The 2017 World Championship was one for the ages, as the world’s greatest went toe-to-toe in Boston over the weekend. Pro Tour Champions, Hall-of-Famers, titans of the game we love—they’d all come to secure the title of World Champion, not to mention the cool hundred grand that came with it. One among them, however, blew us all away with an unmitigated display of utter dominance.
— Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) October 7, 2017
Few individuals typify and embody greatness quite like William “Huey” Jensen. Not only does this man have one of the most compelling CVs in the history of the game—five PT Top 8s, a lifetime win percentage of over 60%, and of course a place in the Hall of Fame—our new World Champion bolsters his mastery of the game with an impeccable reputation for being one of the greatest blokes you’ll ever meet.
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) October 8, 2017
Throughout the weekend, Huey demonstrated his characteristic brand of unyielding excellence, playing with uncompromising precision that spoke to his rigorous preparation. After running the tables for 12 rounds without a loss, he avenged the defeats he suffered late in the Swiss. Kelvin Chew was overrun in the semis, before Javier Dominguez went down in a tight final to hand Huey his richly-deserved trophy.
I can only echo the sentiments of the entire Magic community in congratulating a towering figure of modern Magic. Well done, Huey.
— William Jensen (@HueyJensen) October 8, 2017
Many of the weekend’s highlights of course took place on the battlefield, but some of the most profound moments took place without a single card being shuffled or played.
— Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games) October 8, 2017
After Josh Utter-Leyton secured his place in the Top 4, his mother Barbara flew in on an overnight flight from the other side of the U.S. to surprise her son in the hotel lobby. Barbara was fully kitted out in her personalized ChannelFireball jersey, cheering on Wrapter as he took to the stage to battle with Javier Dominguez. Josh’s achievements this weekend were all the more special thanks to Barbara’s incredible efforts to support her son.
But the moment that truly stole our hearts was when Huey’s friends and family took to the stage to stand with the newly-minted World Champion. Teammates Reid Duke and Owen Turtenwald flanked Huey, while his dad stood behind him, face shining with pride. The raw emotion displayed by Huey while surrounded by the most important people in his life went to show the impact that moments like these have, and… what? I’m not crying, you’re crying!
Before Ixalan, Blue-Black Control had cemented itself as a mildly unimpressive tier 2 deck. Blue-based Gearhulk control decks had struggled to contest the field, whether paired with black or red, aside from Robin Dolar crushing Grand Prix Turin with a deck that some described as “unplayable.” Well, players at the World Championship put this thing down, flipped it, and reversed it.
Search for Azcanta is a stone-cold game changer for blue control decks—this card is a value engine unlike any other. Aside from being a Rampant Growth in blue, it filters your draws, and then acts as a win condition. “If you untap with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin and six other lands, you can’t lose,” asserted master deck builder Sam Black. Top 4 competitor Josh Utter-Leyton was in agreement, simply describing the card as “broken.” He put his money where is mouth is, too.
Josh Utter-Leyton, Top 4 at the 2017 World Championship
Utter-Leyton’s deck looks to contest the opponent with an unending stream of 1-for-1 answers, refueling along the way with various draw 2s. Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, however, injects jet fuel into this particular value train and allows you to almost always find the answer you need as the game goes late. After that, it’s a matter of cleaning up with The Scarab God!
Azcanta Control will play a huge role in Standard moving forward, but it has its weaknesses. Javier Dominguez demonstrated that with his 3-0 sweep of Utter-Leyton in the finals. Azcanta Control has a tough matchup against Ramunap Red. Additionally, Field of Ruin is an effective way to deal with a flipped Azcanta. Keep that in mind when building your next mana base!
Exploring two brand-new formats with the best in the biz taught us a great deal about what we’ve got to expect as our time in Ixalan continues. Across both Draft and Standard, there’s a lot to take in from the masterclasses we received over the weekend.
Ixalan Draft is dominated by tribal synergies and rewards those who “draft their seat” correctly. When sitting down to draft, it’s critical to read signals and recognize which deck is being passed to you. More than anything else, this means remaining flexible for your first few picks, staying open while you get a sense of the table dynamic.
The pros are yet to reach a consensus on what the “best deck” is, but there’s broad agreement that you want to get on the front foot. Early aggression was highlighted by many as the best way to succeed, especially with cards in red and white. The best place to learn is, of course, from the greats themselves. Make sure you get some time with the featured Drafts from the weekend, which included Juza, Turtenwald, Manfield, and of course Jensen himself.
In Standard, we saw a pretty insular field that was somewhat unrepresentative of the wider field as a whole. Ramunap Red was overrepresented and underperformed, Energy decks were tuned to beat the mirror, while Blue-Black Control lists showed they have what it takes to go up against the best. This three-deck metagame had a Rock-Paper-Scissors feel to it, but the good news is that you can turn up to your next tournament with Lizard or Spock.
Given there’s a Pro Tour looming on the horizon in under a month, the pros played their cards close to the chest as to what the Next Big Thing may or may not be. I can say, however, that you should be keeping your eyes on a few key decks—in particular Esper Gifts and Abzan Tokens, as they were highlighted as excellent ways to contest the dominant decks of the format.
There’s plenty more to come in Standard, and next week the most powerful wizards in many nations around the world will assemble for the final round of National Championships. I’ll be back next week to explore the results of U.S. Nationals!
Featured image credit: Wizards of the Coast