up anymore.
Manfield struggled to deal with a constant stream of threats until once again it was Vivien that sealed the win for Gruul Adventures to propel Autumn Burchett into an impressive 5-0 record in the Season Finals.
Round 6 (Standard)
Burchett’s Gruul Adventures was tuned to beat exactly the lists akin to Eetu Perttula’s Omnath Adventures. Lucky Clover has the biggest target on its back and Gemrazer is there from Gruul to deal with that artifact, and Embereth Shieldbreaker is another creature to help with that. The Great Henge is an engine that can help Gruul Adventures in the games that end up being a bit stalled out – though Fae of Wishes’s toolbox is a counter to that. It is Embercleave’s threat that is of course the main decider and the key reason to play Gruul – we’ll see if it puts enough of the clock to shut down the Omnath menace.
Game 1: Both players got off to a pretty good start – Autumn set up their Edgewall Innkeeper, while Eetu resolved an Omnath ready to pop off. However, it was Burchett with the raw power of Embercleave that forced Perttula to trade down Omnath, leaving him in an almost disastrous board state. The Finnish player had another copy of the creature, however – so he played it out, gained some life back from the Landfall trigger, and passed the turn back.
After that Gruul had to take things slow, however, setting up for a single big attack step. There also was a small misstep on part of Autumn who forgot that Stonecoil Serpent has protection from multicolor and so has a free attack past Omnath. Eetu’s next turn triggered Omnath’s ability twice with Escape to the Wilds, and the gigantic Beanstalk giant came down to stabilize the board state a bit.
From that point on, things got progressively worse for Gruul it seemed, as Omnath remained unanswered. And yet, Perttula got complacent for a moment there, tapped out of instant speed interaction allowing Autumn to equip Embercleave on a big Scavenging Ooze and push for surprising 30-damage lethal. The power of the Cleave!
Game 2: Perttula got unlucky with a mulligan and stuck on a two-lander – all he could develop on turn 2 was a Lucky Clover. Burchett had no mercy on him, playing Bonecrusher Giant backed up by Gemrazer and Embercleave for a quick and somewhat anticlimactic win. Autumn Burchett’s line-up of Historic Omnath ramp and Standard Gruul Adventures remains unbeatable on Day 1!
Day 2 competition of Season Grand Finals resumes tomorrow, Oct 10, 9 A.M. PDT. Come back to MTGA Zone as we’ll continue our play-by-play coverage and analysis of the tournament!