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Mythic Championship III: Wrap Up


This weekend marked the third Mythic Championship of the year and the first Mythic Championship on Magic Arena. The tournament, featuring the 32 members of the Magic Pro League, 16  discretionary invitations, and some qualifiers from Magic Arena and past Mythic Championships, was held in Las Vegas and in many ways mirrored the Mythic Invitational held a few months ago with an all-star casting team, pyrotechnics, thumping music under the gameplay except with a twist: rather than the much-maligned Duo Standard, Mythic Championship III showcased traditional best of three Standard constructed. All the decklists were published by Wizards, and you can find them on our tournament page.

While the timing of the tournament is a bit questionable, being just a week after the release of Modern Horizons and a right in the middle of Core Set 2020 preview season, the tournament itself had some very intriguing storylines. The biggest of which was likely Kai Budde parlaying a discretionary invite into a top-four finish with Esper Hero and potentially introducing himself as one of the greatest players of all time to a new generation of Magic players brought into the game through Magic Arena — players who may not have even been alive back when he was the greatest player of all time in the early 2000's. It's hard to overstate just how good peak Kai was. His run, including seven pro tour wins and 9 tops in just a few years (with two more added over the past decade, bringing the total to 11), will likely never be matched. Fast forward to present day, nearly twenty years later, Kai's run at Mythic Championship III turned an otherwise middling event into a must-watch stream and, in an era where Magic seems increasingly focused on the flashy and the new, provided an important link to the game's illustrious history. 

If you watch only one match from Mythic Championship III make it the top 16 match between Kai and Shota Yasooka. While it is an Esper mirror, it's a great match by really great players with Randy Buehler calling the third game of the match "one of the best games of Magic ever played."

Another one of the hotly debated issues of Mythic Championship III was the 16 discretionary invites. After the invitee group put together a fairly impressive performance in the Mythic Invitational's Duo Standard format a couple of months ago, they came crashing back to earth at Mythic Championship III, with the only two of the 16 making day two at the tournament being Hall of Famers Kai Budde and Raphael Levy. It was cool to see a lot of new faces on the Mythic Championship stage, but at least for this weekend, it was the Magic Pro League and Hall of Famers that ruled the roost. 

Since Mythic Championships III is considerably smaller than a tabletop Mythic Championships and featured the double-elimination bracket format from the Mythic Invitational, rather than a top eight, Sunday featured a top four. Joining Kai Budde were two Magic Pro League players: maybe the greatest Standard player in the world in Brad Nelson (who backed up this title with an undefeated run not just through to the top eight of Mythic Championship III, but through his MPL split as well), two-time World Champion Shahar Shenhar, and a Magic Arena qualifier Matias Leveratto who played in Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir (and actually started off 9-2 before losing all five rounds of Standard on day two to miss the top eight and finish 9-7) and gave up Magic shortly thereafter, only to be brought back by Magic Arena. If there's one thing I've learned from the Mythic Invitational and now Mythic Championship III, it's that if you manage to qualify for one of these tournaments through Magic Arena, you're really good at Magic even if you might not (yet) be a household name. 

The Meta

One of the downsides of having a Mythic Championship two weeks before a set release and three months before rotation is that Standard is fairly well explored, which means there weren't many groundbreaking decks While Esper Control and Esper Hero are technically two different decks, most of the builds are within 10 or 15 cards from each other (close enough that if Mythic Championship III was a Magic Online league only we'd likely only have one Esper list published) and if you mash them together, Esper made up more than 40% of the metagame at large and 56.25% of the decks brought by Magic Pro League members). Meanwhile, Izzet Phoenix was the top choice to fight the Teferi menace, followed by Bant Ramp, White Aggro, and Red Aggro.

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One of the sneaky upsides of the discretionary invites is that the challengers (a group that includes all non-MPL players) were significantly more likely to bring a unique deck to the event. While there was nothing truly off the wall at Mythic Championship III, thanks to the challengers, decks like Selesnya Tokens, Simic Ramp, Jund Warriors, and Bant Midrange all got a chance on the Mythic Championship stage. Sadly, in the end, most of these decks ended up dropping out on the first day of the tournament. All in all, there were eight different decks played by 1-3 players, and of the 14 total players running fringe decks, ten came from the challenger group (71.4%), while only four came from the Magic Pro League. So shout out to the challengers for fighting the good fight and trying something different, even though it was mostly a futile effort. While there's a chance that Core Set 2020 will shake things up, and even a better chance that rotation will get the job done in a few months, for the time being, Standard is about playing eight Teferis (four Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and four Teferi, Time Raveler) or trying to beat eight Teferis. 

Top 4 Decks

Thanks to the unique tournament structure at Mythic Championship III, it's hard to do a statistical breakdown of the event. The sample sizes are just too small to be meaningful, and with the "two losses and you're out" policy, it's very possible for a player to get unlucky (Greg Orange got double mana screwed to pick up his second loss to drop out of the tournament after a perfect 6-0 run through day one). Instead, you can take a look at all of the lists from the event here.

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In general, the biggest takeaway from the event is that planeswalkers are dominating our current Standard format. 55.9% of decks in the tournament were running Narset, Parter of Veils with an average of 3.1 copies per deck. Meanwhile, Teferi, Time Raveler showed up in slightly fewer decks (51.5%), but was arguably even more dominant considering the average deck ran 3.6 copies of the three-mana planeswalker. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria wasn't far behind, showing up in 38.2% of decks, and almost always as a four-of, with an average of 3.84 copies in each deck. 

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Apart from the planeswalkers, there isn't too much value in breaking down the most played cards from Mythic Championship III — it basically reads like an Esper Control/Hero list with a couple of evergreen red cards (Shock and Lava Coil) sneaking in further down the list. Perhaps the most concerning part is that many of the most-played cards from Mythic Championship III are relatively new to Standard; new enough that they won't be rotating in September, which could mean that Standard won't be shaken up all that much this fall, even with four sets leaving the format. Of the ten most-played creatures at Mythic Championship III, only Llanowar Elves and Lyra Dawnbringer rotate when the fall set releases and of the ten most played spells only Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Shock, and Duress are leaving the format at rotation. It's very possible (and maybe even likely) that Shock and Duress remain in the format with a reprint in either Core Set 2020 or the fall set. While Llanowar Elves and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria are huge losses to their respective archetypes, in general, the staples of our current Standard format are not rotating.

In the end it was Matias Leveratto taking home the trophy for the challengers in an insane finales versus Brad Nelson from the Magic Pro League. If you happened to miss it, it's well worth looking up the last match on Youtube or Twitch. At one point Brad, up a game, was literally one Opt whiff from Leveratto away from winning his first Mythic Championship, but the Magic gods can be cruel. If you have a free half hour it's well worth the time to look up the video.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What were your impressions of Mythic Championship III? What does it mean for our Standard format moving forward? What changes will Core Set 2020 bring in a couple of weeks? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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