The National Championships held around the world this weekend were the final farewell tour of Hour of Devastation as both a Limited and Constructed format. At long last, it’s time to say goodbye to cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Tireless Tracker, and of course the biggest overachiever since Roger Federer, Thraben Inspector. These cards enjoyed one last encore before bowing out, as wizards from Malta to Mexico filled out their rosters for December’s World Magic Cup.
While nearly 400 of England’s most powerful mages descended on Derby to battle for supremacy, the weekend belonged to just one of them—Autumn Burchett. Going undefeated all weekend, Burchett’s utter dominance of the tournament saw her rightfully claim the title of National Champion. She will join finalist Ross Broxup and English Captain Niels Molle at the WMC.
National Champion, on the team, and undefeated all weekend. Sliiiiightly over the moon right now 💜💜💜 #MTGNationals
— Autumn Burchett (@AutumnLilyMTG) September 17, 2017
Burchett, who was in the conversation for the Constructed Master last season, had a close scrape or two throughout the tournament, but ultimately finished with a record of 14-0-1. This included a clean sweep of 2 Drafts, an area in which Burchett has been determined to improve. “I’m so glad I worked on my Limited game,” she said after her incredible performance. Her second draft in particular is fascinating to watch.
The finals saw her dispatch her foes with 4-Color Energy, which has continued to put up strong numbers as the format comes to a close. Congratulations to Autumn Burchett, who finished a supremely dominant weekend with a well-deserved victory!
— Riley Knight (@rileyquarytower) September 17, 2017
Pete Ward, a member of Hareruya Hopes who had represented England at last year’s World Magic Cup, had piloted his Zombies list all the way to the semifinals, where he met the undefeated Burchett. After splitting the first two games, Ward drew way ahead in game 3. His deck spewed forth its snowballing army with characteristic speed, and all looked lost for Burchett’s dream run. Facing an insurmountable army, Burchett untapped with a board that was empty except for Chandra, Torch of Defiance and a lone Clue token.
After tanking like a Guardian Druid in a clan raid, Burchett cracked the Clue token. That has to be her death knell, right? Digging for the unlikely answer to the unstoppable horde besetting her?
Whether it was ferocious topdecking or an Oscar-worthy sell, Burchett used Chandra, Torch of Defiance to power out her singleton Chandra, Flamecaller! 4 damage to everything cleared the board, but her troubles weren’t over. Ward calmly redeployed his Relentless Dead and reanimated his Dread Wanderer, forcing Burchett to find further answers.
And she did! The top of her deck granted her a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship to both clear the Dread Wanderer and start attacking, but it was a critical Magma Spray off the top that cleared the Relentless Dead once and for all. Burchett staged one of the most incredible comebacks we’ve ever seen on camera, clawing her way back into the game and securing her position on the national team!
The semifinals in their entirety are well worth watching, and the quarterfinals had some incredible moments as well. It was a fittingly exciting end for an excellent Standard format!
Burchett wasn’t the only player to identify 4-Color Energy as Standard’s premier deck this weekend. Despite her performance overshadowing the others who brought this list to bear, mages from around the world battled hard with a list that will continue to be a force in Ixalan Standard.
Autumn Burchett, 1st place at England Nationals
Adding black to incorporate The Scarab God further increased the power level of this list, and the rather quiet career of Woodland Wanderer also enjoyed a late 15 minutes of fame because of the splash. The most important point, however, is this: Of the 75 cards in this list, 64 of them survive rotation. The fact that 4-Color Energy cemented itself as the deck to beat in Hour of Devastation Standard, and the fact that it loses so little to Ixalan, means that you have to be ready to beat it once we take to the high seas of post-rotation Standard.
The best ways to do this will become clearer as time goes on, but if you’re looking to get ahead of lists like Burchett’s in the coming weeks, there are two excellent starting points. The first is with established Approach of the Second Sun lists. Energy has traditionally struggled against the overwhelming number of sweepers and counterspells in U/W Approach decks. The second is with ramp-based strategies, although there’s a lot of brewing to be done in that realm, as Ulamog and friends won’t be around to fill out your top end!
It’s finally time to say goodbye to both Hour of Devastation Standard and Limited. Coverage of England Nationals was the curtain call for two formats that will live long in our memories. Hour of Devastation provided us with a brilliant Limited format with incredible depth, and an engaging Constructed format that rewarded innovation.
In Limited, we saw decks of all stripes perform strongly across the tournament, demonstrating the diversity of a format that remains, broadly speaking, unsolved. After an abrupt pivot away from the all-out aggression of Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation saw us exploring a Limited format where multicolored green decks, streamlined aggressive decks, and spell-based tempo decks all jostled for dominance. It’s safe to say that Hour of Devastation will be remembered as one of the best Limited formats of all time.
In Constructed, the weekly cycle of decks beating each other out seemed to have slowed down at least somewhat, with 4-Color Energy ending the season at the top of the tables. While supremely dominant in the hands of Burchett, energy strategies have proven themselves beatable. 4-Color Energy will have a target painted on its head as we finally drop anchor in Ixalan, as the list loses very few cards. This is an excellent starting point for the new Standard format, as we already have an idea of how the new post-rotation brews should be tuned—they’ve got to be able to contend with 4-Color Energy!
When all’s said and done, the last few months of Magic have seen the healthiest and most enjoyable Standard and Limited formats we’ve had in a long time. While excitement for Ixalan reaches a fever pitch in the face of this weekend’s prerelease, take a moment to remember the format we’re leaving behind. Thanks for everything, Hour of Devastation. This format will be missed more than the trigger on Oloro, Ageless Ascetic.